Archive for the 'okami to koshinryo' Category

Spice and Wolf: The Sandwich Anachronism (Also, THE END)

I have no idea what a sandwich is doing in this fantasy land set in a time period that equates to a time period in our own world long before the Earl of Sandwich came up with the brilliant idea of taking two slices of bread, putting some roast beef and cheese between said pieces of bread, and then egotistically naming this new food concoction after himself because, after all, what are earls if not huge egomaniacs? Maybe in this fantasy land, Lawrence is actually the inventor of this tasty treat and in 300 years everyone in the world will refer to the bread-and-meat combination as a Lawrence.

I think the best part of this final episode was the initial talk between Lawrence and Horo (before they rush off to Defeat the Evil Merchants), although, really, the entire episode was essentially them bouncing off each other, to my great delight (the previous episode had been sorely lacking in this particular aspect of the series, but replaced it with Nora cuteness, so it was fine by me). The other best part of the episode was the final part, because (for once) Lawrence was effortlessly scoring points off Horo the entire time. That brought great glee to my face, and was certainly a great note to end the series on. There’s still the DVD-only episode 7, to go, too, but I have no idea what’s in that at all.

It’s telling of Horo’s character that she thinks highly enough of Lawrence that, despite his general uselessness and penchant for getting into sticky situations, and despite her general tsundere attitude towards him (I hesitate to use the word “tsundere” there, as she’s more complex than that), she still looks out for him, and even goes out of her way to not fight the rival wolf pack, so she could rescue Lawrence from the backstabbing merchants. We don’t know what her attachment to him is, unfortunately, and we can only begin to guess at it (I’m personally thinking “random whimsy”).

End of series thoughts: Overall, I thought the series was a very well-done work of suspense. It isn’t, say, Monster, but that’s setting the bar ridiculously high, since not everyone can be as Usasawa Naoki as Usasawa Naoki is. The fault for any general ambivalence towards it on my behalf isn’t necessarily the fault of the series itself, but with me. I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy watching it, but neither can I say I’m gung-ho about how awesome the series is, as a whole.  It delivered exactly what it promised, competently, and so, you can’t really fault the series for much of anything. I’m still looking forward to reading the novels to find out exactly how they’re put together. I don’t know if my wish will ever be granted, though…

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Spice and Wolf: Determined Horo, Helpless Lawrence

Yes, he’s useless again. This may be Medieval Moe Economics Thriller, but, despite that Medieval there, the Damsel in Distress to save isn’t a damsel at all.

Uselessness of Lawrence aside, this episode existed solely to set the viewer up for the subsequent episode, which will be the Climactic Finale for the series, to be followed by a special DVD episode of what I can only hope is 24 minutes of Horo being Horo. As setup, it’s all just kind of…there, but the Thrilling Conclusion to this arc, and the series as a whole, promises to be Quite Good indeed.

Since it seems that no matter what Lawrence does, he can’t catch a break from anyone at any time, I can only imagine how frustrating his life must be. Backstabs, double-crosses, and sneaky tactics a thrilling story make, however, and this arc is certainly much easier to comprehend than the first one. It almost makes me want to see Japan make Wolf and Stock Market, and have it explain the principles of modern economics so that I can maybe finally get a handle on the elusive maths. That, and it’d be fun to have entire arcs devoted to trying to profit off a collapsing housing bubble, and wolfgirls running amok on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. We might even encounter Alan Greenspan with wolf ears!

Seeing Horo interact with others of her kind (“her kind” being giant wolves), even if all she’s doing is yelling at them for being impudent, is facinating. I think, perhaps, what’s driving her to fight this newcomer isn’t so much a desire to protect Lawrence and Nora (but mostly Lawrence), but, rather, her sense of pride as a wolf. She’s upset at the upstart young whippersnapper of a wolf for daring to approach her and her party, and so, it must pay the penalty. It’s that kind of attitude that makes Horo a bit more than your average tsundere. It’s an admission that, despite looking human and acting human, she isn’t quite fully there yet, and she has a vicious feral side that might just get let out next episode. Bloodletting ahoy.

As long as Nora doesn’t die I’m a-okay with it, though.

Spice and Wolf: There Be Gold in Them There Sheep

THE PLAN: smuggle gold in sheep.

THE PERPETRATOR: Sweet, innocent, cute Norah.

THE CHANCE FOR SUCCESS: 10%, but with courage we can make it 100%!

My only question for Lawrence is, how do you plan to get the gold out of the sheep? I mean, I assume the easiest way would be to butcher the sheep, but…they’re sheep. They’re cute. They’re also dumb, but that’s okay, because they’re sheep. They wouldn’t be sheep if they were smart. Sheep are considered smart if they discover the amazing fact that all grass does not taste the same. The Albert Einstein of sheep, however, broke new ground in the field of Grass Research by assigning a name to this phenomenon: “grass” and “tastes-like-grass-but-not-really”.

