First Look: Spy x Family

Manga Adaptation by WIT Studio and Cloverworks
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

The rival nations of Westalis and Ostania are locked in a cold war, where battles are won not through force of arms, but through espionage. Agent “Twilight” is Westalis’ top spy, and his newest assignment is to get close to an extremist political leader, an infamous recluse. The only path available is to meet him is via a school function, parent to parent. But Twilight is single and childless! To complete his mission, he’s got to put together a cover: a family that allows him to spy.

Iro’s verdict: A Solid Adaptation

I’m bringing in a lot of goodwill for Spy x Family from the manga, which I have recently read and enjoyed quite a lot. What remains to be seen is if the Wit Studio / Cloverworks combo can make it work, and while the first episode is good-looking in all the right places, the fact remains that both of these studios have a reputation for crashing and burning. The hope is, of course, that once the full ensemble dynamic gets set up, we’ll have a great time. All they need to do is keep up the momentum. Please don’t fuck it up.

Zigg’s verdict: The Man with the Golden Pun

Being unfamiliar with the source material, it took me a fair few minutes of watching this episode before I realised it was actually being deliberately funny. That’s not an indictment of the show though, but rather a reflection that this is something we don’t see too much in the world of anime – a delightfully dry, understated comedy that plays everything perfectly straight-faced and generates laughs through sharp wit rather than slapstick set pieces. Already there’s huge potential for amusement in the lopsided relationship between Loid and Anya, and the show proves itself adept at balancing action set-pieces, sight gags, and touching relationship drama. Like most stories in the ‘substitute parent’ genre there’s the danger of everything getting a bit saccharine and predictable, but this premiere was nimble and well written enough that I’m confident Spy x Family will avoid that pitfall. Overall a total delight, and I can’t wait to see how crazy Mum is going to be when she shows up.

Gee’s verdict: From Jump+ With Love

As a longtime fan of the manga, Spy x Family was definitely the one to keep an eye on this season. I’m happy to say with its premier episode, that remains true. The Studio Wit/Cloverworks collaboration has led to a technically solid and competent portrayal of the inciting events of the source material. You can already tell there’s a really special dynamic in the making between Loid’s comically serious spy mentality and Anya’s precocious energy, which is supplemented by her mind reading gimmick. Nailing Anya was always going to be the make or break for a Spy x Family adaptation, she’s the heart and soul of the story. So far, the anime is doing a great job portraying the childish glee with which she approaches life in spite of her past traumas. Her ability to read minds is quickly addressed as both a blessing and an entertaining curse. She might be able to read minds but her ability to interpret the information she gains from it is still limited by her childish understanding of the world.

I truly adore the original manga so honestly, all the anime needs to do is bring those qualities to life and it should be a pretty smooth ride. I’m still somewhat concerned by the fact this anime is being primarily handled by two different studios, one of which has gained a somewhat checkered reputation as of late. The last time Cloverworks was involved in a hotly anticipated WSJ anime adaptation, we got The Promised Neverland and well, the less said the better. It remains to be seen if Spy x Family can avoid those same pitfalls. I truly hope it does.

Artemis’ verdict: Mission Accomplished

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t necessarily expecting all that much from Spy x Family. Sure, I’d heard the manga was popular, but action shounen pieces have never really been my speed; I’m normally over in the quiet slice-of-life/drama camp. That makes this show all the more delightful with its sharp pacing, great sense of comedic timing, a sense of humour that works far better than I would have thought possible given its premise, and a quirky yet strangely believable child character that I fell in love with from minute one.

Part of me wants to downplay things a bit, just in case Spy x Family‘s premiere ended up being a crazy fluke and that same energy can’t be sustained throughout the entire series, but so far, I’m all in. The show is intentionally dumb enough to be wildly entertaining, yet at the same time emotionally impactful enough to make me blink back a few tears in more than one spot. Provided it can keep that tricky balancing act up, this is very likely going to be my favourite new title of the season.

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