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Spy Classroom
Episodes 1-3

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Spy Classroom ?
Community score: 3.4

How would you rate episode 2 of
Spy Classroom ?
Community score: 3.7

How would you rate episode 3 of
Spy Classroom ?
Community score: 3.9

spy-classroom-eps-1-3-review
©Takemachi Tomari/KADOKAWA/Spy Classroom Production Committee

Hoo boy, am I sure glad that I was able to review the first three episodes of Spy Classroom all at once. I liked the first episode of the series well enough, but if I'd been forced to stop and write up my thoughts at the end of Episode 2, I might have been convinced that we were in for a bit of a trainwreck. After the Lily and Klaus-focused shenanigans of the premiere, I figured that Episode 2 would settle in and let us get to know the other six Lamplight girls, and it even seemed like that was the plan when Klaus presented the weekly lesson's ultimatum: Defeat him in combat, and get him to cry “Mercy!” These sorts of teambuilding exercises are perfect excuses for easy banter and quick character development, which Spy Classroom really needed at that point, since I still couldn't hope to name a single one of the other girls without a wiki page open in another browser tab.

So imagine my reaction when, about halfway through an episode full of montages and buildup for this eventual showdown between Klaus and the girls, Spy Classroom just…completely skips over the rest of the plot. We get one meager speech from Klaus about the destruction of Inferno Team and the danger of their so-called “Impossible Mission”, and then we just jump ahead a full month. The girls are all trained, apparently, and the mission to steal the evil virus from the Galgad Empire is underway with absolutely no fanfare. We get even more montages showcasing the girls' underwhelming spy skills, a bunch of info-dumping, and a very random party to cap of the thoroughly perplexing episode. I had to ask myself the question I fear whenever I begin a brand new anime series: “Could it be that Spy Family has no goddamned idea what its doing?”

Then, we get Episode 3, and the big “twist” that recontextualizes and at least kind of explains some of the baffling writing and direction that we've had to deal with up to now…though I still have my concerns. In short, as Klaus and the girls so helpfully explain to the baffled Guido, the reason that the show went out of its way to avoid showing us any of the spies' unique skills and special weapons was because Klaus knew that Guido bugged the Heat Haze Palace from the beginning, on account of being an all-knowing superspy and junk. Thus, the girls had to pretend to be vapid and incompetent, so they could pull the rug out from under Guido's feet during their inevitable conflict. This ruse extends to Klaus (and the entire show) hiding a secret eighth spy girl named Erna, who is really talented at mimicking voices (and also stabbing guys).

On the one hand, I have to admit, I was surprised by this development, and I was glad to learn that the show's bizarre pacing and frustrating lack of any meaningful character development was, at least in some sense, intentional. On the other hand, though, we still had to deal with some very bizarre pacing and a frustrating lack of character development, and to what end? Guido got all of, like, ten lines during his time as the main antagonist of the story, so it isn't like we especially give a damn when he gets defeated. Outside of Lily, we still barely know a single interesting or memorable thing about any of the other Lamplight girls, except for a brief glimpse at their “real” selves during the climactic fight, so their peril never feels genuine, and their victory is essentially hollow. Hell, I have the cast list and their corresponding pictures up on my computer screen right now, and if you put a gun to my head and told me to explain the difference between Monika, Sara, Erna, Celeste, Thea, or Annette, I'd have to tell you to just go ahead and shoot me.

(One of those names is, in fact, completely made up, but I defy any one of you to tell me which one it is without looking it up yourself. How's that for some sneaky spycraft?)

Spy Classroom is, at the end of its first mini-arc here, a bit of a mess. It definitely demonstrated more aptitude with the expected twists and subterfuge of spy stories than I initially gave it credit for, but it only managed its first big twist by playing unfair with the audience and sacrificing any investment we might possibly have had in its characters or story. I hate describing anything as “all style, no substance”, but Spy Classroom is dangerously close to falling into that exact trap, and all so it could impress us with a last-minute asspull that isn't even all that impressive. If it had managed to successfully hide an entire damned cast member over the course of a season, that'd be one thing, but to try and earn all that clout after a scant few episodes was a big mistake, I think.

That said, I have a hard time hating a series that at least has the chutzpah to try and get one over on its audience, even if the end results are sloppy at best. My hope is that the show can finally settle into a groove and actually start to develop its core cast better now that the training wheels are off. If nothing else, I'll be curious to see if and how the story might attempt to top its own ridiculousness.

Rating:

Spy Classroom is currently streaming on HIDIVE.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.


Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.


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