Sheep jokes aside, this plan is probably going to succeed (natch), and probably Norah is actually a magician, and probably the Church is an evil entity. I’m no anti-religion person, but it’s nice to see that the church in whatever the name of this fantasy-world is isn’t exactly completely upstanding. As was the case in our own medieval times, the church is somewhat corrupt. This doesn’t mean good people don’t work for it, but it does mean that they have an agenda to push, like a kind of independent government that operates in multiple areas at once. And we can’t forget the burning of heretics. Nasty, nasty heretics.

We, or at least I, also gain some more insight into Horo’s character. It occured to me after watching this episode that Horo, prideful as she is, is actu8ally an extremely lonely wolf-person-thing. I think her prideful, self-centered exterior is a way of denying to herself that loneliness. Lawrence, of course, breaks the loneliness, but as he is, well, human, he doesn’t necessarily always suit Horo’s needs. We saw last episode that she got mad at him for accusing her of ruining his chances at finding the money he needed, yet at the beginning of this episode, she’s crying and wondering why he’s such a “softy”, to borrow BSS’;s translation. Being the lone god of that one village at the beginning is certainly a fun prospect at first, but, after a while, even the largest of egos gets tired of constant groveling and worshiping. Fortunately for Horo, Lawrence is a kind person, and no matter how much they may bounce one-liners off each other all day, at the end of the day there’s still a sort of bond between them.

The series gimmick of character interaction and depth mixed with hard-core economics is, as I’ve said before, quite charming. It works well–there’s depth in the characters here, at the same time that there’s economic education of a sort. I like it for both, even though sometimes the economics escapes me.

And Horo. Yes. Wolf ears and tail. Can’t discredit that. Nothing makes economics more palatable than a wolfgirl.

Spice and Wolf: The Little Wolf Inside the Girl is Sad

But not in this picture, she isn’t. :3

I like this arc better than the previous one already. The first arc was needlessly complicated with coinage devaluation and whatnot, but this one is straightforward duplicity. The surging thrill of economics is absent, of course (so far) but I have confidence that no matter what, Lawrence will pull some kind of complicated economic scheme from his hindquarters that will save them all.

Of course, that’s not going to matter much if Horo hates him, which was the capstone of 10. If all those merchants denied Lawrence help simple because he had Horo in tow, then he is in serious straits, and now that Horo is pissed at him, his world has come crashing down rather horridly. The character interplay dynamics I mentioned last time are still in full force, with the viewer left wondering just who, exactly, wears the pants in the Horo x Lawrence relationship. I really wish I could read the original novels and get this direct from the source, but, alas. It’s not like the anime is bad, but I get the feeling watching the anime that the novels are much, much better. Which, considering that Spice and Wolf has the cleverest concept of the winter season (if not the sharpest execution) means that it’s merely a step from regular old “awesome” to “high-quality weapons-grade plutonium awesome”.

The comment about “sharp execution” up there made me think for a bit, and I want to clarify this a little bit. Spice and Wolf is certainly directed well (which, considering that the guy doing the direction is the same as the guy who directed Cosprayers, is not a mean feat) but it’s not directed well, if that makes sense. The strength, rather, as noted above, lies in the writing. I don’t mean this in a bad way. The direction is perfectly passable, but there’s not really anything that stands out for me on the direction front. The writing front, yes–it’s clearly catching the spirit of the original work, and the direction is doing an admirable job of bringing that out. It’s just not impressing me on the level of, say, true tears, which certainly isn’t a problem for me at all. It’s the kind of series that gets by on the strength of the writing, but we should be thankful that it’s directed competently, because poor direction would ruin this series, I think.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Direction good, writing also good.

MORAL OF THE STORY, PART THE SECOND: Please do not anger the Horo, she is likely to bite. Hard.

No, Horo, it is empty. There is no more beer. You are lucky you were not doused with the stuff.

Too bad I dislike the concept of alcohol, or else all this beer-swilling would turn me on. Alas.

What struck me the most in this episode (which is 8, not 7; 7 is too spicy for TV so they couldn’t air it, or something) was the fact that Horo is totally playing Lawrence for a fool. I mean, they spread it on thick there with that inn room scene where she’s begging him for oil to make her tail pretty. She took the womanly charm and essentially seduced him into buying whatever she wanted.

