Book Review: Wolf & Parchment: New Theory Spice & Wolf Volume 1

Wolf & Parchment: New Theory Spice & Wolf Volume 1 cover

I hope that everyone is having a good week, and are managing with the monotony of the daily grind.

Things are going pretty well here and I am glad that I can still do the things that I enjoy, especially now that things not seem to be stressful from being too far behind.

Almost a week ago now, I had gotten a few things as presents, two of which books from Amazon.

So far, one of those books, which was an early present, had been covered and only ones remains.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called Wolf & Parchment: New Theory Spice & Wolf Volume 1 by Isuna Hasekura.

Tote Col, a fellow traveling companion of Lawrence and Holo, has dreams of becoming a priest and spread the correct teachings of God to the world, and now that he has reached adulthood, he decides to set off to a location where he can make the first steps in his new life.

However, even though he decided to undertake this journey on his, Myuri, the daughter of the two he used to travel and live with, shows up on Col's ship and forces him to take her along on a journey through new frontier in a familiar world.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the series that precedes this one enough that I have been looking forward to reading the writer's new work, Isuna Hasekura has not always had that great of a reputation with me because a series I read through from him ended up being worse than the series that made him big to begin with, so I was kind of second guessing myself as to whether I should give this a try, but I decided to do so anyway, knowing that everyone has their high and low points.

And after reading this, I must say that I am rather impressed.

From the moment that I started reading the first few pages of this book, I did not feel like putting it down for any reason, though I do have to satisfy the same needs as everyone else.

Now, some of you guys might be saying that this is because I am a huge fan of Spice & Wolf, which would make sense because this series is its sequel, but what people may not realize, unless they have followed my reviews of the books, is that I have not always been a fan of that series because the anime adaptations had given me a bad impression when I first saw them and the bore fest that was World End Economica gave me a bad impression of Isuna Hasekura himself.

The thing that really drew me was how, like the first book in the Spice & Wolf series, was how Isuna slowly eased me into the world and was able to continue to make things that would normally be dull, such as Col conversing with the captain of the ship, seem to be interesting.

One of the biggest problems with slow paced works like this is that the audience must suffer through mundane things like conversation and what the characters do in their daily lives, before things really get started, and many writers have troubles making such moments seem exciting or interesting, though there are readers out there who cannot put up with a slow-paced work, no matter well it starts off.

Because of this problem, many writers today tend to write fast paced stories, which focus more on plot and textual eye candy than character development and making them interesting beyond the plot, as it makes it difficult to connect with the characters.

Yes, not all fast-paced works lack interesting characters or make it difficult to understand what they are going through, or even learn something, but they tend make people bored when nothing seems to be happening for the longest time, thereby making it so that they might have missed something amazing, though they might also end skipping the classics that truly do not deserve to be called such.

Here, Isuna Hasekura once again shows that it is indeed possible write something that is slow paced, yet at the same time be able to grab the attention of readers, though I would not say that it was quite to the extent that he was able to back in Spice & Wolf, seeing as this is not exactly a new world.

If Isuna Hasekura had failed to capture my interest, I would have been so disappointed that I would have regretted giving his newer work a chance and he would have gone down in my book as one of those people who could create only one good work, which includes Nobuhiro Watsuki, who had recently started to create new content for Rurouni Kenshin, and the fans of his previous work would probably have been turned off as well.

Thankfully, that did not happen here, and this new series was able to start off on a high note, which makes me want to give Isuna Hasekura a big round of applause.

Hopefully, things will only get bet better from here, because I would rather praise Isuna for doing a good job at creating a great work that he poured his blood, sweat, and tears into than berate him for delivering something terrible, even though he poured his blood, sweat, and tears into making it as good as he can, since readers cannot grasp that beyond the things that they expect to find in an enjoyable read.

Then again, Isuna Hasekura has disappointed me before, even in his beloved Spice & Wolf, so I must remind myself that he is only human, and this could very well be a fluke.

I also liked how there were little to no economic elements in this work.

Even though I have not always been fond of Isuna Hasekura, I have delved into a few works that he has been credited for making or contributing to, and much of his work evolves storylines that deal with earning money and go over some basic enomonics stuff, while trying to live in the world the characters are in, and those things tend to be really boring after a while, because it makes it seem like everything can be solved with money, though Isuna at least did not make everything revolve around money in any of his other works.

