Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 34

Rating: 4 (of 5)

One of the truest axioms of security is that even the most robust security plans are still only as good as the people carrying them out. Get careless and the enemy will take advantage of the holes. Normally protagonists are the ones who benefit from this in anime series, but this time around a simple matter of instructions not getting properly passed on to a gatekeeper shift results in calamity for Main.

At least for the moment, anyway. The black stone necklace Sylvester gave Main back in episode 31 was pretty blatant foreshadowing of the very event on which this episode ends, and this is exactly the kind of circumstance that it was intended for. The Next Episode title also supports that we will see what, exactly, it does next episode and exactly how Sylvester can come to the rescue.

But while the cliffhanger on which the episode ends is certainly the episode’s feature scene, it is hardly the only thing going on in the episode. I continue to love how rich the world-building is here, as the content incorporates ideas brought up in numerous previous episodes and shows how they get applied. The signal that Ferdinand used back in episode 25 is shown here to be a standard procedure for summoning knights, including for nobles causing trouble at the city gates. (That raises the question, though, of how the gate guards make that summons if they, as commoners, cannot use magic themselves. They have a magic item for it, presumably?) That the High Priest would know what Dirk’s symptoms indicate is no surprise since the Head Priest also recognized them; presumably such a thing is common knowledge among nobles, since their own children doubtless experience the same. The tau fruit coming up again was also a nice touch, though I had to wonder if Main considered how much of a disaster it would be if the fruit overcharged and turned into a trombe in her quarters. Contrarily, the scene with Heidi seemed an unnecessary reinforcement of the previous commentary on how secretive painters are.

Other little details get thrown around, too, since as the stabilized colors being made reality by the fixing agent suggestion, Heidi earning what essentially amounts to a research grant, and the toy bell Main had made for her baby brother. Delia’s situation merits more attention; sadly, she has no idea how much of a naive tool she is or how disposable she is if the High Priest ever decides he has no more use for her. And now that her role as a spy is done, I have to wonder how far off that time is; I can easily see her becoming a tragic character.

But for now, Main and Tuuli’s safety are the more immediate concerns. That was a gutsy move, grabbing both of them so near to two armed and fit-looking individuals. I am curious to see what their escape plan is.

Spy x Family episodes 7-8

Rating (collectively): 4.5 (of 5)

If the last two episodes of Spy x Family show anything, it’s that the series functions just as well when things are transpiring that stress Twilight out as it does when he is being the cool, collected, and fully in-control master spy. Episodes 7 and 8 each tackle this in different ways.

In episode 7, Twilight takes on a variety of undercover roles at the school in a dizzying effort to emphasize to Anya the importance of her apologizing to Desmond and thus getting back in his good graces (after episode 6’s epic punch). While there has always been an absurdist factor to this series, this episode basks in it nearly as much as the spy-themed rescue sequence in episode 5, albeit in an entirely different manner; Twilight comes up with every way imaginable to remind Anya, while Becky, in her possessive friendship with Anya, unwittingly keeps thwarting him so successfully that he, for a moment, wonders if she’s doing it on purpose as some form of counter-espionage (which, given the age of the characters involved, is also absurd – or would be, if Anya wasn’t aware that she is part of an espionage mission). The utterly delicious irony of the whole scenario is that both Twilight’s efforts to remind Anya and Anya’s attempt to apologize may be wholly unnecessary, as the punch Anya threw metaphorically hit Desmond in the heart as hard as it physically hit him in the face. When I said back in the episode 6 review about how that punch might ironically work out in Anya’s favor, this was not at all the angle that I was expecting.

Though the situation is played for humor, this really isn’t a far-fetched idea. Some men are legitimately attracted to women who can challenge them, in part because having a partner who just passively goes along with everything gets boring to them after a while. (I tend to be that way myself.) This is especially true for particularly arrogant men, which is the direction Desmond is decidedly headed in. He’s too young to understand all of this himself, hence his outburst at the end of the episode, but he’s going to come around.

