Easily one of the stand-out series of the season, Jean-Karlo and Nicky check out why this family of misfits is winning the hearts of everyone across the otaku-sphere.
This series is streaming on Crunchyroll
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Don't mind me, I'm just your average everyday weeb sitting here for my other fellow weebs to show up. Look, I'm so inconspicuous I even make cat noises.
And I'm just your everyday little gremlin. Nothing suspicious at all!
Hello, ordinary gremlin. You got the goods?
If by "goods" you mean "hefty collection of Yor screencaps"? Then, yes! Quite a bit.
Time to run it through the decoder, apply the cypher to it, run it past our trusty code talker...
...aw yeah, this is just what the higher-ups needed. We got Spy×Family this week on This Week In Anime!
Definitely one of my most anticipated shows of the season. And just in time for Father's Day too! I've been reading the manga for this every week on the Jump app religiously since it came out like a dad reads the Sunday sports page.
Inspired by real-world Cold War-era political tensions, Bond films, and various other forms of pulp fiction, Spy×Family takes place between two rivaled nations: Westalis and Ostania (literally West and East). While the two countries are currently at peace, the smell of war is still fresh. In order to maintain peace, the Western organization WISE utilizes their best spy, monikered "Twilight," to thwart an oncoming plot from the East's National Unity Party and prevent the idyllic everyday lives of normal citizens from being plunged into a vat of bloody conflict once again. But not without great challenges, for while the burden of many lives rests on his shoulders it comes in the package of raising a single small child. It's very difficult, being a parent.
The "fish out of water" approach here is that Twilight, who had dedicated himself to a life of loneliness in the name of his political duties, finds himself having to find not only a kid but also a wife in order to carry out his mission. The logistics of just adopting a kid somewhere are already rough, having to marry someone within a week or so is even wilder. (I mean, haven't you seen the Chris O'Donnell comedy The Bachelor
? It's wild.) But also, Twilight—adopting the alias "Loid Forger"—has no idea how kids think.
And what's worse: the kid he adopts knows what he thinks. Because she's an ESPer.
It's deeply implied that the girl Twilight picks up from the shady-ass orphanage is the product of mad science experiments, and her experiences of being rejected as a freak of nature scar her in a way that make her and her new Spy Father cut from the same cloth. However, it never gets too deep or too dark with it. While Twilight is the hero of the story, Anya, with her extremely convenient powers to read the minds of everyone around her in a setting where everyone keeps their own secrets, is the perfect perspective character. It's a good metaphor for how kids are always 10x more perceptive than you actually think they are. It's also extremely funny given how she's still working from child logic.
Pretty much. Anya can read everyone's mind, but she's still only five (or six, as she claims). She only really understands Loid's mission through the lens of her favorite cartoon, Spy Wars
. Of course, Twilight doesn't know that: he just thinks Anya is a precocious little scamp. He doesn't have much time to dwell on it, either: his mission requires that Anya be enrolled in Eden College, a prestigious academy for upper-crust children. This is difficult, but easily attained with a little bit of tutoring. The hard part is that the interview requires that Anya's mother also be present, so here we get the other part of the formula.
Everyone, it's the Waifu of the Season: Yor Briar.
On the outside, Yor appears to be an average young woman. But history has never been kind to single women. Being the equivalent of the 60s, being unmarried both alienates Yor from her fellow co-workers at her office job, causes her brother to worry about her personal life, and even endangers her of being targeted for accusations of political treachery. These are all unfortunately the normal societal circumstances, but also, just like everyone else, this woman also has something she'd like to keep hidden no matter what: her career as a smokin' hot deadly assassin!
Under the alias of the Thorn Princess, Yor has carried out all kinds of wetwork for years in the name of supporting her little brother and giving him a decent life. A combination of Yor dedicating her life to her job and her also being a bit of an airhead means she wouldn't understand courtship anyway. Thankfully, once Yor and Loid have their meet-cute at the tailor's, Anya is able to play Cupid for them.
Although, theirs is a marriage of conveniences, Yor and Twilight seem to be an unconventionally sweet and deadly match-made-in-heaven. Hell, the first thing that happens is Yor gets embroiled into some spy biz (which Loid craftily dances around), and takes it in more than just stride. She's just as excellent and competent in handling herself in life-or-death situations as he is, though with more pure brawn than Twilight's pure brain. Twiloid manages to propose to her with a bang, using a grenade pin!
