The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Spy × Family

Spy × Family: A Welcome Return, and How Anya Forges a New Bond Amidst a Defusal Plot At The Blog’s Eleventh Anniversary

Bond. James Bond.” –James Bond

Loid brings Anya to a pet shop run by WISE, but Anya laments at the fact that none of the dogs are cute. When Loid is called away on an assignment, Yor takes Anya to a local pet adoption exhibition. Although enticed by the puppies, kittens and bunnies, Anya suddenly spots a large Great Pyrenees dashing along the sidewalk. It turns out this is one of the dogs that a radical Ostanian student group have managed to steal and train to deliver explosives, and when gazing into the dog’s mind, Anya spots her own family. Feeling this to be important, Anya follows the dog, only to stumble upon the radicals. Anya manages to escape and deduces the dog has precognition, and while the group’s leader, Keith Kepler, takes off after Anya and the Great Pyrenees, Yor shows up. While WISE arrests several of the radicals, Keith manages to escape, and he prepares to use the remaining dog to assassinate Brantz, a Westalian Foreign Minister who’s come to attend a summit. When the dog gives Anya a vision of Loid’s death, Anya decides to take matters into her own hands. She manages to locate the radical students’ hideout and, unable to disarm the booby-trap, leaves Loid a message instead. This allows Loid to pursue Keith: he disguises himself as Brantz and lures Keith away from the Ostanian secret police. Believing Loid to be Brantz, Keith sets the dog to attack, but Loid manages to remove the dog’s bomb vest and traps it in a dumpster. While Keith attempts to drive off, Yor kicks his car into a lamppost, leaving him to be arrested by Ostanian law enforcement. The Forgers reunite, and Sylvia, masquerading as the Ostanian secret police, permit the Forgers to adopt the Great Pyrenees after Anya threatens to flunk out of school, which would jeopardise Operation Strix. The next day, Anya tries to befriend Damien again with the news she’s got a dog but is unsuccessful, and when the Forgers visit a dog park, after the Great Pyrenees manages to persuade another dog to return Anya’s gloves, Anya decides that from now on, this Great Pyrenees will be named Bond, after the televised hero, Bondman.

An ordinary day to pick up a new pet for Anya as a reward for her earning a Stella turns into a gripping adventure that highlights Anya’s abilities and prowess. Up until now, Anya had been presented as a precocious and adorable child, able to delve into the minds of those around her and interpret their thoughts, but beyond this, she was quite helpless in most situations in the adult world. However, a family outing gone awry soon gives Anya a chance to prove her worth to viewers: when Loid is unexpectedly called up to take on an assignment and keep Brantz safe from an assassination plot, Anya immediately covers for Loid, suggesting that Loid “takes a really long time when he goes to the shitter to shit”. Yor buys this and heads off with Anya, allowing Loid to progress. Similarly, when Anya spots Bond for the first time and glimpses into his mind, only to learn that there’s a possibility that Loid might be killed, she immediately springs into action. Although unable to read an analogue clock, lacking the technical know-how to render safe the bomb that Ostanian radicals have rigged, Anya demonstrates exemplary improvisation. She quickly asks another citizen for the time and makes do with the knowledge she has to act accordingly. Similarly, rather than attempt to defuse the explosives and risk setting them off, Anya decides to leaves a message on the door, warning Loid that the door is booby-trapped. In this way, while Anya has not shown any particular affinity for academics and continues to detest studying, this adventure shows that Anya is resourceful, forward-thinking and adaptive. She is able to respond to situations and make snap decisions using the knowledge that is available to her. Assisted by Bond’s precognition, Anya’s actions are responsible for keeping Loid alive, in turn allowing him to complete his assignment and ensure that no harm comes to Brantz. Further to this, Anya’s actions also indirectly lead to the radical students’ arrests: by putting herself in the path of danger, Anya brings Yor to the table, and Yor handily takes down the radicals, leaving them to be captured. In this way, Spy × Family shows viewers that, especially now that Bond is present, Anya is in excellent hands and is capable of handling more dangerous situations, allowing the series to push forward with Operation Strix with confidence.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Strictly speaking, this season’s continuation of Spy × Family isn’t really a second season, but rather, the second half to the first season. This approach is typically done with series that have established source material, with the seasons being split in two so the production studio can have a bit of time to handle their other obligations. In theory, this is supposed to help the staff out by giving them more time to maintain consistent anime, although owing to workloads, even this method has its limitations (86 EIGHTY-SIX comes to mind).

  • Spy × Family picks up from where things had left off: Anya was being rewarded for earning her first-ever Stella and decides that having a dog might be the best way to befriend Damien. It was quite adorable, and mature of Anya to leverage things to advance Operation Strix further: all she knows is that Loid’s success leads to world peace, and therefore, does her best to help produce a world where she can be happy with everyone. Here, Anya explains Loid’s “situation” to Yor when Loid is unexpectedly called in for an assignment. This was easily the most hilarious moment in Spy × Family bar none, and I remember getting in hot water as a child whenever I did something similar, so over the years, I’ve picked up the habit of not swearing in my everyday speech.

  • Cloverworks picked an excellent stopping point for the first half: by establishing that Anya’s making progress and giving the Forgers time to relax, it rounded out things in a way that left viewers in anticipation of the continuation without creating a cliffhanger that would result in anxiety. Instead, all of the excitement resumes as Spy × Family continues: this second half starts with a bomb plot against Brantz, Westalia’s Foreign Minister, and while only Loid knows of the ramifications of any sort of plot against Brantz, Spy × Family expertly weaves this story in a way as to allow the entire Forger family to contribute their part towards stopping the bomb plot, all while picking up a dog for Anya.