Episode 8 presents a challenge from an entirely different angle: the brother-in-law. Yor has pointedly shown before that most of what she does is for her younger brother Yuri, which Yuri is so thoroughly appreciative of that he’s become a veritable siscon – and, ironically, that means he’s going to every bit of the extremes that Yor is to make sure that the country is a good place for his sibling. In other words, he’s secretly Secret Police while she is secretly an assassin. The new irony here is that, as adept as he is at dealing with suspects, he has such strong blinders on concerning Yor that he accepts things which should be fishy about her explanations and her avoidances of certain topics at face value; the scenes showing a young Yor coming back home blood-splattered but Yuri forgetting all about that when presented with a treasured book were sputter-worthy delights.

The further delicious ironies here involve the way Yuri subtly goes on the attack against Loid for completely the wrong reasons. He’s using his Secret Police mentality to go after Loid in a “you’re not good enough for my sister” manner when Loid is, in fact, the very spy he’s been hunting. This results in Twilight wondering if his cover’s blown, when in fact Yuri only cares about showing that Loid really isn’t the perfect guy for Yor.

Episode 8 also proves that the series can survive for most of an episode without Anya. Even so, she gets in at least one or two good moments with her expressions over missing the fraction problem (this is rather early to be teaching kids about those, incidentally) and figuring out fractions using her spy cartoon.

While the series may not be functioning at the glorious heights of episode 2, it’s still rolling along just fine.

Special Review: The Devil is a Part-Timer novel series

Note: This review assumes the reader is at least familiar with the content covered by the 2013 anime series (i.e., the first two novels). It talks about the story and character development after that in a general sense and largely avoids major spoilers.

The stunning revelation last December that action/comedy/drama series The Devil is a Part-Timer is getting a new anime season after nine years off is bringing the franchise a well-deserved second wave of attention. After all, it was one of the funniest series of its year, and its reverse-isekai construction put a big twist on a genre which was just starting to gain major traction at that point. It was clever in the way it poked fun at fantasy tropes while also establishing interesting characters, lively interactions, and hints of a bigger story at work. That story plays out over the course of the next 19 volumes, leading to a conclusion in volume 21 that has received mixed reactions. Now that the final volume is available in English, I can see what all of the fuss was about, though I am ambivalent on how I feel about it myself.

Without getting too much into specifics, the angel Sariel is far from the only angel from Enta Isla that Maou, Emilia, and crew run across in Japan, and other demons eventually pop up as well. Other powers also come into play, and their presences help explain one of the biggest conundrums left hanging at the end of the first anime series: who, exactly, the apartment manage Mikitty is and how she seems to knows about Enta Isla. (It always bothered me that none of Maou, Emilia, or Alciel ever questioned that more in the wake of the Lucifer/Olba incident.)The presence of the baby shown in the novel cover above is also explained very early on; in fact, she might debut in the first episode of upcoming season 2, since she will be a driver for the plot in the first half of the content likely to be animated. That is also the point where the story’s bigger plot starts to take shape, which eventually leads to the revelation of what exact machinations the angels are actually up to.

However, don’t expect the truth of that to come up in any new animation, as the full story about that gets spread out all the way into the later stages of the final volume. In fact, the series as a whole takes frustratingly long to play out major plot developments, instead spending a lot more time on the minutiae of how Maou, Emi, and crew are managing their day-to-day lives and all of the new challenges they face at their workplaces. Granted, some of this can be quite entertaining, but the middle volumes in particular can be a slog. Even a plotline involving Maou and Emi both temporarily returning to Enta Isla – which should be a highlight – stretches out longer than it needs to. A few short stories also get thrown in along the way, but I have less objection to those, since some of them (especially a flashback about Emilia’s first days in Japan) are quite insightful.

