Anime Review: Spice & Wolf Season 1

September 20, 2017

Holo and Lawrence talk on bridge

I hope that everyone is doing well, and getting ready for
the coming weekend.

Things have been going well, except for the reminder of how
dire my financial situation was earlier in the year, thanks to somebody trying
to unknowingly put me in the red at that time, and I can still do something
that I enjoy.

Recently, I went out to a store and got a great deal on a
series, and I thought that I would take the time to watch a bit of it.

Today, I will be reviewing the first season of that series,
which is called Spice & Wolf.

As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier
post
and covered most of the novels, I will forgo any summary for this
season.

Nora smiles while looking out at scenery

While it should be quite well known that I was not
particularly a fan of this series prior to reading the light novels, quite a
bit of time has passed since I took time to watch the series and thought I
would revisit the first season.

After having taken the time to do so, I can say that I kind
of liked it, though not as much as the novels.

From the very first moment that I started watching the first
few minutes of the first episode, I did not really want to stop watching for
reason.

Now, some of you guys might be saying that this sudden
change of hating this anime to liking it and being engrossed might be because
the light novels did a good job of drawing me in, but that is not really the
reason that I was able to get into this series so quickly.

If I had to say why it was able to pull me in quite well was
that Imagin, in spite of everything they did wrong when working on both this
season and the
season after
, by making me wonder what is going to happen to Lawrence, now
that he has a traveling companion.

People may not expect to be drawn into a series right from
the first episode, consider how rare it is that a pilot episode as interesting
as Boku
Dake ga Inai Machi
's to even air, but if the audience cannot be captured
within the first few episodes, the studios that make the series end up shooting
themselves in the foot.

Fortunately, Imagin was able to provide some fairly decent
introductory episodes that slowly drew me and made the world feel quite lively
and a little interesting, though not to the extent that Isuna Hasekura was back
in the first book, even if hardly anything happened.

If things stayed as good as this, I probably would not have
had such a bad impression of the series, as I do not really remember hating the
series until I was much further into it, and I might have been able to enjoy
myself.

However, studios are made up of people, just like writers
are actual people, and keeping things consistently good throughout a whole
series, regardless of medium, is next to impossible, so I have to remind myself
that the staff at Imagin who worked on this adaptation might not technically be
as good as Isuna.

Still, the staff at Imagin do deserve some praise for making
things seem to be a little bit interesting in the beginning, since it does help
the audience overlook any possible flaws that might exist.

I also liked how quickly things seemed to progress.

Spice & Wolf may not actually be the fastest
series out there, as I have noted numerous time in my review of the eighteen
books currently available to me, but I am not always in the mood for something
slow paced and the way Imagin put together this season of the anime adaptation
feels like a decent compromise.

Adaptations can differ greatly or only slightly from the
original source, but anime fans, like avid readers, hate it when they feel like
things are being dragged out and putting everything in from the novels page for
page would probably have made things seem to be unbearably slow to the viewer.

Fortunately, Imagin did not make things feel like they were
dragged out over the course of the twelve episodes in the season, while keeping
many of the major events intact, and makes me feels like giving them quite a
bit of applause.

I am not too sure about you guys, but I am ready to take
back some of the criticism that I threw at Imagin when I reviewed the
individual volumes, since they did not completely and utterly fail to provide a
somewhat interesting series.

Then again, I probably would not have had such an
unfavorable view of the anime if only the twelve that I watched were the only
ones ever made for this season.

Another nice thing that I liked about this series was how it
showed how manipulative religious figures could be.

While this aspect of the series was never really hidden in
either version of Spice & Wolf that I have dealt with, it seemed to
be much more obvious in this particular season than in the novel.

In the second
book
, which is the original source for the events of the latter half of
this season, after Lawrence and Holo propose their plan to smuggle gold, they
go to seek the help of Norah and assume that she is not entirely happy with her
employment of the church in town, but Isuna does not show any hints of
manipulation, other than what we are told might be a guess, and it does not
make too much sense why she would willingly help smuggle gold.

