Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: Spice and Wolf (volume 3)

Wow, I remember reading volume two way back in August but I just had so much else to read/buy that I didn't get this volume until my local Borders hosted their going-out-of-sale sale back in March. Fans of the anime will recognize this arc as the first half of season two (which is streaming on Funimation's website I believe but not yet out on DVD) and, as before, if you haven't read the previous books or seen the first season of the anime you're going to be a bit confused. Yes the plots of each book is rather self-contained but this is a very character driven drama and, if you don't know where the characters are coming from, you can't really appreciate where they're going.

Spice and Wolf by Isuna Hasekura
This is the only picture I could find of the American slipcover (I'd provide a better photograph myself but my copy of the slipcover is two hours away) but they're getting more and more similar. My only complain there is for them to get an actual tail and ears for the model to use, the airbrushing in photoshop looks awful and, speaking from experience, the tail and ears aren't even that hard to make.

Summary: Continuing in their travel's north towards Holo's homeland, Holo and Lawrence end up in the town of Kumersun and plan to stay a couple of days to enjoy the festival. But when the young fish merchant, Amati, becomes smitten with Holo and resolves to pay off her "debt" to Lawrence the two end up with a much more exciting stay than they bargained for. 

The Good: It's a new book which means a new economic quandary for Lawrence (and Holo, although she is more the cause of if here and doesn't help out as much) and the solution is very different from what the characters have had to do so far. The book also provides more information on Holo's hometown of Yoitsu (and seems to foreshadow who they will talk to about it in the next book) and hints that there are even more supernatural forces in the world than the duo have encountered so far. The book also tests Lawrence and Holo's feelings for each other even more so the story manages to have character growth, central plot progression and a story that is neatly wrapped up in one volume, not bad at all.
The Bad: Despite how well the story explains the various economic escapades, it's still going to take a little while to understand for the average non-business person to understand Lawrence's plan*. It's also frustrating to see Holo, who is always held to be the more mature one of the pair, simply break down, Lawrence's inability to explain what was really going on and, in the end, it's still somehow his fault and he's the one who has to apologize. Hasekura says that he has finally remembered how to write his characters but they still don't seem quite like the duo from the first book.

The Art: For an 18 or so year old boy, Amati looks awfully young. He looked rather young in the anime as well actually and now it's clear that wasn't a mistake on the animator's part, it comes from the original illustrations. Aside from that bit (which was distracting admittedly, it's hard to take his marriage proposal seriously if he looks that young), the art is consistent with the designs from the other two novels and the cover is rather pretty as well.

So, still liking the story well enough and I believe the final volume has now come out in Japan (volume 16, either that or the final volume will be a collection of short stories, volume 17, haven't seen anyone confirm which one it will be yet, although dammit I found a detailed, unmarked spoiler of the ending on a forum the other day, not happy about that). So just another six more years or so until all the volumes are out in the US, jooooooy.

*I'm speaking from my own experience here, I have a general grasp on economics but it still took me about fifteen minutes of mulling his plan around in my brain before I finally grasped how it was supposed to help him.

1 comment:

  1. Since I'm on vol 9, it's hard to think back to #2, so I won't.

    Just to say this is serious stuff for a light novel & I wonder if anime or many shonen fans will like this series. I have trouble getting my mind around how a demigod that's female but not really a woman would act.

    The economics is pendantic, but not really necessary for enjoying the characters.

    But I have continued with this series despite that - it's frustrating sometimes & not completely consistent, but maybe that's just me.