Spice and Wolf (狼と香辛料 Ōkami to Kōshinryō?, lit. Wolf and Spice) is a Japanese light novel series written by Isuna Hasekura, with illustrations by Jū Ayakura. The first novel was released in February 2006, and as of September 2010, 15 volumes have been published by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Bunko imprint. ASCII Media Works reported that as of October 2008, over 2.2 million copies of the first nine novels have been sold in Japan. The series has been called a "unique fantasy" by Mainichi Shimbun due to the plot focusing on economics, trade, and peddling rather than the typical staples of fantasy such as swords and magic. Yen Press licensed the light novels and are releasing them in English in North America.
A manga adaptation illustrated by Keito Koume began serialization in the November 2007 issue of ASCII Media Works' seinen manga magazine Dengeki Maoh. The manga was licensed by Yen Press, which has begun releasing the volumes in English. A 12-episode anime adaptation aired between January and March 2008, plus a single original video animation (OVA) episode released in May 2008. A second OVA was released in April 2009 as a prequel to the second anime season Spice and Wolf II, which aired 12 episodes between July and September 2009. The first anime season was released in English by Kadokawa Pictures USA and Funimation, which will also release the second series. Two visual novels based on the series for the Nintendo DS were released by ASCII Media Works in June 2008 and September 2009.
Spice and Wolf's story revolves around Kraft Lawrence, a 25-year-old traveling merchant who peddles various goods from town to town to make a living in a stylized historical setting with European influences. His main goal in life is to gather enough money to start his own shop, and he already has been traveling for seven years while gaining experience in the trade. One night when stopped at the town of Pasloe, he finds in his wagon a pagan wolf-deity girl named Holo who is over 600 years old. She appears to be a 15-year-old girl, except for a wolf's tail and ears. She introduces herself as the town's goddess of harvest, who has kept it blessed with good harvests of wheat for many years. Despite her responsibility to watch over the town, she wants to go back to her homeland in the north called Yoitsu; she believes the people have already forsaken her and that she has kept her promise to maintain the good harvests. Holo wants also to travel to see how the world has changed while she has remained in one place for years. She manages to bargain her way out of the village by making a deal with Lawrence to take her with him. As they travel, her wisdom helps increase his profits, but at the same time, her true nature draws unwanted attention from the church.
- Kraft Lawrence (クラフト・ロレンス Kurafuto Rorensu?)
- Voiced by: Jun Fukuyama (Japanese), J. Michael Tatum (English)
- Kraft Lawrence, who chiefly goes by his surname, is a 25-year-old traveling merchant who goes from town to town buying and selling various things in order to make a living. When he was twelve, he became an apprentice to a merchant relative, and set out on his own at eighteen. His goal in life is to gather enough money to start his own shop, and he has already been traveling for seven years while gaining experience in the trade. He meets Holo one night and eventually agrees to her traveling with him. She helps him by providing her wisdom which helps to increase his profits and get him out of jams. As the series progresses, both Lawrence and Holo demonstrate a growing affection toward each other. Although Lawrence rarely shows different facial expressions, he truly cares for Holo. He shows his affection through his actions, such as when Holo gets captured by the church and Lawrence completely panics. Lawrence mentions he has been attacked by wolves eight times.
- Holo[N 1] (ホロ Horo?)
- Voiced by: Ami Koshimizu (Japanese), Brina Palencia (English)
- Holo is a wolf harvest deity originally from a place in the north known as Yoitsu. She made a promise with men from a town called Pasloe that she would ensure the town would have good wheat harvests year after year. However, as time went on, the townspeople slowly started to forsake Holo and did not rely on her as they once did. As such, Holo escapes from town in Lawrence's wagon and started traveling with him to see how much the world has changed since she has been in Pasloe. Holo has chosen the form of a girl younger than Lawrence, though she still retains her large white-tipped wolf tail, and ears. At times she can produce an ear-shattering howl. Her true form is that of a very large wolf which many people revered and feared.
- She refers to herself as the "Holo The Wise Wolf" (ヨイツの賢狼 Yoitsu no Kenrō?, Wise Wolf of Yoitsu). She is typically very haughty and self-sufficient, though due to her isolation for hundreds of years in Pasloe, she gradually feels very lonely, and sometimes shows a more fragile side of herself. She relies on Lawrence for company as she fears loneliness, which is something that Lawrence is very aware of and tries to comfort her in his own way. Holo is also very aware of the different time spans that she and Lawrence have, as a human lifespan is like a blink of an eye for her kind. Holo is quite scared of that fact, but hides it with jokes. She has a peculiar way of speaking, modeled after that of the oiran high-class courtesans. She is fond of delicious food and alcohol, but especially loves apples. She takes pride in her tail and takes special care of it, constantly combing and maintaining it.