  • The WISE dogs appear bread for operational success and exhibit human-like traits: one of the dogs in WISE’s care is clearly flexing his muscles and hoping to be chosen, but Anya’s been looking for something more adorable, and Yor’s okay with smaller dogs, worrying bigger dogs would be more aggressive. When the WISE dogs don’t work out, Yor ends up taking Anya to the local adoption fair, where a plethora of puppies, kittens and bunnies are found. Here, Anya demonstrates an ability to peer into the animals’ minds. This was hinted at earlier, when Anya was able to delve into a cow’s mind and interpret her thoughts.

  • That Anya can interpret thoughts without any sort of linguistics barrier holds a curious implication for Spy × Family: if a telepath could read minds in the sense that they could overhear their target’s thoughts, if they were attuned to the thoughts after they were processed into language, then one could defeat a telepath simply by thinking in a different tongue. Being able to understand animals, then, shows that Anya’s power appears to be feeling out the thoughts of those around her, and in this way, she’s able to understand animals well enough.

  • Curious about the large, white dog that runs by, Anya runs out of the exhibition hall while Yor is speaking with one of the attendants. Yor is a highly-trained assassin, but it seems that Anya can slip out without her noticing, speaking volumes to how quickly children can run off if one isn’t paying attention. While Spy × Family deals with politics and intelligence, its portrayal of family is also spot-on: parents worry about losing their children in public places, and will establish systems for handling such an eventuality. I still remember when I was a child, I got lost at the local mall, and ended up approaching the help desk, saying to the attendant I was lost, and asking them to use the PA to call my parents over.

  • Children are immensely bright and observant, but adults often overlook this. Of course, when adults do keep an eye on things, they will find themselves impressed at what children can do, even on their own. Spy × Family presents such an instance with this set of stories: after Anya runs off on her own and discovers the student radical’s hideout (something that Loid and WISE are methodically working towards), she also learns that the large white dog, a Great Pyrenees, appears to be able to foresee the future. The dog takes a liking to Anya and tries to protect her as best as he can.

  • While the student radicals are doubtlessly dangerous, they also lack the calm competence of seasoned operators. When things surprise them, they don’t react swiftly and look to their leader, Keith, for help. Although these are only momentary lapses, they nonetheless buy enough time for Anya to escape, and Anya quickly works out that if they can get back to Yor, she will likely be able to help. Back at the exhibition, Yor’s practically beside herself in terror when she notices Anya’s missing, and after doing a quick search of the area, worries that Anya’s been kidnapped.

  • Thus, when Yor spots Anya passing by on Bond’ back and sees people pursuing her, she rushes off to intervene, assuming them to be kidnappers. One of the most amusing aspects of this particular story was the fact that Yor remains completely oblivious to the fact that in beating up Anya’s pursuers, she’s also just helped to take down a few members of the Ostanian student radical group, in turn helping Loid and WISE to prevent a more sinister plot from unfolding. Keith manages to escape the carnage,

  • Beyond the assumption that Anya’s pursuers are trouble, Yor leaves them for the authorities. Actions like these reaffirm to viewers that while Yor may be a frighteningly efficient assassin, she still retains her sense of decency and doesn’t go out of her way to kill anyone that crosses her – Yor only uses lethal force when she is given authorisation to do so, leaving viewers with the assurance that in any other situation, Yor will maintain her cover without any problems. However, the capture of a few small fish isn’t enough to stop the plot, and Anya sees another vision from Bond, this time, of Loid under rubble following an explosion.

  • While both Anya and Yor had wanted a small dog to reduce the risk of injury, Great Pyrenees are actually excellent dogs despite their size. With an average lifespan of eleven years, Great Pyrenees dogs are friendly and gentle, handle children well, but also possess the strength to protect those around them. As such, a Great Pyrenees would be perfect for the Forgers. Other breeds that would work well include Golden Retrievers and Border Collies – both breeds are patient and affectionate. Smaller dogs like Shih Tzus or Beagles also work well, but one of the joys about larger breeds is that Anya gets to ride them from place to place, and this is precisely what Anya does during her efforts to thwart the bomb plot.

  • Spy × Family explains that the Ostanian student radicals picked up their bomb-carrying dogs from Project Apple, an old programme to create animals with near-human intelligence. While the programme was ultimately scrapped, the radicals managed to get ahold of these dogs and intend on triggering a war with Westalias. The choice of presenting the terrorists as students here in Spy × Family is probably a reflection of how students tend to desire change because of the knowledge they pick up through their education. However, whereas activists use peaceful means of raising awareness for their causes, radicals believe that the ends justify the means, and occasionally, radicals may also be backed by shadowy benefactors. Whether or not this holds true in Spy × Family is not shown – Anya’s the star of things here.

  • Anya demonstrates uncommon bravery during the course of the day: I was especially pleased with how she’s shown to try and make do with the intelligence she has throughout the situation. When she recalls Bond’s vision shows the time of explosion, she is able to determine roughly how much time she has to work something out, even though she hasn’t learnt to read an analogue clock yet. Similarly, while Anya’s familiar with Bondman‘s portrayal of explosives, real-world terrorists aren’t about to colour-code their devices’ wires for the defuser’s convenience.

  • Instead of risking a premature detonation, Anya decides it’s safer to let Loid know of the threat and leave the defusing to experts. When Loid and another WISE operator find Anya’s message, Loid immediately suspects that something’s off: a crisis is averted, and while other operators are deployed to render the explosives safe, Loid heads off to pursue the next stage of the assignment. The solutions that children come up with for problems are often simple to the point where adults are left wondering why they couldn’t think of it themselves. Complexity bias is a very real challenge adults face – because complex solutions sound better thought-out, they appeal to people.

  • I tend to believe in the opposite – the simplest solutions usually are the most effective. This mode of thinking impacts everything I do, including software development. I prefer solutions that use less code, provided that the code that is provided does a satisfactory job of explaining why it’s present. I’ve seen implementations of AlamoFire REST requests that have hundreds of lines of code because they try to account for every use case possible (such as retrying requests if a 500 is returned), whereas my own Alamofire wrappers provide enough functionality in the space of under a hundred lines (and offers the bonus of being easier to maintain). Back in Spy × Family, Sylvia explains things to Brantz: Loid’s taken his clothing unexpectedly.

