Spice and Wolf, season 2 – Ending the season with a bang

Holy cow. While it wasn’t perfect, this episode delivered a little bit of everything. Powerhouse performances from Jun Fukuyama and Ami Koshimizu. Betrayal and intrigue. Lawrence pulling off his best Lelouch act. Angry Horo. Crying Horo. Deredere Horo. Lawrence’s confession. A kiss between the two(!) Seriously, there was a little bit for everyone. The only major knock is that the shoddy animation that became prevalent towards the latter half of the season continued here.

Continuing the fur tradeHoro accepts fate

I must say, I was rather confused by Lawrence’s actions at the beginning of the episode. Fruhl reveals that she’s still planning to move forward with their plan, but require some extra precautions on their part. Lawrence agrees to continue the deal. Horo knows that Lawrence realizes how much more riskier this deal got, then asks him what he’s hiding. Lawrence reluctantly explains that if he succeeds, Horo will part with him. If he fails, Horo will refuse to be bought and escape as a wolf, leaving him behind. Then both him and Horo agree that it’s not worth throwing it all away to gamble on a single thread of hope. Then Horo asks him if he thinks she’d be happy with that. When Lawrence replies yes, she smacks him in the face. Ok, I’m confused. Does Horo want him to do the deal? Or not?

I couldn’t figure out if Lawrence and Horo were agreeing or disagreeing. From Horo’s perspective it sounded like she was saying the deal wasn’t worth it. Lawrence seemed to agree. But then for some strange reason, he still planned to go forward with the deal. After watching that scene about 4 times, I think I finally got that while Lawrence agreed that the deal was too risky, he thought what Horo really wanted was for him to chase his dream. Even if it meant that she would leave and travel alone. And since Horo doesn’t disagree with him, he’s willing to take the risk. That’s my interpretation. I very well could be off. Let me know if I am.

Horo gets pawned offLawrence is unhappy

So with the two in agreement. Lawrence heads back and pawns off Horo as a noble. As he races with the large sack of money to meet with Fruhl, he thinks about how close he is to achieving his dream, but wonders if it was the right decision, and why he isn’t happy.

Fruhl's secret stashFruhl and Lawrence's distrust

When Lawrence arrives, he sees Fruhl sneak a pouch of money into her purse. And then the negotiations then break down. Lawrence questions Fruhl’s lack of nerve. And Fruhl makes references to the cost of a life being nothing compared to the amount of money in the bags they have. With so much at stake, the distrust between the two is now at a head.

Fruhl has devious plansFruhl attacks

Maybe I shouldn’t have been, but I was shocked when Fruhl attacked Lawrence. Rigolo trusted her. The shopkeeper trusted her. But perhaps I should have put more stock into Horo’s intuition. Lawrence luckily saves himself from both attacks (first the hatchet then the knife), and then launches into Lelouch mode.

Lawrence counters FruhlFruhl attacks Lawrence again

Lawrence then handcuffs Fruhl and explains his realization. While Fruhl may not have outright lied to him before, she hadn’t told him the whole truth. The big revelation was that the "stone statues" were really just a front for smuggling rock salt, which allowed her and the church to reap huge profits, eventually leading to her getting connections with the bishop. It was during this time, she and the church realized that the ones who could make the most from a cash-only dealing of furs was the church. So Fruhl began scheming. But when the church started to cut her out, she realized she needed a partner to keep them honest. I’m not completely sure about the logic behind that, but I think it’s because she’s guessing that the church isn’t going to risk snuffing her out if they know there’s another person who can capitalize and make the deal happen. But Lawrence realizes the size of the deal has driven her mad. And that she planned to buy out the furs using her secret stash of money and scam him out of his sack of money. Lawrence wonders why she’d be risking herself to do, even if it was for a substantial amount of money.

