I'm going to just put it out there and say right off that bat that I LOVE Spice and Wolf. This little fairytale show began as a series of light novels which became a manga, several games, some OVA, and a couple of animated series. FUNimation has recently released the first 13 episode season and, if you couldn't tell from my opening statement, I was hooked right off the bat.
One of the things that first struck me about the series was just how unique it was. From the very ground up Spice and Wolf stands out on its own. There's nothing else like it on the market and we've certainly never seen anything like it here in America. For starters Spice and Wolf is more or less a fairytale that takes place during a faux historical European setting. It begins by following a traveling merchant named Kraft Lawrence who makes his way to a small town during their yearly wheat harvest. When he arrives a festival is already underway and it's to celebrate a wolf deity that made a pact with the town many, many years ago. There's some background on the story, but to make a long one short we'll just say that the wolf god, named Holo, is bound to the wheat in this town. It's rumored that she can appear in human form and there's something of a ritual surrounding that.
The night before he's about to leave this quaint little village, he finds a naked girl napping in his cart. She's cute, young, has adorable ears, and a big fluffy tail. Yup! Holo has decided to make her appearance and it's all thanks to the combination of furs and wheat Lawrence was transporting. Naturally Lawrence is first bewildered by her appearance and doesn't really believe her. She displays her monstrous true form, and lays all doubt of who she is to rest. Once their awkward introductions are out of the way Holo expresses her desire to travel north back to the region she lived in prior to being trapped within the village. Lawrence obliges and takes her along.
Spice and Wolf goes on to build upon Lawrence and Holo's relationship while they make their way to Holo's home turf, and that's what makes the series so special. Both of these characters do not fit into any kind of stereotype and they play off each other marvelously. Since Lawrence is a traveling merchant there's much discussion about business as he attempts to move goods from one region to the next and works his selling magic to turn a profit. There's a lot of talk about the economics of the world when Lawrence is involved and his mind is constantly set to figuring out how to make a profit.
Holo, however, is also known as the Wise Wolf. She has some ideas of her own, but her vainness and brutish attitude tend to get in the way. She's cocky and abrasive, so despite the fact that they both can be formidable when they team up, she also gets in Lawrence's nerves quite a bit. Despite that fact, he seems to like it. This creates a playful relationship that lasts throughout the series and you can see some real affection develop between them. It's a charming romance that builds slowly, and their reactions to each other are perfect in every way, especially when Holo gets under Lawrence's skin. Something she excels at, I assure you.
Another thing that stands out with Spice and Wolf is the great amount of continuity that carries over from episode to episode. From the very first moment Holo and Lawrence meet right up to the end the show follows every step of the way. As they travel from town to town, meet new people like the sheppard, Nora, and work various deals to get Lawrence more money the show just has an amazing flow. This combined with the relationship development makes the series feel like one long, extended movie.
Spice and Wolf is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer for the series is very good with a lot of fine detail, miniscule amounts of grain, and no compression of any kind. Of particular note is the art direction with is extremely attractive, stylized, and colorful. English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 are the available options for this release of Spice and Wolf. Both dubs are extremely good, and I dare say that I enjoyed the English track a little bit more. Also aiding that track is the fact that the 5.1 surround helped towns come to life and made the experience a little more robust. The only bonus features on this release are some clean animations and trailers.
I can't stress enough just how impressed I was with Spice and Wolf. It reeks of freshness and is just about one of the biggest charmers I've seen in a while. FUNimation's grab of this series was an awesome move and from start to finish the 13 episodes are totally engrossing. I truly hope they license the OVA and second series so we can get yet more of this fantastic franchise soon. This show is highly recommended in every way. I loved every minute of it and just couldn't get enough! Definitely be sure you check this one out!