With the latest James Bond movie No Time to Die finally being released, many of us are starting to think about stories featuring spies. To capitalise on this trend, Yen Press have brought the light novel series Spy Classroom to the West, but does it deliver an interesting read? Let’s find out!
The story is set in a world where a devastating military conflict between countries has left millions of innocent people dead. Eventually, a peace treaty was signed but behind the scenes a new war is brewing – one fought between spies. One such spy is Klaus who is tasked with completing an Impossible Mission. There is more than a 90% chance of failure and the world-class team he belongs to already tried and lost their lives for it (Klaus only survived due to not being with them) but the fate of the world rests on someone being able to complete it.
Before he can take on the Impossible Mission, Klaus must first recruit a new team but the members he selects are all spies with no practical experience and on the verge of dropping out of their respective spy schools! One of the spies selected is our protagonist, Lily, who’s overjoyed to be given a mission and escape the confounds of school. However, once she and the other girls whom Klaus has selected have met their new leader, they begin to fear for their lives. Klaus is supposed to be giving them training to help them survive on their mission but, perhaps because he’s a genius, Klaus is hopeless when it comes to teaching.
Klaus quickly gives up on the idea of teaching and instead instructs Lily and the others to fight him. After all, If they can defeat him in combat, then they’ll be more than ready to take on the Impossible Mission! This naturally leads to many failures for the girls, but each defeat serves as a learning experience and brings them closer together, if nothing else.
As you may suspect from my write-up so far, most of Spy Classroom Volume 1 is focused on Lily and the others trying to defeat Klaus. Through these scenes, we slowly get to understand why Klaus chose these spies for his team and it’s largely because they’re all extremely skilled in one area. Lily, for example, can send out poison from her body to immobilise enemies, while she herself is immune to poisons. Another of the team called Erna can ‘smell’ misfortune and lead her enemies straight into unfortunate accidents. With all their talents combined, they could become an even stronger team than the one Klaus used to belong to.
Although the majority of the book is spent on training the girls, this volume does also see them take on the Impossible Mission so we’re not left hanging to see how that will resolve. The volume as a whole doesn’t serve all that well as a one-shot, given its clear that future instalments will focus on some of the other girls and flesh them out, but I do find myself grateful that Takemachi got the Impossible Mission plotline over and done with, rather than stringing the readers along.
This is Takemachi’s debut work and was the winner of the 32nd Fantasia Taisho awards. Reading through it, you can certainly see how it won the judges over, given its charming cast and interesting idea. It might not be the best spy thriller out there (at least not yet), but there is a lot to be said for how interesting a story can be about a bunch of seemingly useless characters becoming some of the best in the world. I also appreciate that, despite how many girls are around Klaus, this doesn’t present itself as a harem situation and even if one or two of the cast develop feelings for him later on, I think it’ll at least feel natural.
The other thing Takemachi has in their favour is that Spy Classroom is one of the only spy-focused light novels on the market right now. Lately, we’ve seen a trend involving stories about assassins, but those usually also double as isekai stories which this refreshingly isn’t.
I think Volume 1 serves as a solid foundation on which to build on going forward. Now that Klaus has trained the girls and established the team, it means the next book should be more focused on whatever mission they embark on and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how that unfolds. If nothing else, this series is fun and it never strays into being unbelievable within the world Takemachi has created.
As previously mentioned, Spy Classroom Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Nathaniel Thrasher. The translation reads well with no issues to note. Illustrations for the series are handled by Tomari (My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! and There’s No Way a Side Character Like Me Could Be Popular, Right?) and they’re fairly underwhelming, given the decision to focus on closeups of the girls. The colour page at the front is the most memorable since it’s a fold-out illustration showcasing all of the cast along with their codenames.
The series is ongoing in Japan with 6 volumes and there is also a manga adaptation, which Yen Press will start releasing in January. Volume 2 of the light novel series is scheduled for an English release in January as well.
Overall, Spy Classroom brings something new to the English light novel market and proves to be a delightful read. It may not be the best spy book out there nor the best light novel, but it’s a lot of fun to read and I think that’s more than enough to captivate readers for this first instalment.