This is the problem when you procrastinate. I even know about it way beforehand but yet still went ahead of delaying it. I don’t know what gave me the willpower to do it now but better late than never. Heck, it should have been better early than late! Because my memories are so bad that I think I have been starting to forget things. This is the first versus blog in more than a year. Oh, how time flies. I have always wanted to do a comparison between Spice And Wolf as well as Maoyuu Maou Yuusha simply because I thought the latter was a spiritual successor to the former and that they used both the same seiyuus for the leading characters in both series. So let me see if I can remember the similarities… Hah. An excuse not to put up too many entries…

World setting:
Spice And Wolf: Medieval European world.
Maoyuu: European fantasy.

Basis of character names:
Spice And Wolf: Most are of common European Christian names.
Maoyuu: Characters are named after their jobs or personalities.

Male lead character:
Both voiced by Jun Fukuyama. And the characters are human type.
Spice And Wolf: Craft Lawrence, a merchant.
Maoyuu: Hero, well uhm, a hero.

Female lead character:
Both voiced by Ami Koshimizu. And the characters are non-human.
Spice And Wolf: Horo, a wolf harvest deity.
Maoyuu: Demon King, well uhm, a demon lord.

Her nickname:
Spice And Wolf: Horo calls herself The Wise Wolf.
Maoyuu: Demon King is known as Red Scholar when she disguises herself as a human noblewoman.

What’s on her head:
Spice And Wolf: Wolf ears.
Maoyuu: Demon horns.

Reason for contract:
The reason why they are travelling together, which is also basically the main plot setting of the series.
Spice And Wolf: Horo longs to return home to the North and strikes up a deal with Lawrence to take her there in exchange for teaching him the tricks of the trade.
Maoyuu: Demons and humans have been fighting each other for ages with both sides taking the loser as slaves. In order to end the meaningless war, Demon King proposes an alliance with Hero in hopes of bringing peace and prosperity to both sides in the long run.

Travelling mode:
Spice And Wolf: A wooden carriage.
Maoyuu: Hero has the ability to teleport anywhere.

Basic lessons learnt:
These are educational animes and you are bound to learn something if you pay attention.
Spice And Wolf: Basics of trade.
Maoyuu: Economics and to a certain extent, war strategies.

The corrupted:
It always happens in every era, everywhere. Basically, the antagonist.
Spice And Wolf: The church.
Maoyuu: Human merchants and demons who fund the war to keep it going. Also, the church…

Merchant trade group:
Spice And Wolf: Rowen Trading Guild.
Maoyuu: Economic Alliance of Merchants and Southern Independent Cities.

Food of the series:
Spice And Wolf: Apples – Horo’s favourite.
Maoyuu: Wheat – Basic staple food and also pseudo currency.

Possible love rival:
Spice And Wolf: Chloe for Lawrence but it ended once she aligned herself with the church. Also, Amarty for Horo.
Maoyuu: Knight for Hero. Merchant A for Demon King.

Fanservice scenes:
For the female lead character…
Spice And Wolf: There are scenes that Horo is in her birthday suit but this is debatable since wolves are meant to be naked and with all that fur covering the body, is this amounting to fanservice?
Maoyuu: Demon King’s humongous boobs.

Falling ill:
Spice And Wolf: Perhaps Horo ate and drank too much food and party too hard. Nothing like a good nutritious and balanced meal to recover, eh?
Maoyuu: Sister Maid and Little Maid came from a very poor and large family. Their poverty caused some of their siblings to die from malnutrition and disease. Also, smallpox was spreading but thanks to vaccines and antibodies, the spread is stemmed.

Desperate moments:
Spice And Wolf: Lawrence desperate for money goes around asking other merchants to lend some money only to be chased away (some even splashing water at his face).
Maoyuu: Sister Maid disguises herself as Demon King and to be arrested for being heretic. Her lashing out about life and what it means to be human has the common people to turn their backs on the authorities and save her from being executed.

Trading new currencies:
Spice And Wolf: Lawrence learnt that there is a plan to trade some old silver coin currencies to newer ones for a profit. But it is just a scheme as only the purity of the silver content in the coins declined.
Maoyuu: The Holy Capital issues a decree that new currencies will be issued and current ones declared as illegal. This means the Holy Capital stand to profit based on the difference in exchange rate.

The kiss:
The moment that we all have been waiting for.
Spice And Wolf: In the final episode of the second season, Lawrence finally confesses he loves Horo and kisses her.
Maoyuu: There are a couple of scenes Demon King wanted to kiss Hero because the mood was right or as some reward but was interrupted by something else. So close yet so far…

Episode titles:
Spice And Wolf: All of them follow this format of “Wolf and (insert whatever things here)”.
Maoyuu: They sound more like conversations or comments.

Number of episodes:
Spice And Wolf: 26 episodes split into 2 seasons of 13 episodes each. Note, an episode in the first season was unaired and was eventually made an OVA whereas another OVA was aired before the second season started.
Maoyuu: 1 season with only 12 episodes + 1 recap episode.

Studio production:
Spice And Wolf: Imagin for first season, Brain’s Base for second season.
Maoyuu: Arms.

Conclusion
Like I’ve said, it has been a long time that I don’t remember much. Just the bare basics. It is hard to say which one is better because both series give us educational knowledge about microeconomics as well as macroeconomics. They are both enlightening in their own ways. This is the only reason why you should watch these shows (and of course these are their strongest points too). Not because of the plot, the art, the characters (although Maoyuu seems to fare better on this aspect than Spice And Wolf) or even the so called hinting romance between the characters. They all pale in comparison to the trade and economic information. I am sure more people will be interested to learn such topics if they are presented this way. Anime, the new platform for learning world business and finance. Then naysayers can’t always blame anime is always porn.

