Spy x Family Episode One, Operation Strix Review: Wholesome Spy Shenanigans.

After much anticipation, the Cloverworks and Studio Wit adaptation of Tatsuya Endo’s manga Spy x Family has finally released its first episode, “Operation Strix.”
Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi, this first installment is an excellent start for the anime, no doubt bringing in many new fans for this wholesome story.
“Operation Strix” begins with the introduction of the spy known as Twilight (Takuya Eguchi), who comes from the country of Westalis.
Inside its rival contry Ostania, Twilight works to protect his own country through various espionage exploits, like stealing incriminating photos that reveal the foreign minister wears a toupee… no, I’m not kidding.
Twilight achieves this with ease by impersonating the man buying the photos, Edgar, with a life-like face mask.
It is revealed that Twilight managed to get close to Edgar by dating his daughter, Karen, a relationship which is now useless to him, causing him to break up with Karen in a comedic scene where he uses the excuse of not sensing, “any intelligence in your conversations.”
As he throws the life of his cover Robert away, Twilight narrates that he threw away any ideas of marriage or conventional happiness when he became a spy, only for the next scene to naturally force him to construct both.
Reading a coded message on a train, Twilight is given his next mission: to get close to political extremist named Donovan Desmond and uncover any seditious acitivies he may be committing.
In order to get close to him, Twilight will need to enroll a child at an elite private school where Desmond’s son goes, meaning he has to have a child and get married in seven days.
This ridiculous prospect causes him to understandably spit out his coffee and wonder aloud how he is supposed to do this, humorously disrupting the passengers around him.
Well, disturbingly enough, it seems that all it takes to adopt an orphaned child in this country is to just walk in the front door of an orphanage and the drunk caretaker will give you one.
At least it ends positively in this case, with Twilight adopting the adorable future meme generator of the anime community, Anya (Atsumi Tanezaki), who is everything Twilight is looking for.
She is six years old, even though she looks younger, stand on her tip-toes when people question this, and also completes a complicated crossword puzzle as good as if not better than any adult.
The only problem is, unknown to Twilight, Anya is actually a telepath, who escaped from the organization that created her, and has been reading his mind to see what kind of daughter he wants, desperate for a family and naturally excited to meet a spy.
After adopting her, Twilight moves them into their new apartment under the name Loid Forger, where his inexperience with children and Anya’s telepathy cause a lot of problems during a shopping trip, much to Twilight’s distress and our amusement.
There’s Twilight accidentally scaring Anya by thinking of an enemy attack, then Anya misinterpreting his thoughts to believe that him understanding her will create world peace, motivating her to declare that she likes peanuts and hates carrots, before mistaking a bakary for a “bakenry.”
All of this humor causes Twilight to question if Anya is stupid, wondering if he should replace her, naturally causing Anya to burst into tears, only to cheer up instantly when Twilight offers her peanuts.
See, Twilight’s learning.
Things don’t necessarily go better the next day, however, as Anya is reluctant to study for the test, leading to Twilight going to get the exam questions for the private school from his friend Franky, leaving Anya to her own destructive devices.
I say destructive because she uses her telepathy to uncover Twilight’s spy gadgets, leading her to accidentally contact Edgar and taunt him, allowing him to figure out the location of Twilight’s apartment and kidnap her.
Twilight arrives, unaware of her kidnapping and the incoming ambush Edgar has set, only for him to notice the barricade he set to lock Anya in the apartment has been moved.
We then get out first action scene of the series, as Twilight takes on his attackers, and it is fantastic.
The animation is fluid and makes me excited for the action scenes we will get in the future, even if I am looking forward to the wholesome and comedic moments more.
In any case, the fight ends with Twilight discovering Anya’s kidnapping and questioning whether he should leave her behind, only to seemingly be knocked out by one of Edgar’s goons.
Meanwhile, Anya is under the captivity of Edgar and witnesses him execute one of his men for daring to suggest that they should stop focusing on getting the foreign minister’s toupee.
This joke leads me to one of my few criticisms of the episode, which is that it goes by a bit quick.
In the manga, it felt like there was more breathing room for the jokes to register, like the toupee joke but it goes by pretty fast here.
After the final toupee gag, Edgar’s man who attacked Twilight arrives with him unconcious, only for this man to be a disguised Twilight who rescues Anya, causing the girl to cry in joy, making Twilight realize that he hates the sound of children crying because it reminds him of his own traumatic childhood, something that hits hard with a recent manga chapter.
Setting down Anya outside, he lies that he is a pro-tag player and challenges her to take a note to a policeman, which Anya learns telepathically will take her to a better orphanage.
The following scene where Anya turns to see Twilight rip off his face mask as he goes to face Edgar, thinking of how his goal is to make a world where children won’t cry, is a fantastic adaption of the manga, with the animation, music and cinematography driving the emotion home.
Back inside the building, Twilight takes down Edgar’s goons with ease, while keeping his face hidden, before putting a gun to Edgar’s head, saying he will kill him if he turns around.
This is where my second criticism of the episode comes in because this moment was much more intimidating in the manga, with Twilight’s face darkened to make him look dangerous, while in the episode his face is in clear view.
It made the part where he convinces Edgar to leave him alone by threatening Karen a lot darker, so it was a shame to see the impact lessened.
After this moment, it’s right back to wholesome as Anya reunites with Twilight, declaring that she wants to go home with him, which Twilight accepts while still lying about what he was doing.
Anya, however, does not care about the lies.
“Paga is a huge liar… But he’s such a cool liar,” she thinks to herself on the tram ride home.
Later on, Anya starts her exam for the private school, only to be horrified when she tries to cheat off the other participants and learns they don’t know the answers either.
She still manages to wing it, thankfully, much to Twilight’s excitement, but he collapses from exhaustion after finally relaxing, causing Anya to humorously declare that he has “died” when she gets home with him.
We then get the exciting cliffhanger of the episode where, after Anya adorably snuggles up to her adopted father on the couch, he reads a letter from Eden Collage, which says Twilight and Anya will need to take part in a family interview, meaning he now needs to find a fake wife.
Enter Yor, who we will be meeting next episode and, thankfully for Anya, is also a bundle of awesome and wholesomeness, so we have that to look forward to.
We have a whole lot to look forward to actually, as Spy x Family is probably the funniest and most wholesome manga out there right now and, if Cloverworks and Wit do as good of a job adapting it as they did this first episode, we will all be in for something truly special.

