After taking the unusual and engaging trip with Holo and Lawrence in the first season of Spice and Wolf I was ready for another trip. The world created in the first season of the fantasy series was intriguing, and so were the economic based storylines. But I had grown really attached to these characters and was looking forward to seeing where their adventures took them and if they would grow closer or get pulled apart.
Kraft Lawrence (Jun Fukuyama) the crafty peddler and Holo (Ami Koshimizu) the wolf goddess traveling in human form, continue their journey to the north. While the final goal is to reach Holo’s homeland, Lawrence isn’t going to shy away from any deals on the way there. At their first stop, they meet a dashing young merchant, Amarti (Saeko Chiba) who falls head over heels for Holo. Soon he engages Lawrence in a contest of merchant guile involving pyrite. The winner will end up traveling with Holo!
After managing to wiggle out of that predicament, the duo arrives in the far north in a city where fur trading is king, and the powerful church hangs like vulture over everything. They meet a sly merchant, Eve (Romi Park) who entices Lawrence with a very lucrative deal. If it works out, Lawrence will finally have enough money (and a location) for a full-fledged shop. He will achieve his life long dream, but does that mean the end of his journey with Holo?
- Maintains the easy going tone of the first season
- Holo and Lawrence have some great interactions in this season
- Introduces some interesting supporting characters and antagonists
- The two storylines seem too thin to be supporting the full season
- Dialogue sequences go on way too long and too wordy
- Lots of reuse of animation from previous episodes and season 1
Sadly, this season was a bit of a disappointment. At its core, the characters take an interesting journey, but the execution turns it into a slog. Pacing gets dragged down by too much dialogue that spins its wheels. The resolution feels unsatisfying. There are some good moments and whole episodes that work really well. But it just doesn’t quite measure up to the first season. I’d say, you could pass on this one, unless you are thirsting for more from these characters.
Scores(out of 5)
In Depth Review
|Well if there is a festival, you know they have to dance.|
I’m restating this, because Spice and Wolf IIseems to take certain aspects of the first season, but modifies them in ways that hurt the overall series.
What remains the same is the core relationship between Lawrence and Holo. The writing for these two remains excellent. They are more comfortable with each other, and this allows for some easy going teasing and banter. Some of the challenges to the relationship presented by the amorous Amarti and the scheming Eve twist the relationship in ways that force our duo to make choices they may not be ready to face.
|Amarth get's bold about gold (fool's gold).|
In that same storyline, Holo is on the receiving end of Amarti’s affections and this puts her relationship with Lawrence in stark contrast. And when she discovers Lawrence is hiding a secret from her, things take a turn. Yes it is a bit soapy, but it really evolves the relationship even further.
|"No you can trust me completely..."|
I will also add that the music in this season continues to be very effective and appropriate to the series. Some of the pieces may be borrowed from the first season, but it all works well to build the atmosphere. There is an interesting bit of string dissonance used when Eve is scheming. Unfortunately there is only one variation of it, and in certain episodes Eve does a lot of scheming, so you get a little sick of the piece after a while.
The opening and ending J-pop pieces fit Spice and Wolf II as well. The opening song, Mitsu no Yoakeperformed by one of my favorite J-pop singers, Akino Arai. Her lovely voice gives a wistful performance of this melodic piece. The end song brings Rocky Chack back with Perfect World. While not as catchy as the previous end credit song, it is a nice little tune.
|Midnight meeting the Leper's quarter, what|
could go wrong?
There could be two reasons to include all these visual flashbacks. The first is because the animation budget wasn’t too large, so they compensated by adding these moments to keep costs down. The other is to try to add some visual interest to the long, drawn out dialogues that were spilling out all over the place. I’ll get to those in a moment.
|"I told you darn peddlers to get off my lawn!"|
|One of the few bright scenes in the season.|
But the animation can only work with the script, and that is where Spice and Wolf II runs into its biggest problem. The first season spread out a series of adventures for Lawrence and Holo to engage in. We had about four mini arcs over the span of 13 episodes. Here we have two storylines spread out over 12 episodes. While there are some great character interactions built into these storylines, it becomes apparent that there just isn’t enough material for 12 episodes. You have quite a number of episodes where everything seems to stop cold while Lawrence talks with another character (not Holo) for scene after scene, going on and on about the same topic, but not really giving us new insight. It feels like padding
|Feathers take on a whole new meaning when|
Diana is around.
|"Oh I know exactly what you're thinking... dirty mortal."|
I did enjoy my second trip with Lawrence and Holo. There are some really good character moments for sure. And fans of the first season will probably enjoy those. But this is one of those instances where the potential feels wasted. Tighter storytelling (maybe throwing in another arc with Holo and Lawrence arriving in Holo’s homeland) would have helped this season immensely. It would have resolved the flashback issues, the longwinded meandering dialogue, and given us an ending that felt earned and satisfying. If you are a die-hard fan, you’ll probably enjoy this season, but everyone else can stick with the first season, the novels and manga that are out there.
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