Spice and Wolf II – 12 (END)
So, damn. A very good ending to what is Spice and Wolf‘s best arc so far.
The big story, of course, is Lawrence putting aside his dream for now and declaring his love for Horo. I’m glad he stuck to his guns and made a strong effort to at least ride out the rest of his journey with Horo, and he explains his desire to her in a way that really resonates with Horo, I think. Lawrence wants to profit as much as Abe . . . up to a point. But once he realizes how far her plan reaches — which is around when he notices the salt statues, I suppose — Lawrence, like a true merchant, begins to balance the risk of the plan versus the profit. There is an enormous risk to Abe’s plot, and an enormous monetary profit to be had if it goes through. But at what price? And is it the type of profit Lawrence really wants?
When Lawrence confronts Abe, he basically knows what she is going to do, although he perhaps does not know the full extent of it. A small part of Lawrence may still be thinking that the deal can be salvaged, even if Abe has proven herself to be less than trustworthy. But once Lawrence reasons out the full scope of Abe’s plan, the “suicidal” nature of it becomes too much for even him to handle. (And that’s saying something!) Lawrence would put his life and future on the line to secure a ton of cash that he would probably never be able to use in the way he desires, because he would be too damn busy running away from the church for the rest of his life. And for all that, Lawrence would have to give up any hope of being with Horo ever again. He would give up a very human happiness (love and friendship) for a mercantile happiness that is, at best, fleeting due to the compulsion to seek ever greater profits.
This post, I think, does a solid job of comparing Lawrence’s happiness as a human with his happiness as a merchant, and how that plays off Horo’s wishes and ideas of happiness. To this, I can add only that it is interesting how Lawrence mentions that when he and Horo finally reach Horo’s homeland, a farewell with a smile is the only thing he will wish for. He knows, in his heart, that what he and Horo have cannot be permanent. Lawrence will die, or he and Horo will go their separate ways. In the cosmic scale of things, this happiness is just as fleeting as the drive for profit. But, again, it all goes back to Lawrence and Horo’s conversation about the heart from ep9. Our interactions with other people mold and shape our hearts and leave permanent changes that make them completely different than they were before. The happiness from monetary profit disappears because it is soon replaced with the desire to make more money; the happiness from love, even if that love must one day end, leaves something that cannot disappear for people themselves.
As for Abe, man, I still love her, even though my constant suspicions turned out to be warranted in the end. (Even if I wavered a bit for a while there!) She is one of those flawed characters I cannot totally hate because I can understand where she comes from. With Abe, I really get the sense that she is where Lawrence would be if he had never met Horo. Maybe he would not physically threaten people to secure profits, but he would have that same suicidal drive to make the most money possible. (For this, I refer to my theory that Lawrence would totally be a drug dealer if there were any drug trade to speak of in this era.) What else would Lawrence have if Horo were not in his life? Sure, there was Chloe, but Lawrence was never seriously interested in her. Lawrence was a truly lonely man who had only money on his mind when he met Horo.
Is this not how Abe is? It is probably even worse for her, because she has to keep her identity concealed at all times. Abe can never truly be herself — it is the drive for profit as a merchant that defines her to the world. Her only sort of friend is the innkeeper, and she is not particularly close to the guy. They mostly sit in silence. All of Abe’s other acquaintances are simply business associates or information contacts. The church has totally ditched her; they keep an eye on her only because they might want to use her down the road. Abe has been abandoned since she began life — profit is the only thing she has to live for.
But there is still that tiny part of Abe that believes she can get out of this. She saw the endless desire for ever increasing profit destroy the aristocrat who bought her, but nonetheless Abe chooses to walk the same path and hopes — wishes — that she can become something more than she is and break the chain of self-destruction brought about by greed. Some of Abe’s morals have undoubtedly eroded; that is the part of her that physically threatened Lawrence three separate times. However, she still retains enough good sense to want something more from her profits rather than what killed her former owner.
What I find most interesting of all is that, as Lawrence points out, Abe basically lays all this out in the open for Lawrence the whole time. It is as if she wants him to discover her plan. When Abe says her cover is blown, she does not say it with shock on her face, but instead with a smile. Making everything clear to Lawrence puts a wrench in her plans, but I believe it is just an act of loneliness on her part. She sees Lawrence and Horo together and is a bit jealous of how close they are. Before she goes, I think Abe just wants someone to really understand her, even if it is the guy she is going to take for all he has.
In all, a good episode with which to end the season. I love how Lawrence and Horo’s relationship continues to evolve. Lawrence is becoming more aware of, and is better able to understand, his feelings and is better able to convey them to Horo. For her part, Horo is learning to deal with her fears and is opening her heart to the idea of moving forward, even though what lays ahead may be more pain than she has ever dealt with in her life. The only real weak point in this episode is all the info dumping when Abe’s plan has to be explained, but Abe’s plan is much easier to grasp than some of the other convoluted plots during Spice and Wolf‘s run, so I do not mind it much. There are some other nitpicky things (is the inn really worth enough to buy back Horo, especially since the town is in the middle of a riot?), but they are not much to mind in the grand scale of things.
I like the ending, too. It is a bit of a cliffhanger since we don’t know if Abe is able to pull off her plan, and we do not see Horo and Lawrence leave town, but as far as hitting the right emotional note, the ending works fine. (Love the bells as Horo and Lawrence walk through town. Wedding bells, anyone?) I figure all these questions will be answered should the series get a third season, anyway.
Overall, Spice and Wolf‘s second season definitely surpasses the original. The first arc is pretty good and would have fit in with the first season, but it is the development of the second arc and how it builds on the growth of Lawrence and Horo’s relationship in the first arc that really propels this season into the stratosphere. This second arc does so many things so well — it presents the subtle growth of a loving relationship (with ups and downs), perfectly conveys a hidden sense of dread, works in a fascinating new character, tests the limits of Lawrence’s instincts as a merchant and so on. If a theoretical third season can build upon this and make it better, then Spice and Wolf really has the potential to develop into a modern classic.