Family first, mission second
This is a guest piece written by Briana Lawrence, Fandom Editor at The Mary Sue.
Anime parents aren’t always the main focal point of the series they’re in. There’s a reason why we anime fans grow concerned when a mom has a side ponytail (she’s gonna die) or a dad is just... GONE... for a long period of time (chances are he’s got a secret in the basement). Sometimes you get a parent who cries over their baby fighting in the “I hope you have good health insurance because your teen’s about to break their entire body” tournament, or one who seeks advice from a framed picture of their deceased spouse. Anime parents are rarely, if ever, the protagonist. They might be a part of the action, but if they are, they carry a picture of their daughter in their wallet which is, like, the anime kiss of death.
Parenthood in general has never been a major plot point I remember seeing much of during my years of watching anime — unless the parent was forcing their kid to get in the robot or training them to be the strongest fifth-grader in the galaxy. This wasn’t something limited to anime. Disney, for example, is notorious for evil step-parents and has trained us to never trust our lion uncles. We often see parents through the eyes of their children, and while that can lead to an adult having a much-needed epiphany, the story is still primarily the child’s.
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That’s why SPY x FAMILY is such a fascinating series to me.
He Was a Spy, She Was an Assassin (Can I Make It Anymore Obvious?)
In SPY x FAMILY we meet a spy who uses the codename Twilight. He’s worn many faces and has assumed just as many identities, but his newest assignment is one that makes him do a spit-take against his newspaper. In order to track down his next target, he has to infiltrate the prestigious Eden Academy, a school so old-fashioned he has to create the “ideal” family complete with a wife and child to fit in. Fortunately for him, there’s a telepathic orphan and an assassin who are available to play the part. Twilight takes on the name “Loid Forger,” adopts the child (Anya), and marries Thorn Princess (real name Yor Briar). Now, the Fake Family AU is complete.
For maximum comedic effect, no one in the Forger family realizes the truth — except for Anya, because she’s psychic. Loid assumes he just married a regular woman and Yor assumes she’s in a relationship with a single father. Both are using each other for the sake of their covers — Loid needs a family for his mission and Yor needs to appear normal so no one suspects she can kill a man with her pinky finger. With a setup like this, I assumed the main focus of the series would be a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-style plot line with a little bit of suburban charm and a whole lot of fighting between the couple once they find out the truth about each other. Either that, or it would be from Anya’s perspective as she watches her dad try and cover his lies and her mom try and clean up the blood on her hands.
While we do get Anya’s POV in the series, and there’s even the potential of Loid and Yor being on opposite sides, I’m surprised at how much the series focuses on the family dynamic our spy and assassin are trying to create. With a premise like this, I thought there would be more spy mission scenes and assassination attempts, but as it stands, the most action-packed episode we’ve gotten with Loid and Yor is… the one where they’re giving Anya a spy-themed party. Because that’s how Anya wants to celebrate getting into school. There are legitimate fight scenes and explosions for an achievement my parents would’ve taken me to Chuck E Cheese for. Something about that is so delightfully wholesome.
Being a Family Is Just as Important as the Mission Itself
What makes SPY x FAMILY so unique to me is that it has all of the components to be a high-action series where the whole “family” aspect is in the background so Loid and Yor can do their “real” jobs. But in this series, being a family is the most important aspect of it. Yes, we still get moments of Loid overanalyzing situations for the sake of his mission, but honestly, what often ends up being the big takeaway message is him trying to be a good dad and husband and Yor trying to be a good mom and wife.
This isn’t just surprising to me, but to the characters themselves. Loid and Yor have both had moments where they’ve blown their cover to keep their family intact — even if they know this is all fake. They care so much that, without even realizing it, they have no problem doing what they have to in order to protect their child. That’s kinda what being a parent is like — at least, that’s what my mother tells me.
Along with that comes a desire to do better. Yor wants to be a good mom for Anya. She wants to teach her things and support her even if she’s not her “real mom.” We even get to see the results of her lessons — granted, it’s usually comedically disastrous, but she’s TRYING, y’all. On the flip side, Loid appreciates being told when he’s being too hard on Anya so he can do better — give or take a few panic attacks when he realizes there is no handbook to prepare him for this. According to my mother, that’s also something parents come to realize. You can plan all you want but you are constantly going to be hit with the unexpected. Loid says he’s putting up with all of this because of the mission, but it’s easy to tell he’s way past that point. You don’t break a table with your fist when a teacher makes your daughter cry just because of a mission.
I love how the driving factor of SPY x FAMILY is creating a good space for your family. Being a good parent is something Loid and Yor want to do, something that means a lot to them, and something that is a major plot point of the series. Being a parent isn’t something in the background while the main story progresses, it IS the story, and it’s wonderful.