Content considerations: Violence/death (bloodless); child endangerment and neglect; romanticization of espionage.
What’s it about? Super-spy “Twilight” works tirelessly in the shadows, fighting a cold war to maintain an outward peace between the East and the West. No job is too difficult—until he’s assigned a mission that requires him to take on the civilian identity of “Loid Forger” and acquire a family, starting with adopted daughter (and secret telepath) Anya. Can “Loid” juggle his dual identities to complete his task, or will this tiny esper prove too much for him?
SPY x FAMILY began its life three short years ago as a Shonen Jump+ manga that quickly earned accolades from Japanese- and English-speaking readers alike. Mixing spy capers with sitcom shenanigans and wrapping it all in a surprisingly warm found-family blanket, the series has broad appeal, minimal caveats, and lots of good Anya Faces, which has garnered it a large following, myself included (although I’m not fully caught up, so no spoilers, please!).
It’s popular enough that there’s a good chance you’re just reading this review to see how the anime handled the adaptation, so I’ll save you some time up-front: this is a well-made premiere. Outside of a stiff car crash scene at the beginning of the episode, the quality is about what you’d expect from a Wit/Cloverworks co-production with a seasoned director at the helm (Furuhashi Kazuhiro, most recently known for Dororo 2019). It’s not exploding with Aesthetic, but there’s some nice use of dutch angles to convey Loid and Anya’s uncertainty around each other, and the slightly smeary, stretchy animation style for the main action scene popped nicely.
On the audio side, the jazzy soundtrack fits the tone to a T and the voice work matches the characters well. Eguchi Takuya is basically always good and continues to be good as Loid, but I’m giving bonus points to Tanezaki Atsumi for giving Anya a slightly gravelly warble instead of the overly-cutesy chipmunk squeak we too often get for smol anime girls (you know, the one that almost single-handedly ruined 86’s second season for me). She sounds like chaos, and she should, because she is a telepathic six-year-old.
For those coming into SpyFam without a manga background, you won’t get the full effect of the story until the second episode, when the final (human) member of the core cast enters the picture. Still, this premiere does set up some of the central tonal and thematic undercurrents, especially with the way it shifts seamlessly between fantastical, action-packed espionage and more grounded character beats.
SpyFam has a lot of fun with its wacky premise, which keeps it from feeling like it’s rubber-stamping real-life espionage agencies (is “spyganda” a thing? I’m sure it’s a thing) and is instead playing in an action-movie sandbox. That said, it also never loses sight of its more human elements, especially when exploring the traumatic, lonely backstories of its cast. Loid and Anya are both survivors, struggling to assert agency in a world that denied it to them, and the bond they start to form in this premiere comes as much from empathizing with each other as it does from trying to achieve their more practical goals.
There are other things we’ll be able to talk about with SpyFam eventually—how it explores what makes a “real” family, how it engages with gendered expectations within a household, what a good boy Bond is, yes he is yes he is—but we try not to get too far ahead of ourselves when reviewing adaptations, since there’s no guarantee the anime will follow the manga exactly. So, we’ll have to put a pin in that and maybe talk about it in a later review or article down the road.
That said, I feel I’d be remiss not to give newcomers a heads-up: while the manga so far has few caveats beyond the ones I mentioned at the top of this review, we will eventually meet a man who is (1) a member of the secret police who engages in police brutality and (2) waaaay too attached to his sister. He’s not a main character, the manga does not depict him as especially sympathetic nor condone his work, and it’s always possible the anime will tone him down—but it’s still worth a mention if any of that is an automatic dealbreaker for you.
Beyond that, Spy x Family is a fun romp with a warm heart; endearing, tense, and silly in equal measures. Hopefully the anime can continue to draw out the manga’s charms to create a satisfying adaptation that will satisfy current and new fans alike.