It's one of the coolest scenes in the show, for sure, and one I was really excited to see animated ever since people first went nuts for it on Twitter. But it gives us our set-up: Loid is a spy on a mission, Yor is an undercover assassin, and Anya is a telepath who knows both of their secrets. Nobody is the wiser, they just want to keep the family together for the sake of their own purposes... and it turns out they come to appreciate each other.
Yeah, although the reasoning is covered in falsehoods, underneath they find the thing that their troubled pasts has denied them which is real kinship and love. In a way, they embody the lies while maintaining the parts that are true to themselves. Truly an idyllic family despite what sets them apart from the rest of society.
I've seen people joke about it, but Spy×Family is basically the ultimate millennial family: a fully-functional family.
And in the end that's the real appeal and heart of the show! It's got all the trappings of a serious action plot but really it's a heartwarming family sitcom. The image of the perfect traditional values nuclear family is one born of extreme economic and social privileges, many of which couldn't be afforded previously by the cast. In the case of Twilight and Yor they literally had to fight to be in their current comfortable positions. They recognize that being stable and happy isn't something given to you, even if it is expected. Anya recognizes this too, she would do anything to keep having a family that loves her. Especially since warmongering assholes could care less about destroying exactly what they all worked so hard to get.
Some time ago I saw some folks talking about The Big Three from way back in the day and wondering if there is a new "Big Three" now (there isn't). Bleach, Naruto and One Piece became The Big Three because they were similar shows in impact, theme, genre, and audience that came out in the west around the same time. And while we've had a lot of recent action hits in the U.S. like Tokyo Ghoul, One-Punch Man, and Demon Slayer (and the delayed rise of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure), it's interesting to me that the biggest hits of recent history have all been romantic comedies to some extent. Komi Can't Communicate, The Way of the Househusband, and Spy×Family were hits with the manga crowd right away. The first hit of this year was the My Dress-Up Darling anime. I think it goes to show just how varied and expansive anime and manga are allowed to be as genres that this kind of thing can happen. I mean, here we are in 2022 and the must-watch show of the season is... an animated sitcom. Sure, it might not have aired on TGIF along with Full House or Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but I don't think it'd be too hard to sell Spy×Family to that crowd. You'd never have seen that coming in the days of Dragon Ball Z on Toonami. It's not even all that action-y because so much of the show is finding solutions to domestic problems that may or may not involve Twilight requesting backup from W.I.S.E. or Yor imparting some combat training on Anya.
Most of the show is related to family-related hijinks turned up to 11. And once Anya gets into Eden Academy in order to get close to the National Unity Party Leader's six-year-old son, codenamed Operation STRIX, we spend a good majority there, too. What sets it apart from your average ABC line-up is that Spy×Family is extremely snappy about it. The manga already has some amazing paneling but WIT and CloverWorks add a lot of flourish too. Even the smallest things such as a change of clothes are a literal life-or-death situation for them, after all. It was great seeing the headmaster animated in all his elegance.
My favorite part of the interview is watching Twilight absolutely lose his cool after having both his wife and his daughter thoroughly criticized and insulted by one of the interviewers attempting to humiliate them. It really shows how close they all are even after such a short amount of time. Fortunately, sticking up for their values is the thing that keeps them from jeopardizing the mission with unnecessary feelings.
I will also note that while I try not to comment too much on adaptation choices, I'm a bit surprised that the anime is almost 1:1 ch per episode ratio. I think sometimes it could be snappier because I want to see more of later stuff adapted, and it takes quite a bit of time with its set-up. However, I also think it's not a bad thing as it really lets you spend more time with the characters as a family, or lets certain jokes play out more. Some may consider it padding but there's a lot more of a slice-of-life quality.
The castle escapade is a good example of that. They really elaborate on the joke and make it feel like a much bigger ordeal. Similarly, a lot of the settings feel gussied up. The Forger's family apartment feels like it came straight out of a designer magazine. The school lives up to its reputation. The city streets feel clean and modern, while still being fairly accurate to the time period. And of course, not to mention WIT's wonderful sakuga.