  • Brantz greatly resembles Mikhail Zaitsev’s Captain Pronin, a Russian detective who fights crime around the world. I’ve had a fondness for Captain Pronin: it’s an affectionate parody of Western film tropes, and on at least one occasion, Pronin teams up with James Bond on an assignment. As Brantz, Loid is able to draw Keith and his remaining dog away from the real minister. He is able to separate the explosives from the dog and non-lethally dispatches the dog by trapping it in a dumpster. Upon witnessing this turn of events, Keith is rendered inconsolable, but his day gets a lot worse.

  • Yor spots Keith trying to make a getaway and recalls him as one of the kidnappers from earlier. Still angered that his crew had tried to take Anya, she kicks his car off the road in an impressive feat of strength worthy of The Avengers. Keith subsequently crashes into a lamppost and sustains minor injuries. Rather than dispensing further punishment on him, Yor makes her way to the nearest payphone and reports that a vehicle accident has occurred.

  • As the day draws to an end, Yor, Anya and Loid end up meeting. Unbeknownst to one another, everyone had a hand in stopping the student radical’s plot and helped to stave off the flashpoint for another war. However, Loid and Yor appear oblivious to this fact: to Yor, Loid’s stomachache must’ve resulted from her awful cooking, while Loid supposes that Yor had spent most of her day chasing after Anya, who’d gotten lost. This moment best illustrates the extent that the Forgers remain unaware of one another’s true backgrounds, and moreover, also shows how naturally everyone returns to their role of being part of a fake family, suggesting that outside of their duties, Yor and Loid would like nothing more than a lasting peace so they can settle down.

  • After a full day’s adventure with Bond, Anya’s decided that this is the dog for her, and that no other dog will do. Things get a little tricky when Sylvia and another WISE operative appear, disguised as members of the Ostanian secret police. Since Bond had been a part of Project Apple, and this programme could prove to be a bit of a hot potato topic if its existence was revealed, it was imperative to take in all of the animals and ensure that they are given a comfortable home while WISE works out how to best handle the situation.

  • Normally, Anya is very accommodating and will stand down if Loid denies one of her requests, knowing that it’s to help Loid with world peace. However, there’s a first time for everything, and Anya refuses to give up Bond, having bonded with him over the course of the day. This is completely understandable from the viewer’s perspectives; between Bond’s ability to peer into the future and Anya’s telepathic powers, both have become extremely close. The possibilities behind this synergy are immeasurable, and doubtlessly to drive interesting new developments in the future.

  • What follows was a moment I found particularly endearing: Anya refuses, and throws an adorable tantrum by declaring she’ll flunk out of Eden Academy if she’s not allowed to be with Bond. Loid is shocked that Anya’s bringing this up now, but this a very well-played move from Anya; Anya’s spotted that this particular dog is special, and knowing that to Loid, Operation Strix matters above all else, Anya decides that this is the only way to ensure that Bond stays with the Forgers. While this particular circumstance is special owing to the knowledge viewers have, in reality, I’ve heard that the best way to keep children in line is to never overreact, set clear boundaries, lead by example, and above all else, reward good behaviour.

  • Even Syliva is shocked by this turn of events, and realising what the implications are, decides to stand down and allow Anya to keep Bond. To any observer, Loid’s response to Anya is quite natural. Moments like these reiterate the fact that Anya’s a very bright child, and seeing this time and time again in Spy × Family serves to remind viewers that while Anya might be a child, she’s not to be underestimated. This in turn creates the sense that no matter what misadventures Anya may have in the future, her creativity and resourcefulness will let her find a way through things. Together with the fact that the adults in Anya’s life have been able guide her down the right path, rewarding excellence and reprimanding misbehaviours accordingly, viewers can be confident that Anya will continue to conduct herself in a way that won’t compromise Operation Strix (even if there may be a few stressful moments where it may appear jeopardised).

  • When everything’s said and done, Spy × Family continues to impress: even in the space of three episodes, Spy × Family expertly weaves together elements of a spy thriller with a touching story about family. It was rewarding to see Anya hug Bond after Sylvia arranges to have him checked over before letting him stay with the Forgers. Later on, Bond thinks back to his old life as a test subject, and is surprised at the change in circumstances. Although a little reluctant about some aspects of his new life, Anya’s being able to communicate well with Bond is a considerable asset.

  • Here, I will remark that the eleventh anniversary for this blog has come and gone: the blog archives indicate that this date was October 17, 2011, and previously, I’ve made it a point to write about this milestone every year for the past decade. However, the blog’s age is merely a number now; there’s no particular value for readers if I write a milestone post about my learnings, or how this blog’s somehow managed to last for as long as it did. I’ve been saying the same thing for the past ten years: I’ll keep this party going for as long as blogging is enjoyable to me, and while my detractors have probably been pulling their hair out at my continued existence, I’m sure longtime readers won’t mind if I stick around for a bit longer.

  • Having been writing about anime here for eleven years, and having written about anime for fifteen years (I actually had another website prior to this blog, but limitations meant I would eventually migrate over to WordPress), I have found that the best way to enjoy anime and not become jaded is to see what shows do differently even if they cover similar thematic elements or share a familiar premise. I liken this to a good sandwich; at its core, a sandwich consists of two slices of bread enclosing a combination of meat, vegetables and/or cheese. However, while the setups might be similar, the variety of sandwiches out there approaches infinity. Different combinations of meats, vegetables, cheeses, eggs, and bread result in a unique flavour, much as how small variations in anime allow them to stand apart and offer distinct experiences.

