Lycoris Recoil – 06 – Striking a Balance

“You come at the [Lycoris Queen], you best not miss.”—Omar, Probably

When LycoReco learns that the DA’s Lycoris are being targeted by a terrorist, Takina is immediately on the phone with Chisato as she heads to her place. Takina tells Chisato they’ll be living together and switching off nights for security reasons until further notice. Chisato is not just fine with that, she’s delighted she and Takina get to work and live under one roof together, and that it was Takina’s idea.

When Takina sees the state of the place and sets up a chore chart, Chisato inceptions the idea to decide who does what with rock-paper-scisssors. Chisato proceeds to kick her ass at it and Takina gets all the chores. Takina should have known her friend’s preternatural instincts are put to use even in non-bullet-dodging scenarios.

As for Majima, whom ANN’s reviewer has called “Joker” due to his green hair, he’s not satisfied with the progress of eliminating Lycoris. He wants to bring DA down, he wants Robota to find their HQ, and isn’t above using threats and violence against the hacker to make him hack harder.

The thing is, Robota has two masters right now: Majima, and the Alan Institute, with whom he communicates with Shinji’s secretary. He tries to get Majima interested in Chisato as the “chief Lycoris”, but Majima doesn’t care about pawns. Unlike the Joker, he’s not a big fan of chaos either, but wants balance, which to him means terrorists able to operate without being disappeared by the DA.

When Robota gets help from a fellow hacker, that hacker is quickly found out and arrested for being so blatant and reckless. Robota then sends two goons to break into Chisato’s apartment, but they’re not aware she lives below the apparent apartment in a safe house, and when they trip her silent alarm, she dispatches them with ease. All is not lost though, Robota uses footage of Chisato going wild to convince a fed-up Majima she’s worth targeting.

When Kurumi suggests that the terrorists are able to target Lycoris due to their distinctive uniforms, Chisato disguises herself with a huge yellow poncho and believes she’s safe enough to do a solo LycoReco delivery job.

It isn’t until she’s off on her own that Kurumi discovers that the terrorists targeting Lycoris—who got their guns from the deal that Takina got fired—also have footage showing the faces of the Lycoris they assassinated…as well as Chisato’s.

The fact that Kurumi (as Walnut) was hired to hack the DA that day is set aside for now, as the more pressing matter is Chisato’s safety. Takina calls her just in time for Chisato to get hit by Majima’s yellow Nissan GT-R and then menacingly surrounded by his underlings.

Fortunately, Chisato’s injured state is only an act, and she plays possum right up until Majima gets in her face, whereupon she unloads with her non-lethal gun. The rubber bullets actually put her at a severe tactical disadvantage, extending the fight far longer than if she’d used lethal ammo.

Nevertheless, principles are principles, and Chisato tries her darndest to escape her attackers, and even though she’s on foot and they’re in vans chasing her, she manages to even the odds by shooting the drivers and causing them to crash, and sending Majima flying.

Majima must’ve done work as a stuntman, since he’s able to shake off getting thrown from a car and shot in the face with rubber bullets. She turns the tables on Chisato (who again screws up by getting too close to her opponent; a clear act of arrogance on her part) by spitting either blood or liquified rubber bullet (or both) in her faces, rendering those special eyes usesless.

Majima proceeds to beat the stuffing out of Chisato as his underlings circle them and cheer, and while Majima admits that Chisato is “interesting”, he still seems pretty ready to shoot her…until his gun is shot out of his hand by  Takina, who has arrived just in time (thanks to Kurumi locating Chisato with her drone) and neutralizes all of the baddies.

Mizuki and Mika arrive at the scene in the escape car, and Chisato and Takina pile in. There’s still the matter of Robota chasing them in a remotely-controlled car, but Mizuki’s driving prowess is able to shake it off. The baddies’ last gasp is an RPG, but Kurumi is able to slam her drone into the guy at the last minute.

While the RPG fires, the grenade hits not the LycoReco car, but the car Robota hacked and Majima was about to comandeer. Somewhat unplausibly, the grenade blast doesn’t kill Majima, but throws him into the nearby water. Seriously…is this guy a Terminator? If Takina were to chop him up with a sword, would the pieces just turn into little Majima clones?

That said, with the assassination of Chisato thwarted, attention turns to Kurumi, who did hack the DA the day of the arms deal, but was ignorant to the arms deal itself (I wonder if it was Shinji who hired her to hack the DA). She prostrates herself and apologizes to Takina, but Takina doesn’t blame her for getting her thrown out of the DA…she blames her own actions.

Also, if Kurumi is indirectly responsible for the arms falling into terrorists’ hands, she’s equally responsible for Takina finding a new home, new family, and growing so close to Chisato. As for whether the two girls continue living together, Takina says they’ll settle that with one more game of rock-paper-scissors.

This time, Takina takes Mika and Mizuki’s advice and skips the “rock first” part of the game. When she finally beats Chisato for the first time, her elation and giddy little celebration was one of the highlights of an episode that struck just the right balance between over-the-top cinematic spy action and cute girls with guns having each other’s backs and bums.

Lycoris Recoil – 05 – Heart of Steel

LycoReco’s next mission seems almost as innocuous as Chisato and Takina’s day off of shopping: serving as a Tokyo tour guides for Mr. Matsushita, a man with advanced ALS who wants to see the sights of his homeland one last time. The reason he’s hiring two Lycoris is that by returning to Japan he makes himself a target to the same assassin who killed his wife and daughter two years ago.

Chisato lovingly hand-crafts the best darn tour itinerary possible, only to realize once the client arrives that he’ll need it in digital format; thankfully they have Kurumi to digitize it. When he asks if Chisato thinks it’s strange that machines are keeping him alive, she says not at all, and casually drops perhaps the biggest bombshell yet about herself: she has a completely artificial heart.

