When this series first came out in September of last year, it might as well have been a birthday present sent from Shonen Jump+ themselves. The newcomer written and illustrated by Tatsuya Endo has managed to stand out among heavyweight hitters of the weekly publication. While this series was great then, does the beginning still hold up in the first volume or is nostalgia fogging my glasses? Let’s find out if Spy X Family volume 1 is worth reading?
Author and artist Tetsuya Endo have previously created several one-shots in Japan, but none are translated into English. However, the seeds of these one-shots were combined to form Spy X Family, “Rengoku no Ashe”, “Ishi ni Usubeni, Tetsu ni Hoshi” and “I Spy”. After creating the concept, Editor Lin, had Endo work as an assistant to Tatsuki Fujimoto on Fire Punch to gain more experience. Now primed, he was ready to unleash Spy X Family on the world!
Spy X Family, in a macro view, is a story about two nations; Westalis and Ostania. Although not in open conflict, it has a distinct European Cold War vibe. But zoom right in, and it’s the story of Twilight. A man assigned to get close to a political leader in the rival nation, Donovan Desmond. Sounds simple, but the man is a recluse and is only seen public while at events held by his son’s private school. So, enters Loid Forger, Twilight’s alter ego. His mission, to gather a family and use them to get close to Desmond. Simple, right?
Your mission should you choose to accept it, will be to follow the Folger family in this wild ride of a first instalment. You have Twilight, a world-class spy. He can do just about anything, disguises, combat; you name it. However, he will now be faced with his toughest mission yet, to infiltrate a prestigious academy to make contact with an elusive Government Minister.
To achieve his goal, Twilight needs to find some suitable candidates and, he collects the most unlikely candidates to do so. His new daughter, Anya, is secretly a telepath. Yor, his new wife, happens to be a clandestine assassin working for the opposing government. Although most first volumes typically feel like world-building and character set-up, I never felt that way while going through this. There were no distinct slow parts, and everything always kept a nice pace and rhythm.
When I first started reading Spy x Family, the breaks in between chapters gave it an elegant radio show vibe. You know like those in the ’50s where the announcer had that transatlantic accent, and he’d say something like “Will Dr.Atomic save the day from the evil clutches of Mr.Evil? Tune in next week to find out!” The atmosphere is still there but more subtly since there are no breaks between chapters obviously. Again, I think it adds to the overall appeal that this series has. It’s as if it was taken from the golden age of spy thrillers and injected with today’s humour and wit.
A perfect family
Had the relationship between Twilight, Yor, and Anya not worked so well this series might have been dead on arrival. Luckily, it is entirely believable in a most ridiculous way. Starting with how Twilight met Anya. He needed a child to attend the academy as an alibi for his infiltration mission. It is quite sad seeing what type of orphanage Anya is in because it’s run down and no one cares about their conditions. So when Twilight comes to adopt someone, and she tries her hardest and succeeds at being the one, it is quite sweet.
Here is where you learn she is a telepath though you’re not super sure about how that is. Anya, as a character is also great. You find out that even though she’s a telepath, she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. I like to refer to her as a lovable idiot affectionately, but what she lacks in smarts she makes up for in heart. She is also downright hilarious and gives some of the best comic relief. Truly a gem.
Now, if you know me, I had to give my favourite character of the series her own section. As Luke Hollywood said, if Anya is a gem, then Yor is a whole diamond necklace. Putting bias aside, I like her for a couple of reasons. Not only is she downright just a badass assassin, but she is also very caring towards Anya. Even though they’re not related, she still tries her hardest to be the best possible mother for her.
As dysfunctional as their little family may be, the important thing is that they feel like a family. Now, as I mentioned before, when assassin duty calls, we get to see shows just how deadly Yor is. Knowing just how good of a spy Twilight is and how good of an assassin she is, it’s a wonder they didn’t immediately find each other out.
Spy X Family volume 1 spoilers
Obviously, Twilight is very mission-oriented, so he sees Anya as another tool to complete the mission. Even as he tries to acquire a parenting skillset, he doesn’t care about a potential future. However, as this volume goes on and eventually further down the line, Twilight starts to soften up, and it’s an excellent progression. He also starts to care for Yor, as we will see late. Which as a prediction for the far off ending, I do believe they will stay together.
I had to add another spoiler tag here, but it was necessary to talk about how they propose to each other. Both Twilight and Yor end up fighting some thugs and as they’re mid-fight Yor pops the question. Her whole reason being that being single at her age would draw suspicion and marriage is a good way to camouflage that. What does Twilight do? He accepts the arrangement and pulls out a grenade, pulls the pin, and uses that as a ring. If that is not one of the coolest sequences, then reassess your priorities. I love just how fitting it is for both the characters and series as a whole. Truly one of my favourite moments.
As stylish as Mr Bond
My full bias here, this might be in my top three favourite art styles of manga that I’m currently reading. I just love it for so many different reasons. It’s very clean and distinctive in the sense that nothing ever feels confusing or cluttered. Each panel flows into the next very well, which also makes for some very nice action scenes.
The character work is excellent in terms of styling and expressions. They each feel unique and recognizable by just clothing or facial expressions. Take Twilight, for example, his suits have a beautiful pattern to them depending on the material, and his switch between spy and dad mode is very recognizable. Same with Yor, her style between mom and assassin is chefs kiss. While we’re on the topic of facial expressions, I assure you that Anya will have anyone beat no question. Overall, fantastic style as any spy should have.
Small but nice extras
We get a couple of small bonuses at the end of the volume. These include a funny one page trip to the store with Twilight and Anya along with his character file. Its mostly redacted but still a nice touch. My favourite bonus, however, is the look we get at some of the early sketches and concept art for the series. I am always a sucker for concept art, so this was just icing on the cake of a fantastic read.
Is Spy X Family volume 1 worth reading?
Absolutely. Whether it is in a weekly or volume format, this series is an absolute joy to read. It is a trifecta between story, art and characters. A triple threat in the manga world. If what was me gushing over Spy x Family volume 1 has not yet convinced you to go try it, I’m not sure what will. There is a good reason why this was my favourite new series of 2019.
My only gripe with this isn’t even with the volume, but the series as a whole. It’s a two-week chapter release and not one, which means you have to wait longer! You can even try out the first three chapters over on the Shonen Jump app if you’re still on the fence about picking up a whole volume. The point is, there is no excuse to skip out on this great series. Read it now!
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