Spy x Family Volume One begins the adventures of a spy named Twilight and the “found family” he puts together for his mission.

Spy x Family Volume One
Written by: Tatsuya Endo

Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: June 2, 2020

The volume opens by introducing Twilight, the top spy for an organization known as WISE. The series is set in a world where two nations, Westalis and Ostania, who are at odds with each other. WISE, an organization in Westalis, tries to maintain the peace between the two nations through the missions that they assign to their agents.

Twilight is given an assignment to spy on an Ostanian leader named Donovan Desmond, who is a notoriously reclusive man. The only way for Twilight to get to him is to obtain a wife and child and to get the child enrolled into Eden College, the prestigious school that Donovan’s son attends. This mission is given the codename “Operation Strix.”

The first chapter sees Twilight taking on the name Loid Forger and building an identity as a psychiatrist. After securing somewhere to live, Loid goes to visit a shoddy orphanage, since he thinks it’s likely it won’t have good records proving which children are in its custody. Here, Loid meets a young girl named Anya. Unknown to Loid, Anya has a secret… she is a telepath and can read people’s minds. After Loid takes in Anya, the rest of the chapter focuses on the awkwardness Loid has in trying to figure out how to deal with and raise a child, and the mischief Anya gets into thanks to her curiosity. At the end of the chapter, Loid decides to keep custody of Anya for the mission, and she takes the entrance exam for Eden College, which she manages to pass. Unfortunately, they learn that for the upcoming family interviews, the student is expected to come with both parents.

The second chapter focuses on Loid trying to find someone to temporarily become his wife for the upcoming interview. The chapter introduces a woman named Yor Briar, who works at city hall. Sh’’s a sweet woman but can also be a bit clueless at times. Her female co-workers are giving her a hard time about being single, and her younger brother keeps insisting that she find a boyfriend and settle down. Loid asks his informant, Franky Franklin, to find the records of single women to try to find someone to fill the role of his wife for the mission. When Loid takes Anya to the tailor’s, he has a chance encounter with Yor, and the two of them decide to help the other out with their immediate need (Yor needs a boyfriend for an upcoming party, and Loid needs a wife for the upcoming interview). After some hijinks, the chapter ends with Loid making Yor his “permanent” wife for the mission. But Loid doesn’t reveal that he’s a spy to her. However, unknown to Loid, Yor also has a secret… she’s a hired assassin.

Chapter Three sees Yor moving in with Loid and Anya, and the three of them trying to prepare for the upcoming interview at Eden College. Loid takes the two girls out for cultural outings to try to help them prepare to be more refined, but humor abounds as Anya and Yor both act in ways that show that they’re nowhere near understanding what being refined is. Just as Loid is in despair thinking that his mission is going to fail, the three Forgers inadvertently work together to foil a pickpocket.

The final chapter sees the Forgers going to Eden College for the interview. Early on in the chapter, there’s quite a bit of humor as the Forgers keep exceeding the expectations of Housemaster Henderson, who’s watching all of the candidates and their families as they walk through the campus. Each time Housemaster Henderson thinks that he’s foiled their chances of progressing to their interview, the three Forgers pull off surprises that freak out Housemaster Henderson.

But that humor goes away when it’s time for the actual interviews. One of the interviewers just recently went through a divorce and lost custody of his daughter and is taking out his frustrations on the applicants and their families. It’s awkward enough for the Forgers, since they’re trying to sell a lie. But as the interviewer with a chip on his shoulder says nasty things, both Loid and Yor have to try to keep their emotions in check. However, after he makes Anya cry, the normally cool and unemotional Loid reacts. After giving a few words to the interviewers, the Forgers leave, and they think they’ve failed. And this is where Volume One ends. It’s kind of a downer to end on, but at the same time, it’s the perfect place to stop and make the reader want to come back and find out what’s going to happen.

I had already seen all 25 episodes of the first season of the Spy x Family anime before I read the first volume of the manga. At this point, the anime basically depicted what happens in these first four chapters as the first four episodes of the series. However, since I’m coming back to the beginning of the story after making it through the 25 episodes of the anime, the first volume of the manga reminded me just how different of a character Loid was back at the beginning of the series. But it makes sense for Loid, who gave up his identity and his life to become a spy, to be distant to others and not knowing how to relate to other people outside of a mission. While Yor and Anya may be part of the mission, only Anya knows she’s part of it due to her telepathy. Yor has no idea at all, though, so she’ll react to situations in ways that Loid doesn’t know how to deal with, which serves as part of the series’ comedy. Anya knows what’s going on, but due to her age, she doesn’t understand how to properly react and behave as part of Loid’s mission, and this is also an important element of the series’ humor.

Volume One also includes a couple of bonuses: a one-page story of Loid and Anya shopping, and a page of Franky showing some early sketches for the manga done by Endo. I thought these were a nice touch to add to this volume.

When it comes to the series, I really love the concept of the three members of this “found family” having a secret that each one has to conceal from the others. Anya knows the truth about Loid and Yor, but she tries her hardest not to let them know that she knows. She almost slips up in Volume One, but she finds a way to cover herself, though, so they still don’t have any idea that she knows.

Spy x Family Volume One does a great job of establishing Loid and the other Forgers as a characters, the world that the story is taking place in, and includes a perfect mix of comedy and drama to tell its story. There’s a sense of awkwardness in this first volume, but this makes sense, since Loid, Anya, and Yor are going through the awkwardness of trying to get to know each other and become a pretend family.

When it comes to the art in Spy x Family, I really like Endo’s use of facial expressions for the characters. And it’s not just the main characters, either. Some of minor characters who appear in this volume get some wonderful facial expressions as well. While some of these expressions can be exaggerated at times, the exaggeration works for the tone of the series. The characters’ designs in the manga can look a little rough in comparison to their anime counterparts, there’s still a “clean” look (for lack of a better term) and feel of the art and the panels.

If you’ve already seen the Spy x Family anime but haven’t checked out the manga, I would recommend doing it. I had fun revisiting the beginnings of the story in a different medium while reading Volume One. If you’ve never had exposure to Spy x Family before and you have an appreciation for “found family” stories that combine comedy and drama, then I would suggest giving this series a try.

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