While Chisato and Takina take Matsushita on a water bus to avoid Sumida Ward traffic and Chisato flashes her elite tour guide skills, Detective Abe is down in the ruins of the train station with his young partner, finding a whole mess of bullet holes evidencing a terrorist attack. The thing is, they’re not supposed to be there, and when they see flashlights they slip away.

That Chisato spots Abe and his partner on the street and greets them is one of those small-world-in-a-big-city moments that really brings the setting to life. Tokyo is as much a character this week anyone else, with its bustling streets and historic landmarks.

While taking a breather back on the water bus, Takina wants follow-up on Chisato’s claim of an artificial heart. Chisato adds it works an absolute treat despite her not having a heartbeat. Takina can’t resist trying to feel. Meanwhile, the assassin Matsushida was fearing shows up.

This whole time Kurumi has eyes on the girls and client via her trusty drone, while Mizuki is on the ground shadowing the assassin once he arrives. His nickname is “Silent Jin” and he’s a no-nonsense consummate professional Mika happened to once work with. It’s really fun watching LycoReco coordinate their efforts…until their whole system gets blown up.

Jin immediately sets about demonstrating what a badass professional he is by shooting down Kurumi’s drone and finding and neutralizing Mizuki (though not before she slaps a transmitter on his coat). Kurumi does the most physical activity she’s probably done in days by running to the window of the café and tossing out a spare drone.

But that drone will take time to get where she needs it to be, and with Mizuki temporarily off the board (she later turns up alive) Chisato and Takina are on their own. Takina acts as a lure for Jin, leading him away from Matsushita, but Matsushita then goes off on his own.

Chisato catches up to him in front of Tokyo Station, and he tells her he’s realized from their behavior that the assassin who killed his family is nearby, and intends to kill him. There’s a resignation in the way he seems to be intentionally making himself a prime target for Jin, who has a high vantage point in some scaffolding.

Takina manages to cause Jin’s killing shot to miss and then bum rushes him, and the two fall through the scaffolding. Takina fortunately lands on some soft bags of building material, but it’s another demonstration of how she acts before thinking long-term (which has its pros and cons).

An out-of-breath Mizuki finally arrives (she really had a workout this week), and Chisato leaves Matsushita in her care, worried that Takina could be in trouble. Sure enough, Takina gets grazed in the leg and her mobility is severely curtailed, leaving her a sitting duck for Jin.

Well, Chisato isn’t about to let her partner get killed, so she springs into action, firing rounds that create puffs of colored sand to blind Jin (a modern take on an ancient ninja blinding tactic metsubushi) then gets right up in Jin’s business and unloads a clip of concussive rounds that put him down without ending his life.

When Matsushita sees Jin is still alive, he insists Chisato kill him, reminding her of the mission she carries as an Alan Child. Because Chisato is Chisato, she respectfully declines to kill Jin, saying she only wants to help others, like the person who gave her her Alan pendant. With that, all of Matsushita’s machines shut down, and we get the biggest twist of the episode: Matsushita didn’t exist.

It turns out a medical patient that was missing from a facility was used as a “fake” Matsushita by a third party, who saw through the goggles on the man’s eyes, remote controled his wheelchair, and spoke via the internet. Why this person went through so much trouble to specifically try to make Chisato kill Jin, we don’t know. We only know that a woman paid Jin cash to kill “Matsushita” and he didn’t ask any more questions.

If last week’s Lycoris massacre wasn’t foreboding enough, the penultimate scene in this episode features Mashima’s grey overall-wearing associates luring the attention of a Lycoris so he can run her down with his car, and then they empty their clips into her for good measure. All of these guys have a serious hatred of the Lycoris, and they’re surely not done. Someone will have to stop them, and lethal force may be necessary.

But at least for a little while longer (probably too short a while), Chisato and Takina don’t have to worry about that. Unaware of the Lycrois killings, Chisato is more worried about whether being called an amazing tour guide was just a lie. Takina assures her that she wasn’t, and whoever was controlling that poor old man was genuine in their praise.

Then, with no one else around, Takina sees Chisato is open and lays her head upon her chest so she can hear—or rather not hear—her lack of a heartbeat. It is a beautifully animated (no surprise for this show) and incredibly heartwarming gesture that shows just how close these two have become. Unfortunately, this comes just in time for the shit to hit the fan courtesy of Mashima.

Engage Kiss – 03 – What He’s Losing

Before greeting the day, Shuu has a dream about his parents and sister Kanna being killed by demons—Kanna while begging her brother to save her. This is apparently a frequent dream, and he reacts to it as he probably always does: with a kind of grim gratitude. Clutching a photo of his family, he tells them it’s alright: he still remembers them.

There’s a new caterpillar-like demon crawling around Bayron City’s ever-important energy production sector. They mayor’s office learns of this prior to any auction, while Shuu receives a photo of the demon to show Ayano. They meet in a park of some significance, and she makes a point to dress as cute as possible, but also points out all the times he’s betrayed him when asked.

Nevertheless, she recognizes that Shuu should have leave to take this new demon out. He wins the auction to do so by underbidding everyone, but his winning bid is nullified when new info suddenly comes in stating that because the demon is holding a core equivalent to a week’s worth of the city’s electricity, it is not to be eliminated.

Since Shuu doesn’t have the resources to capture, the job falls to AAA. Through Miles explaining the situation to detective Mikami Tetsuya, he once fostered Shuu, and Shuu became the city’s best and only true hope at demon extermination thanks to his contract with a demon. That said, the government only grudingly recognized his new company.

Ayano leads the AAA operation, but the effort to capture the demon goes pear-shaped when the huge caterpillar transforms into a huge moth that shoots powerful lasers. One by one, Ayano’s support is wiped out. Shuu calls Ayano’s mom, who quickly signs him to a contract to clean up the mess. To do so, we see that Shuu has to do more than simply make out with Kisara.

