Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today seems like a perfect day to treat ourselves to some cozy Spy x Family, so that’s precisely what we’re going to do. Our last episode provided an equal portioning of Spy x Family’s two principle offerings: ludicrous spy drama shenanigans and heartfelt family drama. Of course, Endo’s always gotta be mixing it up, so each of those courses were provided by an unexpected server, with Bond headlining the spy mission while the unfortunate Damien learned a thing or two about community and friendship.
Damien’s unhappy family situation, and the way the lessons of his father have filtered down into his classroom social dynamics, have unsurprisingly made him one of my favorite characters in Spy x Family. While the Forger house is pretty close to idyllic, Damien embodies the consequences of family constructed as a strict hierarchy, where only deference and scholastic accomplishments might earn you the favor of your allegedly loving parents. Seeing both his peers and caretakers push him towards embracing ordinary, unconditional happiness has been one of the most satisfying arcs within Spy x Family, and I’m anxious to see where his journey leads next. But whatever’s coming, I’m sure we’re in for an altogether lovely time with this eminently likable production. Let’s get to it!
As is typical for Yuasa, there’s a playful minimalism in the frames of this opening cut that goes beyond the exaggerated stride of the characters. I love the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it frames conveying each new character hopping into the composition – you basically have to frame step it to appreciate little visual gags like Anya and Bond doing a synchronized cartwheel as Bond enters the frame
The sequence overall makes me pretty enthusiastic about Yuasa’s post-Science Saru career moves. I imagine the nitty-gritty corporate work of managing not just individual animation projects, but an entire studio ultimately felt pretty limiting relative to working directly on animation or smaller projects, and further away from what actually inspires him as an artist. That said, he’s also one of a small handful of directors who always spearheads projects of genuine thematic heft, stuff that reaches beyond the adolescent paradigm that the industry at large is perpetually languishing within. I’m hoping work on OPs like this is basically a stepping stone towards more ambitious, thoughtful projects like Kaiba and The Tatami Galaxy
Yuasa working as a freelancer also likely means he’ll be able to more frequently collaborate with other top shelf freelance animators, as this OP well demonstrates
We open the episode on Yuri on headphones, listening in to a presumed spy rendezvous. If Yuri’s line of work sounds interesting to you, I heartily recommend The Lives of Others, a fantastic film about a Stasi agent
Interesting trick of presenting the meeting entirely in sepia tones, a neat way of evoking how Yuri is constructing this image purely from the sounds he’s hearing
“We have a wonderful cell reserved just for you, so please accompany us to the station.” Yuri’s position as a sympathetic secondary character would be fraught even if his main personality tic were something more compelling than “siscon.” Yor sort of gets away with being an assassin because she’s airheaded enough to truly believe she’s fighting for justice, but there’s really no sugar coating Yuri’s line of work
Of course, the more fundamental issue is that Endo wishes to seize on the aesthetic and narrative tropes of East versus West Germany without digging deeply into the attendant moral questions, beyond a general understanding that open war would be catastrophic for the children of tomorrow. It’s a tricky balance that necessitates a certain lack of focus when it comes to the political specifics of someone like Yuri’s work, lest he become irreparably unsympathetic
His next target is a reporter named Franklin Perkin
This could actually be a tidy humanizing beat for Yuri, if his conscience ultimately leads him to exonerate this man. Yuri could certainly use more non-Yor-related characterization!
