Three volumes in and Spice and Wolf continues to stand as a testament to Isuna Haskura’s strength as a storyteller for crafting a rich, fantastical world that deftly weaves together magic and real world issues of religion and business practices. After two volumes, Spice and Wolf keeps its momentum rolling, picking up where the events of the last release left off.
Holo and Lawrence are in a race for their lives, being hunted by the Medio Company and the Church, both of whom want to see the wolf god burned at the stake and Lawrence pay for foiling their get-rich-quick scheme. With no where left to run, the pair escape to the catacombs beneath the city, hoping to lose their pursuers in the tunnels. Unfortunately, luck is not on their side and they become trapped.
Outnumbered with Lawrence wounded and losing blood fast, Holo finds herself out of options and reveals her true form, easily dispatching their attackers. The brutality of the attack coupled with the ferocity of her wolf form leaves Lawrence dazed, though he still wants her for a companion. The two work through their concerns and start over. The final chapter introduces a new character named Norah, a sheep herder who doesn’t do much of anything nor does she have any interaction with Lawrence and Holo, so thoughts on her contribution to the story will have to wait.
Spice and Wolf is the complete package, sporting solid art, empathetic characters, and excellent pacing. Keito Koume’s artwork is exquisite, improving on the original character designs supplied by Jyuu Ayakura. Koume’s art is like a fusion of anime and manga, sporting the shaded lines of the graphic medium and the seeming motion of an anime. This is one of the best looking books on the market and deserves a look for the line work alone.
The characters carry a human feel to them, coming off as multi-dimensional and easy to get into. Holo and Lawrence have completely contrasting personalities and as such make for a great pairing. It’s rare in real life that two people sporting similar characteristics make for a good match, making their relationship all the more real and heartfelt.
The pacing of the series is superb. Not excessively rushed nor drawn out. It uses just the right amount of time to convey its story before moving onto the next arc. Ample time is given over to Lawrence and Holo reaffirming their friendship without dragging it out for the sake of drama.
Spice and Wolf is one of the best titles going today, an enigma considering manga based on another source hardly ever delivers in the way that the original material does. However Spice and Wolf the manga outdoes its multi-media counterparts, improving on several areas originally lagging. Between the title’s three media incarnations, this is the complete package and worth howling over.