The main complaint about the final resolution of the series has been the way the romantic developments shake out. One additional character does become at least a minor romantic player concerning Maou, but she also clearly has no real chance with Maou, a point which even she acknowledges herself. Despite arising in the later stages of the story, she is not a factor at the end. There is one other jaw-dropping development on the romantic front, but it also doesn’t concern the core of the story, so the romantic entanglements – as has been implied since early on – come down to only Maou, Chiho, and Emilia. The story tries its best to leave the final resolution vague until the last few pages of the last volume (despite the last volume being regularly interspersed with “the status quo three years later” bits), but quite a few fans have been unhappy that the resolution doesn’t go the direction that they thought the story seemed to be pointing for a long time.

I don’t have a major problem with how that all plays out. I always felt the story was pointing firmly in the direction it ultimately went despite some attempts to obfuscate that, and frankly, I would have been unsatisfied if it had fully gone the other way. I have a bit more of a problem with how certain compromises were handled in the end, but the relationships in the series were always too messy and multi-layered for any kind of clean, simple resolution to happen.

Will this be it for the franchise, or will it take the Spice and Wolf route and continue to pump out follow-up short stories and spin-offs? While there have been a couple of manga spin-offs – one which transplants the cast into a high school setting and another that’s a food-focused collection of short stories – nothing equivalent to what Spice and Wolf is doing has come out in the nearly two years since the publication of the last novel in Japan, nor do I expect any such development. More could maybe be done with the way things stand at the end, and there are still at least one or two significant loose ends. However, everything which drove the plot and character developments throughout the story is settled, and circumstances at the end necessitate that any further developments would be far more mundane. The story feels finished at that point.

Despite the way the overall story stretches things out, the overall story is still an entertaining-enough read, and the 2-3 volumes likely to be animated for the upcoming anime sequel in July is one of the series’ strongest runs past the first two. I heartily recommend continuing with it if you have seen the first series.

Overall Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 33

NOTE: Due to me being away at Anime Central this past weekend, I am behind on everything else that has aired since Thursday. Hence I am skipping covering episode 7 of Spy x Family separately and will instead include it with episode 8’s review next week.

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Due to a combination of her difficult personality, opportunistic nature, and continued spying on Main for the High Priest, Delia has always been one of the least easily likable of the series’ recurring characters. However, the production team has always been careful to show that she does not act out of malice; she is guided much more by survival instinct, or perhaps more accurately, her interpretation of it given the circumstances of her world’s realities. As a result, watching so firmly latch onto Dirk over the course of this episode is less a case of character redemption and more a case of her merits finally showing. As last episode and this episode have demonstrated, she’s clearly a natural at handling the infant (especially compared to Main!), and she’s seriously starting to care about him as well. This is the kind of experienced that can transform a person in the long run. But how long will that experience last when Dirk needs to be adopted?

That sets up the main not-really-surprising plot twist of the episode: Dirk also has The Devouring, and while maybe not as strongly as Main, he still has it pretty strongly. (That certainly raises the question of whether that might be connected to him being abandoned.) His situation is more precarious, both since he does not have the advantages that Main does and because he’s a boy, so the concubine option is off the table. He still needs to be adopted by a noble to survive, and it looks like his two options are essentially to become either a kind of mana battery or perhaps eventually one of those Devouring Soldiers. Main eventually contracting with him when she becomes a noble is also an option, though more of a long-term than immediate solution. Seeing how that all plays out, and how much secrecy has to be maintained about Dirk’s condition, provides another nice bit of world-building for the setting.

So do the ongoing efforts with the colored ink. The business about how paint-mixing formulas are closely-guarded secrets is a quite interesting one, and one that I have not seen previously brought up in anime or in my own historical studies, but I have no doubt about its veracity. Certainly the results of experimenting with different combinations shown here and in last episode show how complicated a process this actually is. I especially liked how her mother contributed with the suggestion about fixing agents, as it reinforces one of the show’s underlying themes: that solutions to seemingly-complicated problems can sometimes be simple, practical ones.

Lastly, the epilogue once again cannot be ignored. The first two seasons used those primarily for comedy relief, but this season has used them more to inserting extra background/world-building tidbits. This time comes the explanation for why Main’s mana is so high and how mana can be “compacted” to make it more controllable if one has a lot. Really, I wonder if the production team isn’t just using these bits to work in relevant details that are in the novels but do not fit well into the flow of the animation.

