"Merchant Meats Spicy [sic] Wolf"
—Yes, this "typo" (which is hinted at not being one) is on the original covers of the novels.
Spice and Wolf is a light novel eventually made into an anime in 2008, with a second season, animated by a different studio, following a year later. The original name, "Ookami to Koushinryou", literally translates to "Wolf and Spice", but for some reason the official English title has it the other way.
The setting of both the novels and anime is a middle-ages European-esque world. Lawrence, a traveling merchant, accidentally frees the local harvest god, a centuries-old giant wolf named Holo who takes the form of a young girl. She convinces him to let her travel with him and seek out her dimly-remembered homeland.
Interestingly, the main thrust of the anime is centered more on the business of Lawrence than on Holo's supernatural nature. Instead of action or fanservice, Spice and Wolf is far more likely to focus on an in-depth discussion on the currency exchange market, with no notable attempt to make it more interesting by going over the top. Surprisingly, the show does this rather well using character interaction and business intrigue. The romance between Lawrence and Holo is also a major part of the plot.
The light novels concluded in 2011 with the seventeenth volume. Yen Press is translating and releasing both the novels and manga in the United States. Releasing the novels every six months starting in December 2009, it will take them a while to catch up.
This anime has been licensed in North America by Funimation. Both seasons are streaming on their video portal, and are available on DVD and Blu-ray (with season two a DVD/Blu-ray combo set).
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: During the Milone-Medioh arc, deliberately constructed as a hidden escape route.
- All Myths Are True: Comes into play in the second season of the anime, where Holo's past is discussed.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Shepherds are feared by townsfolk, because their ability to "influence animals", even wolves, is assumed to have resulted from some sort of pagan pact.
- Almost Kiss: Episode 4.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Played straight in the anime but averted in the manga, at least as far as Holo's nipples go, to the point that the English translation of the manga has an adult content warning on the cover.
- Babies Ever After: Between Holo and Lawrence in the epilogue of Volume 17.
- Bifauxnen: Eve from the second season dresses as a guy so her merchant partners will take her more seriously, which is a good idea considering the time period that the series takes place.
- Big Badass Wolf: Holo, in her wolf form.
- Bilingual Bonus: In the anime written stuff is often in German, but the second season just uses gibberish.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Chloe.
- Bokukko: Eve goes by "ore". Justified, since she's a female merchant.
- Bullying a Dragon: Chloe and the thugs with her in episode 6, who believe Holo is simply a demon possessed girl.
- Catch Phrase
- "Tawake!" ("Fool!")
- "I am Holo the Wise Wolf!"
- "You are terribly good natured."
- Caught the Heart on His Sleeve: Holo to Lawrence at least once, while drunk.
- Cheap Gold Coins: Averted. In one episode Lawrence has to exchange his gold coins for silver in order to buy clothing (the vendors wouldn't have change). Also one of the early plot arcs involves speculation on the silver content of one nation's coins.
- Chekhov's Gun: Upon entering the town of Kumersun, Lawrence gives Holo some feathers to stick in her hair and explains that it's a wordless signal nuns use to indicate that they're not going to preach their faith there. Later on, Holo uses feathers from Diana's place to subtly clue Lawrence in about her plan for the pyrite sale.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: When Holo was captured by the Medio Company, which threatened to turn her over to the Church, Lawrence talked the Milone Company into sending some of their own bruisers — men skilled in using violence — to rescue her. She was furious that he didn't come to get her himself...especially since she gave the first rescuer through the door a big hug (and maybe, she implies, said something a bit intimate) before realizing he wasn't Lawrence.
- Contemptible Cover, American Kirby Is Hardcore: The redone cover for the first American release book got this complaint due to dropping the anime style Japanese cover for a pseudorealistic frontal shot of Holo running while naked (though mostly dark), drawing comparisons to a trashy romance novel cover. This was done in an attempt to reach out a more general audience at the insistence of distributors. For that first volume, they hastily released dust jackets of the original cover for the first volume to the distributors and in their magazine after the outcry. From volume two onward, that initial solution has been inverted; the original art is on the cover and the new art serves as the dust jacket (now depicting essentially the same scene as the Japanese version, but with Holo looking away), satisfying both distributor and fan demands as well as can be expected.
- Corrupt Church: The church hierarchy in the series is portrayed as greedy and oppressive, reminiscent of the pre-Reformation Catholic Church of the era it is emulating.
- Creator Thumbprint: Economics is obviously a passion for Isuna Hasekura. In fact, he took the prize money he won for the first Spice and Wolf novel to the stock market and is now writing a manga about day trading.
- Dawn of an Era: Holo and gods like have come to acknowledge that while their time had since passed, humanity's day in the sun has just dawned.
