Release the Spyce
Episode 11

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Release the Spyce ?

It's the beginning of the end this week on Release the Spyce. After enduring Mei's tormenting taunts, the three surviving Tsukikage spies manage to escape Mouryou's clutches, but that's only the beginning of their fight. With their mentors gone and their base nearly destroyed, Momo, Fu, and Goe are going to have to use every skill they've ever learned to take shut down Mouryou's schemes for good. It's a propulsive storyline to see the series out, and it makes the Mouryou plot as immediate and entertaining as it's ever been, though a steep drop in the quality of the artwork keeps "Operation Gekkako" from being the slam-dunk penultimate outing it could have been.

At least the story itself is fairly strong, which keeps the episode afloat. It's a tried-and-true turn, but apart from Momo, the show has felt more focused on the individual relationships of the girls than the apprentices' growth as spies, so this renewed focus on their teamwork was a welcome change of pace. They aren't truly alone, of course – the animal mascots survived the base's explosion (thought I'd honestly forgotten they existed), but more importantly, Yuki shows up more or less intact. She's too injured to take center stage on the battlefield, but she was able to feign a mortal injury thanks to one of Hatsume's gadgets and play dead. It was a predictable but satisfying reveal, and I expect that Hatsume will come back in similar fashion; I wouldn't be shocked if Katrina and Byakko swoop in next week to lend a last-minute helping hand. But for now, it's up to the three junior spies to attack Mouryou's headquarters head-on, so they can prevent Tendo from unleashing her ultimate secret weapon: a mind-controlling drug that's even more powerful than the one that drove Goe into berserker mode, which is posed to infect every soul in Sorasaki City.

If any one of last week's twists doesn't seem to be up for a reversal, it's Mei's betrayal. I suppose it's still possible she's playing triple-agent, but she cranks up her gleeful mercilessness to 11 this week, so it's seeming more like she's just a self-centered agent of chaos that's willing to sacrifice all of her former friends, along with Sorasaki City's citizens, in order to make a quick buck and live as freely as possible. Theresia isn't so sure of her allegiances, however, and she even seems on the precipice of changing her perspective when Goemon knocks her down for the count. Sadly, Tendo is not so forgiving, and she slashes Theresia's wrist for showing such weakness. It's a shockingly dark and graphic kill, especially for this show, and though I maintain my rule in doubting anyone's death on Release the Spyce, Theresia's prospects seem much more bleak than her Tsukikage counterparts.

For as good as this week's story can be, the artwork doesn't quite deliver the goods. Release the Spyce has suffered the occasional dip in aesthetic quality since it premiered, but it's never been so noticeable as in this eleventh episode. Unintentionally goofy faces and inconsistent modeling plague dramatic and action scenes alike, sapping the scenes of the excitement that a series just can't afford to lose so close to the finish line. Goe and Theresia's fight fares better than Fu and Mei's disappointing reunion, but nothing presented in “Operation Gekkako” lives up to Release the Spyce's usual standards.

Thankfully, the storyboarding is solid throughout, which helps make up for the middling animation and allows “Operation Gekkako” to just barely squeak by and keep the show's pace up for the finale. I'm interested to see what kind of fun twists Release the Spyce will employ for its last hurrah. I don't expect many of them to be surprising, but this series has proven that it's perfectly capable of relying on familiar genre elements without losing much entertainment factor, and I see no reason for that to change in the show's final chapter.

Rating: B-

Release the Spyce is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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