What do we know about Hatsume Aoba? Do we know things? Let’s find out.
While the girls are laughing about abusing the 10-year-old they’re holding captive at the base, the focus is turned onto Hatsume — specifically, her kind, emotionally intelligent nature. There’s no one more aware of this than her apprentice, Goe, who definitely does not have a gigantic crush on her. She also does not get jealous when Hatsume finds Theresia and asks her to hang out after school, to reconcile their differences.
Everyone in Tsukikage seems to be vying for the attention of their mentors, like Momo, Fuma, and Goe all go shopping for swimsuits. After Goe catches herself daydreaming about Hatsume complimenting her in her bikini, she leaves the store, flustered.
Meanwhile, the Big Bad Moryo Leader goes undercover and releases an airborne drug onto the public as a test, causing citizens to lose their sense of self and be temporarily mind controlled to do anything — ultimately turning them into soldiers.
Hatsume hears about this during her pancake date with Theresia, but maintains a subtle composure about it since she infers Theresia is most likely working for Moryo and trying to confirm the identities of the Tsukikage members. After Hatsume hears Goe’s mind has been enslaved, she drops the ball right then and there to Theresia that she is in Tsukikage — and that she knows she’s working for Moryo. Hatsume then manipulates Theresia into thinking she’s given her a deadly poison so that she can spring into action and help Goe.
When Hatsume finds Goe, she’s raided a random, sketchy company — maiming everyone in the building. Hanzo and Momo can’t take her down, but Hatsume gets through to her by saying that she loves her. Goe returns to normal, is hospitalized, and confesses to Hatsume that she’d like to spend more time with her.
Release the Spyce has been entertaining so far — for the right reasons? Probably not. There’s a lot of dialogue and plot direction that makes the series hard to take seriously, and this episode was no exception. With some characters (i.e., Momo and Fuma) it’s hard to tell if they genuinely just look up to their mentors, or if they have romantic feelings for them. Whether this is done with purposeful ambiguity or not is unclear, but either way, some touchy-feely lines feel out of place in certain scenes (“Mentor, whenever I feel your touch, I immediately start to recover.” Momo, Goe is trying to kill you both — hash this out later.) With these character interactions, it’s hard to determine whether the show is queer-baiting, or just executing fan-service poorly.
Despite those drawbacks, the episode had another original song that enhanced its overall tone during Goe’s Shadow the Hedgehog phase — and this time, it was correctly overlaid while the voice lines took priority. Tonally, “From Hatsume With Love” tried to hit all the bases with action, romance, suspense, and mystery — but the meat-and-potatoes of the episode wasn’t due to the music, or the action sequences.
It was Hatsume Aoba’s fantastic ability to wake the viewer up and give them a reason to keep watching.
The entire table scene with Hatsume and Theresia was one of the most savage, enthralling parts of the series so far. It’s like The Fox and the Hound, but with anime girls, and in this version, one of them poisons the other in a Saw-esque mind game, additionally threatening to hold them prisoner and care for them in a way that’s vaguely reminiscent of Munchausen by Proxy. The entire scene is worth a re-watch on its own — little details like Theresia tensing with anger when Hatsume mentions that she “has to save her friend” really hammer in their character motivations and psyches.
Praise aside, now that Theresia knows Hatsume’s identity as a Tsukikage member — confirming it to Moryo — it’s a wonder what Hatsume will do with the information she has about Theresia being involved in Moryo. So far, it seems like she might even keep it a secret — and with her calm, unnervingly analytical demeanor, it’s only a matter of time before she figures out Katrina is a spy.
All in all, we leave this episode with one indisputable fact: Hatsume is the best girl.