Spy x Family 015-017 – 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 15-17 we see Spy x Family double down on the one character that’s worked above and beyond all the others: Anya. Anya takes center stage to an increasing degree, becoming a focal point for much of the series’ comedy, plot progression, and heart. Part of this is by design, but also has to do with how much Anya has shone as a character above both Twilight and Yor. But this success is a double edged sword, and without the other leads possessing equal means for comedy it could harm what Anya does bring to the table, as it’ll grow old faster the more often Spy x Family’s relies on it. Let’s Jump in!

Anya has proven to be the series’ star character, partly based on her own merits, but also thanks to the lack of staying power from the other leads. Twilight exists predominantly as the series’ straight man, meaning it’s hard to focus on him without devolving into the predictable “Twilight has to complete a mission while balancing his false family life.” We saw that done in the series’ first extra chapter and there isn’t too much point going back to that well, as we saw the series do everything you can with that kind of plot without simply rehashing core ideas. Yor also has proved lacking with the recent introduction of her brother: Yuri. Since Yor’s whole shtick is similar to Twilight’s, though without the deadline and needing to use Anya for her goals, she feels pigeonholed, making it difficult to find new and inventive ways to make her the focus of keeping up appearances. Yuri turning out to be such a pedestrian depiction of a sis-con was very damaging to focusing on Yor’s side of the story. That leaves Anya as the series bread and butter, offering enough breadth of comedy, central plot focus, and heart-warming developments to keep Spy x Family from feeling stale. She’s truly the series GOAT with these most recent chapters putting Twilight and Yor in the role of “set up” for whatever adventure and comedic shenanigans Anya will work through this week. Chapters 15-17 see Twilight used predominantly to set the stage for whatever Anya will face next at school and Yor as a means to introduce one off catalysts. It’s all in service of Anya and allowing her childish nature and constant misunderstandings, brought about by her telepathy, to shine.

Chapter 15 is all about Anya and a school dodge-ball tournament only loosely tide to the main narrative. There’s rumors you could win a Stella Star, the merits needed in order for Anya to grow close to Damian and help Twilight achieve his objective. The relation to the main story is thin at best, but works otherwise thanks to Anya and her classmates being so adorably inept and silly. Here Yor and Twilight are both used mainly to set the stage for the chapter’s final few gags, and otherwise don’t matter in any other way.

Chapter 15.1 again uses Yor and Twilight as catalysts. Here we see Yor finishing off an assassination mission, only to be wounded in the final moments: A bullet to the butt. The comedy of it doesn’t go further than the simple premise that Yor has to hide her discomfort, but in doing so confuses poor Twilight, who begins to doubt his ability to understand and appeal to women. The real focus of the story becomes Anya, who ends up obsessed with playing spy and tailing her parents. Things take a turn when Anya catches wind of one of the remaining terrorists attempting to get revenge on Yor. Here the series jumps the shark a bit, changing up its usual portrayal of Anya from a childishly inept telepath, into a capable spy, able to thwart an adult through traps and pseudo-homemade bombs. It’s a wild departure from Anya’s portrayal in the proper chapters, but sort of works thanks to the inherent nature of Extra chapters being, well, extra bits that never get brought up again.

Even Chapter 15.2 puts Anya front and center in a short gag-like distraction as she plays with her stuffed animals and ends up roping in her parents. Chapter 16 is no different. 16 sees Twilight flustered over Anya’s lack of academic prowess and attempts to get her to earn Stella Stars through charitable work. Anya’s again cast center stage and ends up the hero as she saves a drowning child thanks to her telepathic abilities.

The trouble with so much Anya is the series runs risk of her antics growing stale. That’s not to say the above aren’t great chapters. They are. But the more you double down on these elements the faster they get worn down, particularly in a series that boasted three leads, each with their own vein of comedy. In fact, you can tell our author is aware of this predicament because Chapter 17 sets the stage for the introduction of a new character: a potentially psychic dog? Long running comedies often introduce additional characters over time to help keep things from growing stale. It’s important to always have new avenues of comedy, and it’s great that our author has recognized that Twilight and Yor simply aren’t strong enough elements to compete with Anya. We need something more. But I worry about the addition of a psychic dog. Anya already has the telepathy angle cornered, and introducing a dog with telepathy might be too similar an idea.

Ultimately, for as great as this last batch of chapters is, Spy x Family may be boxing itself into a corner with all the Anya focus. The series needs to figure out how to get better comedy out of Yor and Twilight, or really spice it up with the dog. My fear though is that the dog will be further doubling down if it is a psychic dog, and that’ll wear the best elements of the series down even faster. Don’t get me wrong, all the Anya stuff is great, and may be some of Spy x Family’s best content, but we have to have equally, or near equal, material that it can be juggled with, otherwise Anya will get stale. I think the next few chapters will decide how inventive our author can actually get, primarily in how this new dog character interacts with the rest of the cast, and what new avenues of comedy it brings to the series.

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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