Spice And Wolf

August 28, 2010

Once in a while, I thought to myself maybe instead of watching mindless fanservice or high school comedy genres, I need to watch some thinking animes too. So that I myself won’t label myself as a total ecchi pervert (which I am not, mind you) and if people asked if I have seen ‘decent’ animes, well at least I can say yes. So it was decided that the thinking anime which I should watch at that time should be Spice And Wolf or also known as Ookami To Koushinryou in Japanese. If you disagree with me on whether this is a thinking anime well then at least it doesn’t fall under the two categories I mentioned in my first sentence of this blog.
 
So what is the ‘thinking’ part of this series you may ask? Based on a series of light novels, those who watch it will tend to notice the main focus of this anime is around economics and trade. Yup, for those who are planning to go into business should find this a little handy. Okay, maybe I’m just exaggerating. But at least unlike in other animes whose setting in the fantasy and medieval world means magic, sword action and epic battles, you could learn a two from the basics of trade. Though they aren’t university material type (meaning it isn’t guaranteed you’ll be a definite success by applying these methods) at least they provide good insights and lessons from the simple theories.
 
Our main protagonist is of course Craft Lawrence, a travelling merchant. As seen in episode 1, he stops by in a remote village in a midst of some traditional harvest festival to do his usual barter trade. Something about this ritual that the last person who harvest the last wheat of the season, captures the wolf god known as Horo. That honour befalls on Chloe who is a novice merchant. Part of the ritual has her locked up in the shed for a week. Lawrence meets her and they chat. Do you sense any chemistry going to happen? Unless you put money as your priority. That night when Lawrence is resting outside by his wagon, he is shocked to see a naked female with wolf ears and tail. Introducing herself as Horo, of course any person would scoff off she is a god. Need proof? Well, she turned into something that scared the daylights out of him so much so we didn’t see what her transformation was. Like they say, seeing is believing. Considering this is the old European times, the church holds great power and influence and you know what this means if creatures like Horo are caught, right? Apparently some loophole during the harvesting has Horo managed to ‘sneak’ away from being imprisoned in the shed (keep in mind the other villagers do not know of her real presence and are doing it based on tradition). Considering Lawrence her saviour, Horo soon strikes up a deal with Lawrence to go on a journey. Seems Horo wants to return to her hometown Yoitsu up in the north. She yearns for her hometown since she hasn’t been back there since who knows when. As far as she remembers, she was brought in to bring good yield to the village harvest. However as time passes, people learn to depend on themselves with their own technology and during bad harvest years, they’d blame and forsaken her for the rot when her reason for baring the land was to let it rest. And thus began a journey to the north and a ‘blossoming’ relationship between the duo.
 
In most episodes, the interesting and amusing part is watching the pair in such a love-hate relationship if I should say. To me, Horo is like the haughty and cheeky emo wolf while Lawrence has to put up with her mood swings and teasing. Whether he is a tawake (fool) or his nature as a man, it’s quite amusing and never tiresome to watch her sarcasm, acid tongue and ‘verbal abuse-cum-banter’. Of course as the series goes by, Lawrence gets to know her better and could even ‘communicate’ on her level. Horo is never close to being a damsel in distress as she is self sufficient and intelligent. So her nickname Kenrou No Horo (Horo The Wise) isn’t just for show. But considering she’s a wolf so I guess you’d expect her to be a little playful at times. Of course travelling with Lawrence means she has got to do her fair share of using her wisdom to increase his profits and experience in the trading business. Not bad for a deity wolf, I’d say.
 
To avoid suspicion and persecution from the church, in episode 2, Horo pretends to be Lawrence’s badly burnt wife hiding behind a veil. Here, they meet a man named Zeren who is interested in the pair. Seems he has a proposal to Lawrence about currency appreciation in the form of new silver coins having higher silver content and exchanging them with other currencies. But that’s just rumours. However imagine the profit they’ll make if they get hold of it if it turns out to be true. Zeren wants Lawrence to undertake his proposal of course for a certain percentage. But Horo cautions Lawrence since her ears are able to tell whether a person is lying. In short, Zeren lied. But why? Next morning, Lawrence agrees to Zeren’s plan and to meet in the next town. Lawrence and Horo continue their journey and talk about wolves attacking humans. Seems Lawrence has his fair share of being attacked by wolves so Horo tells him wolves hunt humans because they know humans are subjected to fear. Lawrence gets upset when Horo hints that she herself has hunted humans before so the latter refuses to reveal anything further.
 
The duo arrive in the next town in episode 3. Seems Horo is excited with the food and I’m not sure why she takes a liking for apples. I thought wolves are carnivorous? Maybe she’s different. Yeah, she loaded up his entire wagon with apples. Before meeting Zeren, Lawrence goes to barter trade his furs with the Milone Company. He manages to get a good bargain when Horo interferes. Something about her tactic of making her furs smell with apples to increase its value and thus its price. Later Lawrence meets up with Zeren to talk about their plans. He seems nervous though Lawrence trusts him. Zeren wants a deposit of 10 silver coins and 10% cut in which Lawrence accepts. Considering his side is a little low but that’s because he feels Lawrence is taking the bigger risk and deserves more. Plus, something about with the various different currencies around, the strength a country and its dominance is shown via its purity content like as though going to war. Next day, Lawrence goes to see his friend Weiss who is in the money exchanging business about the silver’s purity. However Weiss is more interested in flirting with Horo. I guess that wolf doesn’t mind either. But business comes first. In short, there is a decline in the silver coin’s content. Which means Zeren was lying all along. Horo points out that there is no way Zeren could be at the lost. If Lawrence profits, he gets a percentage. If Lawrence losses, he still has the deposit and lose nothing. After pondering Horo’s advice of wolves climbing trees to see further, he concludes that Zeren must be under someone’s orders to do such a thing.
 
