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Spy x Family – Episode 29

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am suffering in the grip of my first winter cold, with snuffles, a sore throat, and a persistent headache all collaborating to bring me down. I’d say I’m “under the weather,” but frankly the weather today is also pretty miserable – as such, I have decided there is no recourse to lighten the mood but to indulge in a fresh episode of Spy x Family, and see what those wacky Forgers are up to.

Our last episode was actually quite light on Forgery, concerning itself primarily with Yuri’s investigations of a potential political dissident. Forgunately (okay, I’ll stop), with Yor out of the picture, we were able to see a somewhat less one-note portrait of Yuri as well. Like his sister, his dedication to his mission stems from a fundamental conflation of family and country, and when he’s forced to reckon with how his “enemies” are just as dedicated to their own families, his resolve immediately wavers. The siblings are essentially both child soldiers who’ve grown into adulthood without abandoning their naive ideals of binary justice, making them perfect tools of political suppression. That certainly makes them unusual stars of a wacky romantic comedy, but that’s really Spy x Family all over, isn’t it? Let’s get to it!

Episode 29

We open on “The Pastry of Knowledge,” which is apparently known as one of the Seven Wonders of Eden College. This whole “seven wonders” or “seven mysteries” of a given school crops up again and again in anime, with the trope tracing back to the “Seven Wonders of Honjo Ward” in Tokyo at the beginning of the 20th century, which was then echoed by other regions’ seven wonders or mysteries. Along with being an easily understood reference point for Japanese audiences, it’s also simply a convenient dramatic device – it’s a punchy phrase and a reasonable number of challenges or objectives, making me wonder if even Toriyama was drawing on the legend for his seven dragon balls. He certainly didn’t snag that element from Journey to the West, the source of most other early Dragon Ball conceits

“Many students who taste these pastries end up as imperial scholars.” Yeah, it’s an easy device to fit to basically any narrative formula

I appreciate the narrative throughline that Loid’s attempts at brewing and serving coffee add to this OP. It’s essentially the fundamental genre contrast of Spy x Family reduced to its essence: attempting to maintain a peaceful family life in spite of all the complications inherent in being a secret agent

“Could you be the prince I met before?” “No, I am your clone.” Becky and Anya’s divergent genres interests make for some oddly lopsided fantasy adventures

Becky reveals that next semester, they’ll be separated into classes based on their current grades. Shock!

It’s common for stories to ask their readers to believe one impossible thing, but Spy x Family is pretty darn greedy in that regard; beyond Loid and Yor never discovering each other, we’re also supposed to believe Anya could somehow muddle her way through at Eden. Though I suppose that’s what her esper powers are for

An older student barges into the cafeteria, eager to dispense our episodic conflict

The pastry is apparently macarons this year, which will naturally facilitate a more extended conflict than fighting over a single pie or whatnot

I appreciate Anya’s Naruto run as she races down the hallways. Glad to see she’s getting a more varied media diet than just Bondman all the time

The ever-unfortunate George snags the last order of macarons. This will not stand!

He gallantly offers four of his five macarons, leading into a high-stakes game of Old Maid to see who will be left out

An unusually depth-rich layout here as the gang settle in for card combat. Layouts with a real sense of depth and intelligent composition have become an unfortunate casualty of anime’s digital age – when your backgrounds are separately implemented CG buildings rather than a meaningful element of your storyboards, you can frequently lose the sense that your characters actually exist within their environment (much like the flat look of overly CG-reliant live action cinema). Spy x Family’s CG backgrounds are persistently its biggest visual weakness, so it’s nice to see some compositions pushing back against the downsides of its general aesthetic

Anya begins her turn by announcing what cards she has in her hand. Hoo boy

Unfortunately, even an esper who doesn’t know the rules is going to triumph in Old Maid

Excellent detail of her referring to aces and kings as “A” and “Old Man”

Anya takes the joker in order to prove she’s’ not psychic, but the boys’ resultant glee almost prompts her to throw hands. Fortunately, Becky is there to quell her fiery temper

