(Author’s note: BIG thank you to NetGalley and Yen Audio for providing me an arc of this audiobook)
Spice and Wolf! Now that’s a title that takes me back! This anime came out in 2008 and was a pretty big deal across the anime community. The series featured older characters than the typical teenage centric fair, which was rare, especially in the 2000s. It was considered a more mature story than the typical anime fare of the day and featured memorable characters–namely one named Holo the Wise Wolf.
Supposedly that’s true! I never watched it! I meant to though. 2012 was a strange year for me, and I discovered this anime exists in large part having a crush on a boy who was obsessed with it. The romance went nowhere, and I dunno what happened to him! Such is youth! Thanks to my crush though, I ended up reading the first light novel about ten years ago, and quite enjoyed it.
And that was that. Flash forward, it’s the year 2022, and what’s ten years old is new again! As of last year, Yen Press started branching off into audiobooks. I had no idea until I saw that a Spice and Wolf audiobook was being released on 03/15/2022. I was initially excited that it exists, and then nervous that the end product would be half-baked and lazy. Luckily Yen Audio was kind enough to let me have an arc of the audiobook! So what did I think?
First off, there will no spoilers. So if you’ve never read it before, rest assured, you will still be able to enjoy this review!
Spice and Wolf Volume 1 Audiobook:
Synopsis from Amazon: The life of a traveling merchant is a lonely one, a fact with which Kraft Lawrence is well acquainted. Wandering from town to town with just his horse, cart, and whatever wares have come his way, the peddler has pretty well settled into his routine – that is, until the night Lawrence finds a wolf goddess asleep in his cart. Taking the form of a fetching girl with wolf ears and a tail, Holo has wearied of tending to harvests in the countryside and strikes up a bargain with the merchant to lend him the cunning of “Holo the Wisewolf” to increase his profits in exchange for taking her along on his travels. What kind of businessman could turn down such an offer? Lawrence soon learns, though, that having an ancient goddess as a traveling companion can be a bit of a mixed blessing. Will this wolf girl turn out to be too wild to tame?:
I’m not super familiar with anime dubs in general but his voice of J.Michael Tatum is a perfect choice. Spice and Wolf is one of those series that makes boring things (economics) more accessible to the average person. It does those thanks to interesting set pieces and characters. Thus it’s probably no surprise that Spice and Wolf can be a little dry in places. With the right voice, this ceases to be a problem in an audiobook. And his voice is the right voice! It’s a calm voice, yet it conveys a lot of life and personality, and I personally found it soothing. I would probably listen to this person read a phone book.
He’s also very good at giving different characters distinctive voices. I particularly liked the voice for Holo as it perfectly portrayed her larger-than-life character, yet never broke off the soothing chill thing the audiobook had going for it.
Nailing the voices is important as this is the story of a friendship forming first and foremost. Yes, there are lucrative deals and dangers, but what kept me coming back was the relationship between the main characters, Holo and Lawrence. They’re both fleshed-out and likable characters. They talk, joke, argue, learn, and grow as people(or whatever Holo is) against the backdrop of a lush European renaissance fantasy-inspired world. And it works! The banter between the two is so much fun. This serves the story well, as it functions as a slice of life that works to set up what will be the rest of the series–though despite that, this still delivers an exciting finale.
My only problem with the book is unfortunately a problem I have with a lot of anime. And I don’t want to talk about it, but we have to. The Spice and Wolf story has a wee bit of sexism where it inherently views women as much weaker and less capable than men. While there are not outright ecchi hijinks (thank god) it still was uncomfortable. To the story’s credit, Holo proves more than once capable of holding and one-upping Lawerence. Still, it’s there, and it’s an unfortunate bias that serves as a shadow on an otherwise good time.
The audiobook was a quick listen for me, clocking in at 4 hours and 53 minutes. I think it’s a marvelous audiobook and will be keeping an eye for future Yen Audio releases. And right now really is the perfect time to revisit the series, what with a new anime dropping and all…