Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Twilight, or “Loid Forger,” is on the edge of his seat waiting to see if adopted daughter Anya managed to get into Eden Academy, but even if she does, he's still going to be on tenterhooks because the daughter he hopes is brilliant is really just an average, albeit psychic, kid! This messes with his plans continually as Anya desperately tries to do what her new dad wants while coming at things from a kid's point of view, to say nothing of being fully aware, thanks to her mind-reading, that her new family isn't what it represents itself to be. And if all of that isn't enough, Yor's younger brother Yuri finds out that his beloved sister has married…and he's got a few work-related secrets of his own that could get in the way of Twilight's mission. Maybe there's a reason spies and families don't usually mix.
The title of this series may be SPY x FAMILY, but this second volume gives almost all of the glory to Anya, the daughter brilliant spy Twilight – now undercover as Loid Forger, psychiatrist and family man – adopted. There's definitely some sense to this: as a psychic, Anya is the only member of the Forger family (or the entire cast, really) who actually knows what's going on, so she's in the position of the reader in most cases. That means that she has almost as much knowledge about who and what everyone truly is in this caper as those of us reading the manga have, but filtered through a kindergartener's understanding of the world, which leaves us, the readers, with the humor of all of the tropes she unwittingly activates as an enjoyable side effect of her attempts to make things work out the way her adoptive father hopes.
At this point in the story, that's all about how Anya makes her way through the prestigious Eden Academy, the school Twilight is desperate for her to enroll in. He and his handlers have identified this as the smoothest path to reaching the target, Donovan Desmond, a high-ranking official in totally not 1980s Germany. The man's son is the same age as Anya, so Twilight's plan is for the two of them to become friends, opening up a path to family gatherings and playdates. That this plan doesn't take into consideration how children actually function in a school or social setting perhaps says more about what the adults have forgotten than what they know about spy-and-statecraft.
As anyone who remembers being five or six years old or who has recently interacted with kids that age could tell you, children forced together in the hopes that they'll become friends rarely end up doing what you want them to. In the case of Anya and Desmond's son Damian, not only is there a huge gap between them socially, but they're different genders, which in the 1980s meant a bit more than it might today. Even worse, Damian's been spoiled within an inch of his life and is very aware of how important his daddy is, so he's unwilling to give Anya the time of day.
Well, until she punches him. Then it's love at first blow.
Part of what makes Anya work so well as a character, especially in this volume, is the fact that she's trying to cope with two sets of flawed parental advice, and what she knows about Yor (which Twilight still doesn't) is that violence is her mother's stock in trade. Therefore when Twilight's advice doesn't work for her, Anya relies on Yor's, which not only seems to come out of nowhere for anyone watching, but also takes things in a completely different direction than Twilight was hoping for. In the case of Damian, that works out well, because he suddenly sees Anya as “not like other girls” and falls head over heels for her. Twilight, unaware of basically everything, only sees Anya's actions as the crushing blow that destroys his mission. And poor Anya is stuck in the realm of far too much information, unable to really process anything but still trying her darndest, even if sometimes knowing too much ruins everything, like her trip to the pool in one of Twilight's attempts to play happy families.
It is worth mentioning that there's less of a sense that Anya's emotional well-being is being imperiled by her role in Twilight's mission. In the first volume it was a concern that she was much more invested in having a real family than Twilight was, adding an edge of tension to all of her scenes. This time, however, Twilight doesn't seem like he's on the verge of returning her to the orphanage and Yor is bonded to the little girl as well, making Anya feel like a much less fragile character. When Twilight realizes that he can teach her via using her favorite spy cartoon as examples, it solidifies his commitment to the girl, for the first time making it feel like the “family” part of the title won't be consumed by Twilight's devotion to the “spy” part.
As with the first volume, there is a sense of escalating ridiculousness that helps to make this book so much fun. While Anya contributes a lot to that, it's the introduction of Yor's younger brother Yuri that really brings that element into play. Like virtually everyone else in the story, Yuri's got a secret alter-ego that could, if not jeopardize precisely, at least mess up Twilight's mission, meaning that there's likely a very good reason why Endo had Anya fall asleep before Yuri's arrival on the scene. It sets things up for even more spy antics in the third volume, suggesting that SPY x FAMILY isn't just a good series, it's one that will build on each book to make sure that it stays good. Hopefully this will prove to be the case, because this volume, like the first, is just a solid story that's a lot of fun.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Continues to be funny, Anya's role no longer feels precarious as she steals the show. Builds on volume one.
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