Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: Spice and Wolf (volume 2)

Haven't been able to get a copy of the second Kieli but I found the second volume of the Spice and Wolf light novels quite easily. So again, it's been a while since I saw the anime (especially since this was the first season) and I read the first book back in December so I'd forgotten a few details when I started. Shouldn't interfer with the review at all but thought it's only fair to note.

Spice and Wolf volume 2 by Isuna Hasekura (illustrated by Jū Ayakura)
Nice enough looking cover but wait, Yen Press made their own this time too! This time the new cover was a slipcover and the Japanese cover was printed on the book (instead of vice versa) and here's the new cover:
Much better but geeze YP, I've cosplayed Holo and her tail isn't that hard to make and it would've been much better than the photoshopping they did here. So, certainly a better job but hopefully they'll have it down pat by the third novel.

Summary: Lawrence is your average merchant, always traveling and selling goods in the hope that he may some day have enough money to open a shop and rise higher in the world. But these days he has an unusual companion as well, the wisewolf Holo who is an enormous wolf who has taken human form and after many years is returning to her home in the north and Lawrence has agreed to help her as best as she can. And he's probably gotten the better deal out of it, these days it takes everything that he and Holo can come up with to keep themselves out of financial ruin and safe in their travels north.

The Good: Huzzah for medieval economics! And, even though Lawrence came off as more of a womanizer here than the previous book, there's technically no romance here which is a treat for me. Yes he and Holo are becoming quite close and trusting each other quite a bit but it's not romance if you're not wearing shipper goggles. As for the economics, I think I understand them a little better with each story (although whether that's from actually understanding them better of from hearing the story twice I don't know) and the economics do seem to have a lot of basis in real life since it's mostly about supply and demand. So between figuring out what's going on and then figuring out how exactly Lawrence and Holo are getting themselves out of this mess (because yes, that's what happens pretty much every time) I stay pretty entertained.

The Bad: The author admits it in the epilogue, he kinda forgot how to write Holo and Lawrence and it comes across in some passages. Now, like I said earlier it's been a while since I've seen either the adaption (which I imagine ironed out this problem) or read the first novel but it the differences were noticeable in some places. Mainly it was in places were the characters were freaking out (they managed to stay more collected in the previous book) and it is jarring. I'm not sure if all the little problems I had with the book can be blamed on the author forgetting the characters but, considering the book is mainly character action driven it could account for most of it.

The Art: There's about one illustration per chapter but the chapters in S&W are rather long so it's not that many. Still, the art works but the artist seems to be a little lazy about, erm, reverse foreshortening I suppose is the term. They seem to prefer getting a rough outline of how things should look and then do a very quick hatching shadow job on it. And I suppose the shading job is what really irritates me here, rarely do you see a Japanese manga-ka who really embraces all the different pen and ink styles of shading (off the top of my head I can only think of Kaoru Mori's Emma and maybe Naoki Urasawa's Pluto) so it's annoying to see someone use it as a cheap way out of putting more effort into the drawings.