Manga Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #11

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent to it. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has released the eleventh volume of the Spice and Wolf manga, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Scheming abounds in Kerube, and the fate of the entire town hangs in the balance! Lawrence has gotten swept up in machinations–again–and this time he’s not even sure which side he’s on. With Holo’s help, he’s going to have to see through the lies to discover the truth of the plans surrounding the narwhal, and if he fails, not only will crucial information about Holo’s homeland slip through his fingers, but the merchant woman Eve could pay the ultimate price!

The Review

The balance of power and money in Kerube is complicated, so much so that Koume-sensei’s diagrams really are necessary to understand what’s going on and who is involved. And of the players, the one whose true intentions are least clear is Eve. However, in Volume 11, Ted Reynolds of the seemingly impoverished Jean Company drops a deal on the table that throws everyone for a loop. Unfortunately, we don’t get a diagram that outlines its full effects, but what is clear is that Kieman holds Eve responsible. As a result, the woman who had been a wolf in the negotiations winds up a damsel in distress.

Lawrence has been on the receiving end of Holo’s help for much of their journey, but this situation gives him the chance to play hero. His goal quickly simplifies to proving Eve’s noninvolvement with Reynolds’s source of funds. It’s then that the coin packing scheme that Col discovered earlier in the arc truly comes into play. What started as a geometric puzzle winds up the key to accounting fraud although I had to read Lawrence’s reasoning twice before I understood it. What is much more straightforward is when he gallantly charges in to take out Eve’s captors.

In the end, Lawrence gets out of a tricky situation unscathed and with both Eve and Kieman indebted to him. The tone of the manga implies that the narwhal negotiations also end happily, but even with a final diagram, it’s unclear whether the transaction changes the balance of power in the Kerube marketplace. Lawrence and Holo, however, obtain the lead on the book they’re investigating and set off for their next destination.

For those familiar with the light novels, Fran and Hughes get the briefest of cameos before the setting shifts to Lenos. To be honest, they don’t have much to do with the manga version, and their appearance seems rather forced. That’s also the case with a rather lengthy scene at the Beast and Fish Tail. As such, the volume closes before the next arc can begin in earnest. However, the creators do leave readers with a tantalizing hook, an unexpected encounter with Elsa from Tereo.

One other thing I noticed about this volume is that the women seem to be a lot more…er, curvier. Holo’s one thing, but when Eve collapses on Lawrence’s bed without her cloak, her chest is so big it seems impossible she could have hidden her gender. And their visit at the Beast and Fish Tail seems more about showing off the barkeep’s ample bosom than anything else.

Extras include the title page in color and closing remarks from the creators.

In Summary

The Kerube arc finally concludes! It’s been a difficult story to follow with so many players and backroom deals. Although Col’s coin mystery fits neatly into the wheelings and dealings, I can’t tell whether the northerners or southerners get ahead at the end. Lawrence and company, however, definitely profit, and they move on to the next arc, which apparently will lead to the manga’s final conflict.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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