Spice and Wolf (Kindaaloser)
It's common knowledge that wolves are one of the most cunning creatures when it comes to the animal kingdom. They are one of the most respected hunters on Earth, and are elegant in their action. There was a time when a man could be called a "lone wolf", and it denoted sense of honor, charisma and leadership, without the luxury of followers. That said, even a lone wolf must feel lonely sometimes. That is the way of the wolf, and Spice and Wolf expresses the hardship of going through life alone, while also rejoicing in the friendship that can be developed while being together.
Spice and Wolf starts off in the stylized historical setting of European during "Ye Olde" days, where bartering, farming and religion are the norm and ever present. In the small village of Pasroe, a wandering merchant named Laurence comes across an old friend and fellow merchant named Chloe. She has been chosen by the townsfolk to participate in a ritual for their annual festival involving Holo, the God of the Harvest. The legend of Holo proceeds numerous centuries, a God depicted as a large wolf, who helped bless harvest in the area for many years. For some reason, though, the great harvest stopped, and in the following years, many forgot or ignored the god, believing she has abandoned them. Chloe and almost all the townspeople feel that it's silly to believe that Holo exists and state that the festival is only for traditions sake. Only a spectator, Laurence has mixed feelings about the god, though he leaves it at that.
While staying in the town one night, Laurence, inspecting his wagon of goods, notices a girl lying on his fur and trades. Creating an uproar to get her out, he causes the girl to stand up, and Laurence notices that she, along with being naked, has a long, bushy tail and large canine ears. Awestruck, the girl replies harshly that she is the reincarnation of Holo the Wise Wolf, to which Lawrence questions her motive to be reincarnated, if she is indeed the god she claims to be. Holo then explains that she wishes to travel north, where "The summers are short, and the winters are long…" and that there is where she wishes to belong; at her home. While not believing nor denying her, Laurence demands that she proves she's the wolf god, and in turn, she does, although Laurence cowers in shock after seeing her transform and flee away. He returns to town and awakens the next morning, with Holo gone, wondering what to make of the scene from the previous night. Soon, he talks with Chloe again, and she tells Laurence of an opportunity for him to finally live his dream life and open his own shop. Laurence decides to think over the risks of the decision, and as he's about to go to sleep, Holo appears once again. Laurence, having no doubt that she is indeed a god, questions about her choice to give up on the people of the land and let their harvests die. She responds that she never intended to let the people down, but that when she needed to give the land rest from growing so much, they believed that she had betrayed them and went against her word. She wishes to travel north with Laurence, as she is afraid of being alone again. Laurence humbly agrees to escort her, and they begin their long travel together.
While it's not necessarily an epic, continuous tale like in the vein of Eureka Seven or similar anime, it is a tale of a grand journey and the uncertainty that accompanies it. The whole theme of the show is old-fashioned with a decidedly Pagan-feel to it, creating a blend of historical fiction with a nice mythic touch. It's a rather unexplored setting in anime that really deserves some more attention. On the presentation side, it's pretty good on all fronts, with the musical score being exceptionally well done, but the art direction lacking a bit in contrast to the rest of the show as character models can look a bit odd and disproportional at times. I spite of this, it gets the job done and is at most times pleasing.
The English dub of the show is greatly cast, with Holo having a snarky, yet elegant accent, and Laurence having the best Crispin Freeman sound-a-like I've ever heard. The conversations sound really natural, and the personalities of Holo and Laurence are greatly fleshed out. Holo is an arrogant, yet naive god, sometimes behaving childish at times despite her high stance, yet she doesn't fall into the tsundere stereotype, which is a really smart choice on the creator's part. Laurence is a really humble, yet honest man who seems to be cunning and rather smart himself, getting him and Holo both out of trouble, and getting great bargains on goods by utilizing his past experience as a merchant. The duo are definitely fit for one another, and the series doesn't stray far from romantic tension between the mortal and the god.
Spice and Wolf is a surprising series that turned out to be very well made. I really didn't expect the series to dwindle on the the subject of money in the mature way it did. It's also unique in the way it seems to stick true to not only its characters, but its setting as well. This is a nice, relaxing series that has the perfect blend of appeal for the male and female audience. If you're in need of a classy, mature (yet humorous and romantic) anime, then look no further than this.