Release the Spyce
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Release the Spyce ?
Okay, Release the Spyce, you win. I did not see that one coming at all.
One of my chief criticisms of the show's storytelling over the past ten weeks has been its overreliance on familiar tropes, especially when it comes to the thrust of the main plot concerning Tsukikage's fight against Mouryou. With “No Response from Sorasaki”, Release the Spyce finally pulls off a genuinely unexpected turn, revealing that the traitor selling out Tsukikage was Mei all along. I fell for the show's tricks hook, line, and sinker, and while it remains to be seen how well this twist will work on a structural level, there's no denying that it's an emotional sucker-punch. Release the Spyce's most moving episode was about getting us to care about Mei and Fu's relationship, and up until now the show has never betrayed Mei's intentions as anything other than lackadaisical earnestness, though I wonder what I might catch on repeat viewings knowing what we know now.
The crux of this episode is Tsukikage's big mission to capture Tendo and take down Mouryou once and for all, and the first half of the story is all about propelling the relationship drama and straightforward spy-action that Release the Spyce has specialized in all season. Yuki and Momo get some bonding time while they patrol the city's streets, both of them working to acknowledge that their time as master and apprentice will be coming to an end soon, one way or the other. In perhaps the first overt example of foreshadowing we've seen for Mei's betrayal, Fu and Mei have a wistful conversation about Mei's post-Tsukikage plans, though it's clear that Mei has unspoken reservations about what the future holds for the both of them. The initial stages of the mission also go accordingly – the girls nab Tendo with little difficulty, though Yuki has to restrain herself from getting her revenge right then and there. Still, the spies have little reason to suspect anything is amiss until the bombs start going off, destroying the café and presumably killing Katrina and Byakko, which is when it becomes clear that Tendo is the one whose schemes are coming to fruition.
This is also around when Mei makes her heel turn, knocking out Goemon and taking a moment to taunt Fu about how it should have been obvious that she was only ever out for herself. Mei isn't being brainwashed, and she doesn't even seem to harbor a grudge against the other girls – she just wants to be able to go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, and occasionally that means killing some of your friends and selling the rest of them out for a truckload of cash. I absolutely loved getting blindsided like that, and Mei makes for a delightfully vile villain, seeing how she shrugs off Katrina and Byakko's deaths and then gleefully does her best to take out Hatsume as well.
However, I must be honest: The abruptness of this villainous reveal still doesn't sit quite right with me, especially coming so late in the story. It's the kind of twist that feels too neatly manufactured to be as upsetting as possible, and though delaying it for so long maximizes that shock, it comes at the possible cost of the show's emotional buildup. Much of how I ultimately feel about this episode will depend on how Release the Spyce handles the fallout of these catastrophes in its final two weeks. I doubt that Hatsume is truly dead, though I'm less certain about Byakko and Katrina, and there's going to be hell to pay either way. If Mei truly has gone over to the dark side, then she'd better get one hell of a comeuppance soon.
As an immediate and visceral shock to the system, “No Response from Sorasaki” works well. Yuki's last stand against Tendo is just as shocking to watch for us as it is for Momo, because Yuki does seem to be cut down by the episode's end, soaking in a pool of her own blood in the same way that Nagaho died. A cardinal rule of anime is to not believe any character is dead until you see the life go out of their eyes for yourself, and even then it usually takes a dramatic monologue or two to fully seal the deal. Still, the damage done to the Tsukikage this week is irrefutable. There are only two options left at this point:
- Either the “dead” girls (and maybe even Mei) are playing a truly devious long-con on Mouryou and the survivors or
- Momo, Goe, Hatsume, and Fu are going to have their work cut out for them if they intend to save the city (and possibly wreak a little vengeance while they're at it).
Either way, I'm more invested now than I have been in weeks, and I'm eager to see where Release the Spyce takes us as it brings the war between Tsukikage and Mouryou to its surprisingly bloody conclusion.
Release the Spyce is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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