The show definitely works better with the sedate pace, I think. Sitcoms are cozy TV viewing and I don't think Spy×Family would have benefitted much from a more manic pace. Let the jokes come as they do, let the family stew in the tension. It helps the cute family moments earn that "Aww" from the live studio audience. That's key to the pacing, I think; this is a show where Yor can knock out a raging bull by pressing its pressure points. You need that breathing room.
Also, yes, the show definitely revels in its Cold War-era aesthetics. I don't know how period accurate Twilight in a white t-shirt and jeans or Yor's weird not-quite backless sweater are, but it still feels classy and stylish as befits a spy and an undercover assassin. Also, their big, chunky TV is just charming. Look at those dials! Twilight must be loaded to afford a color TV for Anya's cartoons.
It's accurate to the time but I've been informed that the East Germany that Ostanian is likely based on was a lot poorer, most families didn't even have color TV even if you were hella rich. The bougie-ness is all really part of the wish-fulfillment. The anime also mixes elements that are clearly more indicative of modern Japan, like Anya eating omurice at school for lunch. But it's fiction so don't let any anachronisms throw you off. After all, stories are all hodgepodges of ideas and while the problems the Forgers face as a family are contextual to their time, it's not like they're problems that don't exist anymore. Japan still struggles with accepting non-traditional families, poverty still exists, and while some of the biggest wars are starting to fade from living memory, it helps to be reminded that the things we take for granted in life could suddenly be taken away.
Also there are some neat throwbacks like the OP being done in the style of 60s animation, but with more frames modern technology could afford or the designer chair from the manga covers
showing up in the ED while Yor's brother stands menacingly in the distance.
I think I prefer Spy×Family's approach to 1960s style more than The Incredibles
, but that might also be because The Incredibles
is so steeped in Americana (and I otherwise don't really care for The Incredibles
Anyway, with Anya in Eden College, there are further complications: Anya and the Forgers need to be invited to a fancy soiree in order to get close to Twilight's target. The only way for that to happen is for Anya to become an extremely-decorated student and earn eight merits called Stella Stars. Twilight knowing that Anya isn't that good of a student, his alternative is for Anya to become friends with Damien, his target's son and Anya's classmate. And, uh... that ain't happening, suffice to say.
She gets it from her mom!
Damien is a little snob and rags on Anya for her low birthright from the word "go," making Anya defend herself once he steps over the line. So much to Twilight's chagrin, both his plans are on thin ice: Anya's poor academics make getting Stellas an uphill battle, and this early bit of facial rearrangements earns her a Tonitrus Bolt demerit on her very first day.
Anya's been coasting on her telepathic abilities and yet barely understands bigger words. She has an extremely cute but poor speech pattern but it's clear compared to the kids at Eden she's punching above her weight-class academically. After all, they're making the first graders learn FRACTIONS?! Don't let Yor teach you math, btw.
She also can't really cheat because it'll look too suspicious if she suddenly went from Fs to As.
However, I think Anya should receive a Stella Star just for being so gosh darn cute!! Look at her!
Anya is also very astute: she recognizes that part of why her telepathy is failing her is because she has yet to figure out which students excel at which subjects, and makes a mental note to keep track of that for future reference. But she also genuinely wants to do well because she wants to help Twilight's plan work, partly because she enjoys being part of a spy game and partly because she really does look up to him as a father.
And apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Anya is adowable cuz while Damien Desmond might be a young stuck-up jerkwad born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he's also not entirely heartless and quickly gets a little baby crush on Anya.
What's important is that Twilight is willing to understand Anya's limits and work within them; he demonstrates a lot of patience for the girl that a lot of kids no doubt wish they'd see from their parents. With his connections to W.I.S.E., he could find some way to put Anya's nose to the grindstone. For someone who's not even really Anya's dad, he shows a lot of care in making sure Anya gets to enjoy her childhood.
The anime hints early on that this soft spot relates to Twilight's own childhood and his real motivation for becoming a spy.
Yor being a bad drunk is....very good....but it might also run in the family as eventually her brother visits and her brother happens to be totally overprotective of his sister as the only secure figure in his life. Unbeknownst to Yor and quickly determined by Loid is that he's also a secret officer for the state.
Even Yor doesn't know that her brother, Yuri, is actually an officer of the Secret Police. Everyone's keeping secrets from each other, after all. He also has her quirk of having a puppy-dog face until he gets to business. He's possibly a total siscon, too.
