Spy x Family 018-022 – 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:

Despite the fears I expressed last time concerning the growing focus on Anya, Spy x Family chugs along with a solid step towards the dramatic in this multi-chapter storyline introducing a psychic, future-seeing dog while Twilight, Yor and Anya must all unwittingly work together to thwart a terrorist plot. It’s a gamble for comedy titles to take a break from the usual goofs and gags and go for something more dramatic. Thankfully Spy x Family does a good job of sprinkling in comedy at just the right places to relieve tension, while allowing the main thrust of its drama to take hold and shine. Let’s Jump in!

Anya is undoubtedly still the star of Spy x Family. That hasn’t changed, and while Twilight does carry the plot heavy aspects of this storyline, with Yor bringing her usual violent mayhem, Anya remains our central lead, forcing the two adults into supporting roles, the same kind of roles the two have started to devolve into after it became clear Anya’s shenanigans generated the most laughs. That’s still a problem, particularly for a series that really seemed to bill itself as a more ensemble title, but Anya remains so charming and fun that it’s hard to get too frustrated. Also both Twilight and Yor aren’t totally sidelined. Twilight as I said carries the plot heavy elements, as well as the dramatic conclusion when finally confronting the leader of the terrorist movement. Yor is a bit worse off, mostly relegated to her usual brutally violent action, but it is a memorable highlight here, keeping her from feeling completely worthless as she comes back into the story at the right moment. These chapters don’t really alleviate my general fears concerning Spy x Family shifting from an ensemble comedy into an Anya focused one, but those fears are sidelined much as how the comedy is put on hold through chapters 18-22.

Our story begins with Anya, Twilight and Yor out dog hunting, as a present for Anya’s recent heroism. Unfortunately terrorists are on the move, and Twilight is forced to leave Anya and Yor for an impromptu ‘bathroom’ trip. Anya however ends up becoming separated from Yor when she spots the future-seeing dog being escorted into a nearby building. As Anya and the Dog become wrapped up in the terrorists plot it then becomes Anya’s job to prevent a terrible future where Twilight is killed in the line of duty.

Everything is on point here. Anya makes for a great underdog lead, with just enough comedy to alleviate some of the more harrowing parts of the story. The comedy never becomes overwhelming or unwelcome either, allowing the author’s dramatic chops to shine through. The art is on point as well, bolstering all the action sequences with some incredible visual flare.

One sequence I really want to draw attention to is when Twilight’s handler confronts a group of captured terrorists, giving a speech about how brutal war is. The way she ramps up, calling into question whether any of these baddies even understand how painful, brutal and horrific the war they’re attempting to insight would actually be, is fantastic. I don’t think most comedies could get away with a dramatic scene like this one, but somehow Spy x Family pulls it off perfectly, and doesn’t try to foolishly insert comedy at this crucial moment either, letting it stand out for what it is.

Our new addition to the cast, the future-seeing dog, is a welcome one and works well within the confines of his first adventure. This set of chapters doesn’t alleviate my concerns about how well he’ll work once we return to our normal routine though. In fact if anything I’m more concerned going forward. As a character the Dog doesn’t offer much. He’s a good, if directionally challenged, boy, and that’s about it. Being able to see the future doesn’t offer much potential for weekly shenanigans, and I am concerned he’ll mostly be used as a kind of plot gimmick whenever we want to shift things into something more dramatic, rarely lending himself to the comedy of the series. Here though, he’s fantastic, and is a crucial piece of this story’s puzzle. It’s totally through the eyes of this dog that we achieve a satisfying, happy, heart filled ending as he attains the wonderful future he first saw, one where he’s welcome with smiles into Anya’s family.

Overall Chapters 18 through 22 are fantastic and my only major quibble comes from the extra chapter awkwardly shoved in between. 18.1 is, for starters, awkwardly placed. It comes in right as Anya finds herself at the mercy of the terrorists, leaving audiences on a cliffhanger as we shift to a short-story that’s entirely divorced from the main plot. It doesn’t help that 18.1 is also, perhaps, the worst extra chapter we’ve had yet. Twilight gets a summons from Franky, who it turns out has fallen head over heels for some girl. It’s a decent enough start, but what follows is so truncated in execution, allowing so much to happen off page or between panels that the story fizzles. Franky is prepared by Twilight to ask the girl out, but gets turned down and ends up being comforted by Twilight. It’s heartwarming, but also feels pointless as we skip past so many opportunities for comedy. Instead the chapter feels like this weird slice of life moment that just doesn’t manage to feel worthwhile.

Moving forward I do still have concerns over the series’ continual shift to making Anya the out and out star. Twilight and Yor both still have so much potential and if we continue to double down on Anya I worry her shenanigans will grow old too fast. The Dog doesn’t feel like he’ll offer much in the way to alleviate that, particularly since he doesn’t seem built for comedy. All that said, Spy x Family isn’t a bad manga, not in the slightest. Outside of a few missteps, and some weak extra chapters, it’s one of the better offerings on Jump’s service and has proven itself more often than not. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the dog character fleshed out, or reinvented over the next few chapters, transforming him from a plot gimmick into a character more comedy oriented. No matter what though, Chapters 18 through 22 are fantastic and this brief shift to a more dramatic narrative was gamble that more than paid off, leaving me excited, if a tad cautious, about where Spy x Family goes from here.

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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