For one thing, we learn definitively that Shuu doesn’t love Kisara; even she knows that. We also learn that due to how “troublesome” this foe is, Kisara’s going to need something extra. Shuu thus decides to sacrifice another set of memories—the ones from when he an Ayano happily lived together—to give Kisara the power she needs.

The kiss is merely a conduit through which Kisara receives and consumes his memories. No sooner do their lips part does a mass of rubble start descending upon an injured Ayano, only for Kisara to save her at the last moment. The soundtrack gets down to business as she takes the fight to the big moth, dodging its laser beams and delivering brutal blows to its thorax.

Shuu wakes up very out of it, but is reoriented by a note on his hand (“Aim at Kisara”) and a locket containing a photo of the family he lost. He readies his rifle, aims and fires where his note told him, which is at the core Kisara already cracked open. It takes not one but two of his fang-bullets to shatter said core and defeat the demon.

In the aftermath of the battle, Ayano limps to where Kisara is inspecting the corpse of the demon moth, asking if she has to thank her for saving her life. Kisara says no…but she feels she should apologize to Ayano. After all, she took Shuu’s happiest memories of him and Ayano together, which he willingly sacrificed in order to keep Ayano safe (and to further his objective). Watching flashes of these memories hit me hard.

Earlier, we learned from Kisara that the outfit Ayano wore at the park meeting was the same one she wore on her and Shuu’s first date. As the keeper of Shuu’s stolen memories, these latest ones related to her “rival” Ayano, it’s no surprise Kisara has adopted a kind of vicarious romance with him. This is not your usual love triangle, and I really dig this dynamic.

The last two episodes established what an unappealing, miserable wretch Ogata Shuu is, while this latest one went a long way towards explaining, if not excusing, why that is. He’s not only “the worst”; he’s the product of a lot of shitty circumstances: the loss of his family, the city government’s combined dependence on and disdain of him, and most importantly, the fact he’s just not the same Shuu anymore.

He’s lost more than his family; he’s lost parts of himself. I daresay I sympathize with the guy. He, Ayano, and Kisara are tragic figures: him because of what he’s lost and will continue to lose, Ayano because she in turn lost (most of) the man she loved, and even Kisara because Shuu will never love her. It’s kind of a bummer, but I respect the show going to these dark places while also delivering top-notch action.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 03 – Moving on for Now

When Takina was tossed out of the DA, it packed way more of a punch than her colleague Harukawa Fuki’s actual punch. Now that her face is fully healed, it’s only natural someone as dedicated to the DA as Takina would immediately try to heal the figurative punch by making her case to the boss.

That means when LycoReco has an after-hours game party, Takina doesn’t participate, because doing so won’t help her get back into the DA’s good graces. But when Mika tells Chisato that she needs to head to DA HQ for fitness tests to get her license renewed, Takina insists on tagging along.

True to Chisato’s general Fuck-the-DA attitude, she leaves the renewal tests to the very last possible day, and also eats candy on the train. Takina remains all business. DA Commander Kusunoki is indisposed when they arrive at the sprawling and heavily-guarded HQ.

Takina passes the time with target practice, ignoring all the whispers from other Lycoris about the “friend-killer” who shot at a friendly. Erika, the girl she saved by disobeying orders (but also could have killed) clearly feels responsible for what happened to Takina.

As for Takina’s old partner Fuki, Chisato ends up meeting her in the locker room, as she’s having her fitness tests at the same time. Considering how calculating Kusunoki is, that can’t be a coincidence.

I’m not doubting that company girl Fuki is capable and likely one of the best Lycoris the DA have, but as the two chat, it’s clear that Chiasto is far superior in every way, and without even seeming to try. Running, hand-eye coordination, vertical leaps; she obliterates Fuki in everything without breaking a sweat.

When Chisato encounters Kusunoki after the tests, she pleads her case on Takina’s behalf, pointing out that not only was Fuki partially responsible for what happened as Takina’s First, but so was the DA itself for somehow letting their AI system get hacked at a crucial moment.

The thing is, Kusunoki is under no obligation to admit the truth about anything that day. Takina acted out of turn, and was thus made the scapegoat for everything else that went wrong. She’s also already been replaced as Fuki’s Second by the cocky go-getter Otome Sakura, who really rubs salt in the wound when she meets Takina.

Ever since she was banished from the DA, Takina was under the impression she’d be welcomed back in the fold if she performed well in the missions she did with Chisato. But if Kusunoki ever promised that, she denies it now. Takina does not take this well, and runs off.

Chisato finds her by a fountain that’s a popular spot for all Lycoris, and tells Takina that she’s still needed. But Takina can’t fathom being useful to anyone if she’s not allowed to be where she’s always dreamt of being—there in the DA—where she belongs.

When Chisato’s explanations of how the devious DA operates doesn’t help, she instead draws Takina into a hug, telling her the only thing she can do for now is move forward. Sometimes there are things you gain by losing something. When onlookers mock their embrace, Chisato doubles down, lifting Takina into the air affectionately and telling her she’s glad they met.

She leaves Takina to consider embracing her new home at LycoReco, then returns to Fuki and Sakura to accept their challenge of a mock battle. Word gets around of the exercise, and Erika is excited at the possibility of Takina getting to redeem herself.

As you’d expect form how Chisato performed in the fitness tests, she’s perfectly capable of taking on both Fuki and her rookie Second with one hand tied behind her back. Sure enough, she toys with Sakura by “killing” her twice in quick succession, without shooting any paintballs at her. The message is clear: “look to your own self before looking down on others, young scamp!”

