New Anime

Spy x Family – Episode 26

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am tossing and turning in the maelstrom winds of the apartment hunt process, which has understandably got my nerves a-frazzling. As such, I’m feeling hungry for some animated comfort food, and fortunately the second season of Spy x Family has arrived just in time to wrap us all in a collective blanket of familial cheer. Spy x Family’s first season was consistently funny, often surprisingly thrilling, and perpetually brimming with love for its awkward protagonists. Tatsuya Endo has proven to be an inventive sculptor of both spy and family drama, and the combined talents of Cloverworks and Wit Studio have made for a persistently generous animated adaptation. With last season having concluded on the fateful first encounter between Loid and his target Donovan Desmond, I’m eager to see both the continuation of Operation Strix and the Forgers’ further cohesion into something resembling a functional family. Let’s get to it!

Episode 26

We open with an elevator pitch for anyone who’s somehow just tuning in now, which serves as a reminder of just how robust this show’s fundamental hook is. Great ideas aren’t worth much on their own, but they’re a solid place to start!

And then this new OP, courtesy of the master Masaaki Yuasa himself. Having established Science Saru and run through a series of TV and film productions, Yuasa has now left the studio in the hands of the extraordinarily capable Eunyong Choi, and is once again on the freelance circuit

I can imagine how smaller freelance projects might appeal to Yuasa – he’s an indomitable fan of expressive, loose animation and overall visual design, and there simply isn’t that much room to pursue such interests within the risk-averse confines of a full-length production. You need an anthology project like Space Dandy or a smaller canvas like an OP or music video in order to really explore what animation can do these days, which is why we’ve also seen irrepressibly creative directors like Rie Matsumoto also abandon TV animation

From the very beginning, these goofy walk cycles harken back towards Yuasa’s playful contortions of form and gleeful works of children’s animation. It’s actually an interesting combination – Yuasa’s plays on perspective and bodily contortions are generally accompanied by freeform designs like those in Kaiba, but here they’re being applied to the rigorously consistent character art of Spy x Family, making for an odd contrast of form and content

Oh man, and I love these outline-free splashes of color for Yor and Loid in battle. Having just the uniquely colored blasts of Loid’s pistol momentarily spotlight his form is such a dynamic, exciting way to convey his abilities

Meanwhile, the followup sequence of Anya and Bond scurrying over word balloons evokes the same frenetic, busy digital look as something like the Eizouken OP. That OP was directed by Abel Góngora, who’ll soon be directing the Scott Pilgrim anime, which seems like a perfect evolution of his talents

Even some impressive mechanical animation for these cars and planes! God, this is a preposterously generous OP

We open on the sound of a flurry of blows in near-total darkness, the lack of clear context immediately demanding the audience’s total focus. The less there is for an audience to engage with, the more the audience focuses on whatever is available – whether it’s visual compositions or sound design, smart artists will carefully employ minimalism to draw the audience’s attention to what is important

We soon see this violence was Yor completing her latest mission, with the minimalist preceding scene intended to convey one of Yor’s missions as her targets perceive it

Apparently her targets were members of the “Red Circus.” Yor has always been Spy x Family’s least defined central variable, both in terms of characterization and elaborating on the nature of her work. Part of this is presumably designed to soften her identity as an assassin in order to keep her sympathetic, but I’m really hoping we get more of her perspective and history this season

The Red Circus is “an extremist group funded by foreign interests, who commit indiscriminate acts of terrorism.” This could be one way to square the circle of Yor technically working for the “same side” as Desmond while remaining sympathetic – she quells violent extremism, but not opposition to the government more generally

The animators take extra care for Anya’s movements as she rushes to change the TV channel. One of this show’s most consistent animated flourishes is the attention paid to the specific way young children command their bodies, how they move haphazardly and without full control, often seeming like they’re flinging their bodies forward without full understanding of where they’re going

Bondman’s new mission is to tail a target, which will presumably inform Anya’s own self-assigned mission

Yor returns home with an impressively sour look on her face, having been shot in the butt during her last assassination