In episode 4, we learn about a scam to get merchants to amass silver coins that are appreciating and then scammers to buy them which will lead to the merchants trying to rid them once they find out its declining value. With the help of Milone and its branch manager Marlhait, Lawrence finds out Medio Company was behind Zeren’s act. Lawrence decides to come up with a plan that will reap him huge profits, enough for him to open his dream store. But Horo isn’t pleased because that would mean they’ll stop travelling. That night, Horo snuggles close to Lawrence. No, it’s not some steamy affair going to happen but rather she is here to warn him that there are several men waiting outside their door. Lawrence realizing they’re from Medio, takes Horo and quickly flees via the window. A chase ensues. Horo decides to distract them so Lawrence can go see Marlhait. Lawrence is against the plan since her true form will be revealed and taken to the church but Horo is confident she’ll hide long enough for him to rescue her. Some confidence she’s got there. Lawrence safely reaches Milone’s office and since it’s under the protection of some archduke, the Medio thugs give up. Lawrence pleads with Marlhait fort help but Marlhait says there is nothing they can do. Furthermore, Marlhait says something doesn’t make sense since Medio should’ve anticipated this but still chose to come after him. Then they receive a letter from Medio with a bundle of Horo’s fur. That means Horo has been captured. This causes Lawrence to reveal that Horo is the wolf harvest deity. In the dungeon, Horo sees a familiar face among her adversaries. Isn’t that Chloe?
 
Another set of problem arises in episode 5 as Marlhait mentions if Horo’s identity gets exposed, then Milone also will suffer since they’re linked with them. Lawrence comes up with a proposal to get privileges from the royalty for the silver coins since they are financially tight now. In other words, to get rights for certain areas and such. They need to negotiate these privileges with Medio before they prosecute Horo. Lawrence is confident they will trade that because by doing so, Medio don’t want to earn the wrath of the king and church and they could use Horo as a condition for the privileges. Lawrence also thinks Medio hasn’t amassed enough silver coins, the reason they couldn’t present Horo to the church. Marlhait already has arranged for the negotiations while Lawrence plans on rescuing Horo and run till the negotiations end. Milone’s ‘extensive network’ seems to take Lawrence through the maze of underground sewers. I don’t know how the inside job was done but they manage to free Horo as she reunites with Lawrence till they’re picked up in a carriage. She still hasn’t lost her attitude. Yeah, she’s upset Lawrence didn’t come to personally get her. Horo reveals her meeting with Chloe and how the latter was adamant to turn her to the church and that the era of paying respects to the deity is over. She starts crying so Lawrence comforts her. The carriage brings them to another spot as they both escape down into the sewers once more.
 
Unfortunately Medio pursuers are hot on their heels in episode 6. A Medio henchman stabs Lawrence in his arm and although he knocks him out, his movements are slowed. They reach the end of the tunnel but the hole is too high up for them to reach. Medio corners them and among them Chloe, wants Lawrence to hand over Horo so they could hand her to the church and at the same time crush Milone. Furthermore, she offers Lawrence to join her and that they can both settle down and open the stores they dream of. But Lawrence is the kind of guy who isn’t going to break his promise over money. He is bent on taking Horo to the north. Chloe regrets his decision and allows her men to kill Lawrence but to keep Horo alive. That’s when Horo pulls Lawrence back and bites his wounded arm. I’m not sure if this is how she draws her strength but she transforms into her true form: A giant wolf! Enough to freak everyone out and scare them to bits. She chases and knocks out all the fleeing and panicking Medio guys and when it’s Chloe’s turn, I guess she was so scared that she fainted so Horo let her be. Lawrence barely conscious wants to stop Horo (citing she ripped his expensive clothes during her transformation?) but she continues walking as he passes out. When he comes to, he is with Marlhait and his men. He tells Lawrence they found him lying next to a giant wolf guarding him before leaving. On to business, Marlhait says the negotiation was a success and gives half of the silver coins to Lawrence. But he wants to be paid in pepper since winter is coming. Marlhait then hands him a bill for several items which includes a comb that Horo wanted and lots of apples. Lawrence realized and rushes to the cargo area to see Horo in his wagon. She promises to pay him at the end of their journey. As the duo go off and back to their usual ways, Marlhait notes how it is wolf and spice.
 
Lawrence decides to buy Horo better set of clothes in episode 7 (supposedly to be a ‘lost’ episode ‘found’ only if you bought the DVD). Well, unless she wants continue looking like a Jedi wherever she goes, I guess a change of clothes would be nice. Since Lawrence has a gold coin, which is too big a denomination to buy stuff like clothes, he changes loose silver coin change with Weiss. Still not giving up on the wolf, eh? They go to some merchant to sort of ‘swindle’ him to buy clothes from him at a lower price partly courtesy of Horo’s charm. Some may call this bargaining but hey, Horo is one pretty smooth operator. Then another ‘cheap’ business tactic in which Lawrence buys lots of cheap blanket at inflated prices to buy those expensive clothes at a lower price. Though the merchant makes a profit from the blankets but he makes a loss overall because he loses out on the expensive clothes. Something about a theory the merchant wants to establish good relations and leave a good impression hence he is willing to sell at a lower price. Thus the huge gap between both prices results in a huge gain for Lawrence. And by the way, all those apples Horo bought at the end of the previous episode, she ate them all. Serious. Apple lover.
 
The pair are in the next town in episode 8 and Horo can’t wait to get to the next big town Rubinhaigen after there’ll be lots of delicious food for her to sink her teeth in. The duo try to sell the pepper they’ve got as the merchant gets Horo plain water when she complains that she’s thirsty. The deal continues and right before Lawrence accepts his proposal, Horo feints dizziness and accidentally spills her water. It is revealed the water is actually wine. Thus the merchant plans to swindle them are revealed because the merchant plans to make them drunk and gain the upper hand by being the sober one and secondly with the tilted table, it shows that his scales are unbalance. With that, Lawrence blackmails him into giving him high grade armour in exchange he will not expose his dirty tricks. As they depart for Rubinhaigen, they chat on how they’ll make huge profits from the armour but due to high tariffs imposed by the church and merchants who are in cohorts with them, this leads to the smuggling of gold which is highly illegal and if caught, the consequences can be fatal. They pass several travellers who warn them of the bandits up north so Lawrence takes a detour. On the way, Horo picks up a scent of the type of human she hates. Standing in their path, a shepherd girl, Nora and her dog, Enik, with a flock of sheep. Though Lawrence and Nora greet each other, Horo remains suspicious and unhappy due to the fact shepherds and wolves are natural enemies. Or you can look at this way. Another woman to add to the rivalry. Haha. She’ll have his absolute attention over her split. Just kidding. But seriously.
 
