Spy X Family has become a recent big hit over in Shonen Jump, bringing with it a unique flavor to the long-running manga magazine. It just recently got released in volume form in America, so let’s dive in.
According to the official description provided by Viz Media:
An action-packed comedy about a fake family that includes a spy, an assassin and a telepath!
Master spy Twilight is the best at what he does when it comes to going undercover on dangerous missions in the name of a better world. But when he receives the ultimate impossible assignment — get married and have a kid — he may finally be in over his head!
Not one to depend on others, Twilight has his work cut out for him procuring both a wife and a child for his mission to infiltrate an elite private school. What he doesn’t know is that the wife he’s chosen is an assassin and the child he’s adopted is a telepath!
The setup of Spy X Family is distinctly sitcom-esque from a casual glance: a master spy infiltrating a school with a makeshift family, unknowingly made up of an assassin and telepath. It’s a goofy premise that lends itself to tons of wacky, silly situations as everyone comes together to form this oddball family unit. A person could almost instantly see where this is going from the start with its plot.
And yet, this is such a fun start. Even if one could see the road this story will take, Tatsuya Endo really goes all in on it. The characters are a lot of fun with interesting motivations and backstories that add a good amount of depth. The situations everyone gets into, from first meeting one another to getting the performance of a family life down, are silly and engaging to read. It’s a series that really strikes that perfect balance of being really funny, rather serious, and heartfelt without there being an issue with tone. By the end of it, it’s just so easy to get invested in everything that it makes one really want to know more.
A neat aspect that stood out in particular was the setting. Its vibe is something from the late ’60s to early ’70s; the world feels something akin to Europe and Russia during the Cold War. It’s all dripping in personality, having this undercurrent of paranoia and distrust where even not getting together with someone at a certain age seems suspicious. There’s a hard bent towards nationalism and elitism. Countries feel like they are on the brink of war and are looking for any edge over the other. It lends itself perfectly to this series, adding a lot to the characters and the kind of history they had to or still deal with.
Spy X Family centers on three main characters. The first is Twilight, the guy who essentially kicks things off. He’s a spy, a master of disguise and man capable of blending into any environment to achieve whatever goal is needed. He is the straight man of the group, trying to solely focus on the mission at hand. It can come off as uncaring, but the attitude comes from years of dangerous work, sacrifices, and a tragic childhood that he wants to make sure no child will ever experience again. His character is stiff initially, but his growth is overt as he slowly warms up to the other members of his new “family”.
Speaking of which, acting as his wife is Yor, a quiet woman who had to raise her younger brother on her own for most of their lives after their parents passed away. She is very distant, detached from a lot of the world due to being an assassin and avoiding attachments. She is just as professional as Twilight, but parts of that bleed over into her regular life that she’s not quite capable of controlling, like her bloodlust or interest in blades. She makes for an enjoyable character, though her growth is more subtle as she begins to open up to others.
Lastly, there is Anya, the adopted daughter for the mission. She is the heart of the story, the one who brings and holds the family together. A young girl who’s been tossed around from family to family and orphanage to orphanage, she seeks love and attention. Also, entertainment, which she finds in her new father and mother. For, unlike the others, she knows who they are because she is a telepath. She instantly sees through them and loves their crazy lives, wanting to be close to them. She brings the most laughs through her silly actions, but she is also capable of some rather sad, heavy moments. The big moment of that comes in the final chapter of the volume, signalling a really broken heart on the inside and why she wants to be with Twilight and Yor so badly.
The writing is really solid all around. The story is very well paced — no scene goes on for too long and the story is always moving forward. The dialogue is engaging, with a lot of good conversations, enjoyable banter, or amusing internal thoughts throughout. There’s some decent running themes and nods referenced, like during the school interview or party, that work well towards world-building. Comedy is on-point as well with its wonderful sense of timing, fast pace, and great character interactions. There are plenty of fantastic moments that’ll just make one laugh or chuckle a lot, like the entire chapter that takes place before the interview.
Then there is the art, which is also very good. The style is clean and polished, though still capable of capturing the ugly, depressing world the series is set in. The layouts are well-constructed with everything flowing from scene to scene without issue. The designs on the characters are good, along with the art being incredibly capable of bringing their big personalities to life through their wild actions and expressive faces. Some of the best of this comes from Anya as she looks wistfully between her “parents” and the world around her. The action is intense and the visual comedy is fantastic. All around, great looking art for a great story.
Spy X Family Vol. 1 is a great introduction to a brand-new series. Between intriguing characters and hilarious comedy, this is probably one freshest and best new series to hit Shonen Jump in years. If you’re big into unconventional comedies or spy thrillers with a twist, definitely give this one a try.