As cute as Yor and Twilight might be together, they've never even kissed so having to kiss on command is a bit much for Yor's frazzled nerves to handle.
Shonen Jump™ Approved: a cavalcade of hot people living the chastest lives possible!
Yuri's presence does cast a seed of doubt into Twilight's trust in Yor, but a quick bit of chicanery quickly puts that to rest. Yor's no more aware of Yuri's involvement with the Secret Police as anyone else. As it stands, the only major threat to the plan is Anya's difficulties in earning a Stella.
Which leads to one of the most intense dodgeball matches in anime history!! Despite everyone being six years old.
W.I.S.E. projected that Anya could earn all eight Stella in four months. Like... I'm sorry, that's insane. Even if Anya weren't so academically challenged, that's ridiculous.
Incidentally, shout-out to Twilight's superior officer, code-name "Handler." She's basically the spitting image
of our lovely editor. Yes, she has that hat—several, in fact.
And this is our editor when we use the word ::CENSORED::
in This Week In Anime!
Right, so dodgeball: Anya's classmates hear rumors that doing well in the dodgeball game can earn the MVP a Stella. So Anya recruits Yor's help in getting some physical training to turn her pudgy toddler arms (five-maybe-six-year-olds are toddlers, right?) into mean dodgeball machines. Damien also goes through his own training regimen, including a cheeky reference to that other famous Shonen Jump
property about balls.
And just like Shonen Jump
their opponent looks waaaay too old to be enrolled in school and yet somehow he's also a first grader.
His name is Billy and he even sounds like a grown man. Hearing this guy say "daddy" was not a thing I needed in my life, thanks. (Though it was hysterical.)
However, the name of the game is dodgeball and it's easy to dodge when you can literally READ PEOPLE'S MINDS!
Damien tries his mightiest to be the big damn hero because he wants the Stella star to impress his dad and escape the shadow of his older brother but ends up taking the hit for Anya after she falls.
Anya's own attempt at replicating Yor's ball-busting doesn't really work (again: Anya's arms are pudgy and weak), but it works out because it turns out that no, nobody was gonna earn a Stella for a freaking dodgeball game. Womp-womp!
She makes a fantastic attempt though. Even if you're gonna whiff, you better be spectacular about it.
It's a really brilliantly animated bit. Again, Studio WIT has been firing on all cylinders with this and other animated projects of theirs this season.
But there are other ways to gain a Stella Star besides academic merits, some students gain recognition through show of talent! Of which Anya has none of because she is BABY!
But hey, there's always volunteer work!
It goes to show that even with all the problems her powers have given her or how hard she struggles, Anya really does have ability and heart to do things that no one else can, just like her Papa.
Most importantly, it opens the door to Anya getting a reward from her parents—and fans of the manga have been waiting for this one member of the Forgers to show up for a long while...
What is the perfect family without a perfect pet? I wonder. Anyways, definitely, looking forward to the second half! And judging by how slim next season is, I'll need it. But as it is Spy×Family remains a perfect adaption of a perfect comedy of one seemingly-and-yet-not-so perfect family struggling to maintain the peacefulness of their everyday lives. Just like anyone else, really, except maybe cooler and sexier.
Spy×Family has been a beloved manga since it came out, so this anime was hotly anticipated. And by and large, it's lived up to every expectation and more. There's a reason it's the fan-favorite of the season, even if most of that is because people are super-thirsty for Yor and Twilight. This is a really cute sitcom the likes of which anime doesn't get—hell, like I said earlier, it's a good sitcom period, I'd rewatch it a billion times before I ever cast a glance at Friends or How I Met Your Mother. It's good to see a good show get a big following. I do hope that folks keep an eye out for other shows this season and catch up to some of the others (Ya Boy Kongming is right there, I promise it's good, Eiko's just as cute as Yor don't "@" me), but yeah: this one's king of the hill for a reason.
I conclude that all girls are cute, but as much as I love the others my "best girl" award probably goes to Anya and her stupid faces. However, there's no need to fight or bring out the battalions. Let's not war over who or what is best and celebrate the joy that all anime has given us. Here's one for world peace! (And a shout-out to all those who celebrated Juneteenth as well).
Good work all around, folks, see you—
"This column will detonate in five seconds"? Wait, wha
Missed it by that much!