Wonder Egg Priority Review: Brilliant Beginning, Baffling End that Highlights Everything Wrong with the Anime Industry.

3 and a half stars
Oh, Cloverworks, you’re not having the best of years, are you?

First, we get The Promised Neverland Season Two, which is one of the worst manga adaptations I have ever seen, and now we have this whole Wonder Egg Priority fiasco.
It was truly a shame to see this anime go from something truly brilliant, to a downright bizarre show that is unnecessarily confusing.
Created by Shinji Nojima and directed by Shin Wakabayashi, Wonder Egg Priority follows Ai Ohto (Kanata Aikawa), a teenage girl reeling from the mysterious suicide of her best friend Koito.
As she sinks deeper into isolation, she is abruptly pulled into a series of trials in a dream world, where she must save the spirits of girls who have also ended their lives from evil manifestations of the ones who hurt them.
Learning this may provide a way to bring back Koito, Ai resolves to save as many of these girls as she can, alongside three other girls, Neiru Aonuma (Tomori Kusunoki), Rika Kawai (Shuka Saito), and Momoe Sawaki (Hinaki Yano), who are all also trying to bring back their deceased friends. 

Each of the girls are great, my personal favourite being Rika because of how emotional her standout episode was.

From here, the story takes on an episodic format, with each episode focusing on one or two of these girls trying to save the spirits that hatch from the Wonder Eggs, leading to some incredibly emotional moments.
Episode Seven, “After School at 14”, focused on Rika and her suffering from self harm, which was very well handled and left me a wreck by the end.
Then there’s Episode Ten, “Confession”, where the first half of the episode has the best interaction between one of the girls and a Wonder Egg spirit, with Momoe and the boy she is trying to save.

