Director: Takashi Katagiri
Screenplay: Ichiro Ohkouchi
Starring: Atsumi Tanezak/Megan Shipman as Anya Forger; Kenichirō Matsuda/Tyler Walker as Bond Forger; Saori Hayami/Natalie Van Sistine as Yor Forger; Takuya Eguchi/Alex Organ as Loid Forger; Banjō Ginga/John Swasey as Snijder; Kento Kaku/Tyson Rinehart as Luka; Shunsuke Takeuchi/Gabe Kunda as Type F; Tomoya Nakamura/Phil Parsons as Dmitri
Year: 2023
Country: Japan
BBFC Certification: 12A
Duration: 110 mins

This Japanese theatrical feature spin-off of Spy x Family Code: White (a.k.a. 劇場版 or Gekijôban Spy x Family Code: White), the highly popular adaptation of the even more popular ongoing manga series by Tatsuya Endo, is exactly what you want from a summer blockbuster on the big screen. Even if you’ve never seen the TV series or read the manga, the film has been designed as a perfect jumping-on-point for the new viewer. However, long-term fans of the franchise should be more than happy with all the nods and occasional flashbacks, although supporting characters get relatively short shrift in favour of keeping the focus on our beloved family at the centre of all the shenanigans.

In an alternative universe, following a World War 2-like conflict, a cold war rages between European States, with spies battling it out with State Security Services under the radar of ordinary citizens going about their daily lives. Agent Twilight of the WiSE division of Westalis’ secret service is a legend in his field, renowned for his wide range of physical and mental skills, as well as his ability to utilise disguises and stealth. Yor Briar is an unassuming Berlint city hall clerk by day, and a Black-Widow-like assassin code-named Thorn Princess by night, working for the Garden Assassins Syndicate, who purge traitors for rival nation Ostania. Orphan Anya was once a test subject for a secret organisation, who left her with telepathic abilities, but little education or socialisation. Fate and WiSE’s’ spy op “Operation Strix” brought the three together to pose as the Forger family, although Agent Twilight, now ‘Loid Forger’, does not know of Anya’s powers or Yor’s training and vocation, nor Yor of theirs. Joining them after his own adventures is canine companion Bond, who, like Anya, has been experimented upon, but with a different outcome: he has limited precognitive abilities.

The manga and anime both focus on Operation Strix, where Twilight uses Anya to infiltrate posh private school Eden Academy in an endeavour to meet fellow parent and Ostanian scientist Donovan Desmond. This leads to typical (for the mediums) school hi-jinks and comedy as Anya attempts to fit in and befriend Donovan’s son Damian. However, barring a brief couple of scenes in which Anya’s next school challenge is to win a ‘Stella’ (a prestigious school award) through impressing the headmaster with her entry into a cookery challenge, the majority of the feature film takes place in the neighbouring region of Frigis. Ostensibly on a family weekend away to find and taste the unique local variant of a dessert dish favoured by said headmaster, all three characters carry clear emotional concerns with them into the wintry mountains: Loid worries about being replaced on Strix, as informed early in the film by his Lady Dimitrescu-esque boss Sylvia Sherwood; Anya worries that Loid is having an affair with a briefly-glimpsed woman, actually fellow WiSE agent Fiona Frost, and that she is therefore failing in her cover role as a wife. This is, of course, in typical manga/anime fashion, compounded by both Fiona and Anya actually having feelings for Loid/Twilight. Finally, Anya knows how important her doing well at school is to both Strix and to her keeping her constructed family, but cannot resist sneaking around their train to Frigis and getting herself mixed up in a plot by Ostania’s Military Intelligence Special Reconnaissance Regiment….

All of this background and setup to the main plot is far more succinctly handled by the feature than by this review so far, moving at a fair old clip while still dazzling us with wonderful animation, gorgeous colourful production designs and the same delightful characterisation in both dubs (Japanese and American English). Once we arrive in Frigis, seemingly combining elements of Scandinavian countries with Austria and Switzerland (the station looks like it could have been built in Helsinki or even Amsterdam, while the restaurant they visit for the special dish could be in Appenzell or the like), the introduction of the main villain Colonel Snidel raises the stakes very quickly, while the Macguffin, once revealed, provides for opportunities both frightening and comedic. After family comedy typical of the main series, we accelerate towards spectacular action that nods to CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, BLACK WIDOW and even a touch of INDIANA JONES alongside the usual James Bond and MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. references. These are all Western influences, and while the franchise has clear roots in and nods to Japanese media, it’s the former elements that very much have helped it to global success, particularly in English-language territories.

Newcomers should feel comfortable with trying this out for their first taste of the Forgers, although they should be prepared for a slightly more grown-up blend of juvenile comedy with vicious action and violent threats to both child and dog than is typical of Western fare. Fans need no encouragement to book cinema tickets and pre-order the physical release; this is one of the most satisfying and engaging big-screen anime spin-offs in decades.

SPY X FAMILY CODE: WHITE is in cinemas now, and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray by All The Anime later in 2024. Special features TBC.

Review by Hugh Kenneth David

Images – © 2023 SPY x FAMILY The Movie Project © Tatsuya Endo/Shueisha

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