Review – Spy x Family Code: White is Pleasant Holiday Fun

Review – Spy x Family Code: White is Pleasant Holiday Fun

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Partial poster from Spy x Family: Code White.
International anime mega-hit Spy x Family is out with its first theatrical movie, Spy x Family Code: White. Is it worth a trip to theaters?

There are few anime at present that can contend with the popularity of Endo Tatsuya’s Spy x Family. The TV adaptation of Endo’s manga premiered in April 2022, and quickly launched to the upper reaches of domestic and international anime viewership. A tale of a found family harboring secrets while navigating the intrigues of both domestic life and international spycraft, the show has major mainstream appeal. It manages to be a near-pitch-perfect mix of comfort with light comedy and thrills.

Like most anime that reach this level of popularity, a semi-canon theatrical film was always pretty much a given. The resulting theatrical anime, Spy x Family Code: White, is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the show’s tried and true formula.

Never engaged with this particular animated sitcom? Not to worry – Spy x Family Code: White spends its first ten minutes re-introducing its core characters and plot. Loid Forger, a super-spy known by code name Twilight, is working to preserve the peace of a fictional West Germany-esque country amid a cold war. His deep-cover mission requires creating a prop family, but little does he know that his chosen wife and adoptive child have secrets of their own. The wife in question, Yor, is a deadly assassin; his new daughter, Anya, is telepathic. Oh, yeah, and their dog, Bond, can predict the future. (Only useful because Anya can read the dog’s mind.)

All three primary human characters are highly endearing, with Anya’s particular version of child-speak and infectious enthusiasm having made her the break-out star. Spy x Family Code: White takes the base elements that have made the show (and manga before it) so successful, and reproduces them in elongated theatrical form. Does that make for a great movie? Not really. But it makes for something enjoyable enough for fans.

Welcome Back to the Family

What’s the plot of Spy x Family Code: White? Well, it operates like any episode of the show.

Loid’s spy handlers are frustrated by his lack of progress on his main mission – to get close to a government official via Anya’s placement in school with the official’s son. To avoid being recalled, Loid decides to help Anya succeed at school by crafting the perfect dessert for a school competition. This requires a family trip to track down the recipe at a scenic town near an alpine lake. Along the way, Yor is dealing with worries over Loid’s fidelity to their paper marriage; Anya, meanwhile, gets caught up in a dangerous military plot.

I have a hard time calling the plot anything other than perfunctory. It’s very much your usual Spy x Family mix of affable domestic dramedy and pseudo-Cold War spycraft. The danger subplot only really gets going in the second half, and the meshing of the relaxed family trip and military espionage sections isn’t pulled off as well as the show usually manages. The three movie-original antagonists all have their little quirks, but are otherwise highly forgettable.

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Otherwise, Spy x Family Code: White manages to get pretty much every character from the show involved in some way. Most have similarly perfunctory roles to play. Characters like Yor’s overly-obsessed younger brother or Loid’s put-upon underling Franky receive about a scene and a half each. It’s nice to see these characters, but they don’t have much to do. 

Poster for Spy x Family: Code White. Features child any running in front of a collage of various characters, including her dog Bond, father Loid, mother Yor, and the film's antagonist.
Poster for Spy x Family Code: White. (Copyright: Toho Animation.)

A Common Issue

The nature of these sorts of semi-canon theatrical anime films is that they usually need to operate so as not to disturb the status quo of their TV show’s plot. This leads many of them to feel more than a bit like filler. Of course, Spy x Family is in an interesting position of being a show with an ongoing plot that rarely advances its own status quo. Loid must never discover Yor’s secret, violent occupation; visa versa for Yor knowing about Lloyd’s double life. Neither can find out about Anya’s supernatural powers. (Or, for that matter, the dog’s prognostication.) So, a non-canon theatrical film isn’t much different from the main show itself. 

But the bigger action set pieces of a theatrical film do strain the credulity of this family remaining unsuspicious of each other’s incredible abilities or motivations. This is already a bit of an issue with the show, but the proportions here are more sizable. And the action has to be set up in such a way that all characters can take part without witnessing each other get down to spy/assassin/esper business.

This isn’t that big of a deal. Neither is the more exaggerated bullet-dodging and unexplained super-spycraft. If you’ve bought into the conceits of the Spy x Family structure, it’s easy enough to ignore these issues. They’re just a bit more noticeable than on the small screen.

Letting Yor Shine

One nice thing this movie gets right is giving Yor her due focus (not to mention a grand action set piece.) Yor is infamously sidelined through much of the show, something fans tend to see as a missed opportunity. Despite being one of the deadliest assassins around, she’s rarely shown in action. Here, though, she gets to shine as the charmingly naive killing machine she is. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Anya and Loid are both plenty enjoyable, too. Anya is her usual silly self, excited to emulate her in-universe TV show spy heroes, but often getting herself in more trouble than she can handle. The movie makes a, shall we say, interesting choice by making a major plot point revolve around Anya having to resist the call of nature. The best piece of animation in the film comes during a colorful fantasy where Anya, desperate to use the washroom, encounters “The God of Poop.” It’s about as strange a scene as you might imagine.

Loid’s spy resources are especially Mission Impossible-esque in this outing. (This makes sense, given Code: White and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 had a collaborative campaign.) It’s fairly entertaining, despite stretching the bounds of even Spy x Family‘s elastic suspension of disbelief. Foresightful dog Bond also gets more to do than on the average episode of the show.

Fun Enough for the Whole Spy Family

Overall, Spy x Family Code: White has the sort of charm and fun people enjoy the show for, just at a longer runtime. Does the film make good use of its length? Eh, not particularly. Like so many an “Anime the Movie,” Code: White would’ve worked fine as a single 20-minute episode on the show. Still, if you enjoy spending time with the Forger family, it’s probably worth engaging with this extended visit. 

Alternate poster for Spy x Family: Code White. (Copyright: Toho Animation.)

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Noah Oskow

Serving as current UJ Editor-in-Chief, Noah Oskow is a professional Japanese translator and interpreter who holds a BA in East Asian Languages and Cultures. He has lived, studied, and worked in Japan for nearly seven years, including two years studying at Sophia University in Tokyo and four years teaching English on the JET Program in rural Fukushima Prefecture. His experiences with language learning and historical and cultural studies as well as his extensive experience in world travel have led to appearances at speaking events, popular podcasts, and in the mass media. Noah most recently completed his Master's Degree in Global Studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.

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