SpyxFamily is the Anime of the Summer

How Tatsuya Endo stole our Saturday Mornings.

I have not been quiet about my criticisms of anime. The stereotypical depictions of women in anime leave much to be desired, among other issues. You can read all about what I think about “here.” With that in mind, you can love something and see its flaws, and that’s exactly how I feel about anime. 

   I did initially stop watching anime because of the writing and the depictions of women, but as my baby brother has grown up, I have had to vet the anime he’s watching to make sure they are age appropriate and teach him to consume anime with his brain turned on.  

   He’s getting to the age where I don’t even need to ask him what he’s watching. I can trust him to make wise decisions. And if he was ever watching something weird… Well, we share a Crunchyroll account. It wouldn’t be a perfect crime. 

   I didn’t think any anime would stand out or appeal to me; I honestly thought I was too old. Then, Spyxfamily made its debut on Crunchyroll. I read the description of the show and went, “Nah, I won’t like it.” I needed something to watch late one night, so I caved and watched the first episode. Then the second. Then the third. Until I watched eight episodes in a single night when I had work at 8 am the next morning. 

   I was instantly hooked by the show’s charm, the comedy, the found family trope, and the setting, but most importantly, the characters. The relationships they have with each other, the automatic tension that comes with concealing identity, and the way they comedically and thematically bounce off each other is perfectly balanced. Truly, it sets itself apart from any other anime that’s out right now.

The Concept

   The show takes place in a fictional world where two countries are engaged in a cold war. It was influenced by East and West Germany during the cold war of the 1950s thru the 1970s. The conflict is between Ostania in the east and Westalis in the west. The show’s main protagonist is a spy named Twilight, a master of disguise who has given up any hopes of a normal life to fight for peace between the two countries. In his words, “a world where children won’t have to cry anymore.”

   The real shenanigans start when Twilight receives a mission to infiltrate a high-end private school to get close to a politician who is rarely ever seen in public and only ever attends his son’s elite private school events. However, to infiltrate the school, he needs to create a family and enroll the child in the school. He has seven days to accomplish this.

   So he decides to get a child first and adopts a little girl named Anya. But Anya has a secret; she is a telepath. So she immediately knows Twilight’s real identity as a spy, but he doesn’t know hers. Finally, Twilight meets a woman named Yor who works at city hall as a clerk. Like the other two members of this family, Yor has a side job, namely, being an assassin. 

   So as you can imagine, with so many secrets and in such a tense political climate, it’s impressive that this show manages to be so funny. You can’t help but root for the characters’ success and want them to come to care for one another. 

Episode Breaks downs 

For this review, I will break down and summarize each of the first twelve episodes. If you haven’t seen the show, I, of course, recommend watching it. There are minor spoilers for the show.

That being said, I don’t think reading this review will cause you to have a negative experience if you decide to watch the show after reading this article. I have actually watched this show so many times that I can tell you what episode I am watching and what part of the script the characters are at just by listening to the Japanese. 

It’s a fantastic show, so if you want to watch it before you get into my thoughts, that’s fine! But if you choose to read the rest of this article first, don’t let that be the reason you don’t watch the show!

Episode One: Operation Strix

   In this episode, we are introduced to both Loid (The name Twilight chooses to go by during this mission) and Anya, as well as the concept of the show. In twenty minutes, you have an understanding of the mission and motivation. The pacing of this show is also so fast in the best way. Loid gets his mission, his new daughter Anya, and has her take the entrance exam in the first episode. 

Episode Two: Secure a Wife

   In this second episode, Loid finds himself in need of a wife. He meets Yor at a tailor shop, agreeing to go on a fake date together. Yor is in need of a fake boyfriend to help keep her friends from being suspicious of her. After some more shenanigans, they agree to be fake married so that Yor can avoid suspicion and so that Loid can get Anya into school. 

Episode Three: Prepare for the Interview

The three of them spend some time together as a new family so that they can prepare for the upcoming school interview. The interview is the last step needed before they can be admitted into Eden. It’s pretty sweet, and it gives the viewer an opportunity to see how each of the characters balances out the other. 

Episode Four: The Prestigious Schools Interview

   In one of my favorite episodes of the show, the family goes to the school interview, and after dodging several booby traps, they finally sit down for their interview. It starts great but goes south quickly as one of the interviewees has a vendetta against them. It ends with the family storming out. Anya’s entry into the school remains uncertain. However, this episode does have one of the most satisfying anime punches ever. If you know, you know. 

Episode Five: Will they Pass or Fail?

   Anya gets into school by some miracle, and the family celebrates. This episode is a fantastic example of the showrunners taking a concept from the manga and expanding on it to make it truly an excellent episode and one of the best in the season to date. The animation and action are so well done, the comedy is on point, and the soundtrack is fantastic. You’re reminded of how badass Twilight is, but that his new wife may be a better fighter than even he is. 

Episode Six: The Friendship Scheme

   In this episode, Anya attends her first day of school. Loid is hoping that Anya will befriend the son of his target in the hopes that they will become friends. Instead, Anya befriends Becky Blackbell and punches Damian Desmond, the target’s son, in the face, competing with episode four for the best punch. This episode also contains Anya’s most memeable face. 

Episode Seven: The Targets Second Son

   Anya has to live with the consequences of punching Damian in the face, namely, getting a demerit. Her “dad” Loid tells her to apologize when she goes to school the next day. Anya spends the episode working up the courage to tell Damian she’s sorry. It shows the cute but childish crush Damian is developing for Anya. 

Episode Eight: The Counter-Secret Police Cover Operation

   We deviate a little from Anya’s life at Eden Academy to focus more on Yor and Loid. Yor had one living relative, her brother, who until now has remained off-screen, and this is his debut episode. If you haven’t noticed yet, there is not a normal person in this show, and that trend doesn’t stop with Yor’s brother, Yuri. 

