Spy x Family (Season One)
Secret agent "Twilight" of Westalia travels to the hostile nation of Ostania with an elaborate plan to get close to an enemy by enrolling a child in the same school that the enemy's child attends. But first, he needs to find a child he can pretend is his, and since the school expects its students to have TWO parents, our Agent Twilight also needs to find someone who can pretend to be his wife. But when, assuming the name "Lloyd Forger", he assembles his little nuclear family, it turns out that NONE of the three are what they seem.
The first thing I need to say is that if you're primarily looking for spy "action" (thrills, suspense, violence), you're likely to be disappointed. There IS some, but it's only sporadic, and very brief when it DOES occur.
In fact, how you feel about Spy x Family will depend on how you feel about Anya, the little girl that "Lloyd" ends up passing off as his daughter. It's very much HER show. I liked her, so I gave the show Stella Stars rather than Tonitrus Bolts, to use the terminology of the school Anya is planted in, Eden College. (Anya's a kid, but the school has a lower division for elementary-school students.)
Anya, you see, is the only one who knows what's REALLY going on with her fake "Dad" ("Lloyd") and her fake "Mom" (named Yor Briar)- both of them are lying to her, AND to each other. Yor originally needed someone to pretend to be her husband, while as noted "Lloyd" needed a phony wife and child, but neither of the adults reveals, even to each other, what they REALLY are- "Lloyd" a spy (and master of disguise), while Yor, in complete contradiction to her sweet (and somewhat scatterbrained) demeanor, is secretly a ruthless assassin.
But Anya knows all this- because she's a telepath. She hides her mind-reading ability, because in the past when would-be adoptive parents found out about it, they returned her to the orphanage (which is where Twilight found her.) She has another reason to go along with the pretense as well- she LOVES spy shows, and is delighted to be involved in the real thing. We're shown that Anya is impulsive (AND a poor student), but her intuition is often on target, and that, in conjunction with her mind-reading ability AND her exploitation of her "parents'" secret skills (which she's completely aware of), somehow gets her through, even though her less-than "stella" scholastic performance chronically exasperates "Lloyd", since his plan requires her to be a model student.
Spy x Family features a sight gag that wears surprisingly well with repetition, so they'll repeat it a LOT: Anya's "shocked" expression. What usually brings it on is a glimpse into what's REALLY going on in her "parents'" minds. The show's character art does remarkable things with her (very large) eyes. It's all often told through her POV, and when she's not in it, it seemed to me it wasn't quite as good- or maybe it was because the major absence of Anya from the story was during a visit from Yor's siscon brother, Yuri, who's also a bad guy. Still, that couple of episodes DID clarify something for me: Yor is, apparently, a "patriotic citizen" of Ostania, so she is, technically, a bad guy herself. I expect things in the Forger household may get awkward when everyone finally comes clean. Still, as might be expected, Yor starts developing genuine maternal feelings for Anya, and Anya is quick to take full advantage of that; in threatening situations, there's not much better backup than a trained assassin. (Yor's rare outbursts of violence are ALWAYS delightfully over-the-top.)
With Anya as our usual POV "everygirl" character (albeit a telepathic one), and Yor as an apparently demure female nevertheless given to (very) occasional bouts of murderous rage, Lloyd is relegated to the most dramatically limited role in our little family- the Straight Man, dedicated to Mission Above All, rarely displaying overt emotion, solid, dependable, SUPER competent, trying to hold everything together against unexpected interferences and setbacks (though unknowingly getting assistance from Anya at times.) Except in his frustration with Anya's apparent lack of progress, we rarely get much overt information on his real feelings from the dialogue- and he always tries to put on a pleasant face to everyone (whatever "face" he happens to be using at the moment), but the show does let him be the POV character sometimes, and we get to follow him to his meetings with his contacts, and hear his internal monologue- which is pretty much just the character traits listed above. I guess other spy shows compensate for THEIR heroes' tunnel vision by giving us more Action! Thrills! Suspense! and whatnot, than Spy x Family is providing (so far.) I was rooting for Lloyd more out of moral obligation (and for Anya's sake) than out of any emotional engagement with our Leading Man, but I guess that's OK. In a way, Spy x Family's little nuclear family is a stereotypical Japanese one, right down to "Dad's" having to put in extra hours on the job he's so laser-focused on. I sure hope he lightens up (or maybe develops a little more vulnerability?) in the next installment. (The Second Season apparently already exists, though it would be inevitable anyway from the ending of THIS one.)
Since much of this show is about Anya's school adventures, and the plot that lies behind them, the Rec this time is another show set in a private school that also has secret plots and intrigue going on in the background.
It's a shame that "Lloyd" has to put in so many hours here, only to have Anya steal the show from him. If you really don't like Anya, feel free to subtract a (Stella?) star. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Some (occasional) violence, no fanservice. We'll go PG-13.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Spy x Family (Season One) © 2022 Wit Studio/Cloverworks
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