Spy x Family is one of the better and more popular anime produced in 2022. It’s funny, heart-warming, and tells the tale of a most unusual family and their most unusual secrets. That said, it has its share of issues, most of them involving the handling of its own ideas, and how infrequently it comes back to the ground of its premise as it flits off into skies filled with childlike hilarity. It has an excellent beginning, and mostly remains entertaining, but goes in a very different direction than is initially promised, as if it became distracted by some threads and failed to pursue others.
A tightly coherent narrative, this is not.
A fun and funny little adventure, this is.
Leading the show is the Forger family. There is Loid Forger, aka Twilight, the greatest spy his nation has, undertaking an unusual mission in an enemy nation which requires him to have a wife and child. The “wife” in question is the quiet, soft-spoken Yor Briar, aka Mistress Thorn, an assassin of formidable power in her profession and an awkward disposition in social settings. The adopted child is Anya, a walking incarnation of the word “adorable,” who was once held in a secret lab where she obtained the ability to read minds. Heck, even Anya’s dog, Bond, coming from a similar circumstance as Anya, can see the future. And just to top things off, Yor’s brother, Yuri Briar, is secretly a high-ranking member of the Secret Police, and therefore Loid’s worst enemy.
Anya and Bond know all the secrets. The adults know almost none of them besides their own.
The spy and the assassin setup rings a bit like Mr. and Mrs. Smith at first glance, a husband and wife serving opposite sides, but that doesn’t last very long. The two of them are surprisingly perfect for each other, but what I anticipated to be at least partially a story of their romance as they both went about their secret lives… well, that fell by the wayside fast. Yor’s work as an assassin influences her perspective and explains her deadly strength, but her secret life was highlighted only in the episode that introduced her, and then the rest of the season passed without it really coming up again. Even more pointedly, the love story between her and Loid also went very bland despite living together in a relationship of convenience, and required the introduction of a femme fatale colleague of Loid’s in order to inject it with life again, near the first season’s finale.
So, the romance is pretty much a no go, much to my disappointment.
Comedy, on the other hand, is very much, “go.”
It can be very weird and over-the-top comedy, as especially demonstrated by the entire dodgeball sequence, the underground tennis tournament, and by Yuri’s raging sister complex which will undoubtedly strike newcomers to anime as both confusing and cringe-worthy. Anime veterans like myself simply roll our eyes and roll with it, and especially enjoy the rest of the humor – which is abundant, hysterical, and pokes fun at itself as well – alongside the thrills.
Said thrills – with Yor’s assassin work relegated to the background and she herself nearly suffering the same – center on Loid’s work as a spy, as the efforts of his organization are bent towards averting the renewal of a recent war between Eastern and Western countries. The anime draws heavily on the time of the World Wars and the Cold War for inspiring the setting, the stakes, and the overall story. Loid’s central mission involves striving to get close to a particular public official who is very difficult to get close to, and the only opening to be found involves the prestigious private school his sons attend, and thus the need to have a child of his own in the same school. Other missions come up, however, smaller but still of vital importance, which keep him occupied even while his work with Anya at her school can only proceed very slowly. There are national treasures to retrieve, information to obtain surreptitiously, and violent threats to people and to a fragile peace which must be negated by stealth, guile, and force.
But the main selling point of the series is definitely the humor, and it is sold by quite the colorful cast.
There’s the Forgers, of course, who are fantastic together and take turns leading various individual storylines. Loid’s storyline brings in the spies and secret agents of his organization under the leadership of their handler, a most respectable and formidable woman, as well as a comedic information broker who gets roped into Loid’s escapades, and that femme fatale I mentioned earlier who is in love with Loid to the point of obsession but does not realize just how little chance she has with him. Yor’s thread brings in her brother but also her coworkers at her day job, at least one of which gets conscripted to help Yor learn to cook, lest she inadvertently kill her new family. And Anya, she has her teacher at school as well as her fellow students, particularly a very rich girl who becomes her best friend – and is hilariously obsessed with romance and crushing on Loid – and a boy, the son of Loid’s true target, with whom she has a very rocky beginning – it doesn’t get much worse than punching him in the face, on day one, after he bullies her – but who is definitely falling hard for her long before hormones ever become a thing. (Ah, very young love!)
These characters are easy to love. The connections they form are really quite heart-warming as well, as strangers become friends and even family, and their adventures make the audience smile and laugh as they all struggle towards a peaceful future.
In short: there’s a great deal about this show, really, to recommend it. Laughter, love, action, intrigue, thrills. It’s a good show. I just happen to feel that it might have been improved if the plot went in a more specific direction, instead of beating around every bush it could possibly find. And if the romance between Loid and Yor had lived up to the promise the show made with its beginning. (And if they hadn’t interrupted the first season with a three-month break)
All in all, I do enjoy Spy x Family. I don’t think it’ll be among my favorites or anything like that, but it’s not bad.
Rating: 7 stars out of 10.