  • For instance, I’ve taken to throwing my sandwiches in a toaster oven following my move, and this completely changes up my lunches now. Ordinary sandwiches become a full hot meal, and I’ve devised my own spin on the humble grilled-cheese-and-ham sandwich: if I have cheese strings available, I’ll peel them apart and layer them on top of the sliced cheese, then add some bacon-chipotle mayonnaise and a fried egg. All of this then goes into the toaster oven for 12 minutes at 325°F. The end result is surprisingly hearty and acts as a wonderful way of breaking a day up: I’ve been eating ham and cheese sandwiches since I was about as old as Anya, but something as simple as applying a little heat completely changes things.

  • This is why I always keep an open mind where anime is concerned; series like Spy × Family show that every so often, amongst the anime that feel familiar and well-tread, there exist those that are especially standout. Spy × Family does a lot very well, and this makes it a series that has seen near-universal praise. After the Forger family adds a dog, things liven up, and while Anya initially feels she could probably befriend Damien this way, things backfire when she realises that their new dog has no name. Anya subsequently struggles to come up with a name for their family’s newest member.

  • As a day at the dog park draws to a close, Anya realises her favourite gloves are gone, and another dog has picked them up. However, the Forger’s dog ends up persuading the other dog to return them. In a moment of inspiration, Anya realises their new dog is like her hero, Bondman. In this way, Bond becomes the dog’s name, and from here on out, Bond is a full-fledged part of the family. To give Anya a sense of responsibility, Loid asks her to take care of Bond until the end, and in his mind, he feels that moments like these are why the Cold War between Ostania and Westalis must end. His comments here suggest that, against his better judgement, he’s beginning to feel attached to Anya and Yor, and that if this Cold War should end, he’d probably follow up with Anya and Yor to ensure they’re alright.

  • Back home, Anya gives Bond his dinner and then shows him the bathroom. Thanks to Anya’s ability to peer into minds and Bond’s intellectual prowess, he becomes housetrained in no time at all, and Anya decides to spend the difference of the evening watching Bondman with Bond. While Loid makes to ask Anya to keep up with her studies after the episode ends, he relents and consents to let Anya sleep after she and Bond decide to call it a night. I have a feeling that, were I to present this screenshot to someone who isn’t familiar with anime, they’d probably surmise that they’re looking at a happy family.

  • Before wrapping this post up, I’ll share two more videos that evoke the same feelings as watching Anya and Bond spending time together: one of a baby kissing a puppy, and another following a baby and a puppy growing up together over the course of a year. As far as pets go, even though I’ve never owned any for myself, I’m a rabbit person through and through, but I get along with dogs well enough. Having a pet is a major responsibility, but pets become integral parts of the family, offering a source of comfort and companionship. The Forgers feel like a complete family now, and with Spy × Family back in a big way, all eyes are on where this series is next headed. I’ll be returning to December to share my thoughts on Spy × Family once its next milestone is reached, but for this series, I anticipate that folks who are watching this will likely be having a fantastic time right through until the next intermission.

The first three episodes of Spy × Family‘s continuation thus shows to viewers that Anya is quite formidable, and now that Bond is a part of the family, viewers do have the assurance that the pair will experience synergy that helps Anya to mature and grow, in turn contributing to Loid’s aims as a part of Operation Strix. Dogs and children have long been a pairing that is popular: Marc Brown’s Arthur has Kate and Pal forming a friendship, with the pair being able to communicate flawlessly with one another and go on remarkable adventures. Although Family Guy has Stewie and Brian be frenemies, the pair are ultimately very close, and both often go to extraordinary lengths to help one another (such as when Brian accompanies Stewie to Colorado to find Stewie’s stuffed animal). Here in Spy × Family, the inclusion of Bond into the Forger family is adds another resource for Anya: taking care of a dog demands a modicum of responsibility, but bonding with a dog also elevates empathy and kindness. Having grown up in a tough environment, Anya’s begun learning what family life is like, but looking after a pet will accelerate Anya’s maturity, giving her a chance to show kindness (this is something she’s still working on). Although she currently sees Bond as a friend and another tool in helping her to befriend Damien, time will likely show that the connection that Anya and Bond share creates a synergy that far exceeds their initial expectations. From a storytelling standpoint, having a new member of the family means that at home, there will never be a dull moment in Spy × Family with the Forgers, and this leaves the series in an excellent position to continue from where things had left off. Charming, captivating and endearing, Spy × Family has proven to be an unconventional and remarkable anime, drawing on a veritable smörgåsbord of elements to create a highly immersive and meaningful experience: expectations are rightfully high as Spy × Family continues, and I’m excited to see what awaits the Forgers as they move closer towards Loid’s goal of befriending the Desmonds and, in Anya’s words, achieve world peace.

Spy × Family: Remarks on An Excellent Portrayal of Fieldcraft, and A Review and Full Recommendation At The First Intermission

“You start pretending to have fun, you might have a little by accident.” –Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins

