Contact Info / Websites
Well ladies and gentlemen, since I'm taking a rest of my main line of work (illustration), I've decided to make some anime reviews for those of you who have seen less series than me (probably, 90% of the world population... I'm not sure if I should feel proud or worried about this fact, given that I'm 25... anyway) and/or for those who are wondering which series are worth checking and which are worth skipping... so let me share with you my first "formal" anime review... and what a better way to start than with a series I've recently watched:
Spice and Wolf:
I decided to take a formal, consistent way of analysis for the series I'm gonna review from now on, so I'll make an intro summary of the storyline, and then I'll divide my review into the series' plus values and negative aspects, giving a final score over 10 points ^^ We'll see how it ends up in the long run.
Spice and Wolf opening (1st season):
An ambulant merchant by the name of Craft Lawrence arrives at one of the southern villages where usually makes business. It coincidentally happens that, at the time, the village is holding one of their traditional festivals where they honor the Wolf Godess of the Crop, a deity who supposedly helped the villagers since a long time by blessing their harvests with abundance and prosperity. However, at the present day, said deity and, therefore, the festival in her honor, are just superficial traditions, since the villagers already forgot the truth of the Godess existence, and they just keep the tradition as an anual attraction.
Once Lawrence finish his deals at the village, he decides to spend the night on the road before getting to his next destination, but in the middle of the night he finds a girl with wolf ears and tail sleeping in the warmth of the pelts he stored in his cart. After an awkward missunderstanding, the girl reveals herself to Lawrence as Horo, the Wolf Godess of the Crop (or Horo, The Wise, as she likes to call herself). At first, Lawrence finds it hard to believe, but after Horo shows him her true Wolf appearance, he ends up accepting the fact that a Godess crossed in his path.
After some talking, Horo asks Lawrence for his help to get her back to her birthplace far in the north, and Lawrence, somewhat reluctantly, accepts as long as she can prove herself useful along the way... And from there, the tale of Lawrence the merchant and Horo the wise's travels begins.
* The First Season Opening:
I've got to take this out of the way first... The OP of this series ENCHANTED me. I'm not kidding. The music is perfectly fitting. The imagery is perfectly fitting. The lyrics, as abstract as anime lyrics get, is perfectly fitting. It's a perfect show of what the series "feel" is like. You can deduce from this OP, which I've put at the beggining of the review, if you'll like the series or no before even watching it. If you felt curiosity out of the opening, you'll probably like it. If, on the contrary, it made you snore, then I guess it's not the best choice for you (although I couldn't understand how anyone wouldn't like DAT OP... but that's just my biased self speaking xD).
The second season OP is good, yeah, don't get me wrong... BUT THIS ONE... I'm sorry, but when I saw that they changed the OP for the second season... I felt a little sad honestly XD It was one of those particular OPs that I'd watch ALWAYS... NEVER through the whole 12 eps of the first season (the series is composed by 2 seasons of 12 eps... for now...) I skipped the OP... NEVER.
* The Plot:
I love series who take their seemengly basic concepts into a whole different direction. The basic plot is as simple as a kids old tale: a man meets a godess, and they go on a long travel for a forgotten, mystical land far in the north. And that's where "Spice and Wolf" WINS so badly! It totally inmerses you on a "fairytale" like atmosphere, almost like a sort of celtic old legend. You don't feel like you're watching the "animated version" of a simple kids tale, you're engulfed by the magical experience of these far away lands, the traditions of their different cultures, the ever vigilant eye of the inquisitive medieval church, the harsh but rewarding world of the ancient merchants and the magical touches of the forests legends. It's a very welcome change of pace from all the bundle of "school life comedy" styled series that FLOOD the anime market at this day and age. Much like "Haibane Renmei", another of my favorite series of all times, "Spice and Wolf" gets you INSIDE it's story and narrative with almost no effort and very little (or I dare say none) "forced exposition". There's a saying that goes like "Don't tell. Show." and MAN does this series get this concept right!
* The Characters:
The characters in this series are wonderfully written. There aren't "good guys" or "bad guys" in this story, but just people with different goals and situations that make their actions reasonable. You can argue against the "ways" some of them use to get to their goals, but they're still logical. No one here has that argumentative "I want to hunt down the Wolf Godess because I'm sooo evil MUAJAJAJAJAJAJJA" bullshit. Instead, a trading deal gone awfuly wrong could bring two or more characters who were in good terms into a pretty fierce dispute, or an unrequietted love could fire up a duel of wits. Fortunatelly, all the characters in this story, be it main or secondary, are well written and their reasons are sooner or later proven logical, so that's definetly a show of very sharp writting skills.
* The Romance:
It's one of the most credible romantic relationships I've seen in a long while (and it took a medieval merchant and a Wolf Godess to make me say that... go figure...). The main characters (Lawrence and Horo) are written with a very adult perspective of romance in mind, practically "Seinen" material, and that's what makes the love figure developement through the series so memorable! They're not initially attracted to each other. At first, Lawrence sees Horo, even for as gorgeous as she is, as someone who he has to deal with, not entering into the terrain of nuisance, but certainly not into the terrain of someone who's easy to deal, talk and even reach an understanding with. Horo, in the other hand, starts her travel with Lawrence by a mixture of convenience for a better, more comfortable way to reach her destination, and the issue that she feels lonely (her lifespan is way greater than those of the humans) so, in the cold truth, anyone relatively kind and fun enough to travel with would have sufficed to kill some time for her. THIS is more credible! THIS is what normal, real love stories go. That "I was in love since I first saw you" crap is just for the shoujo and shounen shallow love stories (when it's meant to be taken 100% seriously. Comedy dramas obviously don't apply to this since they're poking fun of this commonplace fact). The whole love relationship takes the whole two seasons to fully develop and bloom, and even then they're both constantly reminded of the fact that "love isn't bulletproof". Shit can happen in the middle. Life can get in the way. Either we choose to struggle to find balance between love and life, or let one be consumed by the other ending in unavoidable tragedy IS what happens IRL, and IS what happens in "Spice and Wolf". A God-fucking-applausse for the writter for not falling into commonplace cliches, and instead making ME, one of the most esceptic humans in the whole world, REALLY CARE for a couple getting together or not! (The first half of the second season got me by the balls through 4 or 5 episodes of an entire storyarc... JESUS, I couldn't even eat squat shit until I saw what happened in the end...)
I'll admit... I have a very difficult time pinning down any bad points on this series... and even if I do find something, it's not that it's BAD per se, but perhaps a bit out of my "area of expertise"... anyway, let's take a look, shall we?
* The Dialogue's complexity:
Ok, let me level with you for a sec... I think I'm a pretty inteligent man. I have my decent degree of common knowledge, I speak many languages (even if my accent is hideous), and I've got a fairly high grasp over technical economy terms since I worked for an accountant two years straight. I'm 25 years old, and in that time I've managed to read my good share of literature and so on... AND STILL!!!!!!
I don't know if the traduction teams are to blame, or if the writter of the story is to blame... but the dialogue in this series, even if exceptionally interesting and well developed, IS COMPLEX AS ALL HELL!!!
Even when the "setting" is pretty basic, the dialogue can get unexpectedly hard to follow for the "untrained". In the parts of the dialogue regarding the "romance" or "philosophical" issues, it can be a little difficult to follow at times, but I don't know, it's bearable, and as a last resource, you can always stop the video and rewind to those parts you missed it. It's really worth it, because the philosophical questions about life, convenience, love and reality that this show exposes ARE very well thought and contain a real, heavy message, and the comedy parts work very well, even when some of them might sound a little old (which is perfect, because the story unflods on a medieval setting, so it makes total sense).
