Spice and Wolf – 01
Craft Lawrence, a traveling merchant, is returning from selling salt to a remote village where he got furs in exchange, though he also happens to have with him a sheaf of wheat. He finds out from a guard along the road that there’s a nearby village having a pagan festival, though the actual villagers of Pasroe refer to it as a harvest festival and warmly welcome Lawrence. After chatting with the men, Lawrence asks about a girl named Chloe who is a novice in business compared to him, and it turns out that she’s in the fields with the last sheaf of wheat to harvest. As part of the ritual, this makes her the one who captures the wolf harvest god Horo, and Chloe has to spend the next week in the wheat storehouse. Before going though, Chloe promises to Lawrence meet him that night. Lawrence later learns how the village is changing for the better thanks to their new lord, and some don’t even feel the need to pray to their wolf god anymore.
Lawrence leaves the village that evening and tries to camp out on his wagon by a river. To his surprise though, he finds a naked girl sleeping inside of it. He’s doubly shocked because the girl has animal ears and a tail, and when she wakes up, she lets out a long wolf howl. The girl then wants alcohol to drink or something to eat and spots the jerky that Lawrence had dropped when he saw her, so she picks it up and chows down. Figuring out that Lawrence isn’t from the village since he has no idea who she is, the girl introduces herself as Horo, and Lawrence realizes that she’s the harvest god, but Horo doesn’t feel that she’s as great as a god. She reveals that she was born in the North in a silver world called Yoitsu, and since she recognizes that Lawrence is a traveling merchant, she wants him to take her with him. However, Lawrence first wants her to prove that she’s Horo by showing him her wolf form, but she refuses until he says that he’ll take her to the church if she’s human because he thinks demons are the source of catastrophes – he’ll reconsider if she’s the real Horo.
After repeatedly questioning if Lawrence truly wants to see it, Horo eats a tiny bit of Lawrence’s wheat and transforms her left arm. The rest is a blur to Lawrence, and when he regains his senses, Horo is gone. He ends up returning to the village, and he’s found and initially shocked by Chloe because she’s got a wolf mask on. Chloe wants to talk about a big business deal that could bring large profits, but Lawrence feels that she’s still too young and needs more experience. Lawrence’s own thoughts continue to dwell on Horo, and when he’s alone again, she suddenly appears. Horo explains that she’s normally in the harvested wheat, but if there is a bigger sheaf of wheat nearby when the last sheaf gets harvested, she can move there. That’s why she thinks of him as her savior. This leads to Lawrence recalling that when she had shown him her left arm in its true form, he had been so shocked that he had fallen off his wagon, and she had promptly disappeared.
Horo then talks about how she had watched over the wheat here for a long time, but she knows that if the abundant harvests continue as they have been, then it will overtax the land. The villagers had blamed her whims when harvests weren’t good, and as it got worse, Horo began to feel she wasn’t needed anymore. When Lawrence asks her if she has somewhere to go if she leaves the village, Horo answers that she wants to go home to the North. In the end, he decides to bring her out of the village with him the next morning and is surprised to find her fully dressed after putting on his best clothes. He wants her to take them off, but Horo knows that he won’t make her and promises that his name will be told in her tales for eternity. Lawrence doesn’t care about that so much as he just wants Horo to earn her own share of food from now on.
Wow, the ED really made me cringe. Here I had been looking forward to a ROCKY CHACK song after what I thought was a really good set of ZEGAPAIN EDs from them previously, but it turns out that Ringo Hiyori was completely in English (at least I think it was – it was hard to understand).
Overall, the episode wasn’t quite as dialogue heavy as I thought it’d be, but close (meaning that it can come across as rather slow-paced at parts). There wasn’t that much talk of trade since the introduction of Horo took most of the episode, but what parts were there were developed partly around a theme of humans succeeding on their own without the need for gods and partly around Chloe’s coming of age and Lawrence recognizing it, both of which were interesting topics for me. Speaking of which, I didn’t really mind Chloe’s inclusion as an anime original character. If anything, I thought she brought a fresh angle to the story, though it’s not entirely clear what role if any she’ll play from now on.
Production-quality-wise, the animation quality was decent, and the soundtrack had a unique flavor that I can’t quite put my finger on. Suffice to say, it made the series feel like it was in the Middle Ages. The main draw for me is still Fukuyama Jun and Koshimizu Ami in the lead roles, the latter of whom particularly stood out because she had to adapt to Horo’s antiquated way of speaking. Anyway, the OP shows a lot of interesting shots that indicate this show has a lot of promise, though I’m not quite sold on the show just yet.