Light Novel: Spice and Wolf
"Merchant Meats Spicy Wolf"Spice and Wolf
is a light novel that was eventually made into an anime in 2008, with a second season animated by a different studio the following year. The original name, "Ookami to Koushinryou", literally translates to "Wolf and Spice."
In a middle-age European-esque world, Lawrence, a traveling merchant
, accidentally frees the local harvest god, Holo, a centuries-old giant wolf who can take the form of a young woman. She convinces him to let her travel with him and seek out her dimly-remembered homeland.
The main thrust of the anime is centered more on the business of Lawrence than on Holo's supernatural nature. Instead of action or fanservice, Spice and Wolf
is far more likely to focus on an in-depth discussion on the currency exchange market, with no notable attempt to make it more interesting by going over the top
. Surprisingly, the show does this rather well using character interaction and business intrigue. The romance between Lawrence and Holo is also a major part of the plot.
The light novels concluded in 2011 with the seventeenth volume. Yen Press
is currently translating and releasing both the novels and manga in the United States. The anime has been licensed in North America by Funimation. Both seasons are streaming on their video portal
and are available on DVD and Blu-ray (with season two a DVD/Blu-ray combo set) and the second season is on Netflix
Spice and Wolf provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: During the Milone-Medioh arc, Lawerence hides in one and someone else could stand on his shoulders. Justified as it was deliberately constructed as a hidden escape route.
- Adaptational Sexuality: The anime changes Lawrence's friend from Holo's village from the male Yarei to the female Chloe. It's implied that Lawrence and Chloe's relationship hasn't always been platonic.
- Adventurous Irish Violins: To emphasize the industrious natures of our leading travellers, this is occasionally invoked in the soundtrack.
- All Myths Are True: Comes into play in the second season of the anime, where Holo's past is discussed. The latter half of the book series also plays towards it heavily.
- However, the supposed bones of a wolf god, that Lawrence and co. spend four books tracking down turn out to be nothing more than over-hyped stag bones.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Shepherds are feared by townsfolk, because their ability to "influence animals", even wolves, is assumed to have resulted from some sort of pagan pact. In the manga, it's implied that the priest who supervises Norah encourages this attitude to keep her isolated and dependant on him.
- More than that, it's implied that due to Norah's exceptional skill, the priest has literally thrown her to the wolves by ordering her to extremely unsafe fields and forest roads, hoping for her to have a convenient death so her "pagan pact" reputation won't reflect on the Church negatively. He also pays her at the back door and won't allow her inside the Cathedral.
- Almost Kiss: Episode 4. Also Volume 4 of the manga.
- Alternate Universe: Bonus tracks of the manga present a few.
- And the Adventure Continues: The final anime arc ends the same way as the others: the conclusion of one deal and moving on to the next.
- Ass Kicking Equals Authority: The Moon-Hunting Bear is referred to as the lord of the animal spirits after it destroys Yoitz, despite it being a hostile, possibly mindless predator.
- Babies Ever After: Between Holo and Lawrence at the end of the series.
- Badass: Within the realm of animal-spirits, Holo was apparently at the top of the food-chain (figuratively speaking; they seemed to form a normal society despite being animals).However, the great Moon-Hunting Bear far outstrips her or any other spirit.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Played straight in the anime. Averted for Holo's nipples in scenes in the manga where she is actually nude, to the point that the English translation of the manga has an adult content warning on the cover, but played straight in scenes when Lawrence simply imagines her naked.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Downplayed with Lawrence and Holo who more playfully snark at each other than true beligerence. There is one occasion where they argue in each other's face, Nora wishes them happiness, and they look away blushing.
- Bifauxnen: Eve from the second season dresses as a guy so her merchant partners will take her more seriously, which is a good idea considering the time period that the series takes place.
- Big Eater: Holo, which is justified by a combination of the fact she's a shapeshifter (so her true stomach is technically that of a wolf bigger than an elephant) and the fact she has lupine instincts, meaning her nature is to eat any food presented to her just in case of famine, even if she is stuffed. Unusually for this trope, Holo is shown on many occasions to end up suffering a bellyache from eating too much, though she gets over them quickly.
- Bilingual Bonus: In the anime's first season, written stuff is often in German, but the second season just uses gibberish.
- Bleached Underpants: Keito Koume, the artist for the manga, also drew H-manga.
- Bound and Gagged: When Holo is captured by the Medio Trading Company in episode 4, one guy approaches with a coil of rope. He doesn't have the guts to touch a snarling wolf goddess, so the company makes due with locking her in a store room. Played straight in the manga.
- In the next arc this happens to Lawrence after Remerio Company betrays them and then shortly after to Remerio himself so he'll sit still while Lawrence blackmails him about the betrayal.
- Bullying a Dragon: Chloe and the thugs with her in episode 6. Although they don't believe Holo is the wolf goddess who once inhabited their village, they do still believe Holo is possessed by a demon.
- Catch Phrase
- "Tawake!" ("Fool!")
- "I am Holo the Wise Wolf!"
- "You are terribly good natured."