Fuki knows she’s no match for Chisato, so she uses Sakura as a sacrifice to swing around and try to catch Chisato from behind. That’s when Takina appears, having made her choice to move on for now as Chisato suggested. Before pelting Fuki wth paintballs, she punches her in the same place Fuki punched her, making them even.

Erika is delighted by Takina and Chisato’s overwhelming victory, while Sakura is freaked out by the prospect that Chisato can literally dodge bullets like a manga character. Takina already knows this all to well, which is why she intentionally aimed at Chisato when she arrived at the mock battle, knowing she’d definitely dodge.

Not only does this underscore how much she’s learned about Chisato and come to trust her despite her chaotic quirks, it also highlights Takina’s penchant for risky decisive moves, which the DA forbade. At the end of the day, Takina may want to return to the DA, but it wasn’t the right place (nor Fuki the right person) for her to fully explore her potential.

Chisato and LycoReco are, and she’s finally starting to recognize that. It’s why she takes the candy Chisato offers on the train back to her new home, and why she agrees to join the rest of the LycoReco staff for some after-hours games.

The first two episodes were largely mission-based, but this one focused on what Takina had been carrying, revealed the cold hard truth of her situation, and offered her a kind warm hand of support on a new path. It was an extraordinarily satisfying character piece with some truly righteous score-settling.

Lycoris Recoil – 02 – Gathering Acorns

LycoReco takes on a job involving two feuding hackers. Robota wants to be the top dog in Tokyo, so he hires a semi-pro assassination team to take out his rival Walnut. It’s Chisato and Takina’s job is simple on paper: Keep Walnut Alive.

Takina watches in bemusement as Chisato treats this serious, hazardous mission like she treats any other day: with casual cheer, playfulness, and joie de vivre. A jelly drink packet may be quick and efficient, but it’s no substitute for a limited express bento.

When they approach the parking lot and find a very loud red Lexus LFA, Chisato is excited and really wants to drive, only for Walnut to arrive in a modest (and far less conspicuous) Honda City. Less conspicuous is Walnut’s squirrel mascot suit.

When Robota hacks the Honda (sidebar: not sure why, a car that age shouldn’t be connected to the internet at all, but I guess in this particular world it is), Walnut works to undo the hack while Takina’s marksmanship is again tested as she must take the drone out while the car is airborne.

Walnut manages to mess up the Robohack just before the car plunges into the ocean, but once everyone exits the car it slides into the water. They head into an abandoned supermarket, which is a perfect place for the kill squad to ambush them. Fortunately for Takina, Walnut’s suitcase containing all worldly possessions is also bulletproof.

Takina and Walnut alike proceed to watch in awe as Chisato not only dodges machine gun fire, but walks towards it and takes out the baddies one by one with her non-lethal rubber rounds. But when their leader (who has no love for Robota, just their money) suffers a serious wound, Chisato has Takina and Walnut go ahead as she administers triage.

Neither Takina nor the wounded guy understand why Chisato is doing this, because both of them feel like getting wounded or killed is part of the game. Not so for Chisato; a mission isn’t a true success unless it ends with no one dead. Unfortunately, there are still members of the kill squad outside when Walnut stupidly walks out first…and gets riddled with bullets and dies in a pool of blood.

The mood is somber on the ambulance, as all the fun Chisato was having now feels wholly inappropriate and unprofessional. It’s Takina, however, who apologizes for letting Walnut go out first, only for Chisato to tell her it’s not her fault. Sometimes things just go wrong. You can’t win them all.

Except…Walnut isn’t dead.

Suddenly they start moving and pulls off the squirrel head to reveal Mizuki, who was posing as Walnut all along. The suit is not only bulletproof, but full of bloody squibs to put on a convincing show. The real Walnut is a tiny girl who was hiding in the suitcase all along; she’s safe and sound while their adversary believes she’s dead. The mission is a success and no one is dead, which means it’s a win in Chisato’s book too.

It was a fun switcheroo, as like Chisato and Takina Mizuki and Mika had me going right up until she pulled off the squirrel head. The mood back at LycoReco is thus happy and laid back, only briefly interrupted by Yoshi-san, a regular at the café who also ordered the hit on Walnut, and Walnut herself, AKA Kurumi, who is now living at the café in exchange for her hacking services.

While I’m sure Yoshi has nothing good planned for the Lycoris, I admire Chisato for simply living her life and doing her job on her terms. It almost went sideways, but as she tells Takina, their “enemies” on this job were only the enemy today. They could be clients, allies, or even friends down the line. Valuing life in every interaction is in their stragtegic interests.

The episode ends on a mischievous note as Takina removes a hair tie and prepares to playfully fire it at Chisato, only for Chisato to dodge and the band to hit lil’ Kurumi square in her big forehead. It’s good to see Takina letting her hair down a bit (literally and figuratively), and the addition of Kurumi to this quirky little family is a welcome one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 12 (Part 1 Fin) – Aquatope of Spy Fam

It was pretty apparent SPY x FAMILY wasn’t going to end at twelve episodes, but not so apparent was how it would wrap up its first cour. Rather than a big new development or thrilling cliffhanger, it elects for a bit of a grab bag palate cleanser. The first few minutes are easily it’s weakest, as the heavy narration and retreading of facts we already know had the stench of a recap.

Thankfully, that soon transitions to Loid’s current predicament, which is that Operation Strix is not his only job as Twilight, it’s just his most important. Due to short staffing, he’s called upon to take on numerous side missions that keep him out late or otherwise separated from his fake family.

When he overhears the neighbors gossiping about it, he decides action must be taken to shore up his standing as husband and father in his apartment block by taking Anya and Yor to the aquarium on a day off. Of course, this means completing all of his side missions beforehand, leaving him particularly haggard on the big day.

Still, Loid shakes it off for the good of Operation Strix. As his fellow spy who works at the subway store makes clear, spies work towards peace and a day when they’re no longer needed. She also has a mission for Loid on the day of his family aquarium trip, but the mission happens to also take place at the aquarium.