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 32

Rating: 4 (of 5)

The potential threat to Main from forces among the nobles has been growing since the late stages of last season. With this episode, the scheming kicks into higher gear by finally introducing some of the nobles behind it, as well as finally revealing the name of the High Priest: Bezewanst. (And he has an elder sister, too, though why that might be important enough to reveal here is unclear at this point.) That whole opening scenes raises some mechanical questions – such as how a noble from another domain can effectively buy Main, and whether or not the High Priest’s displeasure with Main outweighs her critical role as a mana resource – but those are questions to be resolved another day. That whole sequence feels like just a set-up for more major plot developments to come in the season’s second half.

The main focus of the episode is instead on babies. Main is understandably glowing about her new little brother Kamil, while Benno is also getting an earful from Otto and Corinna about their new little one; I get some of this at work (several of those I work with have had new additions to their families within the last 3-4 years), so as someone who’s not enthralled with infants and toddlers, I can sympathize. But another young one has also come onto the scene: a baby boy abandoned at the cathedral by his mother. As the official in charge of the orphanage, his care falls under Main’s purview, which leaves everyone scrambling to take care of the tyke; even Delia seems to be making a connection here, while Main (perhaps not ironically given her singular focus) seems unsuited.

Frankly, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Given the ages shown so far for the orphans, the orphanage probably gets at least a handful of newcomers every year, yet this is the first time we’ve seen an addition. (And sadly, this is hardly a rare occurrence even today; one town near me has become noteworthy for having three newborns anonymously turned in at fire station-based safe havens within the past month.) Nothing shakes up the status quo like a new baby, especially when said baby seems to be having a negative reaction to something, most likely in his diet. That provides a more immediate challenge for next episode.

The third branch of the episode involves Main’s newest technological quest: the development of colored ink. As the latter part of this episode shows, this is a more involved process than it might seem, especially when the chemistry behind how combining different ingredients produces certain colors is not understood. At least Main has an enthusiastic ally here in the science-minded Heidi, who works with her husband to make Main’s ink. The way she can practically bowl over Main with her enthusiasm makes her a neat character, one whom I hope we will see more of as Main sorts out the colored ink-making process.

Mix in additional scenes which show that Delia is still trying to play her cards with the High Priest (though how effectively is another story) and we have another busy episode which mostly relies on appreciating all of the small details for its entertainment value. But anyone who doesn’t find that enough reason to keep watching probably dropped this series long ago, didn’t they?

Thoughts on Other Series:

I’m Quitting Heroing – Never expected much from this one, and for the first four weeks or so it was only a half-hearted view which I maintained mostly because little else debuts on Tuesdays. However, it has gradually started to assemble into a more involved examination of business dynamics and how interpersonal skills relate to them than expected. It has also thrown out some unexpected twists about the true nature of the “hero” and his personal strength. That, combined with some surprisingly appealing characters from the Demon Army ranks, has made this an interesting enough series that I now feel I could recommend it to others.

Spy x Family episode 6

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Anya is now formally into Eden College, so the first phase of Operation Strix is now complete. However, the second phase looks to be every bit as problematic – and for this part, the weight is falling much more heavily on Anya. However, this part is not entirely about her, as all three come to realize just how treacherous a venue Eden College is to navigate.

For Loid and Yor, this means coming to realize not only that Eden College students can be targets, but also that getting in on merit rather than money can leave a student low in the social pecking order. Hence Anya has her work cut out for her to get in the good graces of Desmond, the second son of Twilight’s target, and thus get her “parents” invited to the social events the target attends. The problem here is that Anya is integrating what she’s learning from different sources about what she needs to do about as thoughtfully as one could expected even a precocious six-year-old (who might only be five!) to do. And between her mind-reading and inspirational sources, she’s not about to take any of Desmond’s bullying crap. Still, of the series’ three protagonists, she is the one who would be least expected to send someone flying with a punch – and a punch that was anything but girly at that.