- Caught the Heart on His Sleeve: Holo to Lawrence at least once, while drunk.
- Chekhov's Gun: Upon entering the town of Kumersun, Lawrence gives Holo some feathers to stick in her hair and explains that it's a wordless signal nuns use to indicate that they're not going to preach their faith there. Later on, Holo uses feathers from Diana's place to subtly clue Lawrence in about her plan for the pyrite sale.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: When Holo was captured by the Medio Company, which threatened to turn her over to the Church, Lawrence talked the Milone Company into sending some of their own bruisers — men skilled in using violence — to rescue her. She was furious that he didn't come to get her himself...especially since she gave the first rescuer through the door a big hug (and maybe, she implies, said something intimate) before realizing he wasn't Lawrence.
- Contemptible Cover, American Kirby Is Hardcore: The redone cover◊ for the first American release book got this complaint due to dropping the anime style Japanese cover for a pseudorealistic frontal shot of Holo running while naked (though mostly dark), drawing comparisons to a trashy romance novel cover. This was done in an attempt to reach out a more general audience at the insistence of distributors. For that first volume, they hastily released dust jackets of the original cover for the first volume to the distributors and in their magazine after the outcry. From volume two onward, that initial solution has been inverted; the original art is on the cover and the new art serves as the dust jacket (now depicting essentially the same scene as the Japanese version, but with Holo looking away), satisfying both distributor and fan demands as well as can be expected.
- Cooking Duel: Lawrence arranging poisoned credit for Amarti leads to a battle of market manipulation and wills in the middle of a pyrite craze, with Holo as the ultimate prize. And yes, Holo herself is interfering in the duel on multiple levels.
- Corrupt Church: The church hierarchy in the series is portrayed as greedy and oppressive, reminiscent of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church of the era it is emulating.
- Covert Pervert: Holo. In Volume 1 of the manga, when she and Lawrence first meet Zeran for the first time, she comments that a woman is most beautiful from behind. Wolves mount their mates from behind. Think about that.
- Creator Thumbprint: Economics is obviously a passion for Isuna Hasekura. In fact, he took the prize money he won for the first Spice and Wolf novel to the stock market and is now writing a manga about day trading.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: A mild example in the manga. Averted in the light novels and anime.
- Death Glare: Lawrence gives a stranger one when they bump into each other and the man tries to confront him about it.
- Declaration of Protection: Lawrence invokes a form of this when he refuses to hand Holo over to Chloe.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance
- When Holo asks Lawrence about the slave trade he shrugs and says that it's profitable and necessary. This just after he nearly ends up as a slave to pay for his bankruptcy.
- Holo's comment in book five about God being cruel for letting people suffer was funny. Considering how Pasloe hated her because of the times she gave them a bad crop. She had a good reason (preventing degradation of the soil) but it still sounds odd.
- More than a few times Lawrence claims that Holo is his wife, and no one comments on it, even though her human form is specifically mentioned in-story and designed to look like a fifteen year old girl and Lawrence is in his mid-to-late twenties. In today's culture this would cause shock and dismay in a lot of people at best, but in the time period portrayed, it was a given that a young girl, often as soon as she started her periods, would be married off to an older man who either has a business of his own, or is the heir of a wealthy family. Lawrence matches the former, but even so he may still be a little young, and his merchant business a little too tenuous, for when a man usually married. Many characters comment on how it's odd for Lawrence to be travelling with a wife - but not because of her age, but because of the nature of his work.
- Lawrence has a very laissez-faire attitude towards people who are morally corrupt, cruel, or otherwise try to screw someone over in the name of profit (usually when he's the one on the receiving end). It's just business, after all, and if you hold a grudge, the resulting trade barriers will ensure you're the only one suffering. It's lightly hinted that this might not be the end-all-be-all philosophy for merchants as it tends to be with Lawrence, people being people after all; in particular, town merchants know that their customers will remember if they screwed their town over in the name of short-term profit.
- It's explicitly stated in the anime, during the Amarti plot, that while travelling merchants like Lawrence can afford to pull schemes that focus on short-term profit (but screw people over) because they can plan to avoid specific towns or regions until it's been long enough that memories have faded, town merchants have too much bound up in their shops to be able to pull up stakes and run if they try something similar and it goes sour on them.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Invoked and averted. Holo gets mad when Lawrence doesn't come rushing after her to save her the moment she's captured, and instead arranges a plan to rescue her carefully and without a fuss.
- The Dreaded: The Moon-Hunting Bear. It's a mountain-sized bear that every single animal spirit in Yoitz out-and-out turned tail and ran from. Even Holo says that she would be capable of nothing more than dying nobly in a pitched battle with it.
- End of an Age: Holo decides to leave because the villagers say that they don't need a harvest god anymore. While she initially helped them by making the crops grow, she occasionally had to do the opposite to prevent the growing village from being struck by the Tragedy of the Commons, which caused resentment among the uncomprehending villagers. At the time she left, she was portrayed in the village harvest festivities as an oppressive force and a thief, instead of as the wise benefactor she was when the tradition started.