It involves a secret microfilm containing intel on a new chemical weapon that could bring the country to its knees if it fell into the wrong hands. Fortunately, it is currently in no one’s hands, but down the gullet of one of the two hundred penguins at the Aquarium.

Loid, whom it’s been established is already exhausted from overwork, must balance time with his family (and keeping up appearances with the neighbors, who are also at the aquarium) and disguise himself as a far-too-competent newbie aquarium worker.

When he finds the penguin with the film, he’s soon confronted by its intended recipient, whose lousy fake professor ID doesn’t fool Loid for a second. The bad guy bolts, but Anya (who had previously used her ESP to find the right penguin for Papa) tracks him down, grabs him, and pretends to be kidnapped.

When she calls out to her Mama, Yor springs into action, once again demonstrating she has a bright future as a hero of justice if she ever wanted to ditch the whole cold-blooded assassin thing. She kicks the dude so hard his head goes through the ceiling and keeps him hanging there.

I love how Loid’s difficult day is made much easier by his daughter, who as we know cannot reveal her powers to him, lest the show lose a third of its conceit. Loid uses the energy saved to make a big show of being a Number One Dad to Anya by winning her a giant penguin plushie.

Being between five and six (like my own niece), Anya immediately makes use of her vivid imagination to create her own intelligence agency with her new penguin plushie. She gives him a hilarious tour of the apartment as if it were a secret spy hideout, and also uses the tour as a pretense to enter her Mama and Papa’s rooms, which is forbidden due to all the “dangerous things” that are in them.

Loid yells at Anya for trying to go into his room without permission, and as you would expect of a little kid, Anya also overreacts, saying she hates Papa and Mama and threatens to run away from home. Loid and Yor quickly improvise to improve Anya’s mood by lending their voices to her Penguin plushie and toy robot. Their roleplaying continues out on the city streets, where passersby note what a “sweet family” they are.

It is an incredibly sweet, if low-key, way to end this first cour: with the core family at perhaps its most charming and convincing. The word “fake” is thrown around a lot, but while Loid, Yor, and Anya are all hiding huge secrets form one another, the more they interact with each other and experience new things together, the less fake a family they become.

Spy x Family – 11 – A Dog Will Bring Peace

The agency expects Anya to earn eight Stella in four months, but it’s becoming apparent to Loid (thanks to Anya’s test scores) that academics might not be the way. Fortunately, there are other ways to earn Stella. Unfortunately, Anya is also not great at those other ways either.

Loid thinks her drawing of a moo cow is a cheetah or a panda; Anya plays the violin like a cello and breaks all the strings; she can’t hit a tennis ball she tosses in the air (I felt seen). There’s also volunteer work, but no sooner do Loid and Anya show up eager to work that the kindly head nurse loses her cool and tells them to clear out.

It’s important to Loid/Twilight that Anya earn these stars without any undue “outside assistance”, but with even a volunteer Stella feeling as far away as an actual star, he may have to ask his agency for that assistance in order to get Desmond in a room. Then Anya hears a boy’s thoughts: he’s fallen into the pool and he can’t move his legs.

Without any regard for her secret, Anya tells her dad that there’s a boy drowning in the pool, before taking advantage of Loid’s confusion to walk it back and come up with a (slightly) more plausible reason for racing to the pool. She dives in and swims with all her might, but soon tires out. Loid, having seen where Anya went, jumps in and pulls both her and the boy out.

Loid is too proud of his daughter to think too much about how she knew what she knew. There’s also the matter of Anya literally putting her life on the line to save a little boy’s life. It’s an act of heroism that earns her a Stella, the first in her class and the fastest ever to earn one at Eden.

While Anya’s legend grows among her peers, Loid and Handler meet in disguises that make them unrecognizable. Handler asks if any agency resources could be used to help quicken Anya’s rise to Imperial Scholar, but again Loid declines. He doesn’t want to put anyone else at risk. If Anya won one Stella on her own, she can win another. That may not be Twilight’s cold logic and practicality, but Loid Forger’s pride, trust, and love.

The dangers of Anya rising to far too fast are evident at her return to normal classes. While she earns the esteem of some classmates, rumors start to swirl about the legitimacy of her Stella. But when Damian is asked by a couple of girls to add his two cents, they get more than they bargained for: he scolds them for besmirching Eden’s good name with such spurious accusations.

He’d never admit he was standing up for Anya, but he is standing up for truth and justice, which make him good and cool. When Becky brings up Anya’s new opportunity to ask her parents for a reward, Anya tables her desire for a large amount of peanuts and decides that the right way to befriend Damian is by getting a dog.

When she makes the request at home, Loid is open to the idea for its security benefits, while Yor can’t help but imagine the ways dogs big and small might kill Anya if given the chance. All the while, we get a little closing sequence of what I presume to be the Forger’s future dog, currently in a cruel, dark kennel where experiments are being run on the dogs

Spy x Family – 10 – Star Seizer Anya

Professor Henderson continues to observe rancor between Damian and his lackeys and Anya and Becky, while the M.V.P. of a P.E. dodgeball tournament is rumored to be awarded a Stella. Loid steps back and leaves Anya’s intense training to Yor, and we’re awarded a lovely Rocky-style montage of Yor being her usual badass self and Anya just barely keeping up, while also learning the merits of hard work and stick-to-itiveness.

Of course, Anya isn’t the only one who wants that Stella for her dad’s mission. Damian believes he needs to be the first to earn a Stella, and Anya can read his mind as he reveals why: as the second son, if he doesn’t meet or surpass his older brother, his father won’t notice him. Damian may be a “shithead”, but he’s not iredeemable.

