DVD sets for Anime Series
Spice and Wolf is one of those rare anime properties that could only have been made possible by global cooperation. The look, the feel, the animation-style, and the mythological elements are all of Asian influence but much of this particular set's charm stems from its American dub work. The show isn’t rife with action, love, violence, or romance and yet it manages to succeed on nearly every conceivable level thanks to a perfectly developed cast of characters and a world intriguing enough to present mysteries, conspiracies, and less than honorable associations. Before we get ahead of ourselves with what makes this piece so unique, let’s get the hard facts out of the way.
Coming in at a 312-minute runtime, Wolf and Spice the Complete Season One box set consists of 13 episodes spanning 2 discs. The packaging breaks it down into a swing out spindle within a standard clamshell DVD case. The show wears an appropriate if not slightly conservative TV 14 rating due to a few adult-themes, some light sexual innuendo although the nudity is completely ambiguous and a healthy dose of character-driven drama.
Language options are typical sub & dub meaning both the original Japanese vocal track is present as well the choice of an English dub (either presented in Stereo) with the option of running English subtitles available with either vocal track.
Extras include textless opening and ending themes and a host of Funimation anime previews on the second disc.
The story, which has to be watched to be fully understood (or appreciated for that matter), goes something like this: Kraft Lawrence, a twenty-five-year-old traveling merchant who peddles various goods from town to town, encounters a pagan wolf-deity girl named Holo who, though over 600 years old, takes on the incarnated form of your run of the mill naked fifteen-year-old girl except for her telltale pointed ears and fluffy wolf tail.
It turns out human farmers made a bargain with this idol several hundred years prior exchanging their devotion for bountiful wheat harvest. Thanks to several successful farm years, humans in their arrogance have forsaken their bond with Holo. Realizing the humans no longer honor their bargain, she desires to return to her homeland in the north, a place called Yoitsu.
On the surface it appears that she has simply chosen Kraft Lawrence as a travel partner to aid her in returning home but it doesn’t take long for Lawrence to discover that the young girl’s divine influence comes in extremely handy in his profession of trading.
The pacing is just simply superb with the perfect amount of time devoted to set up and the remainder being allotted to the unique developing relationship between the two lead characters as they scheme, scam, and outsmart their way from town to town in a stream of fantastically written trade negotiations.
Adding to the richness of the show is a stylized historical setting with European influences. The background art is clean, crisp and very nicely done. A lesser series would probably earn even more praise in this department but the characterization of the human deity and her traveling companion are such that many breathtakingly stunning visuals go unnoticed to the prose in the foreground. In other words, the plot is well constructed; there are few moments for simply gazing at the art.
It’s usually a very close call, but this is one of few cases in which the English dub may actually be superior to the original Japanese dialog track. Not to insinuate that the original dialog isn’t spectacular, the material simply lends itself favorably to the inflection and slower-flow of the English dialect. The FUNimation vocal talent should be commended for their job in keeping the humor and wit alive, well, and natural.
It should be interesting to anticipate FUNimation’s next move with the property as, contrary to common misconception, the animated incarnation of Spice and Wolf (based on a light novel series written by Isuna Hasekura, with illustrations by Jū Ayakura) did not run two full 13-epsiode seasons in Japan. Rather the program was broken up into a full 13-episode first season, an OVA, and a 12-episode second season. Here’s hoping FUNimation decides to import both seasons to the North American market (and while we’re at it, wishes for an eventual full box set release couldn’t hurt either).
In all, this is a shining example of the anime medium as a tool used to portray an emotional and highly enjoyable adventure where the characters are as important as the journey itself. Highly recommended!
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