- Also a theme during the latter half of the series. After meeting several other deities successfully blending in with humanity, basically just living their lives as best they can, Holo begins to accept the fact that her kind are dying off and humans are now the new masters of the world.
- Everyone Can See It: Everyone except Lawrence and Holo is well aware that she's got him hooked.
- It was so bad their run in with Amarti spawned a legend in Kamersun about two lovers whose fight got the entire town involved.
- Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: Several tracks in the OST use them.
- Face Palm
- Lawrence does this quite often, usually in response to Holo's logic or teasing.
- Holo gets a half-a-minute-long facepalm in the OVA in response to Lawrence's description of how sheep are used for torture, not to mention several other facepalms in the same conversation.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Lawrence's goal is to open a shop. However, the ideal of this is subverted. He constantly makes a profit...he could stop and open a shop if he wanted, but CHOOSES to stay with Holo.
- Fanservice: Holo is naked during her introduction and again when they reach an inn during a rainstorm and dry off. She also looks provocative when licking the remains of her latest snack off her fingers.
- Surprisingly, Holo's nude scenes are very non-sexual and not played for Fanservice. Not that you could tell that from the cover art.
- Fantastic Arousal
- According to Holo, wolves touching noses is to them what kissing is to humans. Lawrence's fingers feel like a wolf's nose. So when he touches her nose...
- She also stiffens, blushes, and yells at him when he touches her tail all of a sudden.
- Fantastic Ghetto: The city of Kumersun has an area surrounded by high walls, where alchemists and other people — whose profession is considered “suspicious” by the Church — live. Diana is a local chronicler, collecting tales not yet censored by authorities and mediating in trade between inhabitants and outside world. She also happens to be a giant bird, who took on human shape like Holo.
- Food Porn: Holo is very enthusiastic about delicious food, and Lawrence has gotten some pretty strong reactions out of her by describing it in detail. At the start of the failed arms trading arc, in particular, there's a bit where he describes preserving peaches in honey. "It was so sweet the Church was considering banning the stuff. Hey, you're drooling." She wasn't just drooling; her face was flushed and her eyes glazed.
- Freak Out: Holo has a nasty one in Season II, when she learns that Yoitz was destroyed long ago by "the bear that hunts the moon". Could also count as The Last Straw, given the hullabaloo with Amarti and the various other tensions she and Lawrence are under.
- Holo gets an even worse one during the final arc when she learns her old friend Myrui died long ago, leaving only a parting joke on an old claw of his.
- Friendly Enemy: Eve. Despite nearly killing Lawrence for his share of their profit and absconding out of town, she leaves him enough collateral to save Holo and the next time they meet they're all smiles. Eve also tries very hard to convince him to sign up with her again in another scheme (despite admitting she may very well betray him again). On his part, Lawrence finds it hard to hate her when he sees how far she's able to go in the pursuit of profit, and ends up rooting for her when she herself is snared by an even bigger foe. Eve is very strongly implied, though it is never out right stated, to have kissed Lawrence after he helps save her life. Holo really gives it to him then.
- In an even shorter turn over period, Lawrence manages to bring information to turn one of his superiors, Kieman, around from killing Eve and dismissing Lawrence to working with both of them in one last gamble at a profit in mere minutes. As stated in Deliberate Values Dissonance, this is Lawrences preferred attitude towards business partners.
- Genre Savvy: As a wise wolf, Holo knows about how the most corny romance dialogue plays out, sometimes even coaching Lawrence into saying what he's "supposed" to say in a given situation. Lawrence becomes increasingly aware of this, and tends to avoid falling into her trap in favor of turning it around on her. These games generally stop when they fight, only to start again when they make up.
- Get a Hold of Yourself Man: Needed several times due to the fickleness of Holo and the high risk of Lawrence's profession.
- God Is Good: Downplayed but when He comes up it's usually in a positive sense. For instance, the church town of Poroson has an unusual pious population and everyone from the farmers the main pair pass by to the merchant they sell pepper to extols the greatness of The Lord. Holo and Lawrence themselves are more inclined to talk about how bad/arrogant/etc the church is than the deity they serve.
- Godiva Hair: Holo's hair, when Lawrence first finds her and fairly frequently afterwards.
- Godzilla Threshold: Both Lawrence and Holo like to keep the latter's Canis Major form as a last resort because it would attract a lot of attention and might end with her tied to a stake.
- In the Bankrupcy arc, this is a Discussed Trope. Holo tells Lawrence that, if he fails to pay back his debt, she could transform and carry him off so he wouldn't have to face slavery. He replies that if he did that he could never show his face again anywhere in the area, much less stay a merchant.
- Gratuitous English: The first season's ending song. However, the lyricist is British, so the weirdness is probably deliberate.
- Greed: Lawrence goes overboard on this in episode 8 by buying too much armor on credit, and it comes back to bite him in the behind in episode 10 when he finds out that the price of armor has crashed in the city he intended to sell it at.
- Groin Attack: Lawrence knocked out an attacker with one during the first arc of the first season.