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Wolf & Parchment Vol. #04 Manga Review

4 min read
This volume is less adventuring and more pondering how to use his far-flung influence.

A standoff between tax collectors, merchants, and the Church in the city of Rausbourne.

Creative Staff
Story: Isuna Hasekura
Art: Jyuu Ayakura
Translation/Adaptation: Jasmine Bernhardt

What They Say
Rausbourne, Winfiel Kingdom’s second-largest city, is on the verge of boiling over. Col and Myuri have come to this bustling metropolis at Heir Hyland’s request-but as soon as they land, they find themselves caught between heavily armed tax collectors and mercenaries hired by the local merchants association. The stakes are high when it becomes clear that Rausbourne’s troubles are simply one part of the wider conflict between the Kingdom and the Church, which has actually worsened due to Col’s deeds as the Twilight Cardinal.

If nothing changes, it’ll be only a matter of time before fighting breaks out. Right as things start to look their bleakest, Lawrence’s old archrival Eve Bolan offers a convenient lifeline. Will the fearless miser turn out to be friend or foe? Either way, Col has no choice but to dive into a three-pronged standoff between the Church, the Kingdom, and the merchants!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
After their detour in Desarev, Col and Myuri finally arrive in Rausbourne, where Col’s supposed to report to the noblewoman Hyland. Unfortunately, their boat hasn’t even docked in the city port when Col’s taken into custody by the Rausbourne Tax Collector Association, an incident which immediately triggers a confrontation with the local traders’ association.

Col’s activities in the North haven’t gone unnoticed, and the deeds of the Twilight Cardinal have emboldened the Rausbourne tax collectors to get belligerent with the local religious authorities. On the surface, it looks like another Kingdom backed foray against the corrupt Church. However, the tax collectors are backed by Heir Klevend, a royal upstart out to usurp the throne. Additionally, the clergy are holed up in the cathedral, unwilling to engage anyone, but they don’t have to fight because merchants and their mercenaries are facing the tax collectors for them.

This is a situation with multiple actors, not all of them obvious, and their motivations aren’t what you’d immediately assume. The bulk of the story is Col and Myuri getting to the heart of the conflict and discovering more layers than they imagined. While the complexity makes it interesting, it’s not a light read. Having to keep track of how everyone is connected and why was a real mental workout.

While the original Spice and Wolf arc was sparing with its nonhuman characters, Col and Myuri seem to encounter a new nonhuman with each leg of their journey, and here it’s Sharon, the head of the Tax Collector Association. Heir Hyland, whom we haven’t seen since the early part of Volume 2, returns to the story, and we get a real blast from the past with the crafty merchant Eve arriving in Rausbourne. It’s because of the unique connections Col and Myuri have with these individuals that Col’s able to get a grasp on the situation, but watching the different personalities interact is pretty fun, too. Col may be a mild-mannered guy, but he attracts strong females. Despite his intentions of celibacy, one scene in particular with Myuri, Eve, and Hyland seems awfully like a harem situation.

Hasekura-sensei does a good job interweaving Winfiel politics, economic opportunity, and a defensive religious organization into the plot. There is an aspect I found troubling though. Along with the Church’s financial corruption, this volume adds the sin of sexual impurity. Basically, most priests had affairs, so much so these illicit relationships were an open secret. To make it worse, when they abandoned their lovers and children to rise in the church ranks, the Church deliberately and knowingly altered records to erase any inconvenient relationships.

Despite his desire to reform the Church, when Col meets one such priest, his response is less indignation and more along the lines of, “Well, he had his reasons.” Weirder is that another pastor, who himself is one of these illegitimate children, is in love with a woman, and the solution is to settle the pair together in a monastery dedicated to raising orphans rather than having the pastor find work that doesn’t require celibacy. Given that no one seems capable of following the celibacy rule, it seems odd Col never questions its necessity. At any rate, if the Church gets any more rotten than this, Myuri may be right that it’s better to destroy and build something new rather than to clean house.

Extras include the first eight pages printed in color, world map, eight black-and-while illustrations, and afterword.

In Summary

Our travelers arrive in Rausbourne to find it teetering on the brink of war. The Twilight Cardinal’s actions have spurred people to openly challenge the Church, but an armed conflict might just bring the Winfiel Kingdom to ruin. Col is confronted with the fact that his actions have worldwide consequences, and this volume is less adventuring and more pondering how to use his far-flung influence.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: C

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: December 3rd, 2019
MSRP: $14.00

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