“I’m sure if I get a good night’s sleep, it’ll be better in the morning.” Sure, I sleep off all my puncture wounds

“Yor is in a terrible mood! Is it because I asked her to go shopping?” An esper-starring show about spy theatrics will naturally brush on one of the prevailing truths of human nature: we tend to assume the feelings of others are responses to acts of our own, but most of what people feel is not actually about us

Incredibly good Yor face as she realizes you can’t just sleep off a bullet wound

In order to “apologize,” Loid decides to take Yor on a date, which she of course understands to be a necessary aspect of a successful pretend marriage

Honestly appreciating how off her game this injury has put Yor. She seems most relatable when she’s in some sort of panic; the mask slips, and we see her very human anxieties

“This is a very important mission to ensure we remain one happy family.” Ah, it’s good to be back with this preposterous show

More excellent faces as Yor considers the terrifying prospect of sitting her injured butt down

Realistically, Yor should really be covered in knife and bullet scars from her assassin work. I suppose that would make it less realistic that Loid hasn’t discovered her secret, but his obliviousness is already taken for granted, and I doubt the Yor fans in the audience would complain

Franky agrees to Anya’s request to tail her parents. He really does embody the perfect indulgent uncle archetype, always down to accompany Anya on her adventure tangents

Oh my god, I love their costumes. Franky’s dressed up like some kind of grumpy plumber, and Anya’s got that classic disguised noir heroine look – the angled shades, the shawl, the oversized coat, the whole ensemble. I appreciate how her hair cones still poke out through the shawl

And of course she’s got matching shades for all her field agents, from Bond to Penguin

Loid, of course, spots them immediately

Solid escalating gag of Yor refusing to sit down first at a movie, then a jazz club, then while riding in a rowboat. Sturdy combination of the comic rule of threes with an absurd visual punchline

“What exactly does Yor like!?” Really hoping this pays off with an activity they can actually enjoy together; so far their relationship largely hangs on their mutual affection for Anya, so it’d be nice to find new ways for them to enjoy each other’s company

Followed by a good gag of intentionally limited animation, as Yor slowly descends towards her dinner table seat. Limited frames and jerky cuts are always a fun way to convey overtly awkward movement

One of the waiters recognizes Yor as the Thorn Princess. It seems this season is adopting a new visual marker of Anya’s ability, with little sparks surrounding her whenever she receives a telepathic transmission. I suppose that does make it easier to follow Anya’s understanding of a situation, rather than just assuming she hears all nearby thoughts constantly

The waiter attempts to kill Yor by serving her an entire glass of blowfish poison. Hah, an obvious ploy

Of course, Yor has already built up her immunity to poisons, so it actually just mitigates her butt pain

“Is she in a better mood? Is it because of the drink?” Oh come on Loid, even I know Yor loves a good drink at this point

“I’m sorry, Catherine. Please forgive me for being such a fool.” I’m always a sucker for this sort of gag, where someone bombastically introduces the name of some never-before and never-again mentioned character. It’s a gag playing on our inherent assumptions regarding dramatic focus and coherency, and I unsurprisingly love jokes that make fun of our understanding of narrative structure

Followed by a gag that’s all about what this medium does best, as our would-be assassin stumbles across the hall while emitting a delightful series of wailing noises. Funny animation is always its own reward

Anya personally delivers the finishing blow with an actual bomb and a terrifying speech. She might be taking to this whole spy life too well

And we conclude on an equally lovely new ED, with soft curves, variable line width, and generally minimalist linework offering some uniquely fluid and expressive character vignettes

And Done

Ah, it’s good to be back with these friggin’ Forgers. Starting with this date served as a perfect chance to reestablish the general dynamics across the family, as well as providing a natural balance of spy and domestic drama. Even if the precise circumstances were less than ideal, it was also nice to see both Loid and Yor pushed out of their comfort zones, and attempting to validate each other’s feelings in spite of their collectively underdeveloped communication skills. Excellent comedic timing, lots of playful flourishes of animation, and a top notch OP-ED combo to boot – Spy x Family is as generous a production as ever, and I’m eager to see what comes next.

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