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REVIEW: SPY X FAMILY blends espionage and family comedy together in a perfect marriage

SPY x FAMILY does an excellent job of balancing fun espionage action with heartwarming family moments.



Story & Art: Tatsuya Endo
Translation: Casey Loe
Lettering: Rina Mapa

What happens when a family is composed of a super spy, a woman assassin, and a tiny psychic child? It’s a question no one asked, and yet Tatsuya Endo provides some intriguing answers in his current series, SPY x FAMILY. But let’s back up a bit.

In what appears to be an alternate Cold War European past, the spy known only as Twilight is given a new assignment: In order to infiltrate an elite school and get the goods on his most recent subject, he must acquire both a child and a wife — people he would normally consider liabilities in his line of work. But he takes on the mantle of Loid Forger and promptly adopts the petite Anya from a disreputable orphanage who can’t seem to get rid of her. Unbeknownst to “Loid,” Anya is the former subject of government experimentation (test subject “007,” of course), leaving her with psychic abilities that enable her to know his secret and also modulate her behavior to best gain his approval.

With a child acquired, Loid must now find a wife, because the prestigious Eden Academy will not accept children who interview without both parents present. And thus, readers are introduced to Yor, code name: Thorn Princess. Unbeknownst to Loid upon meeting Yor by chance, Yor is an efficient assassin, though by day she is an awkward, lonely young woman. In order to save face with her coworkers, she agrees to enter into a fake relationship with Loid, who ultimately convinces her to become his fake wife in order to get Anya into Eden Academy. Loid and Yor do not know about each other’s real jobs; little Anya knows all, but she isn’t saying anything. Her only goal is to keep her new parents together and live a normal, happy family life with them. 

SPY x FAMILY does an excellent job of balancing fun espionage action with heartwarming family moments, with little Anya’s innocent love tying this strange trio together. Though Loid is initially annoyed with having to care for a child, her devotion to him reminds him that he became a spy to make the world safer, so that no child would ever have to cry. His job might be duplicitous, but his reasons for taking it on are pure. Yor, for all her athleticism and martial skill, is a bit of a ditz, and her violent job belies an otherwise gentle personality. Anya is, far and away, the star of the series, her status as the only family member completely abreast of the situation made more precarious by the fact that she’s only about four years old — and a spy fanatic, to boot. There is a fair amount of touchy-feely subplot, the equal emphasis on being a comedy of deception prevents the series from coming off as overly saccharine.

Endo’s artwork is clean and appealing, his parody of post-war Berlin easily recognizable. Anya’s big-eyed baby face lends itself to extreme expressions, adding to both the hilarity and the sweetness of the story. The references to the Cold War, with Twilight’s missions revolving around East and West “Berlint,” are a satisfying nod to spy fiction. The comedy is on par with that other, much older Cold War-centric series From Eroica With Love (albeit without the homoromanticism), for those who remember its ill-fated English-language publication. 

Though SPY x FAMILY has been available through Manga Plus for a while now, it will be getting the official print treatment from VIZ Media starting on June 2, 2020. A free sample of the first few chapters is available through Shonen Jump.

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