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Hello everyone, and welcome the heck back to Wrong Every Time. You folks ready for some Spy x Family? I’ve personally been eager to get back the Forgers’ preposterous family drama, and doubly excited given we’re squaring off with a fresh Studio WIT episode. That’s not to say that Cloverworks’ episodes have been bad in any way, but merely that WIT seem regularly determined to overachieve relative to their assignments, pulling off wildly ambitious feats of staging and anime-original sequences like that castle raid just because they can. Even for a more mundane episode like Anya’s entrance at school, dynamic layouts and choice flourishes of animation have helped to elevate Spy x Family’s already-excellent base material.

As for our narrative trajectory, we finished the last episode on one of the show’s first genuine cliffhangers, with Yuri demanding our newlyweds prove just how in love they are. Loid and Yor’s mutual discomfort with lovey-dovey stuff is more than a little improbable, but as long as it keeps facilitating hilarious moments of mutual awkwardness and strained gestures of affection, I’m happy to accept they possess the romantic chops of a pair of middle schoolers. Without further ado, let’s get back to Spy x Family!

Episode 9

The improbability of the Forgers’ lack of romantic experience points to a natural source of tension in storytelling. If a set of circumstances feels sufficiently contrived, the audience will begin to lose their suspension of disbelief – on the other hand, narrative variables should generally be designed with facilitating drama in mind, rather than chiefly adhering to some sense of realism. As such, it’s always a balancing act to provoke maximum drama without losing the audience’s faith, and different works will find different equilibrium points on that set of scales. For an extreme example, JoJo essentially creates a new set of absurd dramatic rules for every single episode, but its constancy of tonal commitment and sheer ingenuity of rule-making helps keep the audience invested anyway

“I’ve read somewhere that your first kiss tastes like lemons.” The tricky thing with Yor is that it often feels hard to assemble her component parts into a fully coherent individual. I can easily understand how Loid’s professional behavior informs his personal behavior, but Yor simply feels like she switches between two entirely different personalities. Which I suppose is sort of the gag – the disconnect between her professional confidence and personal disarray. That’s a fine enough joke, but an uncertain foundation for character building

Well, as long as it keeps facilitating ridiculous expression work like this, I suppose I can accept it

Oh c’mon, you can’t use the OP as a second pre-kiss cliffhanger! We’re still hanging from the same cliff!

“Show Off How In Love You Are.” Oh man, we’re getting a full episode of this flailing? Good times

Incredible simulated camerawork as the moment of truth draws near, and both Yuri and Yor go into crisis mode. Once again, WIT’s animators elevate a fundamentally simple gag into the stratosphere, with dynamic shifts in camera movement acting in sequence with the lurching gestures of Yuri and Yor, as if we in the audience are actively stumbling to retreat from Yor’s slap before it lands on Yuri instead

“Is this just normal for the Briars?” A deft narrative trick here, using Yor and Yuri’s already-strange relationship to get Loid off the hook. If Yuri ever gets too close to the truth, some bizarre but apparently Briar-normal act by Yor can reset the situation

And in a character sense, Yuri being such a weirdo actually makes Yor seem more reasonable. She’s no longer a singular outlier, she’s actually from a family of weirdos

Loid actually gets through to Yuri a bit with his final call for both of them to do their best for Yor, prompting a brave tsundere show from her unfortunate brother

Another nice top-down layout as Yuri makes his final threats, resulting in a visual separation between the two parties that perfectly accentuates this act of drawing a line in the sand. The storyboards and narrative drama work in such tight sync in this series; the production team are clearly willing to be bold in their adaptation of the manga’s panels, which results in sequences that all feel naturally designed for animation. Excessive loyalty to comic panels in adaptation is basically a death sentence; the mediums simply work too differently for that to be effective

And a great final flourish of character acting as Yuri makes his retreat, this time intentionally reducing the number of total drawings to further emphasize his disarray as he stumbles down the hall

With the rest of his family in bed, Loid is still up reading Anya’s favorite comics, and wondering when was the last time he felt genuinely envious of someone else. This family isn’t real yet, but he’s now spent enough time with them to begin wishing it were

More strong layouts and expressions as the morning breaks. I continue to be impressed by this production’s use of unique angles for framing shots, like this dutch angle shot in the bathroom that helps create a sense of physical space, while also leading the eye from Yor to Anya

Anya stomping around in her pajama suit is also just naturally good content

I appreciate that Loid’s professionalism leads him to suspecting Yor anew in the wake of that meeting. He wouldn’t be much of a superspy if Yuri’s occupation didn’t raise a couple of red flags

Meanwhile, Loid’s increasing distance has Yor wondering if he’s tired of perpetually covering for her. Happy to see the show spotlighting her own insecurities, rather than just assuming she’d be oblivious to this change in atmosphere

Anya offers the only advice she can: “Papa and Mama need to get along.” She follows this up with an incredible flourish of character acting, as she begins her treacherous ascent of the bus stairs

It’s an odd sensation seeing Yuri get a heart-to-heart from one of his secret police buddies. Yuri’s such an idiot that it’s easy to forget his job, but hearing “you really need to get a handle on your drinking” from a guy who clearly just came from the interrogation room is a little surreal

Apparently, capturing Twilight is actually the police’s top duty. No surprise, considering he’s the top enemy agent

At work, Yor is still preoccupied by her presumed failings as a wife. This conflict also reflects Loid’s own changing personality – he’s now warmed up enough to his wife and child that him returning to his critical spy mode is clear to both of them

Suddenly, she’s stopped by the secret police! But it’s actually Loid in disguise

There’s a sort of natural evolving tension here in that the more Loid actually spends time with Yor and Anya, the less justifiable it feels to see him manipulating them like this. Obviously he’s working in service of higher goals, but every flourish of “cold spy Loid” undercuts the legitimacy of his familial bonds. It’s an intriguing kind of ambiguity

This is a bold play by Loid, attempting to essentially force the issue of whether she knows about her brother. Whether he succeeds or fails, he’s calling attention to Yor as someone that enemy spies are for some reason interested in

Yor affirms her innocence through her commitment to fight for either her husband or brother

“Don’t tell me you feel guilty for doubting her.” And here we’re immediately paying off that evolving tension, with Loid now feeling ashamed of the spy instincts he’s so carefully crafted

“It’s a terrible idea to date a woman while deceiving her.” “Did you just say that?”

And knowing he’s done wrong, Loid attempts to set things right with Yor, telling her that she should feel free to be her natural self

And Done

Whew, what a charming episode that was! Given the episode’s opening sequence and title, I sorta figured we were in for a bunch of awkward feigned romance shenanigans, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. This was an episode all about Loid and Yor’s actual feelings for each other, the sense of responsibility they feel towards this family project, and their mutual growing sense of wanting to be a person the other can trust and rely on. Yor was finally able to navigate some diverse emotional hurdles of her own, while Loid’s brief return to spydom ultimately just underlined how much he’s changed. Spy x Family has generally focused more on comedy than emotional drama, but this episode proved we now have the necessary foundation to pull off some convincingly heartwarming family conflicts. Excellent work, Forgers.

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