As mortified at the Forgers are about the state of things at the end of the episode, this whole scenario also shows that everyone – from oldest to youngest – should only underestimate Anya at their peril. Even if all of her effects weren’t intentional, she is well on her way to eventually becoming a master manipulator. She was keenly able to play punching Desmond off in a way which got her in the least amount of trouble and gained her further respect from the old gentleman, and she has clearly won over at least one admirer/probable friend from a well-connected family. That delightful smirk of hers may not have been what she was aiming for, but it still utterly threw off Desmond even before that epic punch. Now he really won’t know what to do with her, and I don’t doubt that Anya so capably defending herself made an impression on others. Though it gets her in trouble short-term, it may ironically prove to have been her best move in the long run. And for all of this, we can still delight in her young-kid cuteness over the way she shows off her uniform to people in the park.

Almost lost in all of this is how much Yor is falling into the role of Anya’s mother almost despite herself. Foiling the kidnapping attempt isn’t the first time that she has reacted more like a true mama bear than someone just faking the role. The whole sequence with Anya comforting her after lamenting about the wasted groceries both gives the episode its requisite touching moments and reaffirms that one does not have to be a traditional mother figure in order to actually be a good mother; caring matters more. Besides, in Anya’s (admittedly a bit skewed) perspective, a fighting mama is a perfect one.

Overall, this episode shows that the series will not slouch at all as Anya becomes more the center of action – not that such a consideration was ever in any doubt.

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 31

Rating: 4 (of 5)

One of the many things that I adore about this series is the very studious way that it examines the potential wide-ranging consequences of its titular character’s actions; that’s something that far too few isekai tales do. Yet that is a major point in this episode, and hardly the only important thing going on in yet another packed episode.

The examination comes about as a result of Ferdinand and Sylvester finally taking a look at what, exactly, Main has been doing with her studio. (Presumably this is part of security precautions.) Even given what Main has already showed him for finished products and what he know about her isekai nature, he is still utterly underestimating what she is capable of and how much he’s going to have to rein her in. Claiming that Main could disrupt the fabric of society in her new world if left to her own device is not an overstatement, and she’s even more dangerous because she has no idea (or at least has not set down and thought out) the full ramifications of what she’s doing.

Thankfully, the much more worldly Ferdinand is thinking about it. Putting the whole book-copying network out of business with her printing press development is not a trivial matter, as people tend to get nasty when their livelihood is interfered with. Such is always the case throughout history when new technologies change workload burdens, and Main in her book-making glee is utterly unprepared to deal with that fallout. Main also isn’t wrong in her answer to Ferdinand’s questions about the impact of the printing press in her world, though she may even understate the impact. Printing did allow the more ready dissemination of both news and scientific (and especially mathematical) knowledge, but it also fueled radicals. For instance, witch hunts were not entirely dependent on printed materials for their propagation, but the explosion of them in Europe in the late 1400s heavily depended on printed books. They can also be credited with enabling the Protestant Reformation and spreading the philosophical though which eventually developed into the American and French Revolutions. So yes, in the long term Main absolutely is not exaggerating in what she tells Ferdinand.

Her point back about how “that’s not necessarily how it will happen in this world” is a fine bit of world-building, though. That the health of social structure and even land is dependent on the mana supplied by nobles introduces bedrock elements which could interfere with anything too radical happening; some system to replace the mana provided by priests would have to be developed before anything too major could happen. (This raises the interesting question of whether the current system developed out of necessity – and thus is the reason why nobles are nobles – or whether nobles constructed the system to make commoners dependent on them, but I don’t expect the series to get into that anytime soon.) Even so, stability depends on people carefully considering the consequences of any major development.

The episode also throws out a ton of other little details. “Devouring soldiers” is tossed out as a thing but, frustratingly, not followed up on; it seems out of character for Main to not pursue that one further. Of course, Ferdinand is stonewalling her on how he knows/is related to Sylvester, who is clearly someone pretty important among nobles, but at least Sylvester seems to be on Main’s side. The exact nature of the offer Sylvester gave Benno which has left him so flustered also makes for a good added mystery. And by the end of the episode Main’s a big sister, too! The details at the end, where chibi-Main is talking to her father in the after-credits scene, also are interesting; her parents in this world had three other failures with children both before and after Main and Tuuli, so their overall success rate so far is only 50%. Sadly, that’s about the norm for the medieval era, where half of children typically didn’t survive past age 5.

