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Spice & Wolf Season Two Collection UK Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Spice & Wolf continues where Season 1 left off, how to appreciate economics and betrayal with wolf girls, pouting and a surprisingly tense finale…

What They Say :
Hunting for riches more precious than gold! Lawrence, a traveling merchant searching for profit, finds a naked girl with the ears and tail of a wolf asleep in his cart. Her name is Holo a harvest goddess with an untamed beast lurking inside who longs to return to her beloved northern home. Armed with his street smarts and her animal instincts, a simple peddler and a forgotten deity begin a journey through the wild countryside. Along their path, the riches of happiness shall be reaped, even as the bankruptcy which dwells in the human heart is exposed.

The Review :
Menu:
The menu is set up very basically, this time with simply a horizontal borderline menu with a shot of what Lawrence and Holo sees as they enter a town, it’s sadly very generic though nice to look out but it’s literally just a generic shot of a village/town area which could come from anywhere, no Holo or Lawrence. The selections are easily accessible between Play All, Episodes, Set Up and on Disc 2, Extras. It’s very standard, no issues in selection choices on the menu or during the show, and nice to look at it, but little imagination. It works enough, simple as that with no scene selection in the episodes choice which is now commonplace.

Extras:
We get a couple of small extras to add to the new clean openings and endings for Season 2.

We get a 2 minute presentation called ‘Studying With Holo’ which hints about learning about the world of Spice and Wolf with Holo acting as a teacher, but it’s just a brief discussion on Holo’s favourite things to study…bread and wine, how brown/white bread is made and which wine makes her drunker quicker. The second short presentation is known as ‘Stretching With Holo’ with the fun disclaimer, ‘Yoitz style, make not work on humans’ It’s a stretching programme, involving neck stretches, shoulders and upper arms, and as it’s Yoitz style, we get ears, a wolf pose and tail stretches as well as back of the thigh and hip joints. Of course it’s silly (especially with Holo as the host) and fun, but combined they barely come up to 6 minutes – a short like this every episode would have been very fun as an added extra but that was all we got.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first Spice & Wolf finally got to, I immediately went to the second season with high expectations. It’s been a while that an anime has managed to entertain me with amusing characters, a decent backstory but also actually make me think and dare I say it, educate? The second season follows this same pattern and whilst I do prefer the first season over this one, this certainly still is a great watch.

It follows a different format as well, the first episode is almost a recap episode which follows from the end of Season 1, with Nora rejoining Holo and Lawrence for some victory food and drink after their successful gold smuggling. Holo is notably annoyed with her mortal enemy, a shepherd, chatting with Lawrence as she feels pangs of jealousy of the two conversing. It leads to some fun moments, where Lawrence and Holo bond together, sadly however this was just a one shot involving Nora, because after that she doesn’t return to the series, as Season 2 begins with two main arcs.

The first one which covers the first six episodes after the Nora one, involves a trip to a town named Kumerson – the main plot of S&W is a combination of Lawrence wants to own his own shop and Holo to return to her town to the north, and this town is currently having a pagan festival which Lawrence deduces may have some hints about where Holo’s town, Yoitz, is. On the way, they meet a young merchant by the name of Amati, who is very wise for his age in terms of his skill in being a merchant. He befriends Lawrence as Lawrence needs help about getting a room but Amati is obviously smitten with Holo. This leads to some real interesting tension between Lawrence and Holo for a number of reasons, first of all, it’s here where they learn that Holo’s town may no longer exist, plus before that Lawrence contemplates splitting up from Holo so they can search for their own dreams. This lack of tact eventually leads Amati to entertain Holo whilst Lawrence does his own investigating of both the local legends and the rise of pyrate, a valuable mineral whose worth is increasing by the minute. These two storylines which incorporate Spice & Wolf lead to a crisis in their relationship and in Lawrence’s dealings when Holo tells Amati a lie about why she is travelling with him, and that Amati now wishes to free her from Lawrence’s clutches, and wants to marry her. At first, Lawrence is confident that Holo will remain with Lawrence even if he manages to find the 1000 coins Holo says she owes Lawrence, but misunderstandings when Lawrence visits an eerie alchemist about Yoitz being destroyed leads to some harsh words and concerns over both their futures.

The first half dictates a story that Holo’s beauty has always entranced men but this is the first time Lawrence is afraid of losing her. He comes up with a plan to reduce the price of pyrate so that Amati cannot afford the funds to ‘purchase’ Holo from him. To say it causes great pain on him emotionally showcases the growth in the relationship of the two. Despite the joking and flirting, it is never made 100% obvious what the relationship between Lawrence and Holo is – romantic or platonic? At the very least he cares deeply for her as evidenced in the first season when he saves her from the church, but here he is doing it because someone else is interested in her, and it leads to a surprising tense and rushing few episodes…where most of the action is on the equivalent of the stock market, as the price of pyrate goes up and up. The conclusion is very intelligent and the clues were there throughout on what Holo was going to do, but you have to pay attention carefully – plus the idea there are other beings similar to Holo is something that is briefly explored with the character of Dianna, a witch like alchemist who was Lawrence’s contact with learning of Yoitz as well as someone who may have been able to sell pyrate to him, this is something which would have been nice to explore more, but sadly does not.