However, at around nine minutes and twenty seconds into the
tenth episode, which is viewable on FUNimation's website as episode
11
, Imagin adds in a scene showing a priest trying to convince Norah to go
into dangerous territory, in spite of her concerns, saying that God is on her
side.

In our society, many of people tend to view religion as this
great thing, because it is supposed to help us get closer to God and become
more selfless, thus leading to a happier life, but many, but not all, groups
that are recognized as religions tend to manipulate people by saying that God
is with them or it was God who said that they had to do something, thus
breaking the commandment that tells people not to take the Lord's name in vain.

Of course, this kind of manipulation is not relegated to
religions and cults, since anyone can use any element of the BITE model destructively
or to do things that a person should not do, such as my own situation a while
back, which would have hurt my funds more if I did give in, but this scene
clearly demonstrates how religious figures can manipulated and why such leaders
should be doubted, unlike what the vast majority of people in my church
believe, and also gives us, the viewers, a good reason on why Norah would join
in on the plan.

As great as the novels were, the inclusion of moments like
this made helped to flesh things out a bit and make a bit more sense than what
was originally there.

If the staff Imagin had working on this adaptation did not
include this scene, the series would have felt even more dull than appears to
be when one watches all thirteen episodes that FUNimation packaged.

Thankfully, they did not decide to go that route and were
able to outdo Isuna Hasekura a bit.

Hopefully, if Wolf & Parchment, the sequel that
Yen Press will be brining over this year, gets an anime adaptation, the studio
will responsible will be able to deliver in this kind of regard, otherwise it
might really end up looking worse than Isuna Hasekura's worst work.

Then again, anime seems to be on the same downward spiral
that every other medium of entertainment is experiencing, so I should not be
too surprised if that leaves a bad impression of the Spice & Wolf
sequel.

The thing that I liked the most about this season though was
it felt very relaxing.

Even though I do like to get some tension every now and then
over the duration of a fictional work, I mainly pay attention to fiction
because it can entertain me and allow me to forget my troubles, as well as give
me a better understanding of other humans than just projecting my current state
of consciousness onto another individual.

This the reason why it is so easy for works of fiction to
help create the temporary escape from reality is that they either do not need
to think or they have something else to think about and this series has been
able to do quite well on this front.

If I had to say why, it is because, while the world of Spice
& Wolf
is close to being as realistic as our own, it is different
enough that it helps us forget about our own struggles and everything that I
talked about that made this season great comes together and helps to form an
atmosphere that is almost as relaxing as how many of the novels in the series
started.

This relaxing atmosphere helped to make this portion of the
series to be much more enjoyable, and not make it seem like a waste of time
that it initially ended up feeling like when I first saw this on Netflix, and
it makes me feel like giving Imagin a good amount of applause for doing a
decent adaptation of this series.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else
that I particularly liked, at least that could stand out, when compared to
Isuna Hasekura's original work.

Because my attention was captured and held for much of the
season, things did not feel like the dragged on, and events seemed to make a
bit more sense, as well as the fact it felt rather relaxing, this seemed to be
a pretty good anime.

Jacob commenting on discussion

Although I did like the first season of this series, there
are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about,
only two things bothered me.

First, there was hardly anything that was all that funny.

When I became acquainted with the original novels, I found
myself laughing and enjoying the moments of banter between Lawrence and Holo,
many of which were present in the episodes featured in this season too.

However, those moments did not really come off as all that
funny.

I wanted to be able to watch the most hilarious moments and
feel like I am right there experiencing things, but the humor from the novels
did not really carry over well.

If I had to say why, it is probably because of the weakness
of the visual mediums, in that things cannot be explored too deeply.

