Right, we can skip right to the end of this and just say, “Power of friendship, yada, yada ending”. Yeah, I don’t have high hopes for Release the Spyce anymore but I kind of want a little more out of a story about teenage spies than a mentor telling her student she’s wonderful being enough to snap her out of a drug induced rampage. After two episodes of eye-roll worthy moments, that one just capped the entire thing and left quite the sour taste in my mouth.
Now in case you think I’m just jaded and mean, both of which
might be true to a point, I will point out that I do not mind anime that pull
the power of friendship card for a finale, particularly when it has been a well
developed theme with characters who have overcome enough obstacles and rallied
together enough that it feels earned. Sailor Moon season 1 is an awesome
example and I will never fault that ending where Serena calls on the power of
her most likely dead friends to defeat Beryl.
Yet here it doesn’t feel earned, it doesn’t feel rewarding,
it doesn’t even make sense. I get that the whole way along the argument is that
Aoba’s thing is she makes friends with whoever she decides to. The backstory
with Teresia, her reaching out to Teresia even knowing she was likely spying on
the spies, and all of the other characters endlessly telling the audience how
nice she is and how persistently she pursues friendship, kind of hit us over
the head with this idea that Aoba makes friends.
Does that make it any more likely that she was going to
succeed in hugging it out with someone who was drugged and crazed? Does it feel
like she earned that happy ending when we’ve actually seen little of her friendship
making abilities and simply been batted over the head with them for the
duration of two episodes? I’m going to say no.
This feels very much like the same issue I had with Devilman
Crybaby, in that the story endlessly felt the need to tell me how compassionate
and kind the main character was and yet the never showed anything other than
him occasionally crying to make that feel true. Though here it is worse because
at least that show gave the one character a whole season to develop whereas
here we have a character trying to present herself and resolve a crisis in two
episodes because it’s an ensemble cast and they all need their moment to
Release the Spyce is at its best when it actually gets on
with the spy training and shenanigans. It is at its worst every time it tries
for one of these after school special moments between student and mentor. Other
viewers may disagree and quite enjoy these ‘touching’ moments, but for me they
simply feel cheap and I’m just not that interested.
They are really hammering this mentor-student relationship point. Last week we focused almost exclusively on Mei and Fu and this week we shift back to our focus on Momo joining the team and her relationship with her Mentor (and does anyone else find it a little creepy how often Hanzoumon is just kind of hanging around where Momo is. Throw away line or not about mentors always being near their students doesn’t make that less stalkerish.
However, the episode this week focuses on the girls following up a lead so they actually do something that looks spy like as they infiltrate a lab. Only it kind of looks like the lab is a bust and they end up getting distracted with some petty criminal gang trading drugs. This leads to a fight on a train with the drugged up woman from a few episodes back and they really pushed this one for credibility.
Stronger and tougher I could buy, but biting through a knife and catching bullets in her teeth is just a little bit extreme. Not to mention, Momo’s attacks did nothing. After all the training she has done I somehow doubt she’s that weak. And then the mentor comes into the fight and quickly ends it. It kind of feels a little anti-climatic given I can’t imagine what would actually hurt Hanzoumon at this point.
Still, if you want your feel good moments, Momo getting to celebrate her birthday, spending some quality time with her friends from school and with the spies, both give a little bit of cheer to this otherwise fairly by-the-numbers affair. I was wondering if they would figure out they’d been sent on a chase with the drugs but of course Hanzoumon is on it. After all, she’s amazing.
You know, there are secret organisations afoot, drugs being traded, human experimentation, and all kinds of weird, but for whatever reason this anime feels that spending an episode dealing with the mentor-student relationship of Mei and Fu is the absolute best thing it can show us. This episode really does make it clear that despite the trappings of a spy story, at heart this one just wants to be a cute girls in a club kind of thing and the only real difference is occasionally they face life threatening situations.
That doesn’t make this bad, but it does mean that the threat and the spy side of this story really aren’t to be taken overly seriously. I mean, who cares about all of the secret agent type stuff when there are household accounts to balance?
If it seems I’m being a little snarky it is probably because I don’t know that either the audience or the characters gained anything from this episode. I mean, sure, Mei and Fu go through a bunch of stuff, end up fighting, after that gets Mei hurt on a mission Fu moves out, but then they reconcile and take down the random token drug dealer Fu had spotted earlier in the episode. Fu realises that her mentor does appreciate her and they all live happily ever…
Wait, why did we need a whole episode to come to that realisation?
I’ve described this show as average, and realistically it still is. But the bottom line is it isn’t a particularly compelling cute girls in a club kind of thing nor is it a very competent story about a team of female spies, so what we’re ending up with is a tepid serving of both genres and it makes for a viewing experience that is kind of good enough but not particularly memorable.
