Sorry For Holding You Off: Spice & Wolf

header

“With spring comes renewed energy” is what I would say if I had started watching this show in Spring instead of Summer. Nevertheless, the pilot episode of “Spice & Wolf” still succeeds in evoking a strong sense of the season in all its sweet, inviting grace.

I am quite terrible at anticipating shows. I tend to forget all of, if not, most of what I read and hear about them, even the ones I’m most excited to watch; something I imagine a lot of spoiler-sensitive people would consider a blessing. And I also have a tendency to put a lot of shows that I am pretty confident would be favourites or beloved picks of mine on-hold, often for years at a time while piling on nebulous emotional expectations that they’re unlikely to live up to–because how can they if I haven’t defined what those expectations are, and when all I’m doing is maintaining the idea that the show will somehow make me fall in love with it?

And so, “Spice & Wolf” is a show that has been on my mind for the past 6 or 7 years in no real way other than as this humble yet fairly acclaimed work with this strange, amorphous feeling that there’s no way I can’t like it attached to it. And maybe that’s why I’ve been putting it off for so long. Because I kept building up this undefined idea that the show is so great that I can’t settle for anything short of the best conditions to watch it in–which I interpreted as: watching the blu-ray on a big, flat, high-definition screen TV during Spring/Summer (when the weather is bright and not raining, and the aesthetic of reality is closer to the aesthetic of the show) with no noise or anyone to bother me. This view led to me waiting all those years for the blu-ray collection to be released in the first place, and then wait even longer for it come down to a price I was comfortable with, and then wait again for the right season to come around–not just so I can feel free to watch the show at my own pace without having to worry about too many other things vying for my attention, but also so that the beauty of the outside world is more closely aligned with the beauty of the show–to finally watch it.

As a result, the idea of watching the show sort of turned into this obligation which I kept making excuses for postponing. And, the process involved in setting up and getting ready for my first viewing of the show, on top of years of unspecified expectations, admittedly in some ways, did detract from the experience. But not to any significant degree, I think.

Though considering the subject matter, it is possible that I may not have appreciated or enjoyed it as much as I thought I would have back then. And upon reflection, I don’t think my elaborate framing for watching the show is really all that unusual. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the feeling of needing to be in a certain mood to watch certain things, and for me, Spice & Wolf just so happens to be an exceptional case where I have to be in an extra-special mood and/or environment to watch it. It’s hard for me to really take in the idyllic atmosphere it presents when I’m stressed with work or family and I’ve got a lot on my mind, or it’s Winter and I keep catching colds and just generally feel like shit.

Still, I do think placing so much emphasis on trying to make my first time with the show as perfect as possible was folly. “The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience”, after all. But enough preface, what did I think about the first episode?

country folk friendly

Getting right into it, I quite liked this 24 minute taste of what Spice & Wolf served up. The setting is that of a light fantasy located in a countryside where everyone does trade with one another and are all generally pleasant, fun people. Now I hesitate to call this “love at first sight”, but I find worlds like this to be positively charming and delightful places for immersion, especially when they’re as gorgeous as this.

There’s a light-hearted seriousness to how the world works which I admire: that of honest people doing honest work and being friendly about it, despite how they differ in their economical circumstances. On top of this, it’s a spectacularly good-looking show, more-so in the background art than anything, but the character designs have a charm to them as well, despite the modest design and animation work.

One fascinating aspect I was not expecting was that of Holo’s character having her powers tied to Pagan ritualistic rules, such as her being able to appear in rooms if there’s enough wheat? At the time, I took the scene as the truth, but taking into account her somewhat mischievous side, it’s possible she was just being playful in response to the culture and traditions surrounding her name.

powers exception

Refreshingly, Lawrence’s awkward and nervous reactions upon meeting a naked wolf lady are not at all to do with her being naked, and entirely to do with her being part wolf and smuggling herself in his carriage. I, myself, am a bit concerned about the absence of nipples on Holo’s body, however. Maybe it’s because she’s a god in human form? That’s a plausible enough reason for now, since I haven’t seen any other characters naked for the show to imply otherwise. Is it weird that I felt more attracted to Holo when she came out of the carriage donning Lawrence’s “best clothes” (‘purple shirt with a black, fur-lined vest, a black skirt, black and white pants and a long beige hooded robe’) than when she appeared nude? I don’t think so.

