Tista is an earlier series created by Tatsuya Endo, the creator of the Spy x Family manga.

Tista Volume One
Written by: Tatsuya Endo
Publisher: Shueisha Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: April 4, 2023

The main character of the series is a girl living in New York City named Tista. She’s a university student studying to be teacher, who is also secretly an assassin who works under the name Sister Militia. Thanks to her extraordinary eyesight, she can make long-range shots with extraordinary accuracy. As a child, Tista was orphaned and taken in by a religious organization and put under the tutelage of an adoptive “father.” When he died, his eye with the extraordinary eyesight was implanted into her. As we see her in her regular day-to-day life, she’s a gloomy young woman who is standoffish and doesn’t have any friends.

One day, Tista is so wrapped up in her thoughts that she steps out into the street and is almost hit by a car. She’s saved by a young man on a bicycle, who turns out to be a student at the school she attends. She runs into him at school and learns that he is an aspiring artist named Arty Drawer. These two characters start to develop a friendship, but that friendship is put to the test when Arty finds himself wrapped up in Tista’s next assignment. The director of a museum in the city took Arty in after his father died, and it turns out the director is involved in a shady deal that he tries to force Arty to help with. Arty refuses, and is at the location when Tista executes her mission of assassinating the director. Normally, Tista works in the shadows, but when she sees Arty is in danger, she shows herself before completing her job. Unfortunately, now that Arty knows that she’s Sister Militia, she keeps away from him… which includes skipping school. For most of the rest of the volume, Arty is trying to locate Tista.

It comes out during this volume that Tista’s eyesight is starting to fail, which makes some in the organization wonder if perhaps her body is rejecting the implant after all this time. Others think it could be psychological in nature. However, it seems to be that there are those in the organization who want to abandon Tista and move on to the next candidate.

Tista is a complicated character. After losing her parents to murder, she was taken in by the religious organization. While she seemed to be a sweet girl, the organization was using how her parents were killed as a way to motivate her to become the assassin she is today. It’s hinted in here that her adoptive “father” halted some kind of process, which kind of raises the question if this could be, at least in part, affecting her and her eyesight now. While Tista may not really talk much about her adoptive “father,” she holds on to a stuffed rabbit that he gave her as a child and she obviously holds sentimental value toward it. During this volume, we see that she’s able to become friends with Arty, so a part of her retained at least some of her humanity. Perhaps her conflicted feelings, especially in the wake of Arty discovering her secret, is also impacting her eyesight. But this seem to be a mystery that will continue to be covered in Tista.

The only work of Tatsuya Endo’s I had any familiarity with prior to reading Tista is Spy x Family. I was curious to see what he had done prior to his big success, which is why I grabbed a digital review copy of Tista Volume One when VIZ Media made it available. As I read this volume, I discovered that Tista is very different tonally from Spy x Family. Unlike the mixture of comedy and drama presented in Spy x Family, Tista is grittier and more dramatic in nature. Considering that this series is set in New York City, a grittier feel is realistic both for the environment and the story that Endo is trying to tell with this series. The comedy that’s so integral to Spy x Family just wouldn’t work with this.

When it comes to the art, it has a rougher feel to it than Spy x Family does. In part, this can probably be attributed to the fact that Tista came before Spy x Family, and that Endo’s skills had improved over the intervening time. But again, considering the setting and tone of the series, this rougher-looking art could have also been intentional on Endo’s part to help convey the atmosphere that he wanted to present to the reader.

When it comes to the character design, one thing that really stood out to me is the fact that Arty looks a lot like pre-timeskip Zoro from One Piece. It’s not just in how his face was designed though, it’s also in how he carries himself as a character. I don’t know if Endo had been intentionally trying to mimic Zoro with this character design, but I kept having to remind myself that the character I was seeing here wasn’t Zoro.

It’s a little unfortunate that Tista is being released outside of Japan after Spy x Family, because English speaking readers are likely going to compare and measure this series against Spy x Family, since that’s the main thing most of them will know him for. For me, personally, I found Tista to be a decent read. The first volume of the series didn’t grab me like the first volume of Spy x Family did, but I can still see some potential for this series going forward. I’m hoping to have the chance to read a digital review copy of the next volume to see if this potential is realized.

If you’re curious about work that Endo did before Spy x Family, then I would recommend giving Tista a chance. However, I would advise you to go into it without thinking you’re going to get something like Spy x Family. If you don’t, you’ll likely be disappointed.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media