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"Spy × Family" Review: De × Lightful

Hopefully, Tsumiki-sama's roommate won't yell at him for watching anime instead of cleaning the kitchen like he was supposed to.

"Spy x Family" by Endou Tatsuya

"Spy x Family" by Endou Tatsuya

A Lesson in Staying Vigilant

In the world of covert operations, vigilance is of the utmost importance. More than disguise, fancy gadgets, or deadly poisons, the most crucial thing for a spy is that they are always on their guard. Noticing every little detail can, and has, meant the difference between life and death.

. . . Or so I've been told.

At any rate, in the spirit of following the principles of spycraft, for totally arbitrary reasons, I like to keep my eyes and ears open for any new anime or manga series that seem interesting. Especially with manga, with so many series flying under the radar of most of the internet, this has led me to a couple of real gems over the years.

While it's possible I've just been haunting the wrong parts of the internet, I definitely don't recall hearing much about Spy × Family anywhere online. What little I did hear was good, though, and I heard just enough to keep the title lodged in the back of my mind long enough for me to happen upon it while looking for something new to read.

Spy × Family (pronounced "Spy Family") is the currently ongoing manga by Endou Tatsuya that's actually been published in Shonen Jump+ since 2019, despite the fact that I've only started hearing about it relatively recently. Even the English tankobons have been coming out for about a year at the time of writing.

I don't keep up with ongoing manga all that much, but I haven't heard about any of Endou's previous works either. Normally, the fact that I've never once heard about any of them would raise a couple of red flags for me, but the premise was interesting enough that I decided to take the risk.

Plot Summary

Set in the fictional city of Berlint in the country of Ostania, the story is kicked off by crack secret agent Twilight receiving a mission known as Operation Strix—infiltrate a private school known as Eden Academy in order to get close to a high-ranking government official pushing for war with Twilight's home country of Westalis. To this end, Twilight must put together a fake family in order to get his new child into the school.

He takes on the identity of psychiatrist Loid Forger (no, seriously) and adopts six-year-old Anya from a shady orphanage that seems oddly keen to get rid of her. Playing the role of the wife, we have Yor Briar, a city hall clerk who agrees to the sham marriage partly to appease her brother and coworkers and partly to avoid suspicion in a similar way to Loid. Of course, the reason she has to avoid suspicion is that Yor moonlights as an assassin known as the Thorn Princess.

To top it off, Anya is an esper with the ability to read minds thanks to experiments conducted on her. Thus, we begin the tale of this wildly dysfunctional family trying to pose as being perfectly normal as all three members try to keep up their secret personal lives without any of the others finding out about their hidden identities.

I don't know about you, but this is how pretty much all of my family dinners feel.

I don't know about you, but this is how pretty much all of my family dinners feel.

Spy × Family Review: Antics, Away!

I sort of alluded to it earlier, but Spy × Family isn't really about the "spy" part, as much as it is the "family." While the central cast might seem a little one-note at first, there are little glimpses of more depth to them thrown out here and there, just enough to make me want to know more about them and how they came to be in the situations they are in.

The real strength of the series, though, is the dynamic between the three leads. The Forger family is undeniably dysfunctional in its own way, what with it literally being put together to keep up appearances and all, but even as early on in the series as I am (only through the end of chapter 11 at the time of writing), you can really see the Forger family starting to care for each other, even if they're not "supposed" to given the circumstances.

This is especially true for six-year-old Anya. While I did like all of the Forgers, Anya is absolutely the heart of the story, both the family dynamic aspect as well as the comedy. Being a mind reader, she, of course, knows exactly what's going on in her little family, and her unbridled enthusiasm for Loid's spy work as well as absolute pants-soiling terror or Yor's contract killing are incredibly endearing and quite funny the whole way through. Not to mention everything that comes with an awkward, mind-reading little kid from an orphanage trying to figure out how to function in a private school for upper-class kids.

That's not to say the spy element doesn't come into play at all in the series, but it's more of a vehicle to set up for jokes than anything else. Even Operation Strix, while it does do a lot to set up the central plot, mostly just falls into the background while you enjoy the moment-to-moment interactions between all the characters and the comedy that comes out of it.

There are a lot of clever little details thrown in that I really appreciate, such as how Anya was identified as "Subject 007," as well as some deeper ones such as the master spy being named after a time of day where everything is hard to see and appears in shades of grey. Even the fact that Twilight took on the name "Forger," while I sort of poked fun at it earlier, did get a nice little chuckle out of me when I first saw it.

To put a nice little cherry on top, Endou Tatsuya's art is absolutely excellent. Every panel looks great, and the major moments are a real treat. Endou uses manages to find a really great balance of the funny scenes using cartoonish, exaggerated expressions and poses while managing to make the few dramatic scenes absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful.

I normally like to find something to nitpick about, but for Spy × Family, just about the only thing I can think of is that while Endou's art is fantastic, I wouldn't say it's the most unique style, though it does have a nice flavor to it, especially in the action scenes. Even so, given the fact that it reminds me of Kaguya-sama more than anything, I don't think that should count against the series too much.

Come on, how could you not fall for that face?

Come on, how could you not fall for that face?

Spy × Family in a Word: Charming

"Charming" really is the best way to describe Spy × Family. I had a smile on my face pretty much the whole time I was reading through the manga, and I really owe Endou-sensei big-time for giving me a new de facto antidepressant to lean on lately. Like I mentioned earlier, I've only read the first two tankobon volumes at the time of writing, but I'll definitely be tearing through everything else that I can get as soon as possible.

I could gush about this more, and there's a bunch of things I didn't even get to mention, such as the somewhat unique Cold War-esque setting or all the really charming side characters. For now, though, suffice to say that if you want a charming and funny family story that'll put a smile on your face in between your own covert operations, Spy × Family is definitely well worth your time.

Final Rating

© 2021 Tsumiki-sama

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