FEATURE: Why the Family Theme in SPY x FAMILY Is So Impactful

Even though their family is fake, the healing effect it has is very real



Despite the cheerful family aesthetic, there are a lot of serious things that the main characters of SPY x FAMILY fear. Loid fears war and what it takes from those affected by it. Yor fears being unsuccessful as a caretaker as she's spent years taking the lives of others. Anya fears abandonment by the only family she knows.


Within these fears is a powerfully deep theme. Though it might sound obvious, the theme of SPY x FAMILY is, well, family, specifically how having a family and a place to call home can heal the deepest of wounds. I doubt I am treading any new ground here with this idea — it’s literally in the title so of course family plays a role in the thematic depth of SPY x FAMILY — but what I want to discuss is how the show brilliantly and tragically explores this theme.


RELATED: SPY x FAMILY's Second Opening is Perfect


Before meeting each other, every single member of the Forger family lost the chance at a normal life, leaving behind only trauma and desperation. In the first episode of the anime, Loid relates to Anya, remembering how he was left alone as a child with no one reaching out to help him. While he doesn't go into details, the destruction around him paints a compelling picture and sets the stage for why he wants to stop war at all costs. 


As a spy, Loid has dedicated his life to gathering information and stopping conflicts that could potentially start a war. To him, war itself is the enemy, as seen in moments where he wishes peace could be achieved as easily as a dog giving a kid peanuts. It’s not a bad sentiment, but Loid let this consume his life. Working for WISE, Loid has cast aside his own life to take on the lives of others, to wear a mask (literally and figuratively) so as to prevent war from taking anything from anyone else. Where stability from growing up with a family should have been, war left a desire to prevent suffering with no room for anything else.


Loid in SPY x FAMILY


Yor has a similar origin, having lost her parents at a young age and being left to take care of herself and her brother, Yuri. After being orphaned, Yor stepped up to provide for her brother the best way she could, cooking very disgusting meals (that he still loved) and taking up questionable work. Instead of growing up together as a family, Yor had to become an assassin, taking the lives of others so she and her brother could survive their lives.


This would go on to make her feel inadequate around others who are "normal." This is something she struggles with throughout the series, often taking things way further than she has to in her attempt to be seen as an ordinary person. She also assumes the worst whenever she does anything wrong, having frantic thoughts about Loid leaving her for a more capable person. 




Then there's Anya, who has faced constant abandonment in her few years of being alive. She was previously seen as a mere test subject, being experimented on until she escaped those circumstances. But even after getting away from those conditions she's been returned to the orphanage she was staying at numerous times, facing frequent surname changes after multiple families adopted and returned her.


This rejection was likely born out of the trouble her telepathy can bring to a family dynamic, as such, she fears what consequences her inadequacy and mistakes might bring. She compulsively lies for approval and sees every thought read as an opportunity to people please because if she doesn't, she might face that abandonment all over again. 


Anya in SPY x FAMILY


Heck, even the family dog, Bond (the goodest boy) was previously mistreated and, later, used as a bomber dog. 


This is the deep sadness of SPY x FAMILY. But in getting back what they lost, or rather playing pretend at having what they lost, those wounds begin to scar and heal. 


RELATED: SPY x FAMILY's Loid and Yor Forger Are Great Spies and Better Parents


The Forgers are, on paper, not a “real” family, but what their family facade provides is real. No, not a means for Loid to accomplish his mission or a cover for Yor's assassin work, but rather the emotional salve that Operation Strix has given them. As fake as it is, Loid being able to experience a spouse's support, a person in his life to enjoy a taste of happiness and a glimpse of what he might have had if he hadn’t become a spy, is healing for him. Loid stops being just a spy 24/7 and lets himself relax and regain his humanity in small bits within his Mr. Forger persona — he is blown away by the kindness of Yor, the excitement of Anya and the warmth of a full family home.


The same can be said for Yor as she finds guideposts for being a normal person, of being more than just a survivor; and similar to Loid, she gets a taste of the normalcy she might have had if she and her brother didn't lose their parents so young. Furthermore, Yor receives validation for her attempts at taking care of the Forgers, so much so that she's able to recall warm memories with Yuri to better herself today.  


Forger Family in SPY x FAMILY


Anya is perhaps the quickest to adapt, becoming a little gremlin child who watches cartoons and doesn't study, no longer afraid all her actions will result in being sent back to the orphanage (though, uh, Loid sometimes indirectly invokes that fear to get her to actually study). Anya got what she wanted even if she knows that it's fake. If anything, she takes it for what it's worth — kids are adaptive like that. She got a family to take care of her, cook for her, give her an education and a place to call home, which is why she gives everything her best effort... even if it stresses her parents out. 


Even if all of this is born out of a fake family it doesn’t make it meaningless, it makes it all the more meaningful. Loid, Yor and Anya know how temporary this life can be which is why they value it so much — whether they realize it or not. They are subconsciously letting the real effects of having a family heal their deep wounds, letting them regain a modicum of normalcy and stability to allow themselves to feel a sense of humanity. It’s tragic what led the characters to this point, but it's beautiful that they’re finding something real out of it. 


It’s what makes the theme of family in SPY x FAMILY so damn impactful.  



Sean Aitchison is a writer and researcher from LA who watches too much anime and knows too much about Sonic the Hedgehog. Follow him on twitter @Sean8UrSon for his work and listen to his podcast, Sonic Podcast Adventure (@SonicPod).

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