I was very impressed by Lelouch’s Lawrence’s deduction powers. He definitely figured out the smuggling plot in advance of the deal, but I wonder if he would’ve been as suspicious about Fruhl if he hadn’t seen her sneaking the secret sack into her bag. Either way, it’s interesting he didn’t reveal any of this to Horo. Would she have gone through with her part of the deal if she had known that?

spice-and-wolf-11Lawrence wakes from the dead

I am much less impressed by Lawrence’s ability to stay out of harm’s way. Although I wonder if he let himself be robbed. He didn’t seem distraught about losing the massive sack of gold, and later suggests that through various wheelings and dealings he was able to secure the Innkeeper’s building. Was he intending to use that as collateral to buy Horo back from the beginning? Did he not want to keep the gold, because he knew if he still had the Inn, Horo would then leave him? So then, was this whole exercise about making sure he chased his dream and failed, so that Horo could continue traveling with him with no regrets? If so, it seems like a very convoluted and dangerous method to go about doing that. And I assume Fruhl left behind the deed to the Inn for Lawrence. Was that her final good deed for him? Or was there a possibility for him to not have gotten ownership of the Inn?

Horo's tail is all bushyHoro will change fate

When Lawrence returns to tell Horo that the deal has fallen through and that he has been robbed, Ami Koshimizu puts in the perfect amount of rage and disbelief behind Horo’s voice. Also, while the animation of the episode was slipshod, I thought the attention to Horo’s tail was fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it that puffed up and large. I know that puffed up tails mean the tail-owner is angry, shocked or nervous based on Calvin & Hobbes. Horo then thinks Lawrence wants her to use her wolf form to get his money back.

Horo criesLawrence loves Horo

Until he stops her. He reveals to her that he was able to trade the Inn to buy her back. We get a true confession, where Lawrence admits he loves Horo. And that in the end, all he wants is to escape the town with her. Horo’s reaction is a mix of anger and sorrow. I think partly out of frustration knowing that Lawrence’s dream is shattered for now, and also in knowing that she’s going to have to continue to face her fear. Again, I thought Koshimizu did a fantastic job portraying just the perfect mix of emotions.

Lawrence's long awaited kiss with HoroHoro falls in love

And then we finally get a long-awaited kiss scene between the two, although it’s a little surprising how anti-climactic they made what should be a huge event. I didn’t dislike the way they set it up, because I think I actually prefer how they downplayed it versus having like a swell of romantic strings in the background, but I was disappointed with the animation of that scene. Not that I want to see a big sloppy kiss in excruciating detail, but the way they drew it, it just looked like Lawrence’s face was resting on top of Horo’s face. They really should’ve put a little more effort into animating that.

Of course, Horo plays it cool to the end. But lines like, "you have to take responsibility" serve as a kind of double entendre to show that she is indeed in Lawrence’s hands.

Lawrence and Horo in the snowBarmaid-chan barricading the door

I do love how they animated Horo and Lawrence’s final scene. The sound direction in this anime has been tremendous. The soft lights, the falling slow, the lack of dialogue, the clanging bells and the environmental sounds ended the show on such a deliciously moody note. I also got some lulz out of seeing barmaid-chan in anti-government spook pots and pan gear, barricading the door. I’ll miss her.

Color me shocked. They actually were able to wrap this storyline up without it feeling rushed. And it was full of surprises along the way. This has been a wild ride of a season, with great performances by the cast, crazy, convoluted stories, and some very strong character and relationship development between Lawrence and Horo. If a third season does come along, they’re going to have some tough shoes to fill. The best part about Spice and Wolf is the relationship and dialogue between Horo and Lawrence. But like Horo mentioned a couple episodes back, everything’s electric in the beginning, but eventually, it all fades away until all you’re left with dull memories. The challenge with Spice and Wolf will be continuing to evolve the relationship between Horo and Lawrence and not letting it get stale or formulaic. I hope we get a chance to see them take their best shot though.

Bravo to Brains Base for a fantastic season! Much thanks to Mazui for being so quick with the subs. And much love to everyone that stopped by to read my posts and leave comments. The community really does make watching anime a more fun experience. I’m going to miss this show, it’s been a great ride. See ya in season 3! (I hope :D)