Release the Spyce
Episodes 1-2

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Release the Spyce ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Release the Spyce ?

Release the Spyce's excellent first episode was all about setting the tone of the series and introducing our heroine, Momo, to the Tsukikage's world of action-packed espionage. The second episode takes the next logical step of pumping the brakes on the story so the Tsukikage can properly acclimatize Momo to her new life as a teenage ninja spy. This also allows Momo's new mentor, Yuki, to teach our girl some ninja skills of her own. Momo can't properly join the Tsukikakge until she passes their tests after all, and one doesn't simply learn the tricks of the trade overnight. This process requires a hefty amount of history lessons and stumbling blocks for Momo to overcome, and to Release the Spyce's credit, the girls of the Tsukikage handle their jobs as info-dumpers and teachers admirably, making the necessary evil of such an exposition-heavy second episode much more enjoyable that it otherwise might have been.

The first act of the episode takes the time to introduce us to the girls' swanky underground lair, briefly drilling both Momo and the audience on the fundamentals of the Tsukikage. The group was founded by a woman who built her fortune in the spice trade many years ago, and they've used that longstanding wealth to fund their dangerous missions for any of the nations that happen to need a squad of five teenagers-with-attitude to sneak through the shadows and mess stuff up with their gadgets and weapons. The “Spyce” the girls use is another ancient relic of mysterious origin; all that's known is that it's superhuman side effects only work on young girls. This necessitates the use of a mentor/apprentice system, so that the younger girls can take over the reigns when the older members outgrow their stations, going on to either work as liaisons for the Tsukikage or have their memories erased so they can live a normal life.

This leads us directly into the main thrust of the story, which sees Momo getting down and dirty with her ninja training under the tutelage of her mentor Yuki, who Momo just so happened to be obsessing over back before she knew anything about this Tsukikage stuff. This is the most fun part of the episode, giving Yuki a lot more time to shine as a character and showing exactly how Momo will become a fully-fledged member of the squad. Yuki informs Momo that she will be attacked by Yuki's stamp without warning, she instructs Momo to learn the arts of schmoozing with locals and stifling her emotions, and on top of all that, Yuki forces Momo into a rigorous workout schedule that almost becomes too much to handle.

This isn't an anime about Momo's soul-crushing failures though, and eventually we get the funny and satisfying montage of Momo training herself up and passing Yuki's tests. She blocks Yuki's stamp-attack, holds a stone-cold face even when her beloved mentor is dishing out her most sorrowful crocodile tears, and figures out how to charm complete strangers into conversation at a moment's notice. Not only does this middle stretch work as a traditional training montage, it also helps develop Momo and Yuki's relationship; a key scene between the two has Yuki taking Momo to the shoreside view where Momo first caught a glimpse of the Tsukikage in action. There, Momo learns that she and Yuki both learned of this place from someone that they loved and lost, and I'm sure we'll learn more about Yuki's mysterious past soon enough.

Eventually, Momo is ready to take on her final test: beating the fleet-footed Mei in a game of tag that starts in the middle of one of the classes they share. This is the closest thing to an action sequence we get this week, and while it isn't as exciting as last week's climax, it does an excellent job of showcasing Momo's growth and the unique brand of cunning she'll be able to bring to the squad. Not only is she able to jump, flip, and tumble right along with her peers (with the help of some Spyce, of course), but her bizarre taste-based superpowers also come in handy when they help her unmask Fu, who is in disguise as Mei. Momo ends up winning the game by having prepared for the test beforehand and baiting Mei into a barricade that she set up the day before. Yuki looks on from above with pride, and just like that, Momo is an official member of the Tsukikage.

It's not all fun and games though. Release the Spyce also catches us up with the mysterious girls of Moryo, who are linked to the factory that the Tsukikage raided last week and seem to be involved in some sort of nefarious scheme involving a tuberose, a plant that I can only assume will be used like our girls' Spyce except, you know, for evil. Most distressing of all, it appears that one of the Tsukikage has switched sides, and now she's working as a double-agent for the enemy! I have no clue yet who it could be, but I'm sure that the Tsukikage's world is about to get much more complicated.

Rating: B+

Release the Spyce is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

If James had to pick a Spyce to eat to get superpowers, it'd probably be star anise. You can find him on Twitter and his blog.

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