- Yarei (ヤレイ?)
- Yarei is a light novel-only character. He is a farmer of Pasloe and has a long history of facilitating deals with Lawrence. On the day Lawrence passes through Pasloe Yarei "catches the wolf" in the town's yearly harvest festival. Instead Holo escapes to a larger sheaf of wheat in Lawrence's wagon. When they meet again in Pazzio Yarei certainly knows of the existence of Holo, but looking her in the eye he avows his faith in modern methods and seeks to turn her over to the church for burning.
- Chloe (クロエ Kuroe?)
- Voiced by: Kaori Nazuka (Japanese), Jamie Marchi (English)
- Chloe is an anime-original character. She is a villager of Pasloe and has known Lawrence for a long time. In fact, Lawrence taught her how to be a merchant. She had a slight interest in Lawrence, but tries to push the feelings away. Despite still not knowing how she should feel about him, she respects him as her teacher and a good friend. They later break off their friendship when Chloe allies with the church to capture Holo and Lawrence. She substitutes for Yarei in the anime.
- Nora Arendt (ノーラ・アレント Nōra Arento?)
- Voiced by: Mai Nakahara (Japanese), Leah Clark (English)
- Nora makes her first appearance in volume two of the novels. She is a skilled shepherdess from a church-town named Ruvinheigen. Her companion in this profession is a well-trained sheep dog named Enek (Enekk in the anime). She entrusts Lawrence with a task after they meet.
- Fermi Amati (フェルミ・アマーティ Ferumi Amāti?)
- Voiced by: Saeko Chiba
- Amati, who just like Lawrence mainly goes by his surname for business, makes his first appearance in volume three of the novels. He is a young man who works as a fish broker. He has a crush on Holo, and proposes to her. Due to Holo's good acting, he believes her to be gentle, kind and a soft spoken, polite young lady.
- Dian "Dianna" Rubens (ディアン・ルーベンス Dian Rūbensu?)
- Voiced by: Akeno Watanabe
- Dian, who first appears in volume three of the novels, is an alchemist. She is in the process of chronicling pagan tales and beliefs so as to print them in books. She carries information about Holo's birthplace Yoitsu. Since Dian sounds like a masculine name, she asks Lawrence to call her Dianna. According to Holo, Dianna is not human, but a bird even bigger than Lawrence. She fell in love with a traveling priest and spent a few years helping him build a church but left because he noticed that she never seemed to grow old and became suspicious.
Spice and Wolf began as a light novel series written by Isuna Hasekura, with illustrations by Jū Ayakura. Originally, Hasekura entered the first novel in the series into ASCII Media Works' twelfth Dengeki Novel Prize in 2005 and the novel won the Silver Prize. Afterwards, the first novel was published on February 10, 2006, and as of September 10, 2010, 15 volumes have been published under ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Bunko imprint. The series will end with volume 16 to be published on February 10, 2011. The tagline for the novels is "Merchant meats spicy wolf.", an example of Engrish. The author of the novels has commented that what "meats" in the tagline really means is kept a secret, alluding to a possible intentional misspelling of "meets".
In September 2008, the novels were licensed by Yen Press for distribution in English. The first volume was released in December 2009, and a new volume will be released every six months. While Yen Press redesigned the cover of the first novel, a dust jacket retaining the original cover art was released to select online retailers, and Yen Press also bundled the same jacket in the December 2009 issue of their manga anthology magazine Yen Plus. Despite the different cover art, the illustrations within the novels remain unchanged. Yen Press later announced that future volumes of the series would retain the original artwork while dust jackets would carry the new covers, citing that the redesigned covers were requested by retailers in order to appeal to a wider audience.
A manga adaptation illustrated by Keito Koume began serialization in the November 2007 issue of ASCII Media Works' seinen manga magazine Dengeki Maoh. The first tankōbon volume was released by ASCII Media Works under their Dengeki Comics imprint on March 27, 2008; four volumes have been published as of March 27, 2010. Yen Press licensed the manga series at New York Comic Con 2009, and began releasing the series in English in North America.
Internet radio show
An Internet radio show hosted by Animate called Ōkamikku Radio (オオカミックラジオ?) began airing on December 7, 2007. One episode is broadcast every other week on Friday, and the show is meant to mainly promote the anime series. The show is hosted by Jun Fukuyama who plays Kraft Lawrence in the anime, and Ami Koshimizu who plays Holo. The show contains eight corners, or parts to each broadcast which includes news about the series, comments and submissions from listeners, and a radio drama.