The second half of the series expands on the duo realizing they want to stay together, but unsure if Lawrence’s dream can coincide with Holo’s. With that in mind, they visit the town of Renos, another town that specialized in both trade, and urban legends and stories. They meet some interesting people , as there are mysterious people outside the town as well as nearby the church. The most mysterious though is a young woman, dressed in black named Abe, who they form a partnership of sorts. There is a lot of unrest in the town due to their specialty, the fur trade, being put on hold and tradesman are getting disgruntled because of the actions of the church. This character like Amati, is introduced as the opposition for one of their dreams, though this time its Lawrence’s dream being challenged as Abe wants to do some business which could lead into Lawrence owning his own shop, whilst Holo is worried about their potential separation. It’s a different contrast from before, though most of the concern is again through Lawrence, which is one niggle I have is that Holo doesn’t seem to get as much time about her own thoughts. She is mysterious yes, and as a wolf god you’d think there would be no worries, but unlike Season 1, the wolf god scenario is barely brought up (you don’t see her transform bar flashbacks) and would have been interested to hear more on what she thought. However, most of her thoughts are for Lawrence and wanting him to be more selfish in life, which leads to their plan of selling Holo herself, using the money to buy all the furs in town and then sell them at a profit to buy her back and have enough money for Lawrence to also do his dream. It leads to some tense and sad moments as the two enjoy their supposed final moments together, but it ends with a surprising finale as the unrest hits a revolution big time, which again, leads to a conclusion where there were enough clues to suggest what was really going on involving Abe and what in the end happens to Holo and between her and Lawrence…

The strength of the show once again comes through our two leads, Lawrence and Holo. I will admit that Holo kind of takes a back burner in terms of conversation this time, whilst still very much part of the story via the tales of legends, her involvement with Amati and flashbacks, most of the work is done by Lawrence – Holo by now is established as someone with great wisdom, intelligence and a tolerance for alcohol, but I felt this season only focused on her a bit, we didn’t get any wolf transformations and whilst how she handled the Amati situation was genius, because it was set in two arcs and that moment only happened at the end, it felt that she was almost misused in comparison with Season 1. She’s established as a character so most people seeing this will know her…yet the series uses a LOT of flashback scenes whilst being narrated by either Lawrence or Holo so you do feel if this was necessary.

On the other hand, Lawrence makes up for this – he’s a rare breed of male protagonist who is both snarky and likeable, but also his relationship for Holo is always demonstrated with an intelligence and wit of good comparison with a hint of romance there as well. Both arcs deal with Lawrence’s main pain – Holo being taken away from her, whether it’s for his dream of owning a shop, or his dream for Holo to remain as his companion, and he is torn with wanting her to stay with him (especially when he discovers the truth about Yoitz), whilst Holo actually encourages him to be more selfish. This season deals with the dilemmas in his head very well and it’s a very well told story in that respect.

The ending is both complete and ambiguous with how the two continue on with their journey, the arc is told very strongly with again good intelligence, especially how well Abe is represented as a mysterious merchant that you think knows too much so you wonder if you should trust her. Amati as well is well portrayed as a match for Lawrence with his smarts, but with the brashness of a young upstart who wants something and won’t stop at nothing to get what he wants so both arcs work well with their main secondary characters. The intelligence in the pyrate discussion is again absorbing to watch especially when you realize you are watching basically ‘Anime Stock Market 101’ and still enjoying it, though with the lack of wolf scenes there is little in terms of action, the storyline keeps you watching as much as the characters.

I do feel it is weaker than Season 1 overall, mainly with the use of flashback scenes which I felt weren’t needed, and a lack of Holo being involved physically throughout mostly everything, but again, the story works with the two of them despite this, and it ends with a note that it could be a finale, but also there could be more stories to be told, which works because of an intelligent tale like Spice & Wolf combined with the teasing and fun the two still do, it’s a great watch.

In Summary:
Spice & Wolf Season 2 continues on where Season 1 left, as our wolf goddess and merchant duo continue on their journey searching for their dreams. Whilst you ask by the end if they are successful or not, you enjoy the ride along the way. The duo are still great together, but the lack of Holo being a focus whilst annoying, allows Lawrence to take central stage and you realize he’s just as much a fun part of Spice & Wolf as Holo is. Overall, it’s a great follow up despite a few niggles, so if you finished the first season, I won’t hesitate to go and get the second season.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening/Ending

Content Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 6th, 2012
Running Time: 325 minutes
Price: £17.99

Review Equipment:
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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