The episode covers all of this and still throws out an additional plot hook as well: a noble is coming to the church who is going to have a big interest in Main. Will be interesting to see how quickly that plays out, since the next episode’s title suggests a different focus. Still, it’s all good for how the series is currently progressing, with even little details like Wilma being nervous around Sylvester being attended to and suggestions that the High Priest’s servant Jenni might be a potential source of eventual conflict as well. Keep it coming, Bookworm!

Spy x Family episode 5

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Despite the episode’s ominous title – “Will They Pass or Fail” – Anya getting into Eden College was never in doubt; Master Henderson’s evaluation gave them an edge if even if plot necessity didn’t mandate it. The slight drama over this does allow for an amusing opening sequence about our featured family experiencing omens of bad luck on the way to learning the results, and for Yor’s finely-depicted scene where she contemplates murdering someone to force a withdrawal to get Anya off the waiting list (liked the color contrast there!), but all of it ends up just being an excuse to give Anya a really elaborate reward for her hard work in contributing to this key event happening. So of course that means acting out a scenario from Anya’s favorite spy cartoon.

In other words, this is easily the most absurdist episode to date, and boy, does it get played to the hilt! Twilight’s curly-haired contact seems to take a perverse glee in setting up and acting out the scenario; guess a spy’s gotta have fun when he can, right? And what better way to act out a scenario based on a cartoon than to have the whole thing operate on cartoon logic? Forget practicalities, like how the mask Loid gets cornered into wearing wouldn’t hide anyone’s identity, how this is an abusive waste of time and resources, or how all the other agents buy into the belief that this farce needs to be played out because either A) the elite spy Twilight would never do something so unprofessional, B) it’s an opportunity to go head-to-head with the nation’s legendary spy, or C) both of the above. Anything which keeps things entertaining – and especially makes Anya happy – is justifiable here.

And that includes manipulating circumstances so that Loid and Yor get their first head-to-head fight scene. The whole second half of the episode is an action extravaganza, with a number of low-danger-level, slickly-animated action sequences; a personal favorite was the one where Loid dives onto the balcony and rolls. Out of all that, though, the highlight is unquestionably the completely soused Yor losing track of the fact that she’s supposed to be just play-acting and going after Loid for real. That’s a sequence that I expect to se GIFs of and people still talking about come to the end of the year, as it’s not at all clear that Loid could have beat her if she hadn’t passed out in the middle of it.

In the end, the series once again nails its overall formula: mix in quality action with lots of fun, more good Anya reactions, and the occasional tender moment between Loid and Anya. Maybe not the best episode to date, but it still works and primes Anya to do her best at school, which will apparently be the focus of next episode.

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 30

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Because of the series’ nature, true action scenes have been sparse at best; outside of the trombe incident in episode 25, there haven’t been any major ones. Likewise, while magic has been a significant element since it was first introduced, only Main’s restoration of the land in episode 26 qualifies as a truly flashy display; otherwise, magic use has been of a more practical bent. Episode 30 thus offers a rare exception to the norm, while also continuing a trend towards peripherally putting her in more danger.

Ironically – but also perhaps as expected – the same force which was once killing her, and which allowed her to increase her status and value, is now endangering her in a wholly different way. In a society stratified on mana, Main’s level of mana is vastly out of proportion with her rank, which means high-level nobles are apparently willing to make a move on her even under the nose of Ferdinand and Karstadt. When a direct attempt fails because Main’s in a room of lower status than expected on her Spring Prayer circuit (or was she placed there deliberately under the concern of just such an attempt happening?), a noble goes more directly for her servants in a presumed move to coerce her into compliance. However, the perpetrators, despite having some idea of what she can do, underestimate both how dedicated her defenders are and how potent her own abilities are when applied to a combat situation. After this, no one will think Ferdinand was exaggerating in his comments about treating Main as a threat to be eliminated if she cannot get her mana under control.