As for the third student rearin’ for that MVP star, we have our first exercise in Spy x Family descending into the absurd with Bill Watkins, who despite being six years old has the physique of Brock Lesnar. Just the sight of the large lad amongst all his tiny-mite classmates is enough to elicit a hearty chuckle; learning his dad is literally M. Bison kicked that up to a full belly laugh.

Against a normal human opponent, Damian’s shot and his teamwork with his lackeys would likely be enough to win the match and earn MVP (I got a kick out of the Calvin & Hobbes-style bending of reality in the glimpses of their training). Unfortunately, like being born second, Damian has he misfortune of having Watkins for an opponent.

Bill easily catches Damian’s best shot and takes out four opposing players at once. Damian’s lackeys sacrifice themselves to keep him in the game. When it’s down to Damian, Anya, and a third guy, Bill targets Anya, but thanks to a combination of knowing where he’ll throw it and Yor’s training, he just can’t hit her, and soon shows his age by getting very frustrated.

That leads to him yelling “DIE!” and forgetting all about “going easy on the women” by firing a fastball directly at Anya, who is a sitting duck when she trips and falls. This is when Damian exhibits his inherent “goodness” by sacrificing himself so Anya doesn’t take the hit. In that moment, he stopped caring about winning and status, and only cared about Anya’s safety.

After he tsunderes the heck out of his explanation for why he did it, the end result is it’s all up to Anya to bring Watkins down. Recalling Yor’s teachings in the park, Anya unleashes her killer move, “Star Catch Arrow”, and for a moment, appears to become a Powerpuff Girl.

Alas, despite perfect form and creating an intense atmosphere that has both teams and Bill in her thrall, she releases the ball so it bounces straight up into the air, then harmlessly in front of Bill, who swiftly ends the game by beaning a stunned Anya.

The consolation is that no one was ever going to win a Stella for exceling in a game of dodgeball. Henderson doesn’t know how such a silly rumor came about, but does know that anyone who yells “DIE!” in a friendly game is asking for a Tonitrus Bolt! Watkins stands chastened and rebuked.

While he praised her for her “not bad” dodging and took a direct blow for her, Damian is so disappointed in the end result of Anya’s ratcheting up of suspense that he can’t help but yell at her and call her “stubby legs”, even as he’d probably be the first to admit that until those last moments Anya was cool as hell out there. As for Henderson, observing these brats bickering, he wonders if this new class is really worthy of Stella…

This Spy x Family did not care how ridiculous Bill Watkins looked or how seriously this dodgeball game was being taken. It summoned and harnessed the outsized importance of mundane things all little kids engage in, taking after their adult counterparts while infusing the proceedings with their vivid imaginations. The result is another thrilling and hilarious outing.

Spy x Family – 09 – Best Selves

When Loid moves in for that kiss to prove he and Yor are in love, both Yor and Yuri panic; Yor because she’s never been kissed, and Yuri because he always dreamed of marrying Yor and doesn’t want to see her kiss anyone else. Yor chugs the rest of the wine to build up the courage to kiss Loid.

The very moment she can’t go through with it is the same moment Yuri tries to stop her, resulting in Yor slapping the absolute shit out of Yuri. He flies right into his ridiculous bouquet, resulting in a cloud of rose petals that in any other situation would be romantic.

Yor helps Yuri up, Yuri helps Yor stay vertical, and Loid helps keep both of them vertical. He tells them what lovely siblings they are (even with Yuri bleeding profusely) and privately feels envy for their familial bond, as he’s never had that. Unaware that even 2D-chess eludes the Briars, he starts to suspect that Yor might’ve married him at Yuri’s behest to get closer to him.

Yuri is too goofy and his blind spot vis-a-vis Yor is too large for him to feel like any threat to the mission to me, but Twilight is a spy; it’s his job not to trust anyone, even Yor. At the same time, Yor’s inability to kiss Loid or cook has her worried she’s not acting like a proper wife should.

Anya, who slept through the excitement (and really wants to meet her secret police uncle) picks up on these bad vibes, but can’t reassure either parent as it might give away her ability. So as she boards the school bus, she simply tells them they “need to get along”. Loid chalks it up to how “curously observant” kids can be.

Then, he plants a damned bug on Yor in order to listen in on her day, and while she’s out on an errand for her boss, he and Franky stop her while disguised as Secret Police.

If it were anyone other than someone like Loid in the situation he’s in, I would call this obsessive behavior. But if his gut can’t 100% discount that Yor isn’t secretly working with her brother, this is all he can do to assuage his suspicions. Franky predictably buries himself in the part of bad cop, quickly accusing Yor of leaking state secrets.

Throughout her day to that point, Loid had listened in and gotten nothing, and even when Yor’s back is literally against the wall in front of two secret policemen, her “story” doesn’t change, because it isn’t a story: she’s a good citizen (other than the assassinations) who loves her family and country and would never engage in espionage.

When Frankie tries to touch her, Yor restrains him with ease and warns both him and Loid that she doesn’t care who they are or who they work for; she’ll show them no mercy if they hurt her family. Loid takes another look at the letter Yor was mailing and says they made a mistake, and let her go.

Loid won’t admit it, but his relief is soured by guilt he felt going to such lengths to try to catch Yor in a lie. Ironically, she’s able to successfully preserve the actual secret she’s been keeping from Loid all along (that she’s a ruthless super-assassin).

When he meets up with Yor later, she apologizes for not being a proper wife, but Loid comforts her by saying she’s fine the way she is, always striving to be her best self. Everyone puts on acts to some degree, and it grows tiring and eventually intolerable. Better to not put on an act when one is neither desired or needed.

They buy cake to celebrate a year of marriage, and when Anya comes home (her “I HAVE RETURNED” is a great kid greeting), reads their minds, and finds the bad vibes have vanished, her face brightens—Mama and Papa are getting along.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Yuri, I’m glad his antics indirectly led to Loid and Yor clearing the air and growing a little closer. Next week, we return to Eden, and Anya’s solemn mission to befriend a little jerk.