An uneasy peace exists between the divided nation of Westalis and Ostania – the Westalis organisation WISE deploys their top operator, Twilight, to get close to the Ostanian political leader of the National Unity Party, Donovan Desmond, with the aim of averting open conflict between the two nations. To this end, Twilight assumes the false identity of Loid Forger and is tasked with starting a family with the aim of enrolling a child at the prestigious Eden Academy. Although the task is daunting, Loid ends up adopting Anya from the local orphanage and encounters Yor Briar, a young woman who’s been looking for a partner to allay any suspicions of being a foreign actor. After their meeting, Loid agrees to marry Yor. This family might be a sham, and blissfully unaware of one another’s true identities (Yor is an assassin with the secretive Garden organisation, and Anya is a former child test subject with telepathic powers), but over time, they slowly manage to advance Loid’s plans of enrolling Anya at Eden Academy and have her become a capable student who can befriend Donovan’s son, Damien. Despite the various setbacks in Loid’s assignment, he comes to care for both Yor and Anya, finding himself surprised at Yor’s physical prowess and Anya’s gradual integration into the student body at Eden despite her disinterest in academics. Proving to be an unexpected surprise, Spy × Family very rapidly became a favourite among viewers for its unique combination of spy thriller, slice-of-life and comedy elements in conjunction with an engaging story and well-choreographed fight scenes – the series’ appeal lies in its ability to employ elements from a variety of genres and successfully incorporate these together into a cohesive, gripping adventure that simultaneously shows the significance of Loid’s actions from a big-picture perspective and presents more touching moments from the day-by-day misadventures that result from Loid and Yor still being new to the idea of parenthood as they try to raise Anya. The myriad of elements here in Spy × Family means that the series is able to touch on a wide range of messages and themes. Loid comments that a lot of families must also be faking it, trying hard to appear their best to others while at the same time, genuinely working hard to be the best for their children, speaking to the idea that appearances are deceiving. Similarly, Loid also thinks to himself that the assignment is structured in this fashion because taking direct action against Donovan wouldn’t stop the war: soft measures are needed, and this is why he’s been given such a task. In reality, use of lethal force against a high-ranking target is typically not even considered as an option because of the potential for creating unintended side effects, and as a result, nations will employ diplomatic and social means as a first line of defense against perceived hostilities. On top of these topics, the innocence of childhood is also utilised to juxtapose the uncommon nature of Yor and Loid’s work with a child’s imagination and open-mindedness: while most adults would lose composure at the thought of a top-tier operator and crack assassin, Anya finds her adoptive parents’ occupations extremely novel, even though she sometimes becomes worried about what Yor and Loid might do.

There’s a plethora of conversation topics in Spy × Family worth praising, but at the end of the first half, the most standout message arises from the fact that, in spite of himself, Loid shows concern for Anya and Yor beyond the demands of his assignment. He is legitimately worried about Anya’s gaining admittance into Eden Academy, and when she makes it, he collapses into the lawn in relief. Loid has been trained to compartmentalise his emotions and focus on the task at hand, and initially, he rationalises his concerns as being worried about putting the outcomes of his assignment in someone else’s hands, whereas previously, he’d been accustomed to doing everything himself. However, it soon becomes clear that taking on a phoney family has not stopped Loid’s emotions from manifesting: whenever Anya’s hurt or sad, Loid does his best to console and comfort her: he even comes close to punching one of Eden’s interviewers out after he makes Anya cry. On the surface, he’s doing this to keep his fake family together so he can complete his mission. However, a part of Loid also acts this way because it is intuitive to do so: Anya and Yor might be tools to an end, but the hesitation and contemplation he shows as Spy × Family wears on shows that he’s beginning to see them as proper human begins, more than instruments in his mission. In this way, Spy × Family shows how spending time with people will accelerate the bonds that form between them, and this is perhaps an inevitable part of being human, no matter how well-trained one is in separating their duties from personal lives. However, from the approach Spy × Family has taken, this is clearly not a bad thing, and it is especially fitting that Loid be tasked with raising a family with the aim of eventually befriending Donovan and learning more about his goals – despite Loid’s exceptional social engineering skills, one can surmise that shrewd politicians like Donovan have their bullshit meters turned up to eleven and can trivially spot deception from a mile away. To become a convincing friend and eliminate any doubts, Loid must act more human: being together with Anya and Yor provides the perfect opportunity for him to integrate this into a part of his routine. Spy × Family shows that Loid’s talents are sufficient for the task (as seen when he is able to play the role of a loving husband perfectly in front of Yor’s younger brother, Yuri), but there are moments where spending time with Anya and Yor also shows viewers a side of Loid that is decidedly human. Where these moments come through, to even the most effective counter-surveillance measures, Loid’s merely an uncommonly talented husband and loving father to Anya, leaving viewers with no doubt that his mission will be successful and allowing one’s mind to focus on the host of other things that Spy × Family does well.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There are a lot of moments in Spy × Family worth commenting on, and while a handful of readers might be interested in a five-part series on everything Spy × Family does well, for the purpose of this talk, I’m going to focus on the family and fieldcraft pieces, which, in a standout series that already does everything right, are especially well done. The contrast between Loid’s life as an intelligence operative and the situations he finds himself being thrown into creates comedy, lightening the mood up considerably in a setting that would otherwise be all-serious.

  • When Loid adopts Anya as his child, her application suggests that she’s six, but her mannerisms and speech patterns are consistent with someone who’s four. Despite possessing telepathic abilities and giving her previous foster parents no shortage of trouble, Loid decides to stick things out – he’s unaware of her powers and chalks it up to uncommonly good intuition. For her part, Anya uses her powers in a way that a child might and gives even the well-trained Loid some trouble, but despite her carefree manner and a propensity to cause trouble in the way children might, Anya is very aware of those around her and does her best to keep the peace, even if she doesn’t fully understand what the adults mean when she glimpses into their thoughts.

  • Atsumi Tanezaki voices Anya – I know her best as Harukana Receive‘s Claire Thomas, but Tanezaki’s also played Aobuta‘s Rio Futaba, Miu Amano of Blend S and My Dress-Up Darling‘s Sajuna Inui. Seeing Tanezaki’s performance here in Spy × Family is exceptional – as Claire, Tanezaki is bold and confident, but her delivery of Anya’s lines is spot on and matches the precise intonations a child would make. Voicing children is a challenge, and the last time I was this impressed with a voice actress playing a child was Satomi Kōrogi’s performance as CLANNAD‘s very own Ushio Okazaki.

  • Yor Briar is the next part of Loid’s plan to build a family – he’s already gone ahead and looked into suitable single women for his ruse and, when a chance encounter brings the two together, both agree to build a relationship for their own ends after Anya expresses a wish for Yor to join their family. Yor appears perfect for the role of a wife with a government job, which will allay suspicion, while on her end, Yor worries that remaining single at her age will lead her to being suspected as a foreign actor and feels that being with Loid will give her the illusion of normalcy, getting her coworkers and brother off her back and allowing her to continue her secret occupation as an assassin.

