Release the Spyce
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Release the Spyce ?
Release the Spyce's seventh episode, “From Hatsume With Love”, is in many ways a companion piece to the series' fourth chapter, “Never Say Never Together.” Both use explicit callbacks to the James Bond franchise in their titles, which inspired much of the show's approach to espionage action, and both episodes hone in on the relationships between Tsukikage members in a way that all but bludgeons the audience over the head with romantic overtones; this time around, Hatsume's fraught reunion with Theresia gets complicated when Moryo releases a mind-control gas on the unsuspecting Sorasaki public, and Goemon gets caught right in the middle of the attack. Both “From Hatsume With Love” and “Never Say Never Together” also share the distinction of being two of Release the Spyce's best episodes to date, although they succeed in wildly different fashions.
The key point of divergence for “From Hatsume With Love” is how it manages to tie together the Moryo material with the Hatsume/Goe/Theresia triangle. Even in “Never Say Never Together”, the action and espionage were treated mostly as window-dressing to accentuate the ups and downs of Fu and Mei's relationship. This week, Hatsune's struggle to deal with Theresia's enmity and Goe's brainwashing is inextricably linked to the threat that Moryo represents to the city and Tsukikage, and the entire episode is better for it. Last week, I criticized the show for spinning its wheels with Hatsume and Theresia's confrontation, but Release the Spyce gets right to the point this time. Hatsume is determined to win Theresia back over to her side, but she isn't as ignorant to her old friends' intentions as she let on; after spending some time trying to butter Theresia up a with a good old-fashioned pancake date, Hatsume lays all of her cards on the table, revealing both her role in Tsukikage and the fact that she knows Theresia is working for Moryo.
It's a surprisingly riveting scene, in large part because we're seeing a side of Hatsume that takes the cheery naivety she's been putting on until now and hardens it, revealing how calculating and driven she can be when the situation calls for it. Her motives haven't changed—Hatsume still wants nothing more than to restore her friendship with Theresia—but it's clear now that she hasn't lost sight of the bigger picture. When the gas attack hits and it's clear that Theresia isn't going to budge so easily, Hatsume pricks her with a poison needle and gives her the locker key, explaining that Theresia only has ten minutes to race over to Sorasaki High before the toxin in her blood kills her. We learn at the end of the episode that this was a ruse designed to distract Theresia so Hatsume could rescue Goe, but it's a stone-cold move all the same. In a way, it elevates the material that seemed so hum-drum last week. On the other hand, making the Hatsume/Theresia material so compelling this week only frustrates me that the setup we got for it was so lame by comparison.
Thankfully, my quibbles are small potatoes compared to the real meat that “From Hatsume With Love” offers up, which is the absolutely killer action and suspense that carries Goemon's story. We're treated to a demonstration of just how Goe has earned her reputation as the strongest of the Tsukikage. While the other mind-controlled citizens are looting banks and harassing passers-by, Goemon busts into a yakuza complex and takes on the whole building by herself. The sequence is quite well-directed and animated, and I can't help but wonder if the staff had The Raid: Redemption on in the background while they were choreographing it.
When Momo, Yuki, and Hatsume eventually arrive to try and subdue Goe, the whole scene is elevated to one of the best in the entire series. Beyond being an exemplary action beat, it also packs a lot of punch emotionally. Yuri Nogichi hasn't been given much to do this season, but she absolutely nails her performance in this scene, and her work is complemented by the stellar character animation as Goe buckles under the weight of her unchecked anger and the pure remorse she feels when Hatsume snaps her out of it with a perfectly timed “I adore you”. While I don't think this Goe/Hatsume story was quite as consistent as Fu and Mei's simpler arc, “From Hatsume With Love” accomplished a lot more than I imagined, given how disappointed I was in last week's outing. The final scene in the hospital is a cute and convincing argument for what makes Goe and Hatsume such a dynamic pair, and I hope they get more to do before the series concludes.
I've given Release the Spyce some flack for how uneven it's been so far; outside of Episode 4, most every other episode since the first has felt like a patchwork of occasionally brilliant scenes stitched together by a lot of middling fluff to fill time. With “From Hatsume With Love”, I felt fully engaged with every element of the series for the first time. The character writing was consistent, the aesthetics were on-point, and I even cared about Theresia and the Moryo material. I'm sure that there will be plenty more stumbling blocks to come in the future, but I'm at least satisfied to know that “Never Say Never Together” wasn't a one-off fluke. Even if Release the Spyce hasn't been an exceptional show, it's certainly capable of greatness in its brightest moments. Now that we've gotten two wonderful episodes, along with five others that range from good-to-middling, I'm feeling more confident that this series is worth our time.
Release the Spyce is currently streaming on HIDIVE.
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