Spy x Family Code: White / Review

Spy x Family Code: White / Review

© 2023 Crunchyroll LLC

You could compare the anime Forger family to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”—the Doug Liman movie more than the neurotic Donald Glover series. Loid Forger, a.k.a. Westalian secret agent “Twilight,” recruited Yor Briar to act as his pretend wife for a long-term mission. Just as she believes Twilight is a psychiatrist, he remains ignorant of her true profession: assassin. Since this is anime, they also adopted Anya, a mischievous little girl, and Bond, a big, furry dog.

Anya knows all her parents’ secrets, because she is a mind-reader. She can pick-up canine thoughts too. That can be an especially useful talent, given Bond’s ability to foresee the future. The Forgers have already survived thirteen volumes of Tatsuya Endo’s original Japanese manga and two seasons of their anime series, but that basic premise is all you really need to know to enjoy their first feature film, Takasi Katagiri’s “Spy x Family Code: White,” co-produced by the Wit and CloverWorks animation houses, which opens this Friday in theaters.

As fans already know, the reason for assembling the phony Forger family was to enroll Anya in the exclusive Eden Academy, whose faculty and alumni have close ties to the militarist Ostania regime. A Cold War has long existed between Ostania and Westalis, which Twilight’s intelligence agency does its best to contain. Unfortunately, a politically-connected Westalian agent is angling to take over Twilight’s “Operation Strix.”

Spy x Family© 2023 Crunchyroll LLC

To head off his inter-agency rival (and preserve the fake family he has started to care about), Twilight hatches a plan for Anya to earn a coveted Eden Academy honor by winning their dessert baking contest. Of course, Anya is a mess in the kitchen, so Twilight decides they must recreate the headmaster’s favorite pastry now only baked in his home town. That requires a family trip to the remote Austrian Alpine-looking village on the Ostanian border. (However, thanks to the miracle of franchise licensing, Tokyo residents were able to enjoy a slice of the “meremere” tort at Capcom Cafes during the film’s Japanese theatrical run.)

Coincidentally, two Ostanian agents are also onboard the Forgers’ train, because spies always prefer to travel by rail. They are definitely not cut from the same elite cloth as Twilight. In fact, they lose their secret cargo, when Anya accidentally swallows the chocolate bonbon they hid it inside.

When considering longstanding anime franchises’ one-off theatrical movies, there are always questions regarding how well it stands alone for new viewers, while still satisfying the dedicated fanbase. For instance, many of the Naruto films tried to explore the apprentice ninja’s character while leaving the larger story continuity untouched, until “The Last: Naruto the Movie,” pretended to conclude the series (even though it really didn’t).

Frankly, “Code: White” feels like it was produced largely with first-time viewers in mind. It immediately provides a thumbnail recap, before embarking on an entirely self-contained adventure. The stakes remain high, both personally and geopolitically, as the Forgers scramble to rescue the kidnapped Ayna and defeat a rogue Ostanian military hardliner determined to ignite a war with Westalis. Yet, it leaves no lasting impact on the overall franchise storyline.

Spy x Family 3

© 2023 Crunchyroll LLC

Still, there are plenty of impressively animated fight scenes, especially Yor’s climactic battle with an Ostanian mecha-cyborg. Younger viewers are sure to be delighted by an extended joke built around Anya’s attempts to hold in her poop, but stricter parents might be less than charmed. (They should also be forewarned the English dub features some light swearing.) However, most kids (and many older anime patrons) will be preoccupied with bushy-haired Bond, who is undeniably endearing and actively contributes to the adventure, in clever ways. Seriously, who doesn’t love “Bond movies?”

For newcomers, screenwriter Ichiro Okouchi adroitly balances cuteness with death-defying action sequences. If the similarly-themed Mark Wahlberg vehicle “The Family Plan” had matched the tone and pacing of “Code: White,” it would have been exponentially more entertaining.

Stylistically, the feature animation certainly reflects the franchise’s manga and weekly anime roots, but the big action set pieces inside and atop the steampunk-ish Ostanian airship look great on the big-screen. It cannot match the emotional resonance and visual sumptuousness of vintage Studio Ghibli, but it delivers a lot of chaotic fun. Recommended as a light-hearted romp for general anime fans and franchise fanatics, “Spy x Family Code: White” opens Friday (4/19) in theaters across America, including multiple theaters in New York.

Grade: B

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