Find of the Day: Spice and Wolf

Ok, so once again, the Find of THE DAY is not necessarily the find of TO-DAY. In truth, I’ve known about this for a while, and I finally got it yesterday. But here goes, anyway!

I’m very excited to be able to finally get my hands on a copy of Spice & Wolf the novel, volume 1, by Isuna Hasekura. The night Auerion and I discovered it online, I was absolutely stoked that another medium had come out for the story! I recently watched Spice and Wolf, the anime, in a marathon on YouTube (as season 1 is very short, at only 13 episodes). It also exists in manga format, as well. But the text novel is something completely different than I usually take the time for (for anime, anyway). So I’m pretty anxious to begin reading, as you can imagine.

In short, Spice and Wolf is the story of Lawrence, a traveling merchant, who finds himself in the company of Holo; a cute and comely wolf and goddess of the harvest. Set in some sort of Germanic Europe (and, we think, around the time of the Renaissance though, quite evident, the story has no real-world basis, aside from Pagan belief), it begins with Lawrence, who makes his meager-yet-adequate living traveling from village to village as a peddler. It soon becomes obvious that this is what he’s good at and, in fact, he spends much of the series educating wise Holo on the intricacies of the economy and trade. But I’ll get back to Lawrence’s shortcomings in a minute.

One night, after leaving a village, Lawrence discovers something in the back of his wagon lying amongst the furs he intends to trade. A little girl? Nope. It’s the naked and smug wolf goddess, Holo, who has the ears and tails of a wolf (which look like fox parts, but who’s counting?) and a real “stage presence.” Demanding, wise-cracking, and in charge from the get-go, she quickly is able to overtake Lawrence and his livelihood and turn his world upside down: For better or for worse. It’s not like Holo is “bad,” though. She just has a very strong personality.

Which brings us back to Lawrence who, though we are unsure as to his true age (probably ranging somewhere between 20-30), is most likely destined to become the 40-year-old virgin and die a young (yet most likely wealthy) man without getting laid. Yeah, I know I don’t normally talk like this on my blog. But seriously, Lawrence is one of those typical, “oblivious” anime men which they like to cast in roles to play off the kick-ass heroine… as though he’s useful. Kind of like… Lawrence is to Holo as Shirou is to Saber. Or, Lawrence is to Holo as Hideki is to Chi.

You get it?

Again, this isn’t a matter of being “bad.” In fact, Lawrence is actually one of those few “decent” anime men, as well. In fact, he respects Holo so much that, instead of decently turning away as she commonly (and casually) parades around in all her natural glory, he just tends to ignore the fact and continues on single-mindedly (and obsessively) delivering speech after speech on trade and currency. Holo, good sport that she is, seems to listen impressively as he speaks and tries to teach her about the ways of humans. But it is unclear as to whether or not she actually cares, or is just so bored by the talk that she’d rather just help him pull off whatever hair-brained scheme he’s just come up with all the more quicker so she can get back to her first love: Eating.

Holo’s a bit of a glutton; and a demanding one at that. Just as Lawrence is pretty single-minded over money, Holo can be just as stubbornly obsessed with food. Both points of which often provides much-needed comic relief throughout the series.

But don’t get me wrong: Spice and Wolf is heartfelt. And though it wasn’t the “best” anime I’ve ever seen, it certainly was one of the most original, and it was definitely something worth seeing. If you just take it for what it is, the “trade talk” bites less. I promise. Maybe eat an apple or two while you sit there. Keep your mind going.

So, now we’re back to Isuna Hasekura’s novel! When I first saw this advertised, I immediately began to read reviews for it. After all, just because something comes out in a new medium doesn’t necessarily make it good. And the thought did cross my mind that this could just be some sort of scheme to siphon more money from the Spice and Wolf fans out there who might like to relive the story.

I haven’t begun yet but, from what I’ve read of reviews, this definitely sounds worthwhile in and of itself. About the biggest compliment the book got is that it apparently explains more about what we don’t get to understand/see/hear just from watching  the anime. On YouTube, most of the episodes available are in Japanese, and I think that part of the plot might have been lost on me because of that fact. So, I think that it really will be interesting to see how this novel stacks up to the anime, and whether or not it will add to the experience of the story or just undermine the whole plot as I know it.

Anyway, I’ll keep you all posted with my findings!

 

Holo: "Pickled plums?" Lawrence: "Yeah, they layer plums with sugar and honey and..." Holo: "They MAKE such a thing!? We need to buy some RIGHT NOW!" Lawrence: "But they're expensive... And we're 50 miles from the next town..." Holo: "I DON'T CARE!"

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