  • Ironically, Loid ends up proposing to Yor as a part of their ruse to those around them, and things happen in a manner that is befitting of a spy and assassin couple. The dynamic here in Spy × Family is reminiscent of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, as well as 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me: I’ve always liked stories where the male and female leads are able to compliment one another – competent characters eliminate any doubt in the viewer’s minds that the overall story will be jeopardised, and this provides viewers with the reassurance that the series can portray a different side of things. Spy × Family chooses to employ comedy, and it does so in an effective manner.

  • Once Yor moves in and takes the surname Forger, she becomes a part of the family. On her first day with Anya and Loid, Anya decides to give her a grand tour of the place, and Loid decides to set in motion his plans for Operation Strix, the name of his assignment to close the social gap between himself and Donovan so he can work out a way to avert war without use of force. The Strix is a mythological bird associated with death and misfortune, but it can also refer to malevolent forces like Witches, but for me, when I hear the word “Strix”, my mind immediately goes towards ASUS’ Strix line of GPUs. On their product page, they state that the GPUs are named after the owls, being the high-end products that offer players with the sharpest experience.

  • Ahead of the applications to Eden Academy, Loid takes Anya and Yor on some high culture experiences around town, including an opera showing and a museum of fine art. While this is a part of his plan to ensure Anya has familiarity with culture and the performing arts to strengthen her application, one unintended side effect is that in the process, Loid also learns to relax just a little. This is the reason why I ended up choosing the page quote: in Batman Begins, Alfred suggests to Bruce that he act a little more like a billionaire playboy philanthropist after Bruce unveils his plans to become Batman. What Alfred means is that, for folks who are dedicated to their work, it’s still important to maintain that balance.

  • By forcing one to take some downtime, one might find the merits of doing so. In Spy × Family, Loid begins to appreciate these moments of normalcy in spite of himself and occasionally catches himself wondering if this is the life of an ordinary person. In Tom Clancy’s novels, John Clark’s work was especially taxing Sandy, as she worried every time he set off on a mission. When Clark contemplates retirement, his wife cannot help but be relieved. While Loid and Yor are both extremely competent, unlikely to be killed in the line of duty, their work is also quite tiring.

  • Anya immediately takes a liking to Yor since she acts as a mother figure, although when Anya delves into Yor’s mind, she finds the latter’s thoughts to be quite scary. In spite of this, she loves Yor very much and is sufficiently comfortable around Yor to make offhand remarks that can be quite hurtful: despite her considerable skillset, Yor is a poor cook and unfamiliar with the things that wives are expected to do. Saori Hayami voices Yor: of her extensive and impressive resume, I know Hayami best as GochiUsa‘s Aoyama Blue Mountain, Sawa Okita of Tari Tari and Yuzuki Shiraishi from A Place Further Than The Universe.

  • The Forgers have done their best to prepare for a pivotal moment in Operation Strix – the admissions interview to Eden Academy. Anya had barely passed her exams, and the interviews are to gauge both the student’s temperament and the parents’ amplitude in raising their children. En route to the interview, the Forgers are subject to a variety of surprises: as a family that came out of the blue, Henry Henderson is surprised by their presence and seeks to test them. On each and every occasion, he ends up impressed at how well-prepared they are, and how elegantly everything is handled.

  • The part that Loid had dreaded most was the interview: although Henry and Walter Evans are amicable and fair, the other interviewer, Murdoch Swan, is unfriendly and arrogant, deliberately seeking out any reason to reject the Forgers owing to his bitter stance on marriage. In the end, after Murdoch asks a question that brings Anya to tears, Yor and Loid both find themselves exercising all of their self-control to keep from physically beating up Murdoch, only for Henry to do so on their behalf. Henry has no qualms about accepting Anya as a student, and after an excruciating day where they wait for the results, the Forgers learn Anya’s been waitlisted.

  • Soon after, Anya is admitted to Eden, and both as a part of his guise, and in part as a consequence of his own relief, Loid consents to do something special for Anya. When Anya asks for a Bondman like experience, Loid decides to go with it. This exercise may seem overkill, but WISE is more than happy to comply, knowing Loid’s keeping Anya happy and maintaining a good relationship with Yor is essential for Operation Strix, as well as owing to everyone’s open admiration for the legends surrounding Loid. In this way, Loid and his informant, Franky, arrange for a castle to be rented out so Loid can act out a scene from Bondman, a spy cartoon Anya’s grown very fond of.

  • Although the expense involved in this “operation” is so immense that Loid’s superior immediately asks him about it, Anya is thoroughly impressed that her father is able to pull everything off as effectively as he did. A large part of Spy × Family that I haven’t been able to showcase in this discussion are the action scenes: they’re very dynamic and difficult to capture in screenshots. Spy × Family was jointly produced by Wit Studios (The Rolling Girls) and CloverWorks (Akebi’s Sailor Uniform, My Dress-Up Darling and Aobuta): the artwork and animation are both of exceptional quality. The townscapes and details in the environment are intricate, while movements during fight scenes are fluid and smooth.

  • Loid’s handler, Sylvia Sherwood, assigns him with his assignments. Although she normally works a desk job at the embassy, she was the one who trained Loid and is a superb operator in her own right, although performing the same sorts of stunts that Loid performs is quite taxing for her. Sylvia and Loid share the same business relationship as M and James Bond do, although unlike Judi Dench’s M, Sylvia lacks M’s sense of dry humour and matronly dignity. However, were Sylvia to resemble M, Spy × Family would be seen as being too close to James Bond. Creativity in the setting, characters and goals mean that Spy × Family is quite distinct, although Bond fans will doubtlessly have picked up on some commonalities.

