Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Editor’s Note: I initially skipped past episode 22 and right onward to 23, resulting in this writeup’s somewhat lopsided perception of events. My apologies!

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. It’s been a rather chaotic week so far on my end, so I’ve decreed it’s time to chill out with another cozy episode of Spy x Family. Though I was initially nervous about last episode’s formal introduction of a rival for Loid’s affections, Frost’s visit to the Forger home actually ended up serving as an affirmation of how close our family have become. Frost’s condemnation of Loid’s softening instincts as a spy was simultaneously a validation of his growing bond with his new family; just like with Yor’s brother, every attempted division of this family has only proven how close they’ve grown.

Alongside the simple pleasure of seeing these characters come to care for each other, Loid’s transition is also facilitating new venues of comedy, as his panicked mediation of the Pengy-versus-Bond crisis illustrated. I’ve mentioned before how Spy x Family’s inherently propulsive conceit sets it apart from fully episodic sitcoms, and while that fact adds a certain tension to its long-term viability, it also means Tatsuya Endo is consistently able to exploit new comedic dynamics, like Loid using his now-exhaustive understanding of Bondman lore to comfort Anya. Endo’s clear confidence with this evolving platform makes me feel confident in it as well, and I’m eager to see what new calamities are approaching. Let’s get to it!

Episode 22

Man, Bump of Chicken really are inescapable in modern anime, much like Man With A Mission. We generally tend to only watch the highlights of prior anime eras, so it’s tougher to get an impression of what musical groups were ubiquitous in the medium during other periods. Of course, even the base assumptions of what sort of music is appropriate for an OP has shifted dramatically over time; those stirring martial anthems attached to so many space operas have largely fallen out of vogue, and now record companies on production committees are often principally interested in getting more exposure for their artists’ big singles. In this increasingly media mix-driven era, the centrality of the show itself is diminished

This OP and show in general are so good at animating how young children walk, with their uncertain control and the way they sorta just throw their bodies forward

“The Unwavering Path”

We open with some dynamically boarded and impressively animated cuts of a high-stakes tennis match. This episode comes courtesy of the same Takahiro Harada/Takahiro Miura team that directed/boarded episode fourteen, the centerpiece of the bomb defusal arc (Harada has gone on to become full show director for Spy x Family’s upcoming season). Plus our animation director is Satoshi Yamaguchi, whose impressive resume includes KA and AD work on various Gainax productions, Babylonia, and Idolmaster (where he actually collaborated with Harada). So yeah, this is going to be a good-looking episode

The “Campbell siblings” are facing off with Twilight and Frost in disguise, cheating through all sorts of devious court manipulations, yet nonetheless getting smoked by our spies

Our spies have assigned themselves the title of the “Phony Siblings,” having somehow discovered a worse alias than “Loid Forger”

Having failed in succeeding with their petty gimmicks, our enemies try a new tactic: shoot their opponents with a gun

Following the line of “now that we’ve established two spies we can put them on collaborative missions” and ending up at a doubles tennis match feels like a distinctly Tatsuya Endo stroke of madness

Apparently they’re on the hunt for some crucial painting. Normally Spy x Family front-loads the mission briefing and then escalates the madness over time, so I appreciate them mixing it up this time, playing the mission straight and dropping us en medias res

Incredible cut of Loid doing a wacky wavy inflatable tube dance in order to dodge bullets while serving

And then this remarkable panning cut with a full CG court, our spies bobbing and spinning like acrobats as they dodge rubber bullets. I assume this episode is similar to the one where Loid played the role of Bondman – a significant expansion on the manga material that allows the studio to really flex their action animation muscles

Looking it up, it seems animator Keisuke Okura was responsible for both this cut and some of the Bondman material, as well as key cuts from both OPs and basically the whole apartment fight from the first episode. He’s also done important work on Ranking of Kings, making it clear he’s one of Wit Studio’s most valued and talented animators

Wonderfully distorted expression work for his opponent’s followup, as well

As their prize for winning, they are allowed to select an item from their opponent’s collection, claiming their “Lady in the Sun” painting. Of course, the government is also after whatever coded message is hidden within the painting, so Loid is forced to flex his disguise skills in order to secure the target

Endo clearly loves spy dramas as much as Anya, and he barely needs to add jokes to make Loid’s capers engaging

The pair run into Yor and Anya practicing tennis as well. So clearly we’re going to see Frost versus Yor, right?

Yep, Frost can’t let this insult stand, and immediately challenges Yor. I’m still holding out for season two of Stars Align, but in the meantime I’m quite happy to watch these two cross rackets

As with Yor’s brother, Frost really isn’t interesting in her own right, but more for how she promotes interesting and illustrative friction within the Forger clan. That’s a fair enough role, but I do hope both of them gain more textured motivations and personalities than simple exaggerated infatuation at some point

Having no personal context for this sort of rivalry, Anya turns to the instructive adventures of Berlint in Love

“Anya prefers cartoons.” Don’t worry Anya, adulthood will vindicate your preference for cartoons over soap operas

“Anya loves shows about fighting, too!” Yeah, the action density is certainly a touch lighter for melodramas, but things still tend to resolve through showdowns and murders

The animators are very good at articulating Yor’s transition between assassin and domestic mode through body language. There’s far more confidence and intentionality in her professional movements – a slow leadup to a momentary flash of intensity. In contrast, family Yor moves in flighty, insecure jolts, and her limbs are frequently tucked in to convey a generally defensive posture

Excellent payoff of Yor swinging so hard she actually uses the racket as a tennis ball grater

Fantastic effects animation, shading, and exploitation of variable line width as Yor unleashes a slightly-less-than-full-power serve, nonetheless sending a beam of overwhelming destructive energy towards Frost. It’s nice to see how this display actually knocks Frost out of her usual poise; if these two could develop a relationship not hinged around their respective bonds with Loid, it would go a long way towards rounding out both of their characters

Apparently Shuu Sugita handled this cut, an action all-star who’s lent outstanding cuts to My Hero Academia, Black Clover, and Fire Force (along with more goofy, personality-rich cuts in things like Konosuba and New Game!)

After all of her cool poise, Frost’s exaggerated despair in defeat is a nice change of pace

And Yor is quite pleased with her victory. Nice to see her taking some pride in fighting for the family, even in this somewhat dubious context

Loid and Frost were seeking the “Zacharis Dossier,” which Handler now, uh, hands him

This Dossier reveals a government official as an avid theater fan, with “theater” here clearly just meaning idols. We even see him tearfully put away a “1st Graduation” scrapbook

Excellent detail of Handler actually wearing the gaudy rings they chose as a reward for their tennis victory

And Done

Man, that was one gloriously animated episode! It seems like rather than the usual A chapter/B chapter mode for adapting the manga, they instead dedicated the entire episode to just one chapter, luxuriating in the visual opportunities afforded by this vignette’s high octane tennis action. That unsurprisingly meant the episode was a bit lighter on overt jokes than usual, but you don’t really need jokes when your animation is this energetic, amusing, and rich in character. I’d have liked to get into a bit more of Frost’s history and motivation for her second major appearance, but it’s hard to complain about an episode that takes its goofy premise this seriously, and executes on that premise with such marvelous visual splendor. Spy x Family’s flex episodes are always a good time.

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By Sandra Winters

Writer | Author | Wordsmith Passionate about crafting stories that captivate and inspire. Published author of [Book Title]. Dedicated to exploring the depths of human emotions and experiences through the power of words. Join me on this literary journey as we delve into the realms of imagination and uncover the beauty of storytelling.