Spice and Wolf (狼と香辛料) is a 2008, 25-episode historical light-fantasy romance anime based on the light novels by Isuna Hasekura and directed by Takeo Takahashi.
Spice and Wolf follows the story of Kraft Lawrence, a travelling merchant in a world similar to medieval Europe. During one of his visits to a small town, he happens across a young woman with the ears and tail of a wolf named Holo (Horo). She claims to be a goddess of the harvest for that village and, after striking a deal with Kraft, begins travelling with him. Kraft’s trade is benefited by the wisdom of the ancient wolf goddess, but her nature quickly begins to draw unwanted attention from the Church.
The appeal of Spice and Wolf is largely in its strength of character and writing. Although there is some action and occasional need for violence, this is not a swords-and-sorcery fantasy. Spice and Wolf leans much closer to historical fiction for most of its plotting and the driving force of the show is the romance that buds between Kraft and Holo.
In addition to this, the direction and writing of the show make the intricacies of medieval trade surprisingly interesting. I went into this show with basically no interest in economics of city-states, but after a few episodes found myself really absorbed in the different issues that the pair faced.
Spice and Wolf is a slow, deliberate show that spends a lot of time on dialog and verbal sparring. I would never call it boring, but it certainly has a much more gradual pace than other fantasy anime. If you are looking for a show to come home, sit down and relax while watching, Spice and Wolf is hard to beat, but it will not fill an action fix very well.
The other downside is that as of this review, Spice and Wolf’s story is not finished in animated form. Spice and Wolf finished animation before the light novels had been completed, and there hasn’t been any follow-ups since the second season. The ending of the show isn’t a cliffhanger or anything, but there are certainly plot threads which haven’t been resolved.
Weeb Level: 2/10. This isn’t what I would label as “entry anime”, simply because it has such an odd appeal to it. The contentious, bordering-on-tsundere, nature of Kraft and Holo’s relationship as well as the character design of Holo strikes me as somewhat weeby, but no real anime knowledge is expected of the viewer. If anything, this show is nerdy in the classical sense because the author clearly cares so much about economics.
Fanservice: 3.5/10. Holo is naked the first time Kraft meets her, and the sexual nature of their attraction is shown through the direction. It never really breaks physics and the character designs are within reasonable proportions. Nobody wears anything ridiculous, but it’s goddamn adorable throughout.
Quality: 9/10. Quality is always gonna be subjective on these reviews, so I don’t expect everyone who watches Spice and Wolf to love it, but it is certainly a favorite of mine. It’s the kind of show that made my life actively less stressful. The relationship dynamic is straight up my alley and the genuine love the author feels for the subject matter is nearly tangible. This show is a pleasure to watch, through and through.
Where to Watch: Spice and Wolf season 1 is available subbed and dubbed on Prime Video. Spice and Wolf season 2 is available subbed on Crunchyroll. Both seasons are available subbed on Hulu. It is also available dubbed on Funimation’s website.