  • Anya’s name and background both are references to James Bond: as a test subject, she was referred to as 007, which is James Bond’s double-O number when he’s in active service, but her name is also a callback to The Spy Who Loved Me‘s Major Anya Amasova, a Soviet agent working for the KGB. In The Spy Who Loved Me, Amasova is presented as Bond’s equal, with the intellect and physical prowess to match Bond and even outwit him at times. This was a first in James Bond: previous Bond Girls were very much the stereotypical damsel-in-distress archetype, so it was refreshing to see someone who was a competent and skilled operator in her own right. I was actually a bit surprised that people didn’t catch this reference: while The Spy Who Loved Me dates back to 1977, it is Roger Moore’s best Bond movie and quite worth watching.

  • In Spy × Family, Yor is to Loid the same way that Amasova is to Bond: possessing extraordinary strength, Loid is surprised that he’s only just able to keep up with her, but she’s also determined to play the part of a good wife. Yor’s background means that she often imparts on Anya some unusual lessons, and this is not without consequence. On orientation day, after being bullied by Damian and his friends, Anya recalls a conversation with Yor and decides to punch Damian’s lights out. This results in Anya being branded as being violent, and Anya expresses remorse at the incident: although her new best friend, Becky, thinks Damian got what he deserved, Anya recalls that the whole point of her being here is so she can befriend Damian and get Loid closer to Donovan. For her troubles, Anya has a Tonitrus Bolt placed on her record.

  • Exceptional students, whether by merit of academic excellence, athletic prowess or community service, earn Stella. Students who accrue eight Stella join the Imperial Scholars, students with more privileges, while those with eight Tonitrus bolts are expelled. As far as academics go, Anya has a natural affinity for languages and struggles with mathematics. While she occasionally considers using her ability to peer into the thoughts of those around her to stay afloat, she decides to put in a more concerted effort to do her best for Loid’s sake. Because Loid’s plan had been to either have Anya become an Imperial Scholar and then attend a social event for the parents of these top students, or otherwise see Anya befriend Damien, Anya does her best with both endeavours.

  • She ends up spending a whole day trying to find Damien so she can apologise to him, and while his friends doubt Anya is being sincere, a series of misunderstandings causes Damien to develop a crush on her, even though he’s too proud to admit it. Damien and his friends, Emile and Ewen, initially resemble Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, but in Spy × Family, Damien is shown to be a hard worker, and his friends actually regard one another as peers. Seeing the dynamics that form among the children in Spy × Family speaks volumes to the idea that despite outward appearances, people are more than what they seem. On this basis, I would feel that even Donovan is probably someone who can be talked to: he shares some design characteristics with Henry, and while Henry outwardly looks strict, he’s actually caring and observant. As such, there is a possibility that despite his reputation, Donovan might be someone who could be reasoned with.

  • Appearances being deceiving forms a bulk of Spy × Family‘s comedy: Yor’s younger brother, Yuri, is suspicious of Yor’s marriage and apparently having forgotten to tell him. To assage Yuri’s doubts about Loid’s being an excellent husband, Yor and Loid decide to have him over. While Yuri is outwardly a civil servant, he’s actually a highly effective member of the secret police and is, in fact, tasked with the hunt for Twilight. His reasoning goes out the window where Yor is involved, and he admires Yor a little more than is healthy; this aspect of him is employed for comedy, preventing him from suspecting that Loid is actually his target.

  • It does appear that everyone of note in Spy × Family is either uncommonly strong or uncommonly durable. During their evening, while Loid and Yor do their best to present a loving couple to Yuri, he adamantly rejects Loid and demands the pair show their commitment to one another by kissing. Loid’s trade craft means he has no qualms with this, but Yor’s assassin training doesn’t have a social piece to it, so she struggles. Embarrassment builds, and she ends up making to slap Loid, only for Loid’s swift reflexes to kick in: he dodges Yor, and she ends up putting Yuri on the floor, instead. Such moments are intentionally comedic, and this does much to remind viewers that, espionage setting notwithstanding, the characters are very much human.

  • Terrifying assassin she may be, Yor has adorable moments of her own, and of everyone in Spy × Family, Anya has the most “funny face” moments. The visual expressiveness accentuates the idea that at the end of the day, everyone in Spy × Family is human. This aspect of Spy × Family is what makes the show so relatable for viewers, but the story’s actual success comes from the fact that there’s something for everyone. Folks with an interest in politics will enjoy Spy × Family‘s portrayal of foreign affairs and the significance of intelligence as a component of political decision-making. Viewers with families of their own will relate to Loid’s thoughts about how sometimes, it can feel as though one’s ad-libbing things to keep things going, and that other families are also trying to look like they’ve made it, but at the end of the day, what matters most is ensuring one’s children are happy and disciplined.

  • Fans of espionage fiction, like myself, will get a kick out of the sorts of things that Loid can do and have access to, while viewers who appreciate sakuga will certainly enjoy the fight scenes, fantastically-rendered opening sequence and visual fidelity. Viewers who prominently watch comedies will laugh heartily at the moments of dramatic irony, and slice-of-life fans will have their hearts captured by Anya’s naïveté. In this way, Spy × Family is actually quite similar to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Yuru Camp△, both of which excelled precisely because they could appeal to such a wide range of viewers and combine everything together seamlessly.

  • Not every anime that attempts to weave so many elements together is successful: when done improperly, such anime come across as being excessively busy. Extreme Hearts and Kanojo, Okarishimasu are recent examples of anime that do too much. At its heart, Spy × Family succeeds because after the core premise is established, the story doesn’t stray from this path, and everything that occurs is tied to this goal. Loid is laser-focused on Operation Strix, but everything that follows, whether it be Loid and Yor’s fake marriage, or Anya’s initial troubles at school, all relate to Operation Strix. This simply shows how misadventures can follow even when one is following a plan, as well as how one might pull out of a difficult situation and turn things around with a bit of grit and creativity.