Nora offers her services to escort him on his journey and to protect him from wolves in episode 9. Really? There’s one really close by, you know. I guess Lawrence agrees though he is quick to say Horo is cuter. Horo notes that Nora is a skilled shepherd but needs to be wary to avoid exposing herself. Lawrence finds out more about Nora as they continue their journey like how she has been doing this for 4 years and dreams of being a tailor, the reason she needs the money. Then he also learns her current employer is the church but he feels he can get other merchants to take on her escort job. When they arrive at Rubinhaigen, Lawrence pays extra as goodwill to Nora before they part. Lawrence and Horo pass the inspection gates but the custom guards seem to be surprise with Lawrence’s goods. The duo spend the day drinking and eating at the town’s marketplace before Lawrence brings her to the branch of a trading guild he is part of, Rowen. Horo waits outside while Lawrence meets his old friend the guildmaster inside.
 
Lawrence asks guildmaster is anyone is heading towards Ramtora for Nora’s sake in episode 10 but he urges him not to get involved since it’s the church she’s related to. Seems Lawrence has bought something on credit from the Remerio Company so guildmaster lets him handle it himself. Lawrence goes back to his room with Horo and discusses the immense profit they’ll make though he’s temporarily in debt. Next day when the duo go sell the armour, they are surprised to see no signs of activity. Then a guy shows up to tell them that the armour value has crashed due to a cancelled army expedition in the north. Lawrence starts to panic that he is in a huge debt and carrying worthless goods. I didn’t understand that transfer of rights thingy by some other company to Lawrence which causes him to be in debt. Realized that he is being setup, Lawrence goes to see the Remerio boss and learns he has 2 days to settle his debts or be declared a bankrupt. How are you going to sell worthless armour at high prices? Horo suggests that they run but Lawrence knows that they can’t hide and will be found out no matter how. He returns to his guildmaster and he knows he is in debt but the company can’t help him even though Lawrence introduces Horo as his business partner. Lawrence goes round desperately seeking to borrow from other merchants but they all reject him and at one point, one even splashed water on him! That bad and desperate, eh? He’s getting more frustrated by the second as Horo can only tag along. He finally goes to an old acquaintance whom he helped in the past. But he mentions he was willing to help him like the rest but refused because of the impression he is giving while going around with a woman while trying to borrow money. Something about living by God’s teachings and showing his sincerity. He too slams the door on him in disgust. This causes Lawrence to snap and go crazy. Horo tries to calm him down but he starts blaming and taking it out her that if they had never met. That’s when he crossed the line. He realized his wrong and tried to apologize but Horo leaves him and returns to her room.
 
Though he manages to scavenge a few coins, it isn’t enough and is far off. In episode 11, he tries to apologize to Horo but she’s not accepting. Thought of leaving coins for her? Yeah, she throws it back at his head. Like money could be the root for forgiveness. It’s understandable that Horo is upset and her emo level sky high even if Lawrence admits it’s his fault. Sure the insults like a softy go with that but I guess it’s just part of her nature to argue to solve things quickly as they reconcile. They both come up with a plan and go to see Remerio’s boss. That is, to help smuggle gold from the church in exchange for suspending his debt. Since Remerio is having financial difficulties (not to mention Horo’s ‘blackmailing’ if you could call it), he agrees. Lawrence goes to convince Nora whom he believes will not betray them in their bid to smuggle gold. Plus, Nora isn’t satisfied with her current employer so in a way you could say she’s in. Plus, she did admit she took up the job specifically because of him. Lawrence agrees to pay her handsomely and her task will be to smuggle gold via strapping them to her sheep’s belly. Though Lawrence feels a little guilty that he had to trick Nora and Horo reasserting a big softy he is, well even in those times, it’s a dog eat dog world.
 
Lawrence, Horo, Nora and a staff of Remerio, Liebert make their way to Ramtora in episode 12. They trek through the dangerous areas to a point where wolves are discreetly watching them. Though nothing happens and the wolves do not appear, they continue to be on alert. When they reach Ramtora, Liebert goes in alone to smuggle the gold. Eventually he is successful and the gang make their return trip. The weather turns rainy when the wolves start stalking them but with Enik on guard, they didn’t do any rash move till one of them chases after the horse Lawrence and Horo is on. Horo shows her fangs to scare it. Horo decides to handle this alone and wants Lawrence to tell Nora and Liebert to go ahead. Horo knows these young wolves aren’t after the sheep. After Lawrence leaves, Horo is confronted by the pack and its leader who is a giant wolf. As Lawrence stops to dry his clothes, he is confronted by 3 armed men. Supposedly sent by Liebert, they are here to kill him and his companion. Lawrence realizes he has been betrayed but to Remerio, they’re just minimizing the risks (no witnesses, that is) and looking after their interests. The men tie him up and contemplate on what to do with Nora. This works up Lawrence as he tries to attack them but is knocked down to the ground. The men left him to die and go in search for Nora.
 