- Death Glare: Lawrence gives a stranger one when they bump into each other and the man tries to confront him about it.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance
- When Holo asks Lawrence about the slave trade he shrugs and says that it's profitable and necessary. And this just after he nearly ends up as a slave to pay for his bankruptcy.
- Not sure if it would fit here, but Holo's comment in book five about God (the big one, not the Wolf ones) being cruel for letting people suffer was funny, considering how the townsfolk she used to have a pact with came to hate her.
- More than a few times Lawrence claims that Holo is his wife, and no one comments on it, even though her human form is specifically mentioned in-story and designed to look like a fifteen year old girl and Lawrence is in his mid-to-late twenties. In today's culture this would cause shock and dismay in a lot of people at best, but in the time period portrayed, it was a given that a young girl, often as soon as she started her periods, would be married off to an older man who either has a business of his own, or is the heir of a wealthy family. Lawrence matches the former, but even so he may still be a little young, and his merchant business a little to tenuous, for when a man usually married.
- Worth noting is that many characters comment that it's odd for Lawrence to be travelling with a wife - but not because of her age, but because of the nature of his work.
- Double Standard Abuse (Female on Male): Holo can sometimes get a bit aggressive when Lawrence says or does something she disapproves of, occasionally resorting to stomping on his foot, punching him the ribs, or just generally being rough with him.
- End of an Age: Holo decides to leave because the villagers say that they don't need a harvest god anymore. While she initially helped them by making the crops grow, she occasionally had to do the opposite to prevent the growing village from being struck by the Tragedy of the Commons, which grew the resentment among the villagers. At the time she left, she was portrayed in the village harvest festivities as an oppressive force and a thief instead of as a wise benefactor.
- Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Several tracks in the OST use them.
- Face Palm
- Lawrence does this quite often, usually in response to Holo's logic or teasing.
- Holo gets a half-a-minute-long facepalm in the OVA in response to Lawrence's description of how sheep are used for torture.
- Fan Service: Holo is naked during her introduction and again when they reach an inn during a rainstorm and dry off.
- In Volumes 11 and 12 of the manga, tavernkeeper Helena is very shapely, and frequently portrayed in poses that show this off. There's also a scene when she tells Lawrence that he shouldn't come to get something from her tavern too early in the morning, and he has an Imagine Spot of her half-awake and barely covered by a thin-looking blanket.
- Fantastic Arousal
- According to Holo, wolves touching noses is to them what kissing is to humans. Apparently Lawrence's fingers feel like a wolf's nose. So when he does touch her nose...
- She also stiffens, blushes, and yells at him when he touches her tail all of a sudden.
- Fantastic Ghetto: The city of Kumersun has an area surrounded by high walls, where alchemists and other people -- whose profession is considered “suspicious” by the Church -- live. Diana is a local chronicler, collecting tales not yet censored by authorities and mediating in trade between inhabitants and outside world. She also happens to be a giant bird, who took on human shape like Holo.
- Food Porn: Holo is very enthusiastic about delicious food, and Lawrence has gotten some pretty strong reactions out of her by describing it in detail. In the manga, in particular, there's a bit where he describes preserving peaches in honey. "It was so sweet the Church was considering banning the stuff. Hey, you're drooling." She wasn't just drooling; her face was flushed and her eyes a bit glazed.
- Freak-Out: Holo has a nasty one in Season II, when she learns that Yoitz was destroyed long ago by "the bear that hunts the moon". Could also count as a Wafer-Thin Mint, given the hullabaloo with Amarti and the various other tensions she and Lawrence are under.
- Genre Savvy: As a wise wolf, Holo seems to know quite a bit about how the most corny romance dialogue plays out, sometimes even coaching Lawrence into saying what he's "supposed" to say in a given situation. Lawrence becomes increasingly aware of this, and tends to avoid falling into her trap in favor of turning it around on her. These games generally stop when they actually fight, only to start again when they make up.
- Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Needed several times due to the fickleness of Holo and the high risk of Lawrence's profession.
- Godiva Hair: Holo's hair, when Lawrence first finds her.
- Gratuitous English: The first season's ending song. However, the lyricist is British, so the weirdness is probably deliberate.
- Greed: Lawrence goes overboard on this in episode 8 by buying too much armor on credit, and it comes back to bite him in the behind in episode 10 when he finds out that the price of armor has crashed in the city he intended to sell it at.
- Groin Attack: Lawrence knocked out an attacker with one during the first arc of the first season.
- Handsome Lech: Weiz from Season 1.
- Henpecked Husband: Adele isn't domineering, but she does have a habit of nagging Mark, even jokingly suggesting she might run away with Amarti.