sexier holo

While the voice acting isn’t anything remarkable, and I have nothing against the actor or his performance here, I can’t help but feel a bit turned off by Jun Fukuyama’s voice. It feels like such an omnipresent salient force across so many of the shows I watch, that I can’t help but notice it when it’s put in a situation even slightly different to the kind I’m used to hearing it in. The character role he plays here (Lawrence; an older, more mature gentleman of sorts) is distinctly different from the type of characters he usually portrays, and he doesn’t do much to make him sound all that different from his usual voice work. He still does a good job, I think. Regardless of the performances, however, I like all the characters and are really interested in seeing how they develop and what interactions will occur between them as the show progresses–particularly that of Lawrence and Holo.

services

Overall, the production values are pretty great. But the sound and music are what really sell this show. It knows just when to make everything feel calm and peaceful, bustling and lively, fun and romantic, and to some extent, dark and serious. It goes without saying that in audio-visual mediums, much of what makes the atmosphere is in the sound design and music (or lack thereof), but for “Spice and Wolf”, that feels doubly true.

Though maybe I’m only saying that because I’m a sucker for traditional European folk music (particularly of the Irish/Celtic variety) and have always felt a perfect harmonic connection between it and medieval-esque worlds. It’s also a soundtrack which I could easily see myself listening to separate from the show.

I could see how knowing more about economics or living the countryside experience might enrich one’s experience of the show, but I have little to no background in either area currently. So, my appreciation is rather limited there. Nevertheless, I’m going to keep watching because I want to see more of the ins and outs of the crafts and trades and see if I can learn a thing or two just by watching the show, as well as become more immersed in the the daily lives of the lovely country folk and the budding partnership between Lawrence and Holo.

sexy holo
What was I saying about clothes earlier?

If the spirit of the first episode is anything to go by, and the execution of the characters and production are maintained, then I have a good feeling I’ll love Spicy Wolf more and more going forward.

Untitled

How about you–any shows that you’ve been holding off for years and are only getting around to now, or are still planning to watch someday? Are there any shows that you didn’t finish or watch get to watch much of back then and are only completing now? Have you found any changes in your impressions between viewings?

3 thoughts on “Sorry For Holding You Off: Spice & Wolf”

  1. The presence of a goddess like Holo can only be accentuated with her wearing a decently humble set of clothing ^^
    Glad to hear that you enjoyed the first episode and its sights and sounds!
    *
    I’m still holding off Clannad and Kanon. Maybe its kind of a ‘leave-the-best-for-the-last’ mentality, or perhaps I just need to find a good time with a good mood for it 🙂

    Like

    1. Indeed! She’s someone only deserving of the finest cloth and noble garments, it seems.

      Just got done finishing the series as of today. I did not like it as much as I had expected to, but I still really enjoyed it and found myself intrigued by the world of economics, nonetheless.

      Because I kept getting lost in all the jibber jabber and parlance being used in conversations, I started reading up a bit about the subject (I have a feeling I’d like it a good deal more if I understood the topic better). Looking to learn more about commerce and such things as the days go on.

      I have not seen either of the shows you’ve mentioned, but considering how long I waited to watch the show in question and come out with a less enthusiastic response than I likely would have had I watched it a lot sooner. I’d recommend watching whatever shows you’re most keen on watching when the opportunity strikes, or as you say, when you’re in the mood to watch them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha it’s okay to not like a show as much despite its first appearances, but if it matches our expectations to be a potential favourite, that feeling sure is wonderful 🙂
        ^ Usually the shows which I end up liking (or ‘loving’) are the ones which I am kind of doubtful at the start because of certain aura the characters they give off (and honestly I didn’t really like Holo at the start). But I think transformations of characters or events through the story made me like these ‘doubtful’ class of anime shows in time.
        *
        You completed both seasons for S&W? (Oh yea, economics is a pain to understand XD)

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: