ANIME REVIEW | "Spy × Family" Gets Smart With Impossibly Fun Missions
Hello, Mr. Duck. Your mission — should you choose to accept it — is to analyze the anime adaptation of Spy × Family. Seeing as your knowledge of Tatsuya Endo’s manga series is impeccable, we saw you as the best fit to cover the misadventures of the Forger Family. Succeed, and your credibility as an anime critic will strengthen; fail, and…well, we can always ask Anime News Network.
You have less than 1200 words to complete this mission. Good luck. — W.I.S.E.
For an anime to earn universal appeal, it must go beyond the usual audience that its genre tends to cater to. Shows like Cowboy Bebop, One-Punch Man, and Attack on Titan have done this with great ease, becoming some of the most iconic series of the television medium. Spy × Family, the latest series from Wit Studio (After the Rain) and CloverWorks (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform), will no doubt succeed in its mission to join their ranks.
Taking place in a Cold War era-like country of Ostania, Spy × Family begins with the unnamed spy known as Twilight (Takuya Eguchi). His skills in combat, memory, and intel are the best in W.I.S.E., an organization in neighboring Westlalia aiming to keep the peace between the two countries. Because of these talents, Twilight is chosen to embark on Operation Strix, where he must take down Donovan Desmond, the President of Ostania’s National Unity Party.
In order to succeed in this mission, Twilight must do the unthinkable: become a family man. As Donovan’s son youngest Damian (Natsumi Fujiwara) is attending Eden Academy, the best way to take him out is to get close to said son. To get into Eden Academy, Twilight needs two things: a kid and a doting wife. Of course, Twilight has neither, meaning the kid must come a local orphanage.
Enter Anya (Atsumi Tanezaki), a little girl with the power to read minds. After taking the alias Loid Forger, Twilight adopts Anya, who is in awe of his spy skills. Despite her knowing of Twilight’s true nature, Anya keeps it all secret because she thinks it’s cool and wants to help just like in her favorite cartoon. But the family can’t be complete without a loving wife and mother, which is where Yor (Saori Hayami) comes in.
Externally, Yor’s a kind and gentle person, who easily warms up to Anya and Twilight. However, unbeknownst to Twilight — but absolutely known to Anya — Yor is an assassin known as “Thorn Princess”, who takes on missions to kill some incredibly powerful men. Again, Anya keeps this all to herself because she thinks Yor is awesome, and having a spy father and assassin mother just might be the most badass thing to ever happen to her!
Thus, the mission can truly begin, as Anya gets enrolled into Eden Academy thanks to some clever thinking between the Forgers. She takes her mission as seriously as a six year-old can, by which I mean she tries so hard but fails miserably. Not only does she not make nice with Damian, but she also punches him square in the face after insulting her newfound friend Becky (Emiri Kato). This leaves a strike on her Eden Academy record, with eight of them meaning her expulsion. Already, this isn’t looking good for Operation Strix!
There are a lot of layers to peel off of in Spy × Family, but each one is coated in the flavors of peanuts. Anya is the true heart and soul of this series, as her viewpoint of Twilight and Yor help to mesh the fake couple into the perfect parents. Thanks to her telepathic powers, Anya can tell when their cover is in trouble of being blown. It often results in her doing her best to make things look normal, but uttering the most abnormal things a child could say.
As a couple — faux or not — Twilight and Yor are a match made in a blood-soaked Heaven. Despite not having any knowledge of their true natures, both manage to find ways to work together to complete family tasks that are important to the mission at hand. Whether it’s a city outing or a trip to the aquarium, these oddballs manages to keep to the script of being a loving family whilst tackling evil that’s run afoul.
All of this makes for what is essential a nearly-perfect form of action comedy. It’s obvious that Spy × Family plays much of what happens here for laughs, especially when it comes to Anya’s role in Operation Strix. She’s not the butt of the joke, but rather the initiator of the gag that’s about to happen. In reality, it’s poor Twilight that gets dealt with the role of a joke’s derrière!
Twilight realizes early on that he’s not built to be a dad, despite his perfect mission record. Taking down terrorists is one thing, but how about renting a castle for your daughter and playing “make-believe” spy to celebrate her getting into Eden Academy?! It’s clear that Twilight is overworked at W.I.S.E., a fact that can easily be read on his face whenever he returns from a mission. Ironically, that tiredness can be relatable to many fathers in the world, as any job can suck the life out of you, be it working in retail, education, or the Secret Service.
As for Yor’s role in the family, she acts very much like the backbone that keeps everything straight and narrow. While her marriage to Twilight is fake, her love for Anya is 100% authentic. Their shopping trips, self-defense training, and all-around bonding is filled with the same amount of tenderness and care that a real mother and birth daughter would have. (It’s just a shame that she’s an awful cook!)
One thing that Spy × Family does far better than its original manga is its tone presentation. When reading Endo’s work, it can be hard to get a feel of how one’s supposed to feel during certain scenes. A great example of this can be found when Twilight and informant Franky (Hiroyuki Yoshino) — disguised as Secret Police officers — grill Yor over her brother Yuri (Kensho Ono). In the manga, the moment comes off as truly cold-hearted and uncomfortable; here, it is still tense, but Yor’s responses to the duo showcase why she’s the Forger backbone. As such, the scene comes off far better here in the anime than the original manga.
A lot of the show’s credit must be given to the terrific voice cast. The amount of personalities Eguchi pulls off as Twilight is phenomenal, whether he’s in dad mode, spy mode, or in disguise. Hayami does the same as Yor, as she can switch between doting mother & wife and assassin with a snap of one’s fingers. Of course, Tanezaki is the show’s big scene-stealer as Anya. She brings out the cuteness, sweetness, and can-do attitude of the telepath in a pitch-perfect way!
The combined forces of Wit Studio and CloverWorks helps make Spy × Family the best-looking show of the season, quite possibly of 2022! Its action scenes, with Twilight making mince meat out of gangs of villains or Yor making an example of a possible kidnapper, are a joy to watch unfold. When it comes time for the laughs, the more comedic moments with Anya and her antics at Eden Academy (especially the dodgeball episode), demonstrate how a well-animated comedy can punch up an already-fantastic joke!
Its soundtrack is a banger, as well. The duo of Makoto Miyazaki and Shuhei Mutsuki showcase melodies that fit perfectly with the series’s spy and espionage influences. (Think Henry Mancini meets Soil & “Pimp” Sessions”!) Opener “Mixed Nuts” by Official HIGE Dandism captures the excitement and lightheartedness of Spy × Family, while closer “Kigeki” by Gen Hoshino showcases the show’s more suave and chill side.
Spy × Family is a terrific manga, but it makes for a much better anime. Its clever narrative, lovable characters, and gorgeous animation make it a true highlight for animation in 2022. While its somewhat violent nature may not be appropriate for everyone, Spy × Family — in its own way — makes for some of the best kind of TV the whole family can sit and enjoy watching together. So grab some peanuts and keep the acid reflux pills close by, and bear witness to the most fun show this year.
Wait, was this all under 1200 words? Oh sh—!
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)
Final Grade (not an average):