Episode 7 – Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf

The next chapter of Lawrence and Holo’s long trek northward begins as all of their chapters should: with some light verbal sparring seasoned by food-based wordplay. These cart conversations are the series’ bread and butter. We must imagine that most of their journey takes place on the road, so these dialogues from the middle of nowhere are the anvil on which they forge the foundation of their relationship. That’s why I really like these scenes. By this point, the topics are rote—money, food, trade, etc.—but the participants are animated. This is how they whittle away the long and otherwise boring hours. Both Holo and Lawrence depend on the art of lively conversation. Sure, it helps them in the mercantile business, but it’s far more important as a means of staving off the loneliness they’ve both confessed to suffering from.

Consequently, I find this to be a strong episode because, not despite its lack of forward narrative momentum. The main plot of this arc hasn’t kicked in yet, so we’re free to hang out with the titular Spice & Wolf combo, which makes for a great time. Just consider how they have already figured out how to push the other’s buttons. Lawrence has fun getting Holo worked up about the taste of honey-preserved peaches, and Holo relishes any chance to fluster him with her feminine wiles. As with much of their banter, these scenes are highly performative acts done in concert with their partner. They both put up with the other’s artifice because, quite simply, they both have fun doing so. In simpler terms, they’re flirting. It’s adorable.

Their dynamic manifests in more lucrative ways sometimes, too, like with the shop owner who tries to underpay for Lawrence’s pepper. Holo notices the scam and comes up with her own scheme, and Lawrence plays along and improvises towards the most profitable end. It’s a thing of beauty. The same goes for Holo’s apple-scented fur con from a few episodes back. Watching that scene made me realize that their tag team grift/anti-grift powers remind me of the similar interplay between Jimmy and Kim in Better Call Saul. Perhaps Spice & Wolf primed me to enjoy that show as much as I did. Moreover, I like it when a story isn’t afraid to let its protagonists be sneaky and underhanded. Holo and Lawrence are by no means Bonnie and Clyde, but their mutual shrewdness throws a tantalizing sprinkle of spice over their relationship.

I also want to praise the attention paid to Holo’s expressions and body language this week since I didn’t shy away from being unkind about the animation last week. This episode, by contrast, has some nice flourishes. For instance, Holo’s furrowed brow and furtive tail-hugging add a lot of character to her recap of her bawdy arse-biting encounter with Saint Ruvinheigen. It’s a funny story, but when she straightens her body to tell Lawrence emphatically that she didn’t kill him, it tells us that she really cares about him seeing her as a person, not a monster. Given what he saw in the last episode, her concern makes sense, but Lawrence quickly smiles and reassures her. These are good and humanizing touches that let us peek at what these characters look like behind all the playful dialogue. Other highlights include the hungry wiggling of Holo’s ears under her hat and Holo being a very touchy-feely drunk. Is this fanservice? Undoubtedly, but at least it’s consistent with the character and tone of the series.

It’s cute that our cliffhanger is a roadside encounter with a shepherd. Holo’s oversized animosity makes for a funny revelation of the girl’s totally serene and unassuming face. It’s obvious why a wolf would dislike a shepherd on principle, but I also appreciate how this scene works on a symbolic level. The modern image of a shepherd is inexorably intertwined with Christianity, so we could interpret this as Holo’s incompatibility with the teachings of the Church in this setting. Paradoxically, however, this girl seems to be the source of the rumors about a sorcerer, so Holo might have more in common with her than she thinks.


Spice & Wolf: merchant meets the wise wolf is currently streaming on

Steve is on Twitter while it lasts. He still knows “The Wolf Whistling Song” by heart. You can also catch him chatting about trash and treasure alike on This Week in Anime.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.

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