Spy x Family 006-009 – Manga Review
Synopsis: An action-packed comedy about a fake family that includes a spy, an assassin and a telepath! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Spy x Family continues to produce tight, enjoyable comedy with just a touch of emotion to keep us cheering as we make a switch from Twilight to Anya as our focal character. Let’s Jump In!
Chapter 6 opens with our heroes checking the results board to see if Anya has been accepted. It’s not looking good until Master Henderson calls to Twilight and the others, revealing that Anya was wait-listed, but took top spot, meaning she’s getting in, no doubt about it. What I like about this twist on victory is that it’s not a clean sweep. It’d feel cheap if Anya had gotten in after how poorly everything had gone down during the admissions effort (barely passing score, uneven interview.) Giving them a ‘just squeeked by’ feel to the victory helps to give our heroes a required success (the story ends here if they don’t get Anya into Eden,) without making it feel unearned and unrealistic. (I say this about a manga about a Spy, Telepath and an Assassin living together in ignorance.)
Again, another great aspect to Chapter 6 is how it continues Spy x Family’s penchant for putting story on the back burner in favor of character work. The whole second half of Chapter 6 is all about appeasing Anya, who wants to celebrate by having a Spy come save her from evil villains who’ve kidnapped her in a majestic castle– all because she saw it on TV. This has not one ounce of relevance to the plot, but it’s heartwarming, cute, funny and gives us more of that charming interaction between Twilight, Anya and Yor, to an extent, and that’s what makes Spy x Family such a joy to read.
Chapter 7 marks the first time Spy x Family has resorted to an exposition dump. It’s required too, seeing as we only really detailed the steps necessary to begin Twilight’s Mission: Get Anya into Eden Academy so Twilight would have the opportunity to get close to the target. Now we finally learn what comes after, namely that Twilight needs to have Anya perform so well that she can help get him into the inner circle of elite Eden Academy parents by virtue of her academic accomplishments. Even with this dump, Spy x Family still handles it a whole lot better than other currently running Shonen. This exposition is sandwiched in-between a touching story focused on Yor and her desire to improve herself as a mother, even if she is a fake one. Lesser titles would’ve rushed us into what the exposition dump was detailing, without giving us a breather to digest the ideas.
What’s nice about the moral of the story, as Yor attempts to gather the ingredients for cooking a proper dinner and then is forced to abandon that plan when Anya is nearly kidnapped, is that Yor realizes she doesn’t need to conform to a generic idealistic version of what a mother should be. Instead she accepts that she brings her own unique qualities to the table, and teaches Anya what she knows best: how to fight. It’s a great use of Yor’s character, who I’m starting to get kind of worried is going to play second fiddle to both Twilight and Anya, since by nature she’s not exactly deeply relevant to Spy x Family’s primary plot, outside of her role as fake mom.
It’s here though that the manga begins a shift in focus as Anya’s school days begin. Chapter 8 sees Anya become the focal character for the next few chapters as she’s tasked with befriending the child of Twilight’s target. This gives Anya’s character a chance to shine as she gets to bounce off new, secondary characters, rather than just Twilight and Yor. Anya’s comedy is proven to be pretty flexible here. Sure much of her shtick is based off of the same two elements introduced in chapter one: Her ability to read people’s thoughts, and her innate ability as a child to bring about big mess ups thanks to frequent misunderstandings. She botches what should have been an easy shot at becoming friends with Damian Desmond, and only makes things even worse as she tries to correct these mistakes in Chapter 9.
Another thing I love about these two chapters is the whiplash in Twilight’s paths toward success. Chapter 8 features Twilight realizing that Anya just isn’t going to achieve academic excellence, and sets his sights on Anya instead befriending Damian as an alternative way to get close to Mr. Desmond. Yet she immediately botches that, as well as follow up attempts to repair the damage. Damian also proves a fun, if predictable character as his obvious romantic gaze toward Anya forms the backbone of Chapter 9’s comedic crescendo.
Honestly Spy x Family just works so well as an Anya centric vehicle, making both Chapters 8 and 9 an absolute joy. I do hope though we don’t remain Anya centric for too long, as both Yor and Twilight still have a lot to offer, especially Yor who needs a subplot of her own to stay relevant, or perhaps our author needs to find a, non-contrived, way of giving her relevance to the main story.
There’s also a bonus chapter here, 8.5, that’s got a couple of weird things going on. First it’s oddly placed, right between two chapters where there’s really no room for it’s story. Second it begins with a recap of the concept that readers should be quite familiar with by now. Otherwise though, it’s a fun distraction from the main plot, and honestly I’d originally expected from the series premise; Twilight trying to do a mission while balancing the family facade. It’s not bad, and it’s a fun aside, but at the same time I’m glad these are just extra stories for fans, rather than what’s being offered as the main narrative. This would get stale, and fast, if it’s all Spy x Family had to offer.
Overall this second batch of chapters is stupendous and holds up very, very well. Anya taking focus is grand and I hope after a bit we can give Yor an opportunity to shine too, as I’d hate to see her languish unused compared to the others, who’ve both had far more attention.
That’s it for this week! Let me know what your thoughts are on Spy x Family!
Spy x Family is published weekly in Shonen Jump.