Momoe’s bond with Kaoru was very sweet, short as it was.

These fantastic moments and episodes are supported by amazingly good animation, a subtle yet quirky soundtrack, and solid voice acting.
With all of these contributing factors, it looked like Wonder Egg Priority was going to be a perfect anime for me by the half-way point.
However, there were signs in the initial episodes of the fall that was to come.
For example, in the very first episode, “The Domain of Children”, the magic system of the Wonder Egg world is settup, only for one aspect of it to be completely contradicted and never brought up again later.
Problems like this became more and more persistent as the show went on, as the story went from a simple one about a group of girls entering a dream world to save spirits, to full on ridiculous with plotlines revolving around things like artificial intelligence and parallel universes.
Episode Twelve in particular, “An Unvanquished Warrior”, was so confusing that even now I struggle to understand just what the heck was going on.
The show just became more needlessly complicated as it went along, culminating in the final, special episode which was just released, “My Priority”, and it was quite bad.
So many of the episode’s twists come out of nowhere, the characters are incredibly inconsistent, the anime’s handling around topics such as suicide takes a turn for the worse, the ending isn’t satisfying at all, and the animation is awful at times.

Oh, dear lord, no, this running animation!

Not to mention that the first half of this promised hour long special is a freaking recap, when we already got a recap earlier with Episode Eight. 
It is incredibly obvious that there were production issues for this anime.
However, Wonder Egg Priority’s production problems apparently go even beyond the show’s quality.
The anime is already pretty notorious for the suffering of its animators, with the producer reportedly needing to go the hospital because of overwork… twice!   
Unfortunately, unhealthy working conditions and bad pay seem to be the standard in the anime industry but the amount of stress and health problems the production of Wonder Egg Priority apparently caused really points to how badly animators are being treated right now.
They really do deserve better.
As for Wonder Egg Priority, it was sad to see this go from a fantastic show that handled difficult subjects to a bizarre, confusing train wreck, that caused those making it to go through the ringer.
I would still recommend watching at least the first ten episodes because, even when the questionable moments begin to seep in, the brilliant moments more than overshadow them.
The rest of the anime I would skip because it’s just not worth it by the end.
A second season could improve the story a bit more but, at this point, I’m not sure I even care any more and I think we can all agree the animators should not be put under the kind of pressure that they were here.
The anime industry needs to do better for its workers.

The Promised Neverland, Season Two, Episode 11 Review: An Absolute Insult.