In episode 13, Lawrence manages to free himself and meets with Horo (somehow she settled the feud without bloodshed by submitting herself). When she learns of Remerio’s betrayal, she transforms into her true form and is going to rush over there to teach those traitors a lesson. Lawrence had better hold on tight because this is going to be the fastest mode of transport he’ll ever ride. At least in this era. Liebert and his men (seems he has 20 of them) are taking Nora who is still oblivious of their plan when a giant wolf appears before them. Seriously do you want to take on a giant being? Better run. Where to hide in this vast plains? The men are easily taken out and coward Liebert who was willing to pay for to protect his life fainted from all that. But it’s not over because Horo has a showdown between Nora and Enik. I’m not sure who Lawrence called as he tried to stop them. In the end, Horo spares them. It seems Remerio was betraying them from the start as the gold they’ve got was only 1/6 out of the intended profit. Nora learns Horo’s true identity. Lawrence goes back to Remerio’s boss and blackmails him to pay him gold coins in instalments over 10 years. This way it would be better because he was preparing to flee with his little assets and should’ve thought of rebuilding his business. By submitting his debts to Rowen Guild, although he may have betrayed Lawrence but if he betrays the guild, his life is as good as over. Just as not to be a black-hearted person, Lawrence allows him to use some of the smuggled gold to avoid him getting bankrupt. As all’s well ends well, Horo and Lawrence have their usual bickering as she tries to find out whose name Lawrence called during their confrontation. She is so emo that one minute she’s throwing tantrums, the next she’s blushing. Nora meets them as she has retired as a shepherd before Lawrence and Horo depart on another journey.
 
Before the start of the much anticipated second season, an OVA sometimes dubbed as episode 0 of season 2 gave and reminded viewers the hot-cold relationship between the man and the wolf. Hey, it’s only a year apart between both seasons but we still enjoy the fun from their interaction, don’t we? This OVA doesn’t serve anything much and you can say it’s like some sort of filler. Set after the gold smuggling incident, Lawrence and Horo meet up with Nora over dinner and of course that wolf is still jealous. You know why lah. Perhaps she couldn’t enjoy her meal or eat and drank too much that she fell ill. Lawrence nurses her back to health and in a reversal of roles, Horo isn’t as scathing as her usual self while Lawrence is pretty much the nutritionist we never know. I mean, the tasty meals he prepared to balance Horo’s hot-cold-dry-wet balance are pretty amazing and informative. Of course after hearing the benefits of drinking sheep’s milk, would Horo wait to get better or sent her ‘slave’ to go get it? Unfortunately she didn’t see this coming because Nora pays her a visit and this dampens her mood. Well, she was a shepherd, wasn’t she? Where else to get good source of sheep’s milk? But when Horo asks about her being a shepherd, Nora’s reply of having a big and open heart accepting others and to discover the hearts of others, this overwhelms Horo and you could say both girls finally get along with each other.
 
Fans waiting for Spice And Wolf II would be happy to know another 12 episodes set for this season. In episode 1 as the pair continue their journey north, Horo has visions of her homeland and is torn to choose between her tribe or Lawrence. As they enter the next town called Kumerson, they meet and make acquaintance with another member of Rowen Guild, Fermi Amarty. Amarty seems like a nice young lad but that’s because he’s quite interested in Horo. Which guy isn’t? Kumerson is also going to have its own big time festival too so what better for Horo to let loose some steam after a long journey by drinking too much. Next day, Lawrence goes meet his old trading acquaintance, Mark and young apprentice Lanto, as he sells them his goods in the form of nails. Since Mark isn’t well knowledgeable in nails, Lawrence gets a good price but decides to be paid in terms of credit. That night, Lawrence asks Horo for more information of Yoitsu and from what she tells him, it will take a year or two to reach there (hey, don’t see any planes or cars, did ‘ya?) and suggests to split up once they reach the town of Niohira considering Horo can reach Yoitsu in her wolf form in 2 days from there. But Horo doesn’t seem happy so Lawrence regrets he shouldn’t have brought this topic up.
 
As Horo enjoys the festival in episode 2, Lawrence decides to learn more about Yoitsu and its legends by looking for chroniclers and is suggested by Mark to refer to Guy Bartose. Doesn’t Lawrence worry about Horo’s identity being exposed? Sure, she’ll be careful. Plus, Amarty wholeheartedly accompanies her for the day. Bartose leads Lawrence to some dark side of town where alchemists reside. They see a woman named Dean "Deanna" Rubens. She tells Lawrence of the legends including a bear that destroyed Yoitsu and a large deity wolf named Horo near the town of Renos in which Yoitsu was probably situated close by. Of course when you leave your hot companion with someone else who has an eye on her, you’d definitely end up jealous as Mark warns him. Yup, Horo’s not back in their room as supposed too. She must be having real fun. Thankfully she arrives back shortly and shows him the gifts Amarty bought her. A wolf-like fine fur scarf and a pyrite stone being popularly sold by a fortune teller in which Lawrence thinks is a scam (I think he wants to get a piece of that profit making scheme too). To make matters worse, Horo seems to have told Amarty that she is an ‘indebted nun’ so that kid was moved. Suddenly Lanto comes in and tells Lawrence something. Something so shocking that it made him dash out of the room onto the streets. No, money isn’t falling from the sky.
 
Seems Lawrence has a new set of problems in episode 3. Amarty challenges him to a duel between merchants in which Amarty will pay off Horo’s debt by tomorrow and in doing so will ask Horo’s hand in marriage (since she’s not affiliated with any church). It would’ve been easier if he just disagree this whole absurd thing but call it a man’s ego and pressure from the onlooking crowd so he accepts. Lawrence has faith that Horo will reject Amarty even if he wins but Amarty himself is confident that Horo will leave Lawrence. Hard to say since we know how emo that wolf is. Lawrence goes to find more information on Amarty. Something about how he despises merchants like Lawrence who relies on connections because he made money on his own although he came from a rich family. But at the same time prices of pyrite have skyrocketed as Amarty uses this chance to make money from the pyrites (since the fortune teller left the town so I guess the stones are now rare) while Lawrence was fooling around with Horo during the festival. When Lawrence returns home, he finds Horo have read the letter Deanna gave to Mark to give to him about the destruction of Yoitsu. I’m sure Horo isn’t crying crocodile tears because she’s really upset that he knew the village was destroyed all along and perhaps have grown tired of her (has he?). She starts getting hysterical and fears of being alone (so much so she has that crazy idea of even mating with him!) but eventually when he couldn’t answered what she means to him, she walks away and Lawrence had to leave and regret his screw up. Better think of something fast or you’re going to lose her for good.
 