I was really hoping for more than a work as part of a team and play your part kind of resolution to Momo’s troubles starting out as a spy. I mean, it makes logical sense that she needs to work as part of the team and follow her orders, but it just seems like in the process of getting us to this resolution they jettisoned all of the training that she did last week and took her back to more or less square zero.
Outside of that minor complaint though, this week we get a series of missions from the team as they close in on small leads of their enemy and work their way up the food chain. Despite Momo’s repeated blunders, the team succeeds at gaining what they need each and every time, though the ease of these missions makes more sense when you realise the enemy seems to just be playing them and waiting to see if the traitor’s information is actually reliable.
I do think the villains are going to run out of minions if they keep turning all of them into drug test subjects, though that’s a minor worry in a world set up as implausible as this one is in the first place, so not the biggest issue going.
One thing the show does right is it remains energetic, it keeps things moving, and the interactions between the characters are still pretty fun. All and all, this show remains enjoyable but also pretty average from the plot point of view. Still, average is good enough as long as it is entertaining.
There are a few moments in this second episode that caused me to raise an eyebrow. The explanation that the word ‘spy’ might come from ‘spice’ which is complete and utter rubbish no matter how you look at it and the show throwing out there that it is just one theory doesn’t make blatantly wrong information any easier to swallow. Then there was the ‘no honey’ symbolising a life devoid of sweetness password that really just felt they were laying things on really thick.
However, outside of those couple of moments where I was left shaking my head, the second episode of Release the Spyce is actually fairly fun. Okay, the OP is headache inducing and I won’t be watching it again this season (way too many bright flashes), but otherwise I’m done complaining and want to talk about some of the positives.
Momo, who last week was a really wishy-washy and kind of dull potential protagonist, really stepped up this week. She makes the decision to become a spy and she works really hard to achieve that end. That said, she hasn’t had a complete personality transplant, it is more she’s got something she’s determined to do and so she is moulding herself in the direction she needs to go to achieve it. Stretching the training and test period over a couple of months rather than the usual week or ten days characters have in these sorts of shows really works in the episode’s favour as it allows Momo’s transformation to feel a bit more real (even if it is still fairly quick).
I also really just liked the range of training she was subjected to. This wasn’t just physical training but also involved detecting deception, avoiding attack, being able to get close to others, it really felt like they intend to do a range of spy like activities though so far we’ve only really seen them infiltrate and fight. Hopefully these skills get used in later episodes because that could be really cool.
We don’t learn a lot more about the other characters, but the group dynamic is really nice in this episode and I’m looking forward to spending more time with these girls as the series progresses. We also get another couple of scenes with the potential villains who are of course plotting so I guess now that Momo is all trained up we’re going to have some sort of conflict to deal with.
This show isn’t amazing, but it is so far pretty entertaining and hopefully it continues to be fun.
Let’s not even ask whether or not we’re confusing herbs with spices as I’m sure there was some cross over at some point in this opening episode of Release the Spyce. Anyway, I didn’t have much in the way of expectations going into this which is probably good considering it is fairly average in most regards, but it was still a pretty fun watch and worth another couple of episodes.
The episode starts with an all girl team infiltrating a high security facility with way too much ease, however when they go to leave they are suddenly surrounded by robots. A munch on some spices later and the girls go to town with a nice array of weaponry and destroy the robots, the one guy who runs in to stop them, and then they head on their way. However, they notice a girl on the other side of the river who can amazing see them. Its a fun and energetic opening though fairly standard in its execution and only the fast pace, music and bright colours are really keeping the energy going, but that’s actually enough.
Jump to the next day and we meet Momo, our pink haired shy girl who wants to be a police officer but freezes in dangerous situations. She in high school of course and is about to make some new friends. She isn’t a great protagonist by any means but again the pacing and everything else in this show helps to keep things moving. I did do a double take when she just suddenly licked the girl she essentially just met and the other girl just kind of thought her sense of taste was good. Not exactly how you should react to being randomly licked but whatever.
Anyway, Momo has great eye-sight, smell and taste and apparently that’s going to be helpful so she’s recruited into a super secret group that have been around since forever and are fighting some evil organisation (there was an exposition dump here but I kind of just nodded a long and all the names). As always, you would have to wonder how effective they actually are if they haven’t won after all this time, but cool we have our protagonists who have some villains to fight and in the mean time we have some reasonably energetic fight sequences of girls versus robots. We can go with this for a little bit.
The post credits reveal from the villains isn’t exactly unexpected but it does give us something to look forward to in the coming episodes.
All and all, not great but fairly easy viewing if you are into this kind of story.