   Yor forgets to tell her brother, who she is very close, that she got married, so he comes over to see if Loid is good enough for his sister. There are two small problems. One, Yor and Loid are only married to save face. They are not in love and don’t even know each other well. Two, Yuri has his secret, and he’s part of the secret police whose goal is to hunt down the infamous spy, Twilight. The drama!

   Everything about this episode is just perfect. The character interactions are so good, and this episode is so funny. I cackled laughing the first time I saw it. It’s my favorite episode of the first half of season one. It also has a perfect, dramatic cliffhanger ending that I refuse to spoil but made me squeal like a little girl. 

Episode Nine: Show Off How in Love You Are

   The start of this episode is absolutely bonkers, but the focus continues to be on Loid and Yor’s slowly developing relationship. If you like a slow burn, this show might be good for you! Loid worries about Yor trying to get close to him so she can betray him and sell him out to Yuri. 

His spy training kicks in, and he struggles with needing to trust no one to survive and his growing comfort with Anya and Yor. Overall a sweet episode with a good start and shows how each parent responds to the new idea of marriage and family. 

Episode Ten: The Great Dodgeball Plan

   The focus is back on school! Anya hear from a classmate that there is a chance to get Stella for whoever can win the school dodgeball tournament! What’s a Stella, you ask? Stella is school merits given out to students who excel at sports, academics, art, etc. For Loid’s mission, Anya needs to earn eight to become an imperial scholar, giving Loid access to the events his target attends. 

   This episode is another like episode five that improves upon the content of the manga. We get training montages with Yor and Anya, references to Rocky, Naruto, and Dragonball, and one of the biggest kindergarteners you have ever seen on screen. 

Episode Eleven: Stella 

   Anya earns her first Stella in this episode, thanks to her heroic efforts. As a reward, she requests to get a dog. Thanks to the trailer that just came out for part two of season one, we know a dog for little Anya is on the horizon. 

Episode Twelve: Penguin Park

   This episode is a super sweet way to wrap up this first part of season one. To help “keep up appearances,” Yor and Loid take Anya to the aquarium. Hijinks ensue. What else can I say? It’s super cute. There are animals involved. Who doesn’t like penguins? 

Overall Thoughts

   The story and setup for this show aren’t very complicated. If your grandma walked into the room and asked you the concept, it’d be much easier than explaining the plot and magic of Naruto to her. 

   This show is very grounded in a way that many other shows are not. You probably don’t have chakra, and there is no devil fruit to find. Everyone has a family. Even if you have lost people in your life or you don’t necessarily have a family of origin, this shows the message that anyone can find a family. It can be a family of your choosing, even if you’re an absolute oddball like Yor, Loid, and Anya. 

   Trust me; if these three can find a way to make it work, then there is someone out there that you can find a way to get along with too.

   On top of that, shonen jump anime is supposed to be funny at its core. And this show is absolutely hilarious. It’s implied that Anya lies to Loid in the first episode about her age, and she tells him she’s six; in reality, I think she’s four. So the future of the world rides on the back of a literal toddler, and watching Loid grapple with that is hilarious since he can’t approach this mission like he’s approached every other. 

   On top of that hilarious dynamic, Yor is utterly oblivious to all that and socially awkward. So our badass Yor is trying to balance being a new parent and a new wife because she hasn’t been in this kind of family before.

   Another clever thing this show does is flip the gender roles of parents. Yor, the mother, is a total machine at hand-to-hand combat. When Anya is in danger, it’s often Yor who protects Anya, not Loid. On the other hand, Loid is the one who helps Anya study and does all the cooking. 

   The show even briefly touches on this dynamic by pointing out in episode nine that everyone is just pretending and doing their best to be a wife, mother, father, or husband. There’s not truly a right or wrong way to perform these roles because if there were, everyone would parent the same way. 

   Finally, all the characters balance each other out. Loid has a stricter, more rigid parenting style which helps keep the mission on track. Loid also has no parenting experience. On the other hand, Yor has a gentler approach to Anya because she perceives herself as an outsider to the family and wants Anya to like her. She has experience raising a child since she raised her brother. 

   Anya is often the comedic relief in the narrative and the family since both mom and dad have secretive, more high-stress jobs. Anya being able to read minds means that her parents cannot keep too many secrets from her, but at the same time, she views all of this information with the mind of a four-year-old.

 She’s not old enough to even worry about her mom being a contract killer; she thinks it’s exciting. She keeps her parents on their toes with her constant antics, reminding them there is more to life than work. 

   Trust me; if these three can find a way to make it work, then there is someone out there that you can find a way to get along with too.  

   While the show isn’t perfect, it’s a damn good show. It’s the first show I have ever watched that I have purchased the manga for. Not only did I buy the manga because I was so desperate to see what happens next, I think the show is better than the manga. 

 The show takes fantastic ideas from the manga and expands on them without compromising the characters or the story, like in episodes five and ten. I could be biased since I did watch the anime first. 

Suppose you have never watched anime before. This is a great one to get started with. It’s cozy, family-oriented, well-animated, and written super well. Every time I watch the show or read another review, I notice another detail. It has action, comedy, romantic tension, found family, and hidden identities. It was the best anime of the season for me and many others. The animation is smoother than butter, and the music is just fantastic. Comedy by Gen Hoshino is one of my favorite songs of the year. 

Part of the highlight of my summer was waiting for Spyxfamily to come out every Saturday morning, and it was an experience I got to share with my cousin. I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did, and I can’t wait to review the second part of season one when it comes out this October. 

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