Out of all the different visual mediums and types, such as
live action, animated works might seem to be the most flexible, as thoughts of
characters would not feel unnatural and there is no need for adding in special
effects, but it still cannot really convey everything going on or help to make
it seem like I really get to know the characters.

Yes, this kind of stuff is not always necessary for a good
show and whoever is writing and directing the show can add or take away things,
but, regardless of medium, the audience wants to connect with the characters
and laugh at things that are supposed to be funny.

Unfortunately, the staff that Imagin had working on this
series cut out things like Lawrence's thoughts and had the scenes that I
expected to be funny feel more like the mundane moments that they actually are.

Really Imagin? This series might not rely on fan service to
deliver its humor, or even feel like it was just put in to grab eyeballs, but
this is not the Spice & Wolf that I know and enjoy, because these
mundane moments were supposed to be moments in which Lawrence and Holo were
fleshed out, not to mention add to the fun factor, which means they need to
feel interesting.

With them feeling mundane, instead of fun, like they did in
the novels, I do not get the feeling that Lawrence and Holo are people that I
can enjoy being with and it gives me no incentive to continue this series, even
though I have already read all the novels up to the 18th
installment.

Anime might be made to promote various series, but the humor
in both the anime adaptation and the original need to be about the same, so
that it can give the viewer an accurate picture of what the series actual is,
and the staff at Imagin failed miserably in this regard.

Honestly, with things being like this, it is no wonder that
I was not a fan of this series when I was originally introduced to it, and it
makes me less likely to want to let people know about the series.

If they worked on things a bit more, the things that were
funny in the novels would have really been able to come to life, but because
the staff at Imagin did not do that, it just makes them seem like they were
awfully lazy.

The thing that I hated the most though was how things did
seem like they dragged on a bit towards the middle.

While I say that things seemed to have progressed rather
quickly, I also noted that this was only from the twelve that aired in Japan
almost a decade ago.

In FUNimation's release, and the Blu Ray/DVD releases in
other areas, there are thirteen episodes and the extra episode really broke up
the flow of the entire show.

Up until this point in the series, it seemed like there was
a good compromise between the slow pacing of the novels and the need for a bit
faster pacing in a visual medium, by cutting out quite a few things.

However, the moment that this bonus episode started up, I
started to feel bored because nothing really happened, aside from Holo getting
new clothes, and Lawrence and Holo were not really fleshed out to the point
where they were interesting.

Yes, it takes a while for Lawrence and Holo to become actual
people in the novels, but the fact that an entire episode was made from such a
small moment in the series just seemed to be rather pointless, especially since
only one adventure was complete.

The first season is supposed to make me interested in
characters enough to make me want to continue following them, but when things
are interrupted by moments like this, the mood is ruined, which is something
that fans of visual mediums do not want to see.

If this episode were not placed right in between the
episodes, more of towards the end, as a bonus, I would have considered this a
great start to the series.

However, with its inclusion where it is at, I cannot really
say that, as my enjoyment in the series goes downhill quickly, when I take my
knowledge of the light novels out of the equation.

Still, it did not do too much damage to the series, and I
can kind of overlook it enough that I do not have to hold this over the head of
those involved in making this series.

Thankfully, those were the only things that really bothered
me, and I can let the people over at Imagin off easier than those that actually
irritated me.

While there were only two problems with this season, they
were bad enough to knock the series down a few pegs from being considered great.

Considering that there were a few things to like, one of
which was actually an improvement from the novels, the negatives balanced
things out enough to the point where this was only good enough to kill time.

I recommend this mainly to those that want a quick recap of
what happens in the first two books in the series, as that is all that it was
good for.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, but
it would be difficult to see how this series is all that great, and the fans of
the light novels might not get as much enjoyment from the things that are
usually funny.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please
consider supporting me on Patreon
or, if you want to get a better impression of the series, buy the books from Amazon, so that I can find more worthwhile
anime for you guys to watch or books to read, and do whatever you do when you
find something that impresses you.

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