By Aya Yajima, based on the series by Tatsuya Endo. Released in Japan as “SPY×FAMILY: Kazoku no Shōzō” by Jump Books. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Casey Loe.
It’s always difficult to review these spinoff/tie-in novels. By their very definition, they cannot affect the main series in any way. There can’t be plot progression, or significant character development. Usually, there also can’t be a dramatic plotline or cool action scenes either. The novel is not here to provide anything that can’t be done better in the parent manga. Instead, it’s here to give us fun stories using the series’ sandbox to play around in. The author thinks of cute ideas, gets approval from the creator and the Jump editorial staff, and then writes them down. Then Tatsuya Endo reads the stories and gives us an illustration for each of them. If you want to call it a success or failure, then as a product it’s a definite success. This feels very Spy x Family-esque. As something a fan of the series can read and think “I think the world of the manga is better for these short stories”, it’s probably a failure. These are very basic.
The book consists of four “main” stories and one very short story. In the first story, Anya, Damian, and the class go on a “Nature’s Classroom” expedition, and an overconfident Anya causes her and Damian to get lost in the woods. In the rain. In the second story, Yuri is asked to babysit Anya, and ends up taking her to a children’s career fair, where kids can pretend to be any number of things, from a police officer to a jewelry maker. In the third short story, Franky meets a blind singer in the hospital when recovering from an injury, and consoles her about an upcoming operation, while also bemoaning his appearance. The fourth story is the “title” story, as our family, on an outing, is seen by a painter, who wants to paint them. Unfortunately, he’s incredibly famous, and Yor is worried that if her portrait is seen everywhere, it will jeopardize her assassin job. In the final short, two waitresses moan about the lack of good men and gush over regular patrons the Forgers being the “perfect” loving family.
The best story in the book is easily the one with Yuri and Anya, and Endo agrees with me. It’s a clever idea, makes good use of the characters, and is funny. Its only problem is it stars Yuri, and I hate Yuri, so I did not enjoy it. But that’s on me. Aside from that, the stories suffer from having the most obvious resolution there is. Anya and Damian find a cave, and both get closer when the rainstorm brings lightning. Franky’s story would be touching if it had not already been done eighty times before, and the family portrait story, while fun, also has a punchline that I predicted the moment the painter said “can I paint you?”. In addition, Loid and Yor really don’t get much to do here except in that one story, and the book feels a bit empty without them – Anya can’t carry everything on her own, much less Yuri or Frankly.
This is, as I said, perfectly good product, but it’s also the definition of inessential.