by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Community score: 4.7
How would you rate episode 2 of
Community score: 4.8
It is the dark days of the Cold War, in a country that's totally not the divided Germany of the mid-twentieth century. Spies are everywhere, and chief among them is Twilight, the man who takes on the most dangerous missions with a high rate of success. Now, in these grim days on history's dark side, Twilight is about to begin his most alarming mission yet: adopting a daughter and getting married.
Welcome to SPY x FAMILY, a show whose title basically says it all – it's a spy caper crossed with a family comedy and an adaptation of the manga of the same name. Naturally, Twilight's mission isn't just to create a family, either; it's more that a family will be necessary for him to infiltrate the social circles of his latest target – a Mr. Desmond who basically only socializes with the people at the prestigious Eden Academy (or College, as it's called in episode two). So if Twilight is going to break into his social whirl, he's going to need a kid to send to the fancy school, and like the old mouse with a cookie, he's going to need a wife to meet the strict societal expectations of the mid-century world he lives in. For a single, elite spy, that's way out of his wheelhouse, which is absolutely to our benefit as consumers of his story.
Twilight, who takes on the name “Loid Forger,” (which is roughly as subtle as “Jedrington Secret-Past” in The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff) may be an amazing spy, but he's not so great at figuring out who people really are, which makes for an entertaining disconnect when he heads to the shadiest orphanage he can find and walks out with Anya, a pint-sized psychic, and then in episode two ends up courting Yor, a highly-accomplished assassin. Whether or not this turns out to be incredibly lucky for him remains to be seen, but it absolutely makes one thing clear: Anya, as manga readers already know, is the beating heart of this story. Loid is fully unaware of the fact that she's got ESP (a result of being experimented on), and Anya's powers mean that she's the only person in the entire story who knows everything that's going on. She not only uses her skills to get Loid to adopt her in the first place, but she also knows that he's a spy – and when she overhears Yor thinking about her side-job as an assassin, she doesn't exactly share that info with her new dad; mostly because she both knows he needs to find a (fake) wife, but also because the idea of a spy married to an assassin and both of them being her parents is unbearably awesome in her mind. Going from orphan to daughter of a top-secret couple with secret missions? Yes, please!
Despite the story nominally being about Twilight/Loid and his mission (code named: Operation Strix), he's actually a bit in the background of both of these episodes. The moment Anya appears in the first she steals the show away, and the second focuses much more on Yor. We do see Twilight carry out a couple of missions with great aplomb across both episodes, and his thoughts are needed so that we can have Anya's reactions to them, but the character development is in large part given to the ladies. In the case of Anya, this allows for us to develop an attachment to someone in the story, because she is far and away the most sympathetic person in it. Her past is unrelentingly bleak – by the age of five or six, she's already been through a form of hell and until Loid walked into the orphanage, she saw no reason to hope that it would ever change. Therefore, helping her new dad is a major fixation for her, or at least as much as it can be to such a little kid; one of the show's great strengths here is that it doesn't try to make Anya anything other than a very small child doing her best to understand and work with what's around her. She doesn't interpret anything in a way too mature for her years; she's just a regular kid with an added ability to read minds, meaning that most of her reactions feel very real. She's afraid to jeopardize her awesome new life, but she's also slowly feeling more secure in it, and that's a very nice balance to strike while still allowing for plenty of humor.
Yor, on the other hand, is very much stuck between a social rock and a professional hard place. At her day job, she's ridiculed by what has to be the worst group of coworkers in anime for being single because she doesn't conform to their catty expectations of having a boyfriend or a husband. She needs the day job to cover up her assassin gig, but that very assassin job means that she can't live up to what's expected of a woman in the mid-twentieth century. Loid seems like the perfect cover: he's handsome, he has a good (fake) job as a psychiatrist, and he seems to find her attractive. (Plus he's got the perfect wingman in Anya.) And since he needs a wife to meet the school's requirements…
Production-wise, this is also doing a bang-up job. The use of light and dark is very well done, which is important to contrast the gritty world the story is set in with the fluffier aspects of the story, like poor Loid's stress over how having a kid turns out to be a little more involved than he anticipated and Anya's perceptions versus reality. (And just Franky in general.) Action scenes go between slick animation and goofy repetition, which also works well, and it's interesting to note that the art doesn't take two opportunities to show us Yor's underwear, which I appreciate. So far I'm also loving the voices, and if I'm not sold on the opening song itself, the visuals definitely make up for the time it will take for the music to inevitably grow on me.
Simply put? “Playing happy families” has never looked so fun.
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