Lawrence is pretty down in episode 4 and thinking the what ifs that Amarty and Horo may really end up together. On his way back, he overhears men talking about spending on pyrite instead of wheat. Back at the inn, Lawrence is given a letter by Amarty and Horo declaring the former’s assets and Horo signing a wedding agreement. Enough to make Lawrence panic as he withdraws every cash he’s got and find Amarty. He finds Amarty at a tavern and proposes another challenge. He wants Amarty to buy 500 silver coins worth of pyrite on credit. It’s complicated when I think about the scenarios of who loses and who wins depending on whether the price increases or drops. And with Horo thrown and their chances with her thrown with it, Amarty accepts the challenge though he was sceptical at first. Lawrence goes to talk to Mark and plans to crash the price of pyrite. Mentioning about the wheat’s case, if its price goes up, the pyrites will come down since merchants will panic buy wheat and sell pyrite as they want to take something back when they leave this town. He wants Mark to gather large amounts of pyrite before the value drops but Mark refuses because considering himself as a local merchant as opposed to Lawrence as a travelling merchant, what would the townspeople think if he stopped to such low tactic? He has build relationships and won’t want it to go to waste just to grab a few extra bucks at their expense. Lawrence only path left is to go see Bartose and with his connections with the alchemist, he may get their large untouched pyrite stock which isn’t affected by the current market. As for Mark, he’ll do his best to search for other customers for him.
 
In episode 5, Lawrence goes to see Bartose who then gives him a password so that he could see Deanna himself. Inside her dark room filled with messy piles of books and feathers strewn all over the place, however to his dismay, Deanna mentions that someone had already bought them though it is on credit and that person hasn’t taken them yet. Lawrence suspects Amarty but Deanna refuses to reveal the buyer’s identity. She also tells him to leave the negotiations to her and will contact him later. Next morning after hiring Lanto as his temporary assistant, he goes to the pyrite marketplace and there are many watchers as the prices continue to soar. Lawrence sees Horo there with Amarty but the wolf ignores him. Amarty comes up to him and pays him in advance gold coins as part of the deal made earlier on.
 
The price of pyrite continue to rise in episode 6 and Lawrence makes his move by selling his portion but it was bad timing and decision since the price still keeps rising. Everyone is playing the waiting game believing that those who wait patiently will be rewarded more. His only hope rests on Deanna’s assistant. When she does arrive, she only has bad news for him and that the negotiation has failed and there is nothing more she could do. Lawrence is on the edge of giving up but Lanto encourages him to go all the way even if it doesn’t succeed. So he is going to sell his pyrite again when Horo steps up next to him and sells her bigger bag of pyrite. This has everyone else to start panicking and rushing to sell their portion. In the end, Amarty losses the challenge though not much, it serves as a warning that this is the price he paid for trying to go after someone else’s woman. It is revealed that Horo was the one who bought the pyrite from Deanna. Her betrayal towards Amarty in the end wasn’t a last minute decision as she had always sided with Lawrence from the start. Just that the guy was blinded by his emotions to even see the clues Horo was hinting him (like wearing Deanna’s feathers). Horo was already in negotiations with Deanna right before Lawrence’s visit. Also, she reveals Deanna is no ordinary human but of a deity bird who took a human form because she fell in love with a mortal a long time ago. Horo’s reason for wanting to do this to Amarty was something unforgiveable he said but since Horo wasn’t willing to mention, let’s just leave it there. I wouldn’t say that their relationship is mended but more of stronger and closer now as they continue their travel up north.
 
The duo arrive at the town of Renos in episode 7 and see lots of other merchants waiting outside. Lawrence receives a small trading pass in for him to enable and trade in this town which is otherwise impossible. A guard catches Horo by her tail (literally) but dismisses it as some poor quality fur, pissing the wolf off. As they stay at the inn, Lawrence notices a cloak person watching them on several occasions. Horo tells him that person is a female. Wanting to know more about the town’s legends and myths, they are being told by the old innkeeper, Harold Ekrund, to see a man named Rigolo but he is currently in a 50-man meeting, something to do with the approval of the selling of furs (the reason why the merchants are gathering outside town). I guess in order to kill some time till the meeting finishes who knows when, Lawrence and Horo spend some quality time together.
 
While the duo are drinking at the bar in episode 8, they notice disputes at the port regarding high taxes being imposed on goods which somehow was affected by the cancelled north army expedition. While Horo takes a rest after drinking too much, Lawrence visits a local barmaid and finds out a little more about the 50-man meeting. Till a decision is made, trading fur is prohibited. Due to the cancelled expedition, those who need the fur are gone by now. I think the barmaid was trying to flirt/hit on Lawrence when she asks him if he’s married but he replies "she hasn’t got hold of my purse yet". Haha. Lawrence goes back to the inn and chats with Horo. Don’t remember what the chat of nostalgia is about but it was heart-warming to see them hug each other. Lawrence goes down to talk with Harold when the cloak woman appears and decides to ‘borrow’ Lawrence for a while. In a private room, she reveals her face and introduces herself as Fruhl Boland but prefers to be called Abe. Her reason to cover her face was due to the fact that the merchant business is mainly a man’s world and with very few females. Abe takes an interest in Lawrence since she knows Harold has a good eye for people. She learns of his wish to see Rigolo but being the merchants they are, Lawrence gets down to ‘business’ and asks how much would it cost for her to introduce him to Rigolo. Nil, as long as he continues to chat with her. Who says that there are empty talks? Some conversations can be priceless.
 