“I can’t even stand the thought of this filth breathing the same air as my sister.” Well, we take what we can get
There’s definitely a certain thrill in witnessing Yuri catalog all the details of his target’s daily routine. Anya is right; watching spies do spy things will always be a good time
Apparently Franklin shares Becky’s appreciation for Berlint in Love. You don’t need copious worldbuilding to construct a convincing fictional reality; just a few shared details of culture that crop up in unexpected places will often do
The landlady arrives to complain about Franklin’s tardy rent, and we also learn he lives with his elderly father. Franklin just seems like a modest, quietly unhappy guy so far
The color design of this episode segment echoes its gloomy, oppressive mood: all browns and grays, the lived experience of life under surveillance captured in the world’s lack of vibrancy
Given his presumably sympathetic ideals, the show demonizes Franklin through more superficial acts of villainy, like bullying some kids playing in the street. It’s a classic narrative style of reasserting the status quo against revolutionary “villainy” – if your villain is actually holding the more philosophically defensible position, you undercut his point by having him kick a puppy or something. In our world, where defending the current status quo frequently means defending the military-industrial complex and America’s unchecked colonial aspirations, cinematic villains are often more righteous than their opponents
“If you didn’t have your odd sense of justice, you’d be able to keep your job at the paper.” Alright, here’s the good stuff. Yuri overhears a conversation between Franklin and his father, which reveals the sacrifices Franklin has made in order to pursue a better future for his country, and how he must balance his own sense of righteousness against his need to support his family
Yuri at last pauses in his note-taking, struck by their common motivation
At the post office, Franklin uses his position to slip letters past the point of inspection. Presumably his letters are actually going to be of some sympathetic personal nature
On the 15th, Yuri comes to collect him. Nice sequence of expressions here, as he clearly shifts from panic at being discovered, to consideration of how he might escape, to resignation that all he can do is hand himself in, lest his father incur the punishment intended for him
“Me, who fought the government, and you, the government’s dog… I wonder who is more pathetic?” “I would never do anything to make my family unhappy.” The upper limit of Yuri’s moral philosophy, a concern only for the people directly around him. Endo himself seems less sure; much of Spy x Family emphasizes how our capacity for positive change mostly exists on the personal level, like taking care of Anya, but Loid’s spy work embodies a greater ideal of justice. It’s a perpetual friction that can’t really be resolved; there is honor and dignity in dedicating yourself to either small, individual acts of kindness or grand acts of political liberation
Yuri finds his own compromise in ensuring that Franklin’s father will receive the financial aid necessary to get by
Yuri’s coworkers seem to find his chipper dedication to their work charming but naïve
But enough about Yuri, it’s time for Bondman!
Oh my god, I love their imitation of low-rent cel animation for this Bondman episode. Nice subtle tricks like a black smudge being left on one of the cels depicting Bondman’s lip flap movements, so it appears and disappears every time he opens his mouth
Also the whole thing’s kinda blurry, presumably because they’re imitating a stretched 480p resolution
“We’re all human beings. Why must we fight over something so arbitrary as a boundary?” “In that case, why don’t you try and stop this conflict!?” Damn, Bondman getting into the heavy shit
Bondman seduces a procession of Bond Girls with an increasingly halfhearted series of romantic gestures. He’s a smooth one
“I’m going to make every last lady in this world happy!” Bondman living through the Persona 5 Valentine’s Day Massacre. I still have nightmares about that scene
“I see. So this is what a flirting story is like. Now I can discuss this with Becky.” You learn so much from cartoons
Ooh, lovely watercolor-style aesthetic for this post-episode omake. I appreciate Spy x Family’s dedication to adapting all these goofy little side stories; the manga seems to often be at its best with gags that verge on 4komas, like Bond’s feud with Mr. Penguin
This second omake clearly just an excuse to put Anya in a goofy diving cap, a worthy goal
Another solid episode of Spy x Family! I was quite happy to see Yuri finally getting something to do aside from freaking out over his sister, and was furthermore relieved to find his vignette concluded with a touch of genuine moral complexity. It seemed like they were going down a route of conveniently demonizing Franklin, but it was actually the opposite; Franklin came off looking more morally upright than Yuri, something Yuri seemed to acknowledge himself. Beyond its energetic spy shenanigans and warm family moments, there is an inherent tension in Spy x Family regarding your responsibility to your family versus your role in society at large, and it’s encouraging to see Endo navigating that intersection with increasing thoughtfulness. Carry on, Forgers!