I too thought Wolf Spice (Old Spice’s traditional brand name?), better known as Spice and Wolf, an anime adopted from another light novel series, was spot on.
The right vibe is there at least in the first episode. Someone told me that it makes him think Tony Taka. Must be all that nudity. But I sort of see where he’s coming from. There’s a sense of realism in the way how character art is chiseled out of ink that is most relevant in good anime porn which, coincidentally, was also part of what made Scrapped Princess good (as in, style, feel and suspension of belief rather than “woah can you believe her boobs?”). Honestly nether show really did a great job about character design at this point, when compared to their peer. Classics like Lodoss War OAV still put the typical TV sword & sorcery production to shame when it comes to design and stills. It’s not really a minus for Spice and Wolf, at any rate, but a very good thing.
Anyways, I suppose it’s much more palatable to put human-animal lead characters in a verbal narrative than a visual one, simply because those who reads it exercise their free will to visualize what they read …or not. Put it bluntly, the freedom to selectively ignore things is one of the growing strengths of the traditional print media. I can forget that Horo is practically a werewolf in appearance if I’m just reading a book about Horo, unless the author wants to mention that she has has a tail and wolf ears hanging out to dry every time the imaginary camera in my head (as directed by the book) points her way. In a TV show or movie, I don’t control the camera so I don’t control what I see. And even if I give the show the benefit of the doubt that they want to drive this point home in the pilot episode, it’s a great distraction to an otherwise perfectly fine episode of anime.
In my own experience I think most fantasy authors do make an effort to wow their audience with a hook; but most know enough about the pop knowledge level of their readers to not make a big deal about the setting unless you are doing something really neat. I can’t decide if all that nudity and fur is there to wow the audience, or just to provide exposition and set the tone and theme for the series. I only know that it bothers me a lot. Despite my furry-phobia, I think it’s just not the best take to tell a serious story. It’s not to say that strange fantasy things and nudity can’t make a good first impression (I think Sister of Wellbur is a good example of the right first impression you can make, contrary to my feeling of that show), but it has to be used with a lot of care that I’m not sure I’m seeing right now.
How serious is Spice and Wolf going to be, anyways? The whole”moeblob” thing with today’s anime has never been better treated, IMO, than how Sutepri introduces Suppi-kun. I hope they don’t just stick that aspect of “genre norm” into the characters and rend that feeling of “immersiveness,” the distinction that separates great fantasies from forgettable ones.