Spy x Family is one of my favorite manga series that’s still ongoing. It’s one of the healthiest blends of smart writing, and charming art with just enough intricacy, humor, and in this case, some brutal backstory. We already knew vaguely about Twilight, aka Loid Forger’s motives for working with WISE and Operation Strix but creating a future “where no children cry” felt inherently loaded as a reason. In Spy x Family Volume 10, thanks to a review copy generously provided by VIZ Media, I am happy to dive into a surprisingly sad and thoughtful origin story of Loid Forger.
The WISE Arc Humanizes Loid, Adding Depth as a Protagonist
I’ve always admired a good spy story and was intrigued by this series’ premise of a mixture of espionage and comedy. Were we looking at some Peter Sellers-era Casino Royale spoof, or maybe some Get Smart? In some ways, yes, as it imports those gentleman spy aspects. But in many ways, Volume 10 upon review is Spy x Family laying out Loid’s early years like James Bond in Skyfall. The book concludes the WISE Arc, with two of the meatiest chapters since the beginning of the story.
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In Chapter 62, we see a young Twilight before he adopted his moniker, with his name redacted. This indicates that even in Loid’s memories, he conceals his former self, and for some pretty heavy reasons. He was once a joyful child wishing to play war games with his friends, enjoying the mock conflict a lot like Thorfinn in Vinland Saga. He was excited at the prospect of joining the army and fighting the Ostanian monsters, but comforted by the idea that the war wouldn’t come.
Until Ostania attacked.
Suddenly, we see page after page of young Twilight having to evacuate his home in Luwen, leave his friends behind, and slowly lose his parents. His playfulness disappears, replaced by disappointment and heartache as he grows up trading civilian clothes for military fatigues. Even chance encounters like old friends being found in the army are quickly dashed, as they go to battle with only their dog tags returning.
The ensuing pages of Chapters 62 and 63 show the young protagonist being recruited by WISE, abandoning the last mentions of his name, and getting trained to become Twilight. He tears up at the sight of old friends and freezes when asked by his recruiter why he would join WISE, picturing memories of children playing once more. It’s heartbreaking and shows how his pacificism was one bestowed by circumstance, a coming-of-age in wartime Westalis.
We see Twilight’s intellect on display, but his naivete persists, only to be chipped away by the harsh and intense realities in the world of espionage. In dehumanizing him and turning him into a tool for intelligence, the WISE Arc humanizes Loid, adding depth as a protagonist.
It’s upon waking up that Twilight is snapped to reality, where he realizes that if Anya keeps getting Tonitrus Bolts, his mission will fail. Behind even the goofy comedic moments, this is what’s going on in Loid’s head at all times. He’s not just trying to create an era of peace where children no longer need to cry; his mission is his coping mechanism because giving up means submitting to his misery.
Tatsuya Endo Knows How to Intricately Incorporate His Characters
I’ve reviewed other works by Tatsuya Endo and it’s always a joy to talk about this mangaka. You can pretty blindly find a manga with great artwork in most places, but it’s difficult to find one that also has thoughtful writing and world-building. Tatsuya Endo knows how to intricately incorporate his characters in Spy x Family Vol 10, providing insight into how Twilight met Franky, and even introducing new characters like Melinda Desmond in the present while tying her into the plot.
Franky was as you would expect, a young deserter trying to defect from Ostania. He befriended Twilight in a crucial humanizing moment for Twilight to see that Ostanians were not all monsters. We meet Melinda Desmond, a volatile and paradoxical character who is deemed as high-risk, low-reward for WISE, and how she befriends Yor and invites her into her fold.
Anya even has some fun interactions with Henry and Damian, adjusting to having gotten 2 Tonitrus Bolts and wanting to make Damian her friend. The story, and mission of Operation Strix, expand with Loid seeing new avenues to pursue in his mission for peace.
The Artwork is Among the Best in the Series
It’s easy to latch onto the artwork in Spy x Family Volume 10 because it shows just enough detail in the right moments. For instances where there’s lots of dialogue, focus is driven to the characters. When the horrors of war are present, they take center stage with moody shading. Everything, down to the cover of the volume is a deliberate choice, showing Twilight’s origins as a child orphaned by war.
But then you see the other charming and fun aspects of the show, like Yor obliterating a volleyball court with her immense strength as a natural player, and Anya getting a yakisoba burger all over Damian. The book is a feast for the eyes and the artwork is among the best in the series.
Bonus Content for Collectors
A nice bit of bonus content for collectors includes some special tributes to the fans including a couple of fun pages where the characters break the fourth wall. They celebrate 10 volumes, while Loid develops awareness as a fictional character a la Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. It even pokes fun at the series’ pace, and how Anya has only gotten 1 Stella Star in 10 volumes, but with how entertaining the chapters are, they hardly constitute filler for the fans.
We also get some fun short missions, including Bondman and a fun little outing between Franky and Bond Forger, the family’s dog. As a reader, I could hardly complain about the entertainment that added to this book’s value proposition beyond having a lovely (yet standard) cover and spine.
Spy x Family remains an essential manga for fans wanting a blend of comedy, drama, and action with Volume 10. In my eyes, there is no other series that straddles this line so perfectly in terms of the most popular ongoing Shueisha manga. It also does more to humanize its protagonist than the other 9 volumes put together, changing Loid Forger from a protagonist you enjoy, to the point where he becomes a tragic and layered character you can’t envision your favorite manga without.
This review was made possible by VIZ Media, along with a complimentary copy of Spy x Family Volume 10, available physically and digitally as of October 17, 2023.
- This article was updated on October 30th, 2023