Comedies based on perpetual misunderstandings can be really hit or miss. Characters misunderstanding one another’s intent and motivations can work as an endless source of humor, or it can eventually lead to frustration over a lack of progress. The manga series Spy x Family by Endo Tatsuya falls square into this category of humor, but it’s able to achieve a nice place between its overarching plot and its chapter-to-chapter antics that keeps it fresh, enjoyable, and even a little heartwarming.
Spy x Family tells the story of Twilight, an unparalleled spy who is given an order to start a family in order to get close to this next target. In order to make the charade seem as real as possible, he takes on a new identity (Loid Forger), adopts a daughter named Anya, and finds a woman willing to pretend to be his wife (Yor Forger). However, while Loid is extremely good at his job, what he doesn’t realize is that his new family members have their own secrets. Anya is actually a telepath, and Yor is actually a top-class assassin known as “Thorn Princess.” They all have their own reasons for wanting to keep this act going, with only Anya knowing the full truth but loving every minute of these bizarre circumstances.
In both story and presentation, this manga is superb. The character designs are excellent and the artwork is consistently solid no matter the situation or setting. The characters themselves are endearing and memorable. Every time I finish a chapter, I find myself wanting more. Spy x Family juggles a lot of balls in the air, whether it’s shifting settings between its three core characters, switching between comedy and action (or a mix of both), or portraying the way they grow closer even as they continue to keep their respective cards close to their chests.
The closest manga I can think of in terms of being this good at the “comedy of misunderstandings” shtick is Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, but that title is far more extreme when it comes to keeping its characters forever ignorant. Spy x Family, on the other hand, is more than willing to have both long- and short-term plot threads, and it does each kind so well, I would be easily satisfied if it stuck with one or the other. However, it manages to pull both off well, and we’re all the better for it. I think part of the reason Spy x Family succeeds despite not taking the Nozaki-kun route is that there’s actually a character who is privy to what’s really going on in Anya Forger. From her hilarious reactions to everyone’s true thoughts and feelings, to the contrast between her powers and her lack of smarts, to her strong desire to keep the charade going so that she can keep her happy little nuclear family going, Anya might just be the lynchpin of this series.
Spy x Family is available on VIZ’s Shonen Jump app, and chapters come out roughly once every other week. There’s a lot to love about this series, and I don’t see it wearing out its welcome anytime soon.