The world of the adults might focus around money a lot, since it is necessary to survive in our current society, and that will not change unless society falls and all the technology we take for granted, such hand tools, power tools, vehicles, and plumbing, ceases to exist, but not all the problems of our world come about because of it. The real reason that things are so messed up in our world is because we, as humans, are greedy, apathetic, and irrational creatures who continually make the same mistakes across the centuries that we have exist, even if the way those mistakes come about are not exactly the same as it was written down by our ancestors or that so-called experts believed things happened.

Yes, this might not be putting humanity into a good light, and would have people saying that those flaws are the very reasons that capitalism needs to die or that we need to find God, but all parties forget that there are positive sides to having all three of those flaws. Greed can be a motivation to protect those that are important and there is no way that we, as humans, can care about and help everyone on the planet, even if we hate to see others suffer, which is why it is better that we realize we are all perfect, despite our flaws.

If Isuna had this series start off and deal with money or problems that can be caused by it as much as Spice & Wolf and World End Economica did, his work would no longer grounded in reality and this series would not have even the slightest feeling of being unique, especially because this takes place in the same world as Spice & Wolf, and I and many other fans of his, who did not try out his work or even enjoy it just because of the encomics aspects, which are all rather simple, would have let him fade into the sands of time as a one-hit wonder.

Fortunately, Isuna started this off on a more on the side of problems caused by people and the troubles that can occur when doing things that somebody thinks is right.

In this book, we find out that the reason Col decided to leave Nyohhira and Holo and Lawrence behind was because he was going to translate the scriptures into the common vernacular, so that people can get the unadulterated word of God, and possibly end the corruption in the church that gave Holo and Lawrence, as well as the people at large troubles, and, remembering how the corrupt the church was in Spice & Wolf, I wanted to see how he was going to bring it about.

However, sometime after Col started translating the scriptures, Myuri, Holo and Lawrence's daughter, takes him out and he sees the townsfolk disrespecting authority by having a dog wear a priest's outfit and teasing it with food and waving around the work he did like it was nothing, instead of being glad that they can now read God's words for themselves.

As much as I hate religion, especially is the one I belong to, because the leaders are trying to convince people that they are right and try to reassure people by reminding them that they are sinners, whenever they feel that they are not as good as somebody else, which can lead them to hate and not accept themselves, there are people inside of the many religious denominations that try to help others to the best of their abilities, but they either do not put their heart into it, and is as important, if not more than, just doing it, or, if it is something like what Col was doing, their words are twisted into something they did not say. This is the reason why I cannot acknowledge my church or other any other church out there as God's Church, because I understand the pain of those that genuinely care about others, as opposed to those who are merely lapdogs for their respective churches, and I have no doubt that many religious texts have some valuable lessons, though they may be lessons that can be learned outside of them too.

Seeing what was Col going through this in this book, I am reminded of all the people out that belong or used to belong to one of the many religions of the world, such as Alan Rock Waterman of Pure Mormonism, trying to undue the cult-like feel of those religious institutions by pointing out why people are interpreting things the wrong way, while many others out there claim that it really does say what they think it does or shows that that organization has been corrupt from the very beginning, and I ended feeling sorry for him, because he put his heart and soul into making sure that those translations as close to the original message as he could get, so that people could worship without a religious institution and spot the inconsistencies of the church.

This is what I was hoping to see from Col's jounery to become a priest, because the work of a priest is different from the work of a merchant, though they both deal with people, and Isuna Hasekura delivered quite well by making sure that the audience realized early on that this series would involve money less often than his other work.

Another thing that I really liked was how I was able to get a few laughs out of this book.

When I first heard that Spice & Wolf would be receiving a sequel, one of the things that I was worried about was if the comedy here would be exactly like its predecessor, in that one character would be wise and come off as all knowing, while the other would come off as a complete idiot, though not exactly naïve about how the world works, thereby rehashing many of the things that happened in the prequel.

Even though things did indeed seem like that setup, seeing as the two protagonists were essentially raised by Lawrence and Holo, the roles were not as consistent because this was Myuri's first journey outside Nyohhira and she had to learn a few things about the world, whereas Holo knew how the world worked by the time she met Lawrence, and only lacked the knowledge Lawrence had, and Myuri was still quite childish, though she did certainly seem like the new Holo most of the time, and it resulted in things being hilarious, instead of having been done before.