It’s things like this that bring up questions about who’s ahead in the Lawrence/Horo relatonship. Is one trying to pull the wool over the head of the other? Are they both trying to do it to each other, the most likely scenario? Or is this just some kind of weird authorial trick? Lawrence is no cad, and many of his moves so far have been carefully calculated–but so have Horo’s. She is a wolf, after all, less wily and cunning than, say, a fox, but still up there. If she’s playing Lawrence for a dupe, or he her, then this series has a lot going on under the surface that the viewer isn’t seeing. Beneath the Horo fanservice lies an uncanny game of chess between the two leads which never ends. It’s little touches like this that make me like the series more with each episode, and sad that it is merely a one-season series. Hopefully, the popularity of the series with the American fanbase will lead to a licensing of the light novels, which means that the series doesn’t have to end until the author ends it.

And on the topic of having missed an episode somewhere, I think the magician we meet at the end was actually introduced in episode 7, but we’re lacking that informaton, so it’s kind of upsetting to me to watch a series that’s supposed to be enjoyed in-order out-of-order. That’s just plain ol’ human OCD, though. I assume all will be made clear when the DVD is out and 7 is released for all to enjoy and marvel at. It’s probably the second (and final) arc of the series, so more economic thrills, chills, and spills (literally) await us. And more interaction, I hope.

Oh, Horo pranked us baaaaaad.

Damn and blast.

Why does Japan get all the fun thrillers? America would never think about putting in a wolf girl in their thrillers, let alone base their thrillers around medieval economics. But I talked about that last time.

Horo is now much more than a sass machine who happens to be a wolf goddess. It’s a shame this series is only going to be a season long, because, as that pranked moment up there demonstrates, Lawrence (I keep wanting to spell it Laurence, damn you, Naomi Novik…) is developing a certain kind of affection for Horo. Did anyone not  see this coming? It does feel a bit forced upon, but I don’t really mind in this case–they were obviously destined to be a couple the moment they laid eyes on each other, so whatever.

I am somewhat confused by the economical nature of the plot structure, lamentably, but I’m used to being confused on plot elements from my somewhat eccentric reading habits, so it’s nothing new for me. I think they’re mostly confusing because I have difficulties with economics and similar maths, and (while this isn’t exactly as dense as Adam Smith in terms of economic theory) it’s still somewhat hard to follow. However, it’s still admirable that they managed to make economics thrilling and exciting and full of fast paced chase scenes.

And, actually, the thriller elements did seem to be a bit breaking of convention. It’s been my experience in thriller-type things that, when someone is kidnapped by the Bad People and all the other protagonists are getting together a Party to go Rescue Them, normally everyone supports them.  Not here. “No, sorry, Lawrence, we’re too interested in our profit to save Horo.” Of course, it looks like they might help him after all, but I was expecting “Gosh, Lawrence, that’s terrible, let’s send a rescue party out to find her immediately!” because I rarely do the guessing-before-it-happens thing. I think I don’t do that because I get wrapped up in the narrative rather than being a passive, neutral observer, which is what you’re supposed to do when you’re watching something thrilling and exciting, because if you’re just sitting there as a neutral observer you’re just going to hate it.  And people need to hate things less. It’s not healthy for the blood pressure.

Important Lesson For Today: Never Trust Wolf Goddesses, No Matter How Cute They Are

Horo can barter like no other. She’s like the medieval merchant equivalent of a lot lizard. With wolf ears.

So Okami to Koshinryo really is a Moe Medieval Economics Thriller. I can’t see anything but utter awesome from Lawrence and Horo’s Adventures in Beating the Market, because, one, as these three episode have taught even the most ignorant, economics in medieval times was incredibly complicated, much like it is today, except you had to know 50 zillion coinages and be able to manipulate the markets in your head. As a bored teenager, I’ve played a couple of those silly space merchant games wherein you buy things at one planet and then soar off to another planet and sell things and buy more things and etc, and man, was it complicated enough to handle the laws of economics in a simple browser MMO. And you had little icons and stuff, and there wasn’t a huge variety of goods. To make the complexities of economics in medieval times a subject for a thrilling and exciting light novel/anime requires three things:

1) research into economics and its history
2) actual writing talent
3) wolf girls (optional but suggested)

The fact that Hasekura Isuna did all three and managed to be successful tells me that Japanese people will go to incredible lengths to write a book that a goodly portion of the fans of said book are fans of the hot wolf girl and yet still somehow the actual content of the book is astounding, making the addition of said hot wolf girl even more fun. American visual culture fans get the historically inaccurate 300; Japanese visual culture fans get meticulously researched economic thrillers. I think I know which I want to cast my lot with. More on this topic when I get around to writing about Historie, though. For now, though, I’m happy with pretend-Medieval Europe with wolf girls.

TALLY OF TIMES I HAVE SAID WOLF GIRLS/EARS IN THIS POST: 5. If you haven’t picked up that I’m somewhat infatuated with Horo, here’s me explicitly informing you: I am infatuated with Horo. There, now it’s out in the open. No reneging.


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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