The 50-man meeting is finally over in episode 9 so Lawrence and Horo go see Rigolo and are awed by his magnificent garden. I guess Lawrence looks like a guy he that can be trusted so Rigolo allows Horo to borrow several of his books containing legends and myths and bring them back with her. Back at the inn, the duo spend more quality time but Horo hints that she is afraid of their journey ending and being separated from him. That night Lawrence goes downstairs to chat with Harold and Abe. Lawrence learns that Abe is in the business of selling stone statues and makes her profit by selling is quantity. But she is facing a loss due to some backstabbing by the church when the north expedition was cancelled. She intends to cut her losses by getting out of that trade and move elsewhere to make big profit. She then gets straight to the point. She asks if Lawrence could lend her money and that if he was willing to sell Horo to her.
 
In episode 10, the decision to allow furs to be sold is approved but only in cash. This would lead to those with loads of cash to buy up all the furs to make a profit and escape from the city. Abe reveals she is a fallen noble and their real objective isn’t to sell Horo, who will be presented as with a noble bloodline. They just need lend her so they’d have enough funds for a cut of the profit they make in selling furs and in worse scenario, Horo will be collateral if the deal fails. So Lawrence of course is in a dilemma whether to sell Horo and even wakes up from a bad dream of it. As usual he tells Horo and expecte the emo bantering. However Horo is upset not because of being sold, but rather she has been selfish all along and thinks it’s okay this time for him to be selfish too. Huh? Next morning, Lawrence meets a beggar in an alley. He learns that the church here is quite generous as in addition to receiving food, they get a few coins too. Being poor is so blessed if you have no qualms on living like this. The beggar tells him about a person who only does business with the church but was seen screaming at them when the deal fell through. Realizing that was Abe, however Lawrence is shocked to know from the beggar that person trades in salt. Lawrence goes to confirm more with the barmaid. Seems like she loves flirting with him. We know why he’s not the kind who easily gives in to her charms :). Well she did mention she wanted to meet his companion at least once.
 
Lawrence goes back to Horo and discuses about how this town is planning to establish a cathedra (bishop’s throne) for full power. They also chat about the deal falling through so Horo cheekily hopes her next partner will be smarter. Horo agrees to help him out solely because she believes in him. They go chat with Abe who tells her reasons for leaving the church. Seems the power crazy bishop in this city is aiming to be an archbishop. Abe discovered he had backdoor dealings in fur but being an amateur, he’s always in the red. Betting that he will be the next archbishop, Abe got involved and sold statues to him and the church though the margins are small. But as he grew more powerful, he decided to cut off all obstacles and depend on larger companies rather than an individual. They agree on the plan as the trio head out.
 
Meeting a guy named Lutz Eringin of Derrink Company, the negotiations begin in episode 11. It seems Horo’s value is set at 2000 silver coins. With the deal done, the trio have a chat at the port. Abe tells about her past. As a fallen noble, she was bought by a cruel master. His business was flourishing but when the king changed policies, he went bust in a flash and took his own life. Thus Abe wants to prove she can surpass him and worth more than the money’s worth he bought her then. She advises the duo to treasure their meeting. When Lawrence and Horo go back to their room, she talks about ending their journey here though she wants to be with him (huh?). They go return Rigolo’s books when Lawrence notices a statue of Virgin Mary in the room made out of salt. Since Rigolo is out, the nun of the place chats with Lawrence while Horo sifts through other books in the chamber. Their conversation is interrupted when someone is banging furiously on the door. They open to find Abe and she seems panicky. She quickly tells them to leave now because everything has gone bad and there is a rebellion in the midst. The town is on fire!
 
With the fur traders and merchants revolting against the decision in episode 12, Abe and Lawrence continue their plan. As Abe goes to secure a boat, Horo questions him for hiding something. Something about they’ll part if the deal goes either way. Either a good farewell or bitter one. Plus, if he’d throw away the deal, he’d continue travelling with her, the reason he didn’t want to tell her in the first place. Oh yeah. She slaps him because she thinks she’d be happy with that kind of answer. Lawrence brings Horo to Derrink and gets the cash. On his way to meet Abe, he is in a dilemma since he’ll get big profits and achieve his dream but somehow doesn’t feel happy about it. When he meets Abe and she’s ready to put forth their plan, Lawrence has his doubts. He wonders if he has lost her nerve over the deal. From what I understand from this conversation is that Abe can’t afford to let Lawrence back out of this deal and pulls out a machete to threaten him, Lawrence concluding Abe was pretending to trade statues when in actual fact she was smuggling salt to the church that amasses her lots of profit so much so people start to wonder where the church got their generous charity from and as time passes the church gained more power. Abe made another deal with the church to gain bigger profits by proposing to buy up all the fur before the merchants do but the church teamed up with a company instead and cut ties with her. The reason she proposed this deal to him is to be her guarantee against harm. A short fight ensued all because of money and in the end Abe knocked him out.
 
He wakes up to see a man beside him and also a charter Abe left. Lawrence goes back to Horo and she’s not very happy that he lost everything and threw away his dream. But thanks to the charter signed by Harold, he was able to buy Horo back. Another round of wolf insult, admonishing and reprimanding. Looks like her slaps have upgraded to punches. Ouch. Horo wanted to change into her wolf form to get back the money but Lawrence hugs her and tells about Abe’s suicidal trade in which if the church found out, they’ll be in trouble (remember the church views on this). Lawrence wants them to leave the town but Horo isn’t convinced so he confesses that he loves her and then kisses her. Oh yeah. The moment that we’ve all been waiting for. See how emo that wolf is since now she starts crying and wants him to take full responsibility. I’m sure that guy would gladly to. Plus, he mentions he is more concern about her resolve than making profit so Horo blushes and says it would be troublesome if she’d fall in love with him. Hasn’t she? As we see Rigolo reuniting with the nun and the local barmaid and the other staff locking themselves in to protect their store, Lawrence and Horo walk out hand in hand towards the boat while the town continues to be in chaos.
 
