I’m not entirely sure if Spy Classroom knows what it wants to be. On the one hand, it’s an anime series about a bunch of (cute) teen girl spies going on missions in an alternate-history Europe – in this case, one inspired by Europe in between the World Wars, and before the rise of Fascism. On the other hand, so much of this series is just comedic hijinks, which makes it miss the gravity of something like Princess Principal.
Spy Classroom is set in the country of the Din Republic, after a very destructive war where poison gas and other chemical and biological weapons were used (strongly inspired by the First World War – to the point of being called “The Great War”), various countries have been engaging in active espionage campaigns against each other, to attempt to keep another war from starting – and if one starts to have the upper hand (or at least to keep it from getting as destructive). However, the Din Republic is next to the expansionist country of the Gilgad Empire, who they were at war with during that war.
After a mission to the Gilgad Empire to investigate a biological weapons program by Din Republic’s crack team, “Inferno”, ends with that team being wiped out, the only member of that team who wasn’t able to be sent on that mission – Klaus – is sent to assemble a new team, codenamed “Lamplight”, made up of washouts from various other spy schools, each with their own unique talents, such as disguise, poisons (and immunity to them), and just being a complete and total jinx to those who are hostile to her. There’s just one catch – Klaus is a terrible teacher who is completely unable to explain how to do anything.
The structure of Spy Classroom itself is just… weird. We very quickly go to their first mission, the prep, and the mission itself, and then have a very extended series of episodes that are just a whole bunch of side stories that expand on the personalities of the members of the team. These feel like they’re based on a whole bunch of short stories that might have been published leading up to the novel which has the first mission, but instead are being stuck after.
It makes for very odd pacing. I did make my way through the whole series, but there were more than a few points where I found myself wondering if maybe I was just better served reading the novels than watching the show. To a degree, the series does work – the comedic timing for the slice of life segments works well, and there are also some rather heartwarming moments in there.
Also, while I’m a cis guy, Klaus does make for an interesting and positive possible example of an asexual person in anime – certainly much better than the asexual sidekick cop in Tekkonkinkreet.
In all, I did enjoy watching the series as it aired, enough so that I’m probably going to read the novels at some point in the future, but I can’t recommend it the same way that I would recommend Princess Principal.
Spy Classroom is available for streaming on Hidive.
If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to help to support the site, please consider backing my Patreon. Patreon backers get to access my reviews and Let’s Plays up to a week in advance.
If you want to support the site, but can’t afford to pledge monthly, please consider tossing a few bucks into my Ko-Fi instead.