Spy X Family Volume 1 Review

‘Never forget that everyone else’s day-to-day lives are possible because of your blood and sweat.’

Twilight is a master spy (‘a veteran of the battlefield, employing a hundred different faces to survive’) – and thus far, no mission has proved too dangerous or difficult for him to pull off successfully. Until now. Will this latest mission ‘Operation Strix’ be too difficult – and bring his career to an ignominious end? In order to infiltrate an elite private school and home in on his target, he must acquire a wife and a child. But where can Twilight – or ‘psychiatrist Loid Forger’ his latest identity – find the perfect family in time to carry out his assignment?

I abandoned my identity when I became Twilight. A father is just another role to play. And I will play it to perfection.

Adopting precocious Anya turns out to be something of a risky strategy. Anya is hiding the fact that she’s telepathic because her telepathy is as much a curse as a gift. A failed genetic experiment, she’s eager to please her new Papa but she’s also very much a six-year-old child. (She admits to six because she’s read in Loid’s mind that he’s looking for a child that age.) And while Loid might be an expert in espionage, he hasn’t much of a clue about being a parent. He also has too many enemies waiting to ambush him at the slightest opportunity and having a six-year-old in tow makes him so much more vulnerable.

But Twilight needs a wife to carry out his mission. One thing leads to another and he finds himself paired with unworldly Yor Briar (true identity: deadly assassin Thorn Princess) who is, for her own reasons, looking for a ‘husband’. This unorthodox family is now ready to embark on the daunting academy entrance procedure, along with numerous other child candidates and their ambitious parents. Will Loid’s plans flounder as the Forger family face the terrifying interview committee?

I’m always wary when a manga is described as ‘an exhilarating comedy’ as sometimes the humour doesn’t come across so well in translation. However, that’s not the case in Tatsuya Endo’s Spy x Family – and translator Casey Loe has done a brilliant job, especially in the scenes where young Anya reads (or misreads) the thoughts of those around her. The interview (more like an interrogation) for parents and child at the dauntingly elitist Eden Academy is a masterpiece of comedic timing as Tatsuya Endo knows exactly how to pace his frames to achieve some genuinely funny moments. Much of the humour depends on Anya’s responses to the interviewers’ searching questions, and here Casey Loe succeeds in finding hilarious English alternatives to the original Japanese (unseen).

Even though Spy x Family is a high-stakes thriller played for black comedy as well as action, one of the reasons it’s such an enjoyable read is the characterization. Watching Twilight/Loid attempting to be a father with his new daughter is both nail-biting and hilarious as she behaves like a typical child at one moment (‘I like peanuts. I hate carrots.’) and totally unpredictably, the next. But even though all three members of this unconventional family are ‘Spy – Assassin – Telepath’ the mangaka finds ways to make them sympathetic to the reader (even the scarily ruthless Yor). And the setting: an ongoing Cold War-like conflict between Ostania and Westalis (East and West) complete with steam trains, trench coats and trilby hats, is well realized and convincing.

With a few light-hearted Bonus pages at the end of the first volume and credits to the mangaka’s team, this entertaining and decidedly non-PC spy caper merits several re-readings, as there’s plenty of neat little hints and touches that are worth looking out for. Ongoing at four volumes, it’s brought to the West by VIZ Media as part of their SHONEN JUMP list.

Read a free preview at the publisher’s website here.

9 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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