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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. Damien is a perfect example of the consequences of a family that is based on a strict hierarchy. Only deference and academic achievements can earn you the approval of your 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 that the corporate work of managing an entire studio, not just individual projects, felt very limiting compared to working directly on smaller projects or animation. It was also further away from his inspiration 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 begin the episode with Yuri wearing headphones and listening to a presumed secret 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
Endo’s desire to capitalize on the aesthetic and narrative tropes that are East versus West Germany is more fundamental than the fact that he does not want to dig deeply into the moral questions that accompany them, beyond the general understanding that an open war would be disastrous for the children of today. 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 will be a journalist named Franklin Perkin
This could be a nice humanizing beat for Yuri if his conscience eventually leads him to exonerate the man. Yuri could use some 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’s right, spying is always 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 is a modest, quiet man 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
Franklin’s supposedly sympathetic ideals are used to demonize him through more superficial villainy. For example, he is shown bullying children playing in the streets. 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 hears Franklin and his father talking about the sacrifices Franklin made to achieve a better future in his country. He also learns how he balances his own senses of righteousness with his need to provide for his family.
Yuri finally pauses his note-taking when struck by their shared motivation
Franklin uses his position in the post office to sneak letters past the point where they are inspected. Presumably, his letters will be of a sympathetic personal nature
On the 15th Yuri arrives to collect him. He shows a nice progression of expressions, from fear at being found, to contemplating how he could escape, to resignation, that he has no choice but to surrender himself, lest he be punished by his father.
“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, this episode of Bondman is a great example of how they have re-created low-rent cel animation. 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 Bond Girls with a series romantic gestures that become increasingly halfhearted. 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 from that scene
“I see. This is what a story about flirting is like. Now I can discuss this with Becky.” You learn so much from cartoons
This post-episode Omake has a lovely watercolor-style aesthetic. 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 was clearly an excuse to dress Anya up in a silly diving cap.
Another great episode of Spy x Family! I was glad to see Yuri getting a different role than just freaking out at his sister. And, I was relieved that his vignette was concluded with a hint of moral complexity. Franklin appeared to be more morally upright, which Yuri admitted. 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!
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