Added to this scenario is new blue-robed priest Sylvester, a man who confounds even Ferdinand. His background isn’t even hinted at, but he must be of a status at least nearly as high as Ferdinand’s since the latter cannot effectively order him around. Though a show-off and general annoyance, he nonetheless shows that he is quite capable in a pinch, and despite the hard time he gives Main, he does seem on board with protecting her. Amusingly, Main also seems to be making inroads in how to manipulate such as chaotic spirit.

While the arrival of Sylvester and the action elements may be the episode’s highlights, the world-building going on here is at least as important. The series has intimated multiple times before that the role of the Church in this setting is far from just being ceremonial, and the details shown about how the Spring Prayer is administered firm up just how critical the role of the church is: presumably, the mana distributed to the various villages and towns during this process is used to invigorate the surrounding land. That only further emphasizes how the High Priest wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest about how much of a godsend Main was when she declared that she had The Devouring; they were in a dire situation on providing the necessary mana to keep the whole system working. Why Ferdinand was willing to deal with Main – and why the High Priest was forced to back off – now makes even more sense, too. (This also raises the question of what the Church will do when Main is sent off to Noble Academy, but that’s a problem for the future.)

Overall, this is a very solid episode which pushed forward strongly on many fronts.

Spy x Family 4

Rating: 5(of 5)

To give you a feel for how the anime community is reacting to the series, it is the most-watch and highest-rated series of the season on MAL (even over the return of Kaguya-sama) and in just a bit over three weeks has nearly as many ratings on Crunchyroll as last season’s big hit, My Dress-Up Darling, had for the entire season – and a with a virtually perfect average rating, too. Episode 4 shows that such a high opinion and popularity is not misplaced. Whether on humor, action, or dramatic fronts, it nails all of its components so completely that it almost seems to exist in some magical zone where it can do no wrong.

The humor side shows first, with the Forgers having to go through a veritable gauntlet of challenges just to get into the interview at the prestigious school. Some of those challenges are planned, but others are not. Here the episode shows its fun side, whether it’s Loid impressing an elderly teacher with his elegance in the face of all challenges or Yor taking a charging cow down with pressure-point attacks that she has to immediately feebly explain come from yoga. (The reaction of the other animals to her in the background of the following shot is easily one of the episode’s two funniest moments, the other being Anya’s thought on saluting the statue of the school’s founder in an earlier scene.) The reactions of the elegance-obsessed teacher, as over-the-top as they are, are also pretty funny.

The meat of the episode comes when the Forgers finally get in for the interview and all three have to dodge assorted pitfalls in order to look good there as well. This part is also fun, even if it is more serious. One interesting point is how they actually aren’t lying that much about their family status, with the amusing point here being how the three gentlemen conducting the interview cannot possibly imagine the full truth behind the words of all three of the Forgers or the depth of meaning behind the absolute sincerity of Anya’s words about her “parents.” But then the hard pivot comes when Anya is forced into a distressing emotional reaction, and that is when the episode really shines. Despite their real reasons for being here, and despite their own personal motivations, both Loid and Yor jump to Anya’s defense as if they were real parents, even to the point of walking out (and thus effectively abandoning Loid’s mission) to avoid putting her in any more distress. They of course cannot know that that was ultimately the correct move under the circumstances, as it was the final element in winning over the elegance-obsessed gentleman, but it also serves as the episode’s great irony: for all of the other meticulous preparations Loid made, he did not prepare for that.

The episode also wins points for the emotional resonance of the scene at the end. Both Loid and Yor still keep trying to convince themselves that their ulterior motives are all that matter here when clearly that’s not the case. Both care for Anya more than they would like to admit, and I love how that scene shows that they are all at their best when they are together. It is a wonderfully heartwarming finish to an episode more exhilarating than I expected it to be.