But when the characters start talking about economy and business... OH BOY!!! They start rambling about medieval economy, the 50 types of coins used through the realm, the advantages and disvantages of buying through credit, schemes based on economical fluctuation, the degree of silver used in every coin that determines the inflational value of each region, the excersise of economical monopoly over specific resources... I was able to follow those dialogues at the beggining, but they'd finally confuse me so much that my head just said "So... who's the bad guy and who's the good guy?" xD DAMN YOU!!! You made me, a proudly thinking adult, start to BEG for more "black and white" situations! And you'd think that's OK, you can just simply turn your mind off and wait for the undesciphrable economic mumbo-jumbo to finish, but NO! Those details ARE important! IF you don't have at least a basic understanding of the situation at hand at that moment, then you won't be able to understand who has the upper hand on a deal in which MANY CENTRAL THINGS depend on! The story of the main characters even depend on the outcome of some of these heavyly economically based decisions, so GET READY that index finger over your mouse, cause you're gonna stop the video and rewind through those parts of the dialogues like mad. You've been warned xD (I still think its ABSOLUTELLY WORTH IT. It's just waaay too complex for the regular watcher).
* The "Kitsune Problem":
XD I'll admit, this issue is very, VERY stupid, and won't be taken into account into the final veredict of the series... it just distracts me, but I eventually got over it HORO LOOKS LIKE A KITSUNE (FOX), NOT AN OOKAMI (WOLF). Watch the OP again! Tell me I'm wrong, I dare you! XD
As I said, pretty stupid xD I just always thought that she was a kitsune before I saw the series
* The Series' Length:
I always say that my "perfect" size for series is around 24 to 26 eps... WELL FUCK ME! THIS SERIES NEEDS TO BE LONGER!!! I know, I know, the manga is longer and it goes beyond the ending of the second season (in fact, it's finishing tome was published at the date of 10/02/2011, making it a 16 tomes' novel, so it's reasonablly longer than the anime), and YEAH, I KNOW there are some speculations about a third season coming out... someday, but let's be honest guys... the second season ended in 2009... and the manga was finished in 2011... WE'RE IN 2013!!! WHERE THE HELL IS MY ENDING!!!??? I DEMAND A SATISFACTORY CONCLUSION!!!!! FATE WANTS MORE HORO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
... sorry, my mind snapped a sec...
Anyway... I love the series... but I SERIOUSLY need to see more... I BEG OF YOU "IMAGIN STUDIOS"!!! I BEG OF YOU "TAKEO TAKAHASHI"!!!! FULFILL MY DREAM!!! T_T
Yeah... that's about it.
Score: 9/10 (Watch it or I'll burn your babies!!!)
With an EXCELLENT storyline, a MEMORABLE OP (first season only -.-), a DEEP emotionally charged writting, a BEAUTYFULL medieval imagery and a GOD DAMN I WANNA HUGH YOU HORO, YOU LAWRENCE BETTER MAN UP!!!! character selection, this EXQUISITE pearl of wonderful animation evaded my radar I DONT KNOW HOW FOR SO LONG!!! I enjoyed every second of the series (In fact I saw both seasons in TWO DAYS... TWOOOOOOO DAAAAAAAAAAAYSSSSSSSS!!!), I'll probably watch it again many times, I'll surelly buy the mangas as soon as I find a fully translated edition (and I'm not a manga guy, mind you. I reserve the honor for those series who deserve it, and this is definetly one of them), and I command you guys to send me a HORO FIGURINE THROUGH WESTERN UNION! I'll bake a pie for the brave one!!! (just joking... yeah... joking... )
People who might enjoy it: Seinen lovers, fantasy lovers, kemonomimi lovers, adult audiences, celtic mythos fans, mature romance story lovers, drama lovers, people who enjoyed "Haibane Renmei".
People who might not enjoy it: Very young audiences, impatient people, fans of action series, fans of more superficial or casual settings, people with very poor understanding of basic economy mechanisms such as offer and demand, inflationary process and such.
If you liked my style of review and have a series you'd like to suggest for a review of this kind (I'd probably seen it already though xD) feel free to tell me
FATE OUT!!!.... wait, I'll play the OP just one more time XD