Spy x Family Season 1 is now streaming on Hulu and Crunchyroll.
After a memorable and action-packed premiere, the first season of Spy x Family went onto cement itself as one of the best new anime shows in years. It’s a comedy with all the elements of a winning family sitcom (but turned up to 11), with literal life or death situations, dazzling animation, and poignant commentary on family and class, all while introducing some of the best characters of the year, regardless of medium.
The show follows the Forgers, your run-of-the-mill family with a spy dad, an assassin mom, and a mind-reading kid — only they have no idea about each other’s secret lives, except for the child who can read their every thought. Spy x Family works as the kind of funny and heartwarming family sitcom that dominated ABC’s TGIF lineup in the ’90s, and like every great sitcom, this works in no small part due to the characters.
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We already met Anya in the premiere and I wrote at the time that she was a strong contender for best character of the season, which remains true. Anya is to Spy x Family what Baby Sinclair is to ‘90s comedy Dinosaurs – basically, the adorable child character that steals every scene they are in, who will inspire a ludicrous amount of merch. But unlike the baby dinosaur and many other kid characters, Anya never borders on annoying, and her hilarious reactions to the crazy things around her don’t get old; instead they improve every scene.
Anya’s telepathic power isn’t just there for comedic purposes, but to act as a metaphor for how kids can be more receptive than adults give them credit for. It’s a brilliant touch to make Anya the only person in Spy x Family to see through everyone’s lies, as this is a show quite literally built on deceptions. Everyone has something to hide, everyone presents an image of themselves to the world that is meticulously crafted to avoid suspicion, and it is no coincidence that the show seems to be set in the ’60s or ’70s, the golden age of espionage, where lying was the order of the day. This makes the fact that Yor and Loid are completely oblivious to each other’s secret lives despite the incredibly obvious clues understandable. It’s not that Yor is too dumb to realize that the goons with machine guns trying to kill Loid are not his patients practicing some new therapy technique, it’s that she is too focused on not letting her own secrets spill that she doesn’t imagine that other people have equally big ones.
Speaking of Yor, she is another very strong contender for best character of the year: an awkward, quiet, clumsy, funny badass who jumps at the chance to protect her makeshift family from anything that would threaten it, often with deadly intent. And like any great sitcom, Spy x Family also offers some poignant commentary and even a couple of life lessons here and there, like its exploration of societal views and expectations towards women, especially single women. She might be capable of taking down a whole army by herself using nothing more than a hairpin, but Yor being an unmarried adult woman? Now that is a threat to the safety of the nation. Spy x Family manages to strike a great balance between commentary, drama, action, and slice-of-life comedy without undermining any of those respective elements in the process.
At its heart, this is an anime about family, and how the ideal family unit is an idea very much influenced by a specific view of class and privilege. Though not the sole focus of Spy x Family, it still manages to have a poignant message on how much harder it is to have to fight to achieve a certain status when you’re not born into it. Even without the fate of the world at stake, the Forgers know their current position is very fragile, and they’ll do anything to keep the illusion of their perfect family together.
As an adaptation, Spy x Family is spectacular. It takes a slower approach than most anime adaptations in terms of manga chapters per TV episode, taking its time to set things up and giving the show an almost slice-of-life tone and pace where the mundane takes a lot of importance. And yet it also manages to elaborate and expand on tiny details with incredible results, like a whole episode dedicated to the best dodgeball match since Hunter x Hunter, or a delightfully wholesome party for Anya at a castle. Spy x Family is just getting started, but its first season provided a weekly source of comfort and laughs that, like the best sitcoms, you could easily picture yourself watching every week for a decade. Move over, Tanners, Bankses, and Winslows: the Forgers have arrived and they are not going anywhere.