“I need to be a cool liar like Papa!” It’s true, Loid should indeed be an excellent teacher for Anya. The goal of a spy is not be ostentatiously impressive, but to be anonymous – if Anya wants to exploit her esper powers to best possible effect, she needs to make her ability completely invisible

Unfortunately, Anya’s esper abilities have allowed her to leave other elements of subterfuge underdeveloped, meaning her poker face is roughly as good as Umi from Love Live

“If I lose, I won’t be able to eat that dessert and I’ll stay dumb!” Only the highest-stakes of conflicts here at Spy x Family

But in the end, her terrible poker face actually saves her, as Damian is unable to withstand the sheer heartbreak of her expression at the thought of losing Becky. I feel like this production divides its most impressive feats of animation fairly evenly between Yor battles and Anya faces

Speaking of which, Anya’s resultant power-up leads us to some truly delightful smears, with fun flourishes of heavy shading and rough linework complimenting Anya’s high-octane scribbling

Also just a terrific deadpan to top this all off, as Anya realizes macaroons don’t make you smarter

Loid notes she did unusually well on her ancient language test. So did she pick up some Latin over the course of whatever project turned her into an esper? Endo’s planting a long-term seed here, and it’s certainly an intriguing one

This episode’s employing a fair number of screen-in-screen shots, an unusual choice for this production. I wonder who directed this episode, as odds are pretty darn low it was one of the two directors I associate with the technique (Masaomi Ando and friggin’ Tomino)

Our B-part begins with Loid meeting up with Franky, who informs him that a league of assassins known as “Garden” have killed one of his own contacts. Aw shit, is Loid drawing closer to Yor’s group!?

“They eliminate one traitor after another on the shadow government’s orders.” Kinda funny how we can only get objective information about Yor’s work from Franky, since Yor has such a rosy-eyed idea of what she’s actually accomplishing

“Just one of their soldiers can take down a whole squad!” “Don’t be ridiculous.” He’s not, Loid

Franky enlists Loid in the recovery of a lost cat, in order to impress a girl at a local cafe

Some nice character acting for Franky as he calls in a variety of favors. Spy x Family pays unusual attention to the distinctive body language of each of its principles, which makes sense – so much of what defines its characters is clear in their methods of movement, whether it’s Yor’s smooth agility, Loid’s understated confidence, or Anya’s convincingly childlike uncertainty on her feet

Franky runs into Yor, who agrees to help him with his quest. No surprise there – “Yor applies her preposterous physical agility to an exceedingly mundane task” is one of Spy x Family’s staples, as demonstrated through her rush to reunite Anya with her gym clothes

“I’ve placed several of my cat-shaped wiretaps around.” Yor, of course, finds nothing unreasonable in Franky possessing an army of cat-shaped wiretaps. Bless her heart

“I guess the world of kitties is also cruel”

“Yor and Franky get overwhelmed by a kitty army” is a robust and laudable episode premise

The animators are clearly having far too much fun depicting Yor spinning wildly with half a dozen cats hanging off of her

Extremely realistic cat behavior here too: running into a crowded street just to fuck with you, acting entirely indifferent to being saved and returned to its owner. Cats are assholes, but I suppose that’s part of the appeal

Back at the office, Yor is delighted to learn how normal she has become. I love it when the Forgers brag about how normal they are

And Done

Well team, I’m not sure we can consider that one a victory, what with Anya still flunking her tests and Franky suffering yet another rejection. But nonetheless, great triumphs were achieved in the fields of Old Maid and cat recovery, in this episode that joyfully embodied so much of what makes Spy x Family fun. Playful animation, preposterously overdramatized shenanigans, and charming moments shared by the Forger’s increasingly extended family – these adventures saw Endo and this production team in confident form, and I’m eager to dig into whatever Yor mission necessitated an ominous episode stinger. More cats, maybe? Regardless, I’m ready for the next one!

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