First Impressions: Spy x Family

Don’t worry. For once I won’t be my usual, contrarian self. I enjoyed Spy x Family as much as everyone else appear to be. It’s one of the latest hit sensations in anime and it sure lives up to that hype. However, having now finished its first cour, I was left without much drive to immediately watch more of it. Allow me to explain.

The Forgers appear, on the surface, to be just another happy family. A married couple and their daughter, living it up in the high society of Ostania. However, this family has a secret. Husband Loid Forger is actually a spy from the bordering nation of Westalis, here on a mission that could make or break the tenuous peace between these two countries. Except the family has another secret. Wife Yor Forger is actually a master assassin, who uses her happy family as a disguise to hide from the authorities. Except the family has yet another secret! Daughter Anya Forger is actually an esper who can read minds. She is aware of both her parents’ secret identities and she is stoked to be part of a real-life crime drama.

Much of the appeal in Spy x Family lies in the contrast between happy-go-lucky family fun and the ruthless world of politics and crime that the Forgers inhabit. Such as a family day trip that derails when Loid is roped into a life-threatening mission. Even Anya’s school life is all part of an important mission. Through her, Loid has to befriend the family of an important politician whose son attends the same school. Anya of course knows about this due to her mind-reading, but her attempts to help out frequently backfire.

Loid, Yor, and Anya are all versatile characters, which lends the story a lot of avenues for creating comedy. Through Loid it gets to poke fun at spy drama tropes by having him navigate a world where secret agents, cryptic messages, and coded ciphers are hidden away everywhere. We get to laugh at this serious, cold-blooded spy having to pretend at being a loving family man; with all the challenges that fatherhood entails. This man has manipulated (and killed) countless people across his career, yet getting a little girl to do her math homework pushes him to his limits.

Anya, meanwhile, steals the show with her adorable antics. She is clumsy and kind of an idiot, but also very sincere and excitable. It’s fun getting to see her try to insert herself in her father’s missions. Or how she overreacts to her own mind-reading abilities. She is also very loving, in spite of being aware that she is a prop in the schemes of two criminals. Loving enough that Loid and Yor often threaten to forget that this family was just supposed to be pretend.

Only Yor ends up feeling underutilized. You get to see a lot of Loid’s missions and Anya’s school life, but Yor’s background doesn’t come up as much. You only see her at work a small handful of times. For the rest of the story, she is just a mother figure that sometimes says something unnerving. Though that may yet change in future episodes.

Besides the entertaining characters and great setting, Spy x Family also scores points for how well it nails the comedy itself. The storylines are well-written and funny, with individual jokes that benefit from great comedic timing. The excellent voice performances also help these jokes land. I legitimately rewinded some scenes, just because some lines were delivered so perfectly. And all that wrapped up in a nicely-animated show.

So why am I stopping after only a single cour? Caution and skepticism, mostly.

Lately we have seen a lot of anime & manga like Spy x Family. A new hit sensation with a great premise and execution, taking the community by storm. At the same time, we are seeing a lot of the early examples of such series peter out now. Dying under the weight of their endlessly-prolonged story lines, as audiences grow bored of gimmicks and side-plots.

Spy x Family is great, but I am wary of it becoming yet another story whose objectives could be postponed indefinitely. I am not saying that it will be the next Komi, but I sure am going to hold off on watching more of it until we’ve found out for sure.

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