Spy x Family – 08 – Into the Briar Patch

Anya’s adventures at Eden are placed on hold this week as the adults navigate various difficulties. Miss Handler warns Twilight that the enemy is stepping up their game, which is to say they’re intensifying their investigation of suspected spies and rounding them up wherever they are, including at city hall where Yor works.

Yor’s brother Yuri, whom she believes is working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has actually been working as a Second Lieutenant with the State Security Service, AKA Secret Police for about the same amount of time Yor and Loid have been married.

Just like Yor’s co-workers, the SSS’s chief thinks he’s adorable, but like Yor, he’s definitely got a mean streak, as we see when he interrogates Yor’s boss after he’s caught passing documents to an enemy agent. Let us just revel in the delicious fact that both Briar siblings secret unpleasant jobs they are keeping from one another.

But for as competent as Yuri is, all logic and moderation go out the window where his sister is concerned. He is obsessed with her, to the point he likes how his ribs still hurt after she broke them while hugging him as a child. He also brings what looks like four dozen red roses to his first time meeting Your’s new husband.

Loid knows that close relationships like family can cause trip-ups, so he and Yor have practiced being a lovey-dovey couple…to an extent. In a hilarious sequence, Yuri and Loid and Yuri and Yor interact and speak to each other out loud, then we hear their inner monologue overlapping.

When Yor explains to Yuri that she simply forgot to tell him she got married, and then forgot that she forgot, that seems to be enough for him. But when talk turns to how they met, Yuri instinctively enters interrogation mode, for which Loid and Yor are fairly well prepared.

Loid, in turn, did some digging on Yuri and learned he’s in the secret police, confirmed when he starts telling a story about going abroad that’s straight out of his agency’s deception manual. Still, he plays along, since someone like Yuri could be a valuable source of intel if a cordial relationship was forged.

As Yuri drinks more wine he gets a bit looser and more honest, and while can’t deny that Loid is tall, handsome, a good cook, a doctor, and has good manners, he still can’t accept the marriage, or “Loidy” as a brother. Yor is his only family, and she provided for him when he was young and helpless.

We see this in the form of a flashback where a young Yor arrives at home covered in blood and not even trying to hide it from Yuri. But whenever she came through that door, it was with something Yuri either needed or wanted. Ever since, Yuri has strived to not only be someone worthy of that devotion, but someone able to protect her, as she did him.

When Yuri accidentaly knocks over a glass, Yor and Loid start cleaning it up and their hands touch, and they both recoil and blush like teenagers. This would be suspicious behavior from a couple married for a year even for someone who wasn’t a trained, ruthless spy-hunter.

So Yuri gives the two an ultimatum: either they kiss, or he has their marriage license revoked. All of a sudden the stakes are ratcheted up to eleven and the whole game is on the line, and all for something as innocuous as a kiss. Such is the spectacular unpredictability of a Briar.

While Loid has extensive experience seducing women, it’s different for Yor. Unlike those past women, I believe he actually cares about her, hence the blushing. And Yor? I’m certain she’s never kissed a guy. Combine that with the fact Yuri is tipsy and probably doesn’t want to see his sister kiss someone, and next week’s cliffhanger resolution should be interesting.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Spy x Family – 07 – Making It Work With Less Than Ideal

“I’m sorry I’m bad at school”, a still-drowsy Anya says to Loid and Yor. “The peace of the world rests on you making amends”, she hears Loid thinking. It’s a lot of pressure for a little girl on her second day of school, but she’s resolved to apologize to Damian. The problem is, both his toadies and her her rich girl friend Becky make that almost impossible.

Reading minds clearly takes a lot out of Anya, so between hearing the inner voices of all her classmates and probably not sleeping much last night, she nods off in first period. But when Loid sees Becky working against the apology plan, he starts disguising himself as school staff to make it clear to Anya that the apology must happen, the sooner the better.

It takes Loid calling Becky away on the PA for Anya to finally get her shot, and Damian’s toadies bully her so much in their minds they make her start bawling as she apologizes. As I’d suspected, Damian has confusing new feelings about Anya, the girl who was the first to “defy” him. When she sobs during her apology, making clear she only wanted to be friends, the resulting shot to his heart is so much he has no choice but to run away.

While Loid witnesses all this unfold and concludes that the Friendship Plan may be doomed, I’d say he’s making far too quick an assessment of the situation. Sure, on the surface Damian hates her, but he actually likes her; his behavior is the result of simply not knowing what to do about it. This is 100% classic little kid (and some times bigger kid) behavior.

That said, Loid is new to this, and Twilight didn’t get where he is by taking risks or operating under less-than-ideal circumstances. But there’s so much not in his control here and the circumstances couldn’t be less ideal, so he’s trying to overcompensate. Today Damian ran away from Anya, so he has to try to get her those eight Stella. That night Loid has an intense study session with Anya, but his anxious thoughts and calculations flood into her head and overwhelm her, and she runs into her room to sulk.

Here is where Yor’s lighter touch (if only where Anya is concerned) comes in. At first Yor feels she’s being presumptuous in offering Loid advice and insisting they not be to hard on themselves. But by doing so she reminds Loid that he’s not alone in this parenting business.

He and Yor are legally husband and wife and parents to Anya. They’re in this together, through thick and thin. They need to be patient, but also confident. All parents go through this; that this one was constructed for a spy mission doesn’t change that in the slightest.

I loved how much simpler and more macabre Yor’s inner thoughts are compared to Loid’s during the study session, but I also love how Anya truly wants to do her best, which is why Loid finds her asleep at her desk. She stopped sulking and started studying all on her own.

