Melancholy – Washed away with hope and good company.

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This is my first journey through the “100 Days of Anime” Challenge, an ambitious project that I’ll be taking. For the full list of prompts, click here.

“Favorite anime opening?”

A great opening knows how to tease. Filled with beautiful visuals and complemented by a catchy song, anime openings can grab your attention in a number of ways. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s opening revolves around its stunning animations and action to tell each character’s story; that same energy backed by Yui’s lively rapping in ‘Again’. Higurashi achieves the same goal with its cryptic, hair-raising visuals that hint at a darker, demented theme. The opening doesn’t tell the viewer much about the plot, instead, inviting the curious to watch and decipher those messages for themselves. And likewise, Spice and Wolf’s opening takes the core themes of the show: the journey, the loneliness, desire – using those to craft a masterfully written tale.

A story told in under two minutes.

Even putting aside the visuals, I was already infatuated with the beautiful and almost otherworldly soundtrack. I’m not a music man. I know nothing about melodies, pitch, or anything that makes a good song, well… good. I had trouble explaining why I loved Spice and Wolf’s opening song, ‘Tabi no Tochuu’ so much. Something that made it stand out from the countless opening songs I’ve listened to. The song established a feeling of solitude, melancholy, and a faint hope without me having to understand the lyrics. Natsumi Kiyoura takes all of those elements, creating a riveting soundtrack that’s accentuated with a haunting mix of piano, violin, and guitar, among other instruments. While her singing may sound cold and distant – tinged with a hint of sadness, it’s soon countered by images of both Lawrence and Holo together, on the cart chatting, camping, shopping together.

And I was hooked.

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The opening is perfectly pieced together to tell their story, starting with shots of both Lawrence and Holo standing alone in completely contrasting locations: Holo naked amidst a snowy mountain with her ears and tail exposed is a telling sign that she’s not human, detatched from the present and isolated from society. Meanwhile, Lawrence stands in a crowded street facing away from everyone else, hinting at his social disconnect towards other people. There’s nothing special animation-wise, but these brief shots alone tell a bigger story. An introduction to our main characters, their faults, and the change after Holo and Lawrence meet.

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A quick flash of a wheat pouch and a rolling coin masterfully cuts to a wide shot of Holo and Lawrence travelling together on a wagon. Despite the two being close together, we’re clearly shown how small the duo really are compared to the vast world. The next shot brings us much closer to the two, highlighting Lawrence’s weakness to Holo’s teasing. It’s a cute interaction, but one that sets the tone of their relationship throughout the journey.

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The opening is only a minute and a half, with an astonishing 56 seconds of the beginning dedicated to just Holo and Lawrence. Yet it works beautifully because the focus isn’t on the cast of character they’ll meet, but how those very characters will affect our duo. The opening isn’t just filled with a melancholic loneliness, but also intimacy, companionship, and even fear. A fear of losing the one you hold dear, a fear of that very companionship you long for, and a fear of regretting the journey together. All of that adds a thought-provoking drama to a serious and somewhat odd coupling of a wolf goddess and a travelling merchant.

An opening that embodies the spirit of Spice and Wolf.

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