- Holding Hands: Holo gets annoyed that it doesn't occur to Lawrence to do this, but he catches on eventually. They actually do this a lot. And since Holo is Lawrence's "business partner", the distinction between shaking hands and holding hands sometimes becomes blurred.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Lawrence is quite a bit taller than Holo in human form.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "Wolf and X" / "Ookami to X".
- I'm a Humanitarian: After she jokingly explaining to Lawrence why wolves attack humans, she realized he really was not amused, and explained more seriously why. It is implied that Holo has eaten humans in the past, and eats one of a group of thugs to save Lawrence's life, though she regurgitates him later.
- Immortal Immaturity : Holo is Really Seven Hundred Years Old, but is very fickle and impulsive.
- Internet Counterattack: See Spell My Name with an "S" below.
- Interspecies Romance: The basis of the story.
- In the Hood: Holo wears one (or a cap) to hide her ears and tail.
- I Watch It For The Economics: The original Trope Namer was a meme that was used to distinguish the genuinely tense and exciting economic plots from the perceived Ecchi elements.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Mark's apprentice Lant confesses to being in love with Holo, but still does everything in his power to help Lawrence win her back.
- I Will Protect Her: Lawrence invokes a form of this when he refuses to hand Holo over to Chloe.
- Large Ham
- I am Holo the Histrionic Wolf!
- Once he becomes comfortable around Holo, Lawrence gets in a few moments like this in response to Holo's teasing. Very self-aware, of course.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: As part of his pep talk to Lawrence, Mark says (paraphrased) "You are the main character of this story!" Of course, he means that figuratively.
- Light Novel
- Magnetic Girlfriend: In Season Two, Holo deliberately rubs her scent on Lawrence to "mark" him as her companion and chase a bar girl away. As said girl explains, it backfires and now that he has Holo's scent on him and has admitted that she's his "companion", he is instantly more desirable than usual.
- Mayfly-December Romance: Lawrence is a normal human with a normal lifespan, while Holo has lived for several hundred years and is implied to have several hundred more years ahead of her. As we see in the OVA, Holo is painfully aware of this.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Subverted. The setting is clearly based on this, but is at the cusp of its own Renaissance.
- Moment of Weakness: In the second volume, after the last trading house he asks for a loan turns him down and insinuates that Holo's presence is the part of the reason it and others were so unhelpful, he verbally lashes out at Holo when she speaks. Subverted some, as Holo later confesses he should have been angrier.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The Milone and Medioh Trading companies in Season 1 are unbelievable. They make economics seem awesome; it's the Assassin's Creed of supply and demand.
- Naked First Impression: Lawrence finds Holo naked in his cart.
- Noodle Incident
- For Lawrence the previous wolf attacks he has endured, for Holo, her attacks on humans.
- Holo also doesn't explain what Amati did to get her angry with him in the first half of season two.
- Oh Crap
- Chloe and her thugs in episode 6.
- Holo, you can read?!
- One Head Taller: Unsurprising, since Holo has the anatomy of a fifteen year old (plus ears and tail).
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Of the inverse Wolf Girl type. Needs a catalyst of wheat or blood to transform to or from a wolf the size of a bus and a small woman with a tail and wolf ears.
- Out-Gambitted: A regular part of the business intrigue.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Holo may not say it, but she means it.
- POV Boy, Poster Girl: We see everything from the perspective of Lawrence, but Holo is the one on all the posters.
- Primal Fear: Lawrence cowers in fear at first when he sees Holo's wolf form.
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Holo, being a several-hundred-year-old god.
- Recurring Riff: The second season soundtrack has several recurring themes that are replayed with different instruments and slightly different tempos.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: On Holo at times, though in the most prominent example, it's used more as a warning sign of emotional fragility.
- Road Trip Romance
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Well, they're both savvy, but Lawrence is the more pragmatic and stoic one, while Holo acts vivacious and indulgent.
- Serious Business
- Commodities trading. Of course, we all know that economics is serious business, but what really drives this point home is that at any point, when given the choice to show pictures of the cute wolf girl, or two men talking about money, the story will ALWAYS show the money.
- To a lesser extent, human cuisine is serious business to Holo, who can't wait to try out any and all delicacies Lawrence mentions.
- Combining the two, a short anime special features Holo explaining in detail the foods and drinks she consumes during her travel, and the price/nutrition/quality ratio among them.
- Shapeshifting Lover: Diana mentions there are many tales about pagan gods and humans in love. She herself tries to invoke it, but her love interest caught on her true form. At the end Holo and Lawrence.
- Shipper on Deck: Mark, Lant and Diana in the third arc. Deaconess Elsa in manga Volume 12.
- Ship Tease: Holo being The Tease, and both her and Lawrence having obviously strong feelings for each another.