  • When rumours abound of a dodgeball tournament potentially leading to students earning Stella, Anya decides to train with Yor. On the day of the game, her class squares off against Bill Watkins, an unusually fit and perceptive student who takes pride in doing his best for his father. While Bill handily trashes Anya’s class single-handedly, his mature demeanour evaporates when Anya evades all of his shots. In the end, it turns out that Stella aren’t awarded for common activities and are only given for exceptional acts of excellence.

  • When Loid’s superiors worry about Anya’s progress, he decides to take her to the local health centre so that Anya can participate in some community service. Although Anya’s lack of coordination means that even the simplest tasks are difficult to her (unsurprising for someone who’s only four), her telepathy allows her to pick up on the fact that someone’s fallen into the pool and is drowning. She hesitates to tell this directly to Loid, worried he might send her back to the orphanage should words of her powers get out, and to this end, fabricates a fib that lets her to rescue the boy, even though she’s unable to swim well.

  • Anya’s act of singular daring and valuing of a human life earns her a Stella. Seeing the values at Eden Academy suggest to viewers that, despite Ostania being a parallel of East Germany, the people here have good values, and citizens are shown to have comfortable lives. Provided they don’t run afoul of the government or secret police, it does feel as though life in Ostania is quite normal, and that children are raised into being proper citizens who have a sense of discipline, responsibility and loyalty. Ostania appears to stand in contrast with East Germany, where life was described as being monotonous and dull. While the essentials were never in short supply, citizens’ lives were decidedly more dreary than their West German counterparts.

  • This doesn’t seem to be the case in Ostania: throughout Spy × Family, the characters are shown to have access to a decent variety of meals. When Loid takes his family to restaurants, said restaurants serve steaks. Loid and Yor end up buying an ornate cake from a local bakery to cheer Anya up and show her that, even if there’d been some awkwardness between the two earlier, they’ve managed to talk things out. At the Eden Academy’s canteen, Anya enjoys omurice, a dish of Japanese origin. After being awarded her first Stella, Anya’s classmates wonder if she’d cheated, but Damien openly states that Eden Academy is a place of integrity, and the instructors are above corruption.

  • In the finale to the first season, Loid ends up taking Anya and Yor to an aquarium to show the neighbours that he’s maintaining a work-life balance and keeping everyone in the household happy. Although the neighbours are initially skeptical after Loid disappears to locate a penguin carrying microfilm for a chemical weapon, he manages to pass off his disappearance as trying to win a prize for Anya. Loid’s ability to get things done border on the supernatural, and his ability to memorise penguin names and act as a proper penguin attendant would put The Aquatope on White Sand‘s Fūka and Kukuru to shame.

  • Besides a pleasant trip to the aquarium, the finale also gives viewers a glimpse of how Loid and Yor are beginning to act as parents would: when Anya attempts to sneak into Loid’s room while playing pretend, Loid reprimands her, only to realise he’s overstepped. While he’s acting in the mission’s interest, his response is consistent with how a parent would act: he and Yor end up playing along with Anya to take her mind off things, leading to smiles from those in the neighbourhood. I realise that in this post, I’ve only covered a fraction of what makes Spy × Family so enjoyable for so many.

  • The first season had ended quite abruptly, with the finale concluding back in June, but with the second season kicking off tomorrow, fans of Spy × Family will be able to get right back into the party very soon. The praise for this series is well-deserved, and in fact, I am of the mind that this is an anime that is universally enjoyable regardless of one’s preferences for genres. I will be following Spy × Family‘s second season with enthusiasm. The first season has sold me on the story and characters, so I look forwards to seeing what awaits Anya at Eden, along with surprises that lie in store for Loid and Yor.

Aside from providing viewers with a wonderful combination of thriller and comedy elements, Spy × Family nails the portrayal of the nature of intelligence, as well. While Spy × Family does present some elements of espionage that belong more in an Ian Fleming novel, such as the quintessential spy who is a sauve sharpshooter able to extricate himself from remarkably perilous scenarios, Spy × Family also takes the time of showing fieldcraft as Tom Clancy presents it: in his novels, Clancy writes that the best intelligence operators blend into their environment by hiding in plain sight. This is best exemplified in Adam Yao, whom Clancy introduces in Threat Vector as a NOC who runs an intellectual property firm as his white-side job. Yao is presented as being an expert of “selling it”: this is to embrace whatever role the situation demands and act with confidence that one belongs. In this way, Yao succeeds in striking up conversation with people and learning more about his objectives than he would by digging through their trash. That Spy × Family chooses this approach over the traditional James Bond way of blowing up a super-villain’s secret lair is welcoming because it shows the social aspects of espionage: while films tend to dramatise the martinis, girls and guns, real intelligence and fieldwork is a matter of persistence and patience: more often than not, intelligence is conducting surveillance on people to see what they know, and if they might be an asset, talking to people and gaining their trust. Spy × Family‘s portrayal of espionage incorporates James Bond, but the main mission Loid undertakes here is a textbook example of “selling it”: in order to get close to Donovan, Loid must sell being a loving father and husband from a cultured background worthy of Eden. While he, Anya and Yor experience some growing pains, it is clear that by the end of the first season, the three do appear to be a picture-perfect family beginning their own journey together. In portraying Loid and Yor as being competent, there is little doubt that Loid will succeed in his mission: the excitement in Spy × Family therefore comes from seeing what lies ahead, whether it be Anya’s efforts to befriend Damien, Loid’s trying to balance his other responsibilities with keeping up the façade of being a good father and husband, or Yor’s assassination work and the potential for her to clash with Loid should either learn of the other’s actual identity (á la the 2005 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith). There’s a great deal to look forwards to in Spy × Family, and with the first episode coming out tomorrow, I’m excited to see this story pick up where it left off – Bond Forger, a Great Pyrenees briefly seen during the penultimate episode after Anya desires to look after a dog, has yet to be formally introduced to the family, and this will doubtlessly add to the dynamics in a series whose characters, settings and overarching story have already been exceptionally fun.