What was that unsatisfying ending all about? Are they really going to end it like this without another season? It may look like it ended hanging but the fact that Lawrence and Horo are resolved to continue their journey. Basically that is what the whole series is all about. Besides making profit of course. As I have mentioned earlier on, the relationship between the duo is most fascinating and fun to watch especially Horo. One minute hot, the next minute cold. One second flirty, abusive the next. Maybe I’ve should’ve record all those witty remarks and one-liners for future references. I’m not the kind of guy who likes emo girls with temperamental mood swings but Horo is an exception. Probably she’s got a tail, eh? Over time their ties grow stronger and they learn quite a lot about each other. They’ve even know how to answer each other. So it’s true that their meeting was a blessing and it’s a good thing that they treasure it. Something that money cannot buy. Another amusing thing about Horo is her appetite. Besides her penchant for apples, she eats just about anything else that humans do. Of course good food. I guess being a deity also has ups and downs. Hey, notice Horo didn’t transform to her real form in the second season? Where’s the need for that anyway? There were many other potentials in terms of build-up regarding Horo’s hometown. Unless the producers decide to make another season, we’ll have to make do with what has been told so far.
 
Being always on the road, I guess there weren’t enough time to develop the other characters that are only significant for that particular arc. For instance at the end of the second season I was wondering about Abe and probably she had robbed Lawrence and ran off with his money, I was actually hoping that there was something more ulterior than what she had revealed. I was also expecting that Rigolo dude to have a hand in something sinister but he turns out to be a nice guy as per his looks. With the second season, I guess we won’t be hearing anymore from Chloe or Nora. Has Chloe given up on turning Horo to the church? Maybe after seeing her true form, she knows the true meaning of fear. Nora may be living her peaceful retired life by now. I’m sure Amarty himself has learned a valuable lesson. As a travelling merchant, Lawrence made lots of friends in every town he stops and maintaining good relationships in business is a valuable asset.
 
As for the few trade theories and concepts, I am quite ashamed to admit that I don’t understand most of them having taking economics subject myself in secondary school and even in college. No matter how many times I replay that seen or read the subtitles, I just could not comprehend and grasp the entire notion. That is why I dislike thinking animes and prefer to stick to my favourite conventional mindless ecchi comedy ones. And speaking of fanservice, there is none in this anime unless you are those animal ears and tail fetish and/or get turn on by the sight of seeing a naked wolf in human form. That’s about it. I wouldn’t consider that as fanservice by the way. At the end of the series, I guess I have forgotten most of the lessons (perhaps all of them). I guess that saves me trouble of trying to apply it in my real life, eh? The artwork and animation are quite well done in the sense that it gives a feeling of old Europe during those medieval times. From the design of the town walls to the lush greeneries of the countryside, it really feels like you’re in another fantasy world and era.
 
For the second season, there are 2 specials for those who have bought the DVD. Yup, only 2. And I thought that there was going to be more but let’s not complain. Basically both specials are nothing much and like most short extras lasting around 5 minutes or so, serve as ‘motivation’ to buy the DVD. We’ve got Horo as motivation if that’s what they mean. The first special is some sort of a short study session with Horo. Maybe study is a little inaccurate. Here, Horo tells viewers about the bread and wine in this world. Well, we know Horo’s appetite in this series so it’s no wonder she is talking about the stuff she loves. This short segment is also informative as it tells viewers the differences between several types of bread and the basics of fermenting brandy. Yum. The second special serves more like simple stretching exercises with Horo. For you lazy otakus who stare at the screen all day, maybe this wolf demo in doing stretching could motivate you to move those accumulating fats. The stretches here aren’t anything extraordinary. Typical and normal. Except the last one, which is stretching her most important and precious part, her tail. Haha. Do we all have a tail? No wonder the disclaimer at the end saying how it won’t work on us humans.
 
Initially I couldn’t recognize Jun Fukuyama who was the voice behind Lawrence. I guess I could recognize him if he voices arrogant and egoistic characters like Kakeru from Akikan, Leopard in Sora Wo Kakeru Shoujo and Kei of Special A. Ami Koshimizu did quite a pretty job herself voicing Horo. It was very befitting the character who speaks using the olden language style and the many moods of Horo. She was also the voice of Tenko in Kamisama Kazoku and Nodoka in Saki. Other casts include Mai Nakahara as Nora (Nagisa in Clannad), Kaori Nazuka as Chloe (Shizuku in Kampfer), Saeko Chiba as Amarty (Chika in Ichigo Mashimaro) and Romi Paku as Abe (Edward in Fullmetal Alchemist). The opening themes of both seasons feel like slow ballads with Tabi No Tochuu by Natsumi Kiyoura as the first one and then Mitsu No Yoake by Akino Arai as the second one. Rocky Chack does the ending themes for both seasons. The first season is sung entirely in English called Ringo Biyori ~The Wolf Whistling Song. Reminds me of some group which I can’t put my finger on. Note the ‘Engrish’ and the animation filled with apples. The second season’s ending theme is called Perfect World and feels like slow pop. Somehow I find the drawing and art for the ending credits animation for both seasons, Lawrence and Horo look more like young teens… Though there are a few background music and they mainly give that medieval feel, there is one played during tense moments. Those sharp and dramatic strings are loud and sometimes they give you the jump when you least expected it. On a trivial note, each of the episode title has the word "Wolf" in it followed by an action, feeling or situation. Though it’s supposed to reflect that of Horo’s but sometimes I feel they apply to Lawrence as well.
 
I don’t know how long their journey will take but like the saying goes, it isn’t the destination but the journey that counts. Maybe they both can end their journey with a fairytale-like ending. Horo reaches her hometown and Lawrence doesn’t necessarily have to part with her. Maybe he could open his dream shop there. Yeah, probably in the middle of nowhere. Has he checked out about humans mating with gods? Well even if that happens, it’ll be another story. But if you ask me if I’d travel with someone on a faraway journey, just pack lots of priceless anime for the road and I’ll be okay. I wonder how much would it cost to trade a rare anime memorabilia that I want. Do you accept apples then?
 

Spice And Wolf