Spy x Family 010-014 – 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):

Review:

With chapters 10 through 14 Spy x Family finds ways to address my earlier criticisms about a lack of focus on Yor compared to both Twilight and Anya. Here we see the series shifting focus to include her, first with developments off of the more Anya centric chapters, and by bringing in Yor’s own untouched plot threads left dangling from her introduction. Unfortunately this means the introduction of Yor’s brother, Yuri. For as inventive and fun as this manga has been, Yuri is a step-down from the other characters, existing as little more than the most basic realization of the stock ‘sis-con’ trope. Let’s Jump in!

Starting with Chapter 10, Spy x Family does a fantastic job of building off of the Anya centric story and how badly her efforts to befriend the Desmond boy have gone. This causes Twilight to again reevaluate what needs to be done, deciding to push Anya to improve as a student. This gives Yor a chance to shine again, acting as the force behind Twilight realizing that he needs to truly become a better father, even if fake, in order to get what he wants out of Anya. Yor isn’t exactly center stage, but she feels relevant and integral to Twilight’s emotional growth.

With Chapter 11 Yor becomes even more prominent. It’s here we finally swoop back around to address her reasons for entering a sham marriage; her brother: Yuri. Yor wanted an escape from his pressures, and everyone else’s, but completely forgot to tell Yuri about any of these developments. And as the lie took a few awkward turns, like being married for a whole year prior, she’s got the hard task of pulling the wool over her brother’s eyes. Sadly, for as funny as this set up is, Spy x Family really drops the ball. The premise is fine, it’s Yuri’s character that makes Chapters 11-13 a real disappointment.

We’re introduced to Yuri briefly at the end of Chapter 10, but it’s in Chapter 11 we learn two things about him: One he’s a member of the SSS, and thus a dangerous enemy Twilight needs now to watch out for. Two he’s a raging sis-con. Yuri isn’t the most obnoxious sis-con character to grace the pages of manga, but he’s hardly more complex than the most basic aspects of the stock trope. Much of the comedy through 11 to 13 is about his obsession with his own sister, and while the manga attempts to justify it, really as near every author does, it feels by and large played out. Spy x Family doesn’t bring enough new to the table to make Yuri feel more like his own character. There’s a few good jokes, namely surrounding Yor’s penchant for violence, and how easy going the whole Briar family can be, but otherwise these chapters are quite predictable, because Yuri simply doesn’t have much meat to his character.

Chapter 14 suffers similar troubles. While it makes sense that Twilight would become weary of Yor after putting it together that her brother is a member of the SSS, what follows is also fairly predictable. We can’t have Twilight discovering Yor is an assassin, that blows the entire concept out of the water. So Chapter 14 has to end without Twilight learning anything, making it feel like a fairly ho-hum, nothing to write home about entry.

That said I want to make it clear I don’t think Spy x Family suddenly got awful. There’s lots of little comedic beats, asides for Anya, and Twilight’s reactions that keep the series fun even when it isn’t top of the line. Chapters 11-14 are just the weakest we’ve seen yet, but to be fair are pretty par for the course for lesser, more ho-hum titles. Basically even when Spy x Family suffers missteps they aren’t terrible, just disappointing.

Ultimately Chapter 10 is pretty great, but 11-14 are a step down and I can only hope that Yuri isn’t a character we draw from often, as he fails to add enough original to the story to justify focus on him and his sis-con, or SSS elements. Spy x Family will need to really reinvent his character, perhaps more so doubling down on him as a ‘threat’ or joke there of, to make him feel like an equal element to everything else we already have. I do worry that more Yor focus has shown that she may actually be the weaker aspect to the series. While plot lines about her motherly efforts work, and maybe a story about her trying to cover up an assassination mission would be interesting, the stories centered on the sham marriage and hiding it from co-workers and Yuri haven’t really panned out near as well as Twilight’s main mission and Anya’s misunderstandings. Here’s hoping our author finds better ways to keep Yor relevant and focus on her engaging.

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.

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