We kick off the second season of Spice and Wolf with an OVA episode, which feels like a holdover from the first season. It’s a lot of fun, with Lawrence tending to an unwell Holo, who ends up exaggerating her illness because she likes the attention. It is the only episode to feature Nora, and that’s a great shame, because she was an effective third main character for the first season, but the second season sees Lawrence and Holo moving on to pastures new.
The season proper is divided neatly into two halves of six episodes each, in two different towns. The first half concerns a rival for Holo’s affections, whom Holo gives the wrong end of the stick about her relationship with Lawrence, so he thinks he can buy her if he can raise enough money. For convoluted reasons, Lawrence ends up accepting a challenge that he can only win if he succeeds in a short selling deal, gambling on the price of an overvalued commodity falling at the right time, after huge rises in the market price. It’s a complex storyline, which deals with an aspect of trading that I was unfamiliar with. Even after reading up about the topic, I’m not sure I fully grasped how it works, but that doesn’t matter a huge amount as you get carried along by the emotional side of the story.
The second half is a simpler idea, but again revolves around the possibility that Lawrence could lose Holo due to a deal going wrong. An opportunity arises that could make them a huge amount of money very quickly, but it involves selling Holo, turning a profit, and then buying her back quickly. The risk of being betrayed adds a further element of danger.
As you can see, both storylines play with the idea of Holo being bought and sold, and the psychological damage caused by that objectification of a human being is explored effectively via a secondary character, while the main focus is on the nature of Holo and Lawrence’s relationship, and the strength of their bond. Lawrence has to face up to the strength of his feelings for Holo during the first arc, while Holo has to learn what really matters to Lawrence during the second. It’s a very neatly constructed season.
Lawrence and Holo’s relationship goes through a natural process of becoming more loving and less combative, and there is also a lot less travelling around. Despite the high stakes, there is also not so much of a sense of these characters living life on the edge of ruination, only surviving from day to day due to Lawrence’s intuition, and Holo’s help. This makes the second season a little less fun than the first, but it also explores some deeper themes. The most important of those is the rejection of the idea of money or even stability as a route to happiness.
Holo thinks she knows what will make Lawrence happy: enough money to set up his own shop. He thought that would make him happy too, but the closer he gets to fulfilling that dream, the sadder he becomes with the idea, and that’s because it’s Holo’s company on the open road that really makes him happy. The company of the right person in life is what matters, not money. Both characters have clearly enjoyed finding ways to turn a big profit, but they are enjoying playing that game together, and that collaboration is the source of their happiness, not the value of the coins Lawrence carries in a bag or the price of the merchandise in his cart.
There is also a very thought-provoking examination of the worrying side of a relationship moving from the exciting initial interactions to a more stable phase of life. As Holo and Lawrence become more loving towards each other, their sparring steadily fades into the past, and Holo worries that eventually they will have nothing to say to each other and their relationship will become mundane and boring. The initial spark of excitement in all new love affairs has to fade sooner or later, and this is not just about the acceptance of that fact, but the realisation that adapting to what happens next doesn’t have to be a negative experience and that happiness can be found in the comfort of a longterm relationship. This is a series that only rejects one form of stability as a path to happiness: financial stability. That’s because no amount of money is ever enough. Meanwhile, the value of emotional stability is validated. Money can never fill a person’s heart. Only love can do that. For a series that revolves around mercantile activities, that’s a brave rejection of the source of its drama. RP