Are you willing to go outside of traditional book formats to try something different? If so, this post is for you!

Though I’ve dabbled in Japanese culture since I took it as my foreign language (and traveled there twice, and had a Japanese exchange student) in high school and college, I never really got into manga and anime that much. There are just so many out there, and I didn’t know a lot about the different types or what to try first. Plus, I didn’t want to accidentally slide into the NSFW tentacle-stereotype works. But my kids have become excited about the format, and have turned me on to some really interesting (family friendly) ones.

Therefore, this week I’m reviewing a manga series I have recently been enjoying called Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo.

In case you are unaware, manga are basically serialized ‘comic books’ or ‘graphic novels’ from Japan. People of all ages read manga in Japan, and they come in all kinds of genres and have their own batch of story archetypes (see this Wikipedia article for the complete rundown).

Because manga are imported, they follow the Japanese book format (even though they’re translated into English). It was strange to get used to reading from right to left — beginning the book from the right cover and working left through the pages, reading the illustrated speech bubbles from right to left, and following the panels from right to left on each page — but once I got the hang of it the books were basically just as easy to read as any other graphic novel.

Some manga, including the Spy x Family series, also have anime based on them. However, the anime is only being released (in the U.S.) on Hulu one episode per week, so the manga is much further ahead than the anime. We are watching the anime, but also jumping ahead in the story by reading the manga.

Here’s what I love about Spy x Family:

  • The MC is a spy, his (fake) wife is an assassin, and his (adopted) 6-year-old daughter can read minds, but none of them know these things about each other. It makes for some really funny plot points when the reader (or viewer) gets to work out what they each do or don’t know.
  • The characters are each lovable in their own ways, and at their core each of them is trying to do good and do well, and I really want them to succeed in their respective missions!
  • There are a lot of funny little moments that show how well these characters have been developed, from Anya’s love to peanuts, to Loid’s lack of knowledge about how to be a good parent. [Anya (whose favorite TV show is a spy show): “I want a silenced pistol!” Loid (an actual spy who doesn’t know what’s an appropriate gift for a 6-year-old): “Only if we find one on sale.”]
  • Humor in manga and anime can vary (with some manga, I think I’d have to be from the culture to understand the jokes) but I find this one to be consistently funny, per my sensibilities. Ditto for some of the situations the characters find themselves in — I can understand what’s going on and why they behave certain ways, even if a book written from the perspective of my culture would have the characters behave differently.

I highly recommend that you try manga! You can do some research about possible series to find one you will love, but I think anyone who enjoys funny stories about people who are all keeping secrets from each other, mixed with a spy story and a delightful found family, should try this one.

Do you have any manga you would recommend I try? Let me know in the comments!

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