- Shirtless Scene
- Lawrence takes off his shirt (both in the anime and the manga) quite frequently.
- Koume Keito doesn't miss an opportunity to show off Holo's body in the manga.
- Shout-Out: Look at the images that play when Eve discusses her marriage and her husband: They are all details from The Arnolfini Portrait by Dutch Renaissance artist Jan van Eyck, 1434.
- In Volume 12 of the manga, the region in which Holo's home Yoitsu is to be found is said to be named "Tolkien" (at least in the English translation).
- Shown Their Work: Not only is the economic aspect of the anime, manga and novels very well done, but Isuna Hasekura bothered to research the types of food they ate in the Middle Ages, as Lawrence and Holo eat food appropriate to their class I.E. fresh fruit and ale, the potatoes would be a delicacy back then so saying that he paid a lot of money to the church was correct.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Holo sometimes makes unfavorable remarks about Lawrence's soft-heartedness, but his kindness is probably the main thing he has going for him. That said, she does cultivate him to be more assertive and outgoing to an extent. And she dislikes it when he holds back from risky business endeavors for her sake.
- Slap Slap Kiss: A particularly brutal one in the last episode.
- Something Completely Different: A section of one of the light novels is a novella following Norah after she parted with Lawrence and Holo ... and it's narrated by Norah's dog Enek.
- Spell My Name with an "S"
- There was heavy debate centered on whether her name is Horo, as per alleged Word of God and fansubs, or Holo, which is used by Yen Press for the official romanization and by other official sources as well. Also confusing was Craft vs. Kraft and what his western name order was.
- To make things more confusing, the English version of Zettai Hero Kaizou Keikaku (where she appears as a cameo) went with Horo.
- During the first arc of Season 2 of the anime she signs her name as "Holo".
- Almost every character. Diana/Dianna/Deanna, Marc/Mark, Lunt/Lant/Landt, Eve/Abe -- even the spellings of town names is uncertain!
- "Take That!" Kiss: In the second season.
- Talking Heads: The anime is very dialogue-heavy; most of the "action scenes" are the trade conversions as well as the verbal games that Holo and Lawrence play with one another.
- There Is Only One Bed: In season 2 of the anime, Holo teases Lawrence about this. Lawrence is understandably flustered.
- They Walk Among Us: Over the course of the story, it's revealed that Holo isn't the only god in human form walking around.
- Thirteen Episode Anime: Along with the odd case of the seventh episode being DVD exclusive. The second season had twelve episodes and an epilogue on the DVD.
- Title Drop: In the sixth episode of the anime, Marlheit, who knows Holo's secret and associates Lawrence with pepper, says "Spice and wolf sounds fitting to me."
- Trademark Favorite Food: Holo's love of apples. She gets tired of them after trying to finish a cartload of fresh apples all by herself, but Lawrence's tales about (delicious) apple dishes makes her start craving for them once again.
- Tsundere: Holo displays this from time to time.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: And keeps it throughout the series until the end.
- Verbal Tic: Not a tic, necessarily, but Holo speaks rather uniquely - she uses a speech pattern based off of oiran speech. So "I'm Holo the Wise Wolf" in normal Japanese would be watashi wa Kenrou Holo da, but she says it wacchi ya Kenrou Holo ja. In the English version, this comes out as a slightly more archaic speech pattern – certainly nothing like Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe, but noticeable nonetheless. In a possible reference to this, volume three of the manga has an Alternate Universe bonus story in which she is an oiran.
- Voices Are Mental: Holo sounds the same as a giant wolf as in human form, though with a slight echoing effect. Her head seems to be purposefully kept out of frame as she speaks to avoid the issue of how she can produce normal sound with a wolf's head.
- Who Dares?: Holo's "You dare say I snore?!"
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Holo is over 400 years old, and hates being alone after the humans she knows die: "Loneliness is a sickness that leads to death." She's traveling back to her homeland where more of her kind exist, but we don't know whether it's survived the years.
- Who Writes This Crap?:
Eve: Sounds like the kind of meeting a cheap poet would write about.
- Will They or Won't They?: It is quite obvious that Holo and Lawrence have something going on between them, and as time goes on they flat out flirt openly but won't admit their feelings for one another. Lawrence is shy and gentlemanly while Holo is just plain stubborn. It eventually becomes clear that they think such a relationship would never work out, and plan on parting ways at Yoitsu before things get too serious. Whether they'll actually do that is unknown. They start a shop and family together. See Babies Ever After above.
- Work Off the Debt: Subverted: Holo admits that she owes Lawrence and has to pay him back, but that's mostly just an excuse they give others (and initially themselves) for their companionship. In other words, that's not what's really keeping them together.
- Younger Than They Look: Lawrence is only 25 -- the years on the road must really take their toll.