She’s a good girl, Yor’s a good mom, and he’s a good dad for caring about all of Anya—not just how she figures into the mission. They’ll get through this…even if Yor’s brother Yuri is only now finding out Yor has a husband and daughter.

Spy x Family – 06 – Smiling Doesn’t Help at All

At the fitting for her new Eden uniform, the seamstress warns both Anya and her parents of all of the pitfalls of student and parent life. There are all of these ongoing overlapping battles—between the richer kids and less rich kids, between children of Eden alumni and non-alumni, between boarders and commuters. Oh, and the kidnappers. Anya isn’t sure she wants to go to school anymore.

But the must, as she’s the lynchpin of Operation Strix. Loid visits a secret installation beneath a photo booth where his Handler gives him the details of Strix Phase Two. Anya simply attending Eden won’t be enough for Loid to get to Desmond, whose son is sure to be an honor student, called an Imperial Scholar. Students must earn eight “Stella” merits to become one. Alternatively, earning eight “Tonitrus Bolts” or demerits will result in immediate expulsion.

With the new information that Anya must not just be an Eden student but an elite one, Loid is no doubt headed to the drugstore to purchase a couple bottles of Mylanta to deal with his stress. Meanwhile while he’s out late for work, Yor takes Anya to get her newly-completed uniform, which she then shows off to everyone in the park.

When they go to the supermarket to buy stuff to cook (Yor wants to give cooking the old Eden college try), some n’er-do-wells attempt to kidnap Anya to extort Yor for cash, thinking she’s the maid. She puts them in her place, ruining the groceries, but Anya pats her head in praise. She likes her cool, strong mama, and asks her to train her so she can be strong and cool to. Despite believing otherwise, Yor is being a good mother to Anya.

Considering the cutthroat atmosphere of Eden College the next day, I would think that basic martial arts training would be a requisite of every new student. Yor also teaches Anya some important social skills, but one kid is so nasty, she eventually cant help but punch him using what she learned from mom.

The kid who gets punched just happens to be Damian, the second son of Donovan Desmond. But if she doesn’t get off on the right foot with befriending him, at least she earns a new best friend in Becky Blackbell.

Post-punch, Henderson has no choice but to give Anya at least one Tonitrus Bolt, though the usual punishment is three. There hasn’t been a single day of actual classes and already Anya is negative-one Stella star from being an Imperial Scholar and has made an enemy of the boy she was supposed to befriend.

It’s here where I must comment that Loid really did take a gamble simply throwing Anya into the fray having nothing but a little basic combat and social training from Yor. Granted he doesn’t know Yor is a socially awkward assassin, but he knows what he is: a master spy, and thus a master of human behavior.

I get he needed that briefing from Handler, but he should have taken the lead with teaching Anya more about how to act arond others and how to properly react to adversity. Her bolt is as much his fault as hers. Still, I’m not as pessimisstic as all three families look in the photo taken at the end of orientation.

For one thing, I suspect being punched by Anya might endear her to Damian, considering she did something no one ever did. For another, Anya’s ability to read the minds of her classmates can be an enormous boon…once she learns how to use use it properly.

Spy x Family – 05 – Loidman Saves the Princess

The Forgers seem to be encountering every omen of bad luck on their way to view the posted lists of those admitted to Eden College. And while Loid doesn’t buy into any f that superstition—even Anya stepping in poop—Anya’s name is nowhere to be found. The mission then, has failed before it could truly get off the ground, hasn’t it?

Not so fast…Henderson takes the Forgers aside and shows them that Anya happens to be at the top of the waiting list, which means once there’s a withdrawal—and there are several every year for myriad reasons—she’ll be officially admitted. Yor has to fight back designs to murder the father of a student who got in, while Henderson isn’t sure he’ll be around to teach after slugging his colleague.

The waiting list turns out to be nothing but a formality for creating extra tension leading up to the phone call that comes in announcing that Anya has indeed been admitted to Eden. Loid is ready to celebrate with a party popper in his pocket. His colleague Franky joins them for a feast, Yor gets her drink on, and Loid is backed into a corner after promising to do “anything that is doable” for Anya as a reward for getting into Eden.

That something turns out to be the family and Franky acting out an episode of her favorite TV show Spy Wars at the castle where it was filmed, which is now a theme park. Loid borrows a floatplane and pilots them there himself, making for a thrilling arrival. However, after running around the castle a little, Anya is suddenly sad, because aside from them the joint is deserted.

That’s soon remedied thanks to a call to Loid’s agency, who puts out an APB calling for every agent in the vicinity to descend upon the castle for a Rank SS mission for Twilight. Most of the agents either idolize (in the case of the younger agents) or respect (in the case of the older ones) him as one of their country’s best spies. And so the stage is set.

Franky continues to enable Anya’s increasingly ambitious plans, as Loid becomes “Loidman” who must save “Princess” Anya from Franky, AKA Baron Scruffy. Loid has to wear the mask and gloves and run through a number of obstacles complete with colorful non-lethal weapons, Hollywood-quality pyro, and last but not least, Yor’s literally drunken combat style.

Loid isn’t sure he can keep up with her, but fortunately she breaks a heel and falls asleep. With one swift knockout punch to the villain, Loidman rescues Princess Anya and receives a rousing applause from his fellow agents and a DisneyWorld-scale fireworks show to cap it all off.

You could say the plot of this Spy x Family episode pretty much ends once the Forgers get the call that Anya has gotten into Eden. But the ensuing celebration and lengths to which Loid goes make Anya happy is crucial to the Family part of the show, while the role-playing conceit makes full use of both Loid’s abilities and the resources of his agency.

There’s every indication school life at Eden is going to be tough sledding, so I’m glad Anya got to have a little…hell, a lot of fun for fun’s sake before commencing the next stage of Operation Strix.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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