There’s frequently nothing quite so amazing as looking at something familiar, but through the eyes of someone very different to you. One ever more popular way of seeing such things is through the prevalence and increased popularity of both foreign cinema, and television. One facet of this that is seeing a swell in cultural relevance and a new normality, is through Japanese Anime shows. While nothing new in and of itself, the fact that properties like Spy x Family and the like are seeing cinema releases and dropping concurrently on Netflix, just stands as a testament to how this once fringe nerd hobby is now a thriving part of western youth culture.

CODE White is a stand alone movie-length instalment of the popular Shōnen series Spy x Family, a warm-hearted action-comedy about a family of mismatched strangers having to play house together, while each keeping their own deeply-held secrets from one another and putting on a charade of a normal family life.

The world of Spy x Family is set in a broadly fictionalised and idealised parallel of Cold War era Europe, where the neighbouring countries of Westarlis and Ostania are locked in a secret worldwide game of espionage, pitting spy against spy to try and gain the upper-hand in the struggle for dominance and uphold the unlikely peace. In the midst of this, Agent Twilight (Takuya Eguchi), Westerlis’ best operative, has been placed undercover as part of Operation Strix. This top secret, covert operation has him posing undercover as humble surgeon and family man, Loid Forger. His long-game goal, to position himself beside the leader of Ostania’s ruling party by ensuring their children become schoolfriends. However, despite being equal parts James Bond and Ethan Hunt, Agent Twilight is still a single, childless man, and his cover also includes finding a fake wife and daughter.

The comedic genius of Spy x Family, as well as much of the drama, comes from the fact that Loid’s fake wife, Yor (Saori Hayami) has no idea Loid is a spy, and has accepted this sham marriage of convenience to disguise her own activities as Thorn Princess, a ninja-like master assassin for hire. To compound this, their adopted six year old daughter, Anya (Atsumi Tanezaki), also happens to be psychic, and obsessed with spy cartoons. Toss in their clairvoyant dog, Bondo (Ken’ichirô Matsuda), Loid’s romantically-obsessed protégé Agent Fiona Frost (Ayane Sakura), as well as Yor’s over-protective Ostanian secret policeman brother, Yuri (Kenshô Ono) and you have a recipe for a marvellous mayhem of comedic errors and action sequences.

All of which is simply the basic premise of the show, which the film remarkably manages to explain seamlessly and to comic effect in the first two minutes. After that, the plot itself whisks the family Forger off to a beautiful wintery paradise in order to sample a local dessert. Of course, this also manages to entail a secret government plot, hidden microfilms, evil jackbooted soldiers, a cyborg henchman, and a bizarre dream sequence involving an old sensei and a strange magical world of porcelain potties. Despite all of this, it’s a remarkably relaxed, upbeat and cheerfully cosy film. Much of the story is devoted to character drama and budding hints of romance between Yor and Loid, after a series of misunderstandings and political complications puts the Forger family’s existence in peril of collapsing. But it’s done in an endearing way, never asking too much of the audience, while still making sure there are laughs aplenty to be had.

The finale manages to pull out all of the stops in turning things into an action-filled crescendo, heavily drawing on the likes of Indiana Jones, and Captain America: The First Avenger, with fist-fights, plane battles, and subterfuge aplenty. But by the end, it’s clear that this is still just a side-story. It’s an episode of the week, spun out into a longer tale. It’s neither the best the show has ever been, nor is it going to bore anyone. It’s firmly a middle of the road entry that will absolutely delight fans of the TV show. For newcomers to the story universe it might seem a bit baffling at first, but considering the first season is currently showing on Netflix, and the show up to date on Crunchyroll, it wouldn’t be hard work to catch up.

In cinemas now