1 star
Coming into the Season Two finale, and most likely series finale, of The Promised Neverland, I was not expecting it to be good.
The prior episodes had been of such low quality that the bar was almost floor level.
Well, the final episode was so much worse than I could have possibly feared, not just lowering the bar to the floor but right down to the damn basement.
This episode was directed by Yukiko Imai, Yoshiki Kitai, and Hiroki Itai, and written by… oh, wait, that’s right, the people who wrote the last couple of episodes, including this one, don’t actually want credit for it.
It’s almost like they know how absolutley insulting this episode is, crazy right?
Also, yes, I did just say insulting because that is exactly what Episode 11 is.
I suppose the most accurate way I can describe it is that it’s like a person dangling a delicious ice cream in a child’s face and then, while the child is distracted, they take the opportunity to punch them in the face.
But, before I get to the insulting scene that inspired this analogy, I have to talk about the expectedly bad opening to the episode, which sees the conclusion to Peter Ratri’s storyline.
This followed from the terrible cliffhanger in last week’s episode of Emma actually offering a chance for Peter to come and be free with them.
Again, this bad scene was in the manga so Cloverworks admittedly did not have much to work with here but, somehow, they managed to make it even worse than the manga counterpart.
The animation of this scene is absolutley abysmal, with constant still frames used during Peter’s backstory scene, where its revealed that he betrayed his brother and had him executed because he became William Minerva and tried to help the farm children.
It’s clear they had very little budget from this scene, otherwise this was a really incompetant way of animating it.
Almost as incompetant as animating Peter’s knife with absolutley no blood on it, despite the fact that he slit his own throat with it.
I mean, seriously, they want us to be shocked by Peter’s suicide but they just ruin it with this glaring error that draws you out of the moment.
Not that it was an intense or interesting moment to begin with.
Then, there’s the Isabella scene, where the children all just immediately forgive her for planning to send them to their deaths.
So, Isabella doesn’t end up sacrificing herself for them in this verion, no, instead she concludes her story by going with them all to the human world.
This was pretty disappointing to me because Isabella’s death is one of the most emotional moments of the manga, especially how she calls out to Ray in her final moments.
Here, there was very little acknowledgement that Ray was actually her son.
Come to think of it, why the heck was there that anime only scene in Episode Four that hyped Isabella up as a big bad villain if they were just going to give Isabella the exact same storyline she had in the manga, only for her not to die?
This all renders that new scene completley pointless.
Just like how Sonju’s scene, where he reveals in Episode Three that he wants to eat humans one day, is rendered pointless by it never being brought up in this episode.
Why add that if you’re just not going to follow up on it later?
It’s honestly laughable that a character like Vylk had more importance in these final episodes than freaking Sonju and Mujika.
Not only that, but Cloverworks actively teases us with things we are never going to get now.
They show the Goldy Pond door and the Queen and her nobles but these things will most likely never be explored because this is definitley the final episode.
Way to tease us with things we won’t be getting, Cloverworks.
But now, we get into the really insulting part.
The scenes that made me simultaneously laugh and yell at the screen in outrage.
First, we get the moment when the characters are walking through the door to the human world.
Only, what’s this? Emma, Ray, Norman, and the Lambda escapees are planning on staying behind with Sonju and Mujika to change the demon world?
Oh, okay, so this means that we are going to get a season three and they are going to adapt the Goldy Pond and the Queen arcs in the third season.
Well, I’m not sure how I feel about this, considering that the character development is compromised because of how things were swapped around and rushed in the second season, but I’m willing to see where this goes.
And now we’re getting some kind of montage to build into this next season, alright, interesting, and is that Emma with The One, okay… wait, what?
Is that Emma and the others about to launch an attack on the demon capital?
Is that Mujika being crowned queen?
Is that Emma saying goodbye to Mujika?
Is that Emma reuinting with Phil and the others, making that scene where it looked like we were going to get a season three nothing more than build up for a slideshow?
What?
A slideshow?
You’re kidding!
This is how you end the series?
You tease us with a potential season three and then you hit us with a slideshow montage of what we could have got in this potential season three before ending the story entirely?
Who thought this would be a good idea?
No, they had to have known it was a bad idea because why else would no one be claiming responsibility for writing it?
This is what I meant when I said that the final episode is like a person dangling an ice cream in front of a child’s face before punching them while they’re distracted.
The child is us, the ice cream is the teasing of a third season, and the person punching the child is Cloverworks giving us a freaking slideshow montage instead.
This was insulting.
The absolute audactity of this moment left me wondering what the hell the writers were thinking.
I mean, why didn’t they just have Emma and the others go to the human world in the first place?
Why get us excited for a potential season three where they would adapt the missing arcs, only to pull the rug out from under us and show the scenes we all wanted to see in a slideshow?
What a terrible episode, no, a terrible adaptation.
You know what?
I’m going to say it.
This is worse than Tokyo Ghoul‘s adaptation.
That’s right, I said it.
At least Studio Pierrot didn’t have the audacity to unjustly tease us with the missing stuff.
This episode is the equivalent of how it would have been if Tokyo Ghoul √A’s ending had been a montage of all the events in Tokyo Ghoul: Re, which they then refused to show us.
An absolute insult to any fan of the manga and anime.
What a joke.
I now feel comfortable saying that Season Two of The Promised Neverland is one of the worst adaptations of all time.
Thank god this miserable experience is over.