Seeing things like this play out, it not only reminded me that Myuri was indeed Holo's daughter, but it reminded me of how my peers, elders, and I can be blinded by our experience, as well let me know that things were not going to be exactly the same.

This may not be Spice & Wolf exactly, but one of the best things about that series was how funny it was, and if that humor was missing, I and those that came into this series because we liked Spice & Wolf would have been disappointed because the charm and fun that the humor brought would not have been there, which would end up costing Isuna Hasekura a few fans.

However, because Isuna had not forgotten about what made Spice & Wolf great, and made sure to include moments where I could laugh, I feel like giving him another good round of applause.

Hopefully, the humor can improve over the course of the series and go beyond that found in its prequel, because I would want to call this series a great successor to the beloved Spice & Wolf, as would many of Isuna Hasekura's other fan.

Unfortunately, there is always the possibility that it could go like many other sequels and at best turn into just another Spice & Wolf, in that things are too similar, rather than being called a masterpiece, so I can only give so much leniency, especially because Isuna Hasekura has already been involved in the creation of one terrible series.

Still, Isuna does deserve credit for doing things right, even if he might just be trying to milk Spice & Wolf fans for more money.

The thing that I liked the most though was how I did not feel lost at all.

A big problem with trying to create a series that take place after another series is that it is not so welcoming to newcomers as the original series, because the creator(s) assume that everyone coming into it has some knowledge of its predecessor or has read or watched the preceding series, as they do not explain things or let us know who the characters are.

A good example of this is Dragon Ball Super, DBZ may have been big when I was younger but now everyone familiar with the Dragon Ball series has reached adulthood and we when heard that there were going to be more movies and a new series after so many, we were so excited, but when Dragon Ball Super aired, there was not much buzz from people who first got into the Dragon Ball series through Super and they way things played out, it seemed like something that only those that would die out within half a century or so could even have a remote chance of appreciating.

For a writer or any professional in the creative fields to make a good living, they need to not only have support have current fans of their work, but they also need to attract fresh blood, so that they do not die with the audience, and to do that in writing a series, the writer must be aware that more than just those familiar with their previous work could dive right in without any prior knowledge of what had happened.

Other than worries about the comedy being nothing more than the same stuff seen in Spice & Wolf, one of the things that I was really worried about was that I would not be able to understand what was going on because my memory, though better than most, is not perfect and it has been a few months since I finished Spice & Wolf, sans the 19th volume, and I do not remember everything that had happened in that series.

However, I was able to pick up and read this book just fine, as I did not feel like I really needed to know what happened before, which made this truly feel like a new adventure, instead of continuing an old one.

If Isuna Hasekura had not written things in a way that newcomers to the series could easily jump in, I would have been a little disappointed, as this is supposed to be the start of a brand-new series, and he would be alienating the possible new fans that he could get, as well as make his claims in the afterword that this series is accessible to newcomers look like a lie, though not disappointed enough to drop this series.

Fortunately, he did truly make this a new series, as opposed to just a sequel to Spice & Wolf, I can at least applaud him for his efforts because he is doing something that would ensure that he can still earn what he needs to survive in this world and also shows that he put a lot of work into this.

Outside of those thing, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could not be added into what I already talked about.

Because my attention was captured and held right up to the end, by slowly bringing me into the world of the story and being a different from the writer's other work, there were things to laugh about, and I did not really feel like I needed to read Spice & Wolf to enjoy this, this was a fairly decent read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, or things that seem problematic now, such as how Col and Myuri feel a little like Lawrence and Holo 2.0, but might change as the series progresses, nothing really bothered me too much.

As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.

Considering that there was quite a bit to like, especially how no knowledge of the prequel series was necessary to enjoy it, this was definitely worth reading.

I recommend this to fans of Isuna Hasekura, Spice & Wolf, or those that want something that might seem a little fun, as the first two will enjoy it the most and newcomers will not be alienated.

As for everyone else, this might be worth giving a try, but if you cannot stand slow-paced works, I would recommend looking for something else, because I think this will be just as slow paced as its predecessor.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or, if you want to give this series a try, buy the reviewed title from Book Depository, who offers free shipping to many countries around the world, so that I can possibly continue following this series and find more worthwhile books for you guys to read.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.