An anime adaptation produced by the animation studio Imagin aired in Japan between January 9 and March 26, 2008 on the Chiba TV Japanese television network; twelve of the thirteen episodes were broadcast, with episode seven being a DVD exclusive. The episodes are being released in six DVD compilation volumes in Japan; volume one contains three episodes while the subsequent volumes contain two episodes each. The volumes were released between April 2, 2008 and August 29, 2008 by Pony Canyon in Japan; volume three contains an original video animation (OVA) episode in addition to episode six of the television broadcast. A Blu-ray Disc box set of the series was released on January 30, 2009. The series is directed by Takeo Takahashi, written by Naruhisa Arakawa, and character designs are provided by Kazuya Kuroda. Takahashi was quoted as being a big fan of the novels. The opening theme is "Tabi no Tochū" (旅の途中?) by Natsumi Kiyoura, and the ending theme is "Ringo Hiyori: The Wolf Whistling Song" (リンゴ日和 ～The Wolf Whistling Song?) by Rocky Chack; both maxi singles were released on February 6, 2008. The anime's original soundtrack was released on March 12, 2008. The anime is licensed for release in English by Kadokawa Pictures USA and Funimation Entertainment, and a complete thirteen-episode DVD box set was released on December 22, 2009. The series made its North American television debut on November 16, 2010 on the Funimation Channel.
A second season of the anime titled Spice and Wolf II aired twelve episodes in Japan between July 9 and September 24, 2009. Most of the staff from the first season returned, except for Toshimitsu Kobayashi replacing Kazuya Kuroda as the character designer and chief animation director, and Spice and Wolf II is animated by Brain's Base instead of Imagin. The voice actors from the first season retained their roles. Another OVA, animated by Brain's Base, was released bundled with a picture book entitled Spice and Wolf: Wolf and Gold Wheat (「狼と香辛料」狼と金の麦穂 Ōkami to Kōshinryō Ōkami to Kin no Mugiho?) written and illustrated by the same creators of the light novels and was released by ASCII Media Works on April 30, 2009 under their Dengeki Bunko Visual Novel imprint. Funimation licensed Spice and Wolf II and will be releasing the series in English.
A dating and business simulation visual novel based on the series was released on June 26, 2008 under the title Spice and Wolf: Holo's and My One Year (狼と香辛料 ボクとホロの一年 Ōkami to Kōshinryō Boku to Horo no Ichinen?). The game is made by ASCII Media Works playable on the Nintendo DS. The player assumes the role of Kraft Lawrence as he travels around with Holo for a period of one year in the game. The story differs from that of the original novels or anime and is presented as an additional Spice and Wolf world. Ami Koshimizu provides the voice of Holo in the game. The game was released on the same day in limited and regular editions; the limited edition was sold at a higher price, but comes with a life-sized poster of Holo, among other things.
A second dating and business simulation visual novel was released on September 17, 2009 entitled Spice and Wolf: The Wind that Spans the Sea (狼と香辛料 海を渡る風 Ōkami to Kōshinryō Umi o Wataru Kaze?). The game was again made by ASCII Media Works and playable on the Nintendo DS. The player assumes the role of Kraft Lawrence.
ASCII Media Works reported that as of November 2009, over 3.5 million copies of the first twelve novels have been sold. The light novel series has ranked three times in Takarajimasha's light novel guide book Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! published yearly: first in 2007, and fifth in both 2008 and 2009; in the 2007 issue, Holo won Best Female Character. The first manga volume of the English release in North America debuted at No. 4 on the New York Times Best Seller Manga list, while the third volume reached at No. 3.
In April 2008, the maid café Cafe with Cat in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan hosted a specially themed event called Cafe with Wolf for a period of three days between April 4 and April 6. The event included three new items on the menu and tied in with the sale of the first anime DVD volume which went on sale on April 2, 2008. People who bought the DVD from the Comic Toranoana Akihabara Honten store (which is on the first floor below Cafe with Cat) and brought the receipt with them into Cafe with Wolf were entered into a lottery to win rare Spice and Wolf goods.
- Concerning the spelling of Holo's name, Yen Press has stated that they "were instructed that the proper spelling of the character's name is indeed Holo" by the Japanese licensor.
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- Spice and Wolf official website (Japanese)
- Spice and Wolf at ASCII Media Works (Japanese)
- Spice and Wolf light novels at Yen Press
- Spice and Wolf anime at Funimation Entertainment
- Spice and Wolf (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia