Release the Spyce – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore October 7, 20180 Comments
A split-screen of four girls in matching uniforms, holding weapons and looking serious

What’s it about? For centuries, the all-female secret agent group known as Tsukikage have defended Japan from the crime syndicate known as “Moryo.” Over the years, times have changed—Moryo now has military robots, but the Tsukikage have a performance-enhancing substance called “Spyce.” Momo is an ordinary girl with extraordinary vision, taste, and smell, who wants to be a police officer like her late father. The Tsukikage need a new member. Is she just the spice they need?

Sometimes, a show comes along that’s very “girl power” in a shallow way. You can sit there and pull it apart all day and find all the problems with it. When you look at it that way, it doesn’t sound very good. And when you tell people about it, they say, “Wow, that doesn’t sound very good at all.” And you really can’t think of anything concrete to defend it. No examples of what the show does right come to mind. All you can say is: “Yeah, but it’s fun.”

That’s Release the Spyce.

Four teen girls in outfits that resemble crop-top school uniforms stand before a stormy night sky. Subtitles read "Huh? But why?!"

It’s fun! It’s just fun. It’s about a group of girls who kick ass with ridiculous super-spy gadgets, sweet martial arts moves, and no panty shots or boob jiggles. Momo’s arc in the episode as she tries to become more assertive when she sees someone breaking the law has a lot of potential for character growth. The action moves quickly, the dialogue flows, and it’s got a heavy dose of homoeroticism that will probably never end up going anywhere.

When Momo coos over Yuki, a member of the Tsukikage, while surrounded by shoujo bubbles, then concludes with, “I want to be just like her!” all I could do was sigh and think, “Oh honey. You’ll figure it out sooner or later.”

I just want to make it clear: I enjoyed the show. I really did, and I have every intention of keeping up with it weekly. I recommend people check it out wholeheartedly.

But it also has some issues, most of which stem from the character design work.

A buff woman in a workout top smiles and holds up a smartphone. She says "Bye-bye, photos!"

The Tsukikage’s uniform would be right at home with the cheesecakey, culturally insensitive “sexy” Halloween costumes that annually infest the internet around this time of year. Crop tops and pleated miniskirts may be a cute look for going to a party, but they’re definitely not practical for spy work and hand-to-hand combat. The camera doesn’t exploit this for fan service, other than a couple of conveniently-framed shots focusing on their boobs; it’s just kind of an underlying level of background radiation.

There’s also some great variety in body types and age in the female characters… among the villains. The members of Moryo run the gamut from tall and muscular to short and wiry, with distinct, expressive faces. Most of them aren’t traditionally beautiful, but they certainly aren’t ugly either.

The good guys? Uniformly cute, with near-identical body types and facial features. Their moe-fied physical proportions—slender-yet-busty with childlike features and slightly oversized heads—give them that baby-woman physicality that I frequently find off-putting in cute girl series. For all they can knock a man over with a flying kick to the head, they don’t show any sign of muscle tone or physical training.

A teen girl in a uniform with a large head stands next to an older woman with average proportions. Subtitles read "My goal is to make some new friends!"
Placing her next to an actual adult pretty much just makes her look like a giant baby

For that matter, if the Tsukikage have been around for so long, why are they all in high school? Are they forced to retire after they graduate?

It’s the kind of thing that makes me sigh and shake my head, but isn’t an automatic deal-breaker. It won’t stop me from watching Release the Spyce, because otherwise, it’s fun and kind of gay in a way that makes me want to turn off the critic in my brain and spice up my life with a half hour of high-energy, girl-focused action.

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