The spring anime season has arrived, bringing with it a new crop of series. Good thing too, because we have two major voids to fill with no new episodes of Demon Slayer or Attack on Titan for at least another year. The current slate of shows features some returning series like the popular rom-com Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, but the biggest show of the season is a newcomer: Spy x Family.
The hype for Spy x Family might catch people by surprise. How can there already be so much excitement for a brand new series? It can’t all be chalked up to the fact that the anime is a collaboration between Studio Wit (Attack on Titan, Vinland Saga) and CloverWorks (Horimiya, My Dress-Up Darling), although their involvement certainly doesn’t hurt.
The answer, it turns out, lies with the source material.
Spy x Family first launched as a manga in 2019. In the three years since, it’s become a bestselling series in both Japan and North America. This may not seem like a big deal in an era where manga dominates the global comics landscape, but most popular manga titles become bestsellers because of an anime adaptation. We witnessed this phenomenon with Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Tokyo Revengers.
The Spy x Family manga, on the other hand, started hitting bestseller lists the year after it launched, long before an anime adaptation appeared on the horizon. With such a robust readership, the anime’s popularity was all but guaranteed.
But if you’re not a manga reader, maybe you’re not sure why you should watch Spy x Family. You might assume it’s overhyped. (It’s not.) Maybe you’re a contrarian and don’t want to watch something simply because it’s popular. (We’ve all been there.) Let’s go over a few reasons why you should give it a try.
It’s a Welcome Change of Pace
Some of the biggest anime series in recent years fall into the supernatural horror and fantasy genres. Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen are filled with demons and the people who hunt them. Even the forthcoming Chainsaw Man is about a guy who makes a pact with a demon. While the premises lead to exciting plotlines and intense fight scenes, sometimes you need a break from that kind of thing. As they say, variety is the spice of life.
At first glance, Spy x Family features familiar elements—especially to fans of espionage thrillers. The two rival countries of Westalis and Ostania wage a Cold War. Here, the battles are fought in the shadows via intelligence gathering, sabotage, and assassination. But the uneasy peace is on the verge of breaking and to stop the dawn of a new war, Westalis sends its best agent to spy on an Ostanian politician. To accomplish this mission, the spy in question—Twilight—must acquire a fake family. See: the title.
Based on these details, you might assume that Spy x Family is an action-packed thriller full of twists and turns. And while there are surprises and unexpected developments, a plot-driven story this is not. Spy x Family isn’t a classic thriller. It’s a slice-of-life action-comedy.
And as an added bonus, two of the three main characters are adults. Actual adults. Not that there’s anything wrong with the teen protagonists of series like Demon Slayer or My Hero Academia, but sometimes we want to follow stories featuring adult protagonists with adult concerns living their adult lives. And if those adults happen to be spies and assassins? Even better.
Spy x Family Embraces Its Ridiculous Set-Up
Given the nature of Twilight’s mission, it’s crucial that he keep his true identity a secret. Instead of a master of disguise, he’s Loid Forger, a psychiatrist with a wife and a young daughter from a previous marriage. He must maintain this cover story with everyone—including the other two members of his new fake family. But he’s not the only one with a secret. His new fake wife and his newly adopted daughter have their own secrets as well, and they’re just as big as Loid’s.
Loid thinks he married a pretty woman named Yor, who works as a clerk at City Hall. In reality, Yor was trained from a young age to be a deadly Ostanian assassin. Loid thinks he adopted a clever six-year-old girl named Anya. But not only is Anya likely younger than that, she escaped from a secret government program that creates psychics.
In other words, Loid keeps his true identity as a spy secret from Yor and Yor hides her true profession from Loid. They both try to hide the truth from Anya, but she’s a telepath so she knows everything. You’d think she’d be scared of having a spy and assassin for parents, but Anya is no ordinary girl. This is the most fun she’s ever had. And, of course, neither Loid nor Yor realize Anya is a telepath because psychics aren’t supposed to exist in this reality.
Part of the anime’s charm rests in how long everyone involved can maintain the façade. They’re all lying to each other. When will the truth come out? What will their reactions be? And why haven’t Loid and Yor noticed that the people they live with are just plain weird? It’s a recipe tailor-made to hook people and keep them invested.
Most of all, what makes the series work is the way it finds humor in the collision between true identity and fake identity. Loid is a hypercompetent spy, but none of his espionage training prepared him for fatherhood. Yor can kill multiple people without breaking a sweat, but navigating workplace petty gossip confounds her.
And if you think these are the only characters with secrets (and secret identities), just wait. The anime has only aired three episodes so far, and there’s plenty of manga left to adapt.
The Wholesome Slice-of-Life Approach Will Hit You in the Feels
You wouldn’t expect an anime about spies and assassins to be wholesome. In fact, you probably expect the exact opposite. These occupations generally don’t attract sweet cinnamon rolls. But in anime, anything is possible.
In Spy x Family, the key to why its over-the-top elements mesh well together is found in Loid and Yor’s respective backgrounds. Loid became a spy to prevent other children from experiencing the same tragic childhood he did. Yor became an assassin to provide for her much-younger brother after their parents died. Neither of these situations are ideal. But it’s because of those respective backgrounds that both Loid and Yor try their best to provide a normal childhood for Anya, despite Anya not being a normal child in the slightest.
That blurring of what’s real and what’s a lie serves as the emotional heart of the series. Loid plans to return Anya to the orphanage when his mission is over, but do we actually believe that’s going to happen? Loid and Yor married each other out of convenience, but surely they’re going to catch feelings. The tropes are familiar, but it’s the execution that keeps you coming back for more.
Spy x Family is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.