Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Anime Review: Spice and Wolf

Who wants to watch an anime about the conflicts between the Keynesian and Austrian schools of economic theory with financial transactions literally represented as epic mon battles refereed by an evil clown Mephistopheles!?

I do!

And yes that actually exists. Shut up. This why I love anime!

I'm going slowly ease my way back into being boring Mr. Grumpy pants after my post holiday otakuthon and unraveling that giant economic allegory (dang blasted German austerity) is not the way to do it. I should probably start with Spice and Wolf which is much better, more interesting and allows me to talk about basic economic theory. And before we get started I have to admit I am not an economist. It's not my trade so if I screw up a little grant me so leeway.

Ultimately Spice and Wolf is about and takes it's names from out two leads. A wolf goddess in the skin of a young woman, and a pseudo-medieval peddler trying to earn enough money to open a nice shop in the city. Both of these characters are interesting. While I suppose there is a story the show is really about exploring each of it's leads.

Holo, the wise wolf is interesting and dynamic. This is a very slow talky show but she never has want of something interesting to say or do. It is very rare that television flirting can be amusing. Part of the reason why she's following Kraft Lawrence, our friendly peddler around is because she gets a kick out of toying with him. Being very adapt at his trade of being a merch... trader(God damn it), he tends to take things a bit too seriously.  They are both very charming characters, though I will admit Holo can get a bit fanservicey. This show to a degree is about a budding romance between the two that Captain Tightpants is blind to until ... stuff happens.

The series is basically just following them around around as Lawrence tries to make a profit on his various investments. He uses guile to get the lowest price on goods, transport them and then sell them at a profit. But sometimes things go wrong.

To get a feel for the show I'll explain the first real arc, which revolves around currency speculation. Lawrence gets a hot tip that a neighboring kingdom is considering increasing the amount of silver in it's coins. On sight the merchants won't be able to tell the current coin from the old and will lower their exchange rates for both. The idea is that if Lawrence can collect as many of the coins as he can in current circulation he can make a profit on the difference in value between the two versions of the coin.

The catch is he doesn't really know the guy who told him about it. Is it true and if it is how should he go about responding to this information? If it were a deception there was a purpose to it, some larger plot to game the market.

What Lawrence didn't realize is the opposite is true, there is actually less silver content in the coins and somebody out there is trying to spreed rumors to the contrary. When the merchants discover the deception they'll all dump the coins on the market (You live; You learn.) allowing a third party to trade for them at much lower than their normal market value even after the devaluation, then slowly trade them at a profit when things normalize, or even better still manage to sell them back wholesale to the mint to be melted down and reforged. Ingenious (Wouldn't all of that be considered insider trading by today's standards anyway. Our protagonist is not above petty blackmail either. Shut up.)

A bunch of other stuff happens but it's the scheme that set's the plot into motion the first few episodes. Apart from all the economics Holo and Lawrence have real chemistry both enjoying the game of wit.

Neither is above ribbing and needling the other. For instance Holo loves chastising Lawrence for always wasting the chance to be romantic and for his part when Lawrence catches her games realizing exactly what she wants to hear, he isn't above stringing it out and acting oblivious.

They both know the game and are willing to play it until the dark side of financial risk comes knocking on the door.

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