Ep. 28: Spy x Family vol. 1 by Tatsuya Endo

This week we take a dip back into the Shonen Jump mines with one of its newest and most unexpected hit series’, Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo. We all read the same book this week, so that’s better than last time. But did we all read it… the same way? Not a sponsored episode, but you may not believe us.

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00:01: Spy X Family, by Tatsuya Endo

52:30: Reader Q&A: Reading Serialized Manga

1:07:45: Shout Outs

SPY x FAMILY Vol 1 (Chapters 1-5)
By Tatsuya Endo
Translated by Casey Loe
Touch-up / Lettering: Rina Mapa
Edited by Amy Yu
Published by VIZ Media (Print/Digital/Shonen Jump)

00:00 This episode, we dive into one of the newer hit manga from VIZ’s Shonen Jump, Spy X Family (the ‘X’ is silent for some reason). Deb starts off the episode with a description of the series provided by VIZ:

Not one to depend on others, Twilight has his work cut out for him procuring both a wife and a child for his mission to infiltrate an elite private school. What he doesn’t know is that the wife he’s chosen is an assassin and the child he’s adopted is a telepath!

And then we get this wry little author’s note from the back of volume 1.

0:45 Chip is finding the multiple-volume episodes a little overwhelming. I’d feel bad for him, but I did give him another 3-volume read in a few weeks. Sorry, Chipper.

2:30 As we mention here, CHIP, you can read Spy X Family by buying the individual volumes in print (wherever books are sold), or buy buying the individual volumes digitally wherever e-books are sold… OR, you can subscribe to Shonen Jump for a couple bucks a month at http://www.viz.com/shonenjump, and read every chapter in a sort of ‘unlimited’ fashion. It’s not broken up into volumes this way, so it’s just chapters. Also you don’t own the books, but for basically the cost of 3 manga a year you can read hundreds of volumes of manga a year. It’s a pretty good deal. Anyway, we’re not getting paid for this in any way, but it basically doesn’t make sense not to go to https://www.viz.com/sj-offer and sign up, we’ll probably read 3 Shonen Jump series at some point this year, and you’re all reading along and need the discount… right?

Oh, and as mentioned, many, many libraries offer these sorts of extremely popular series to read for free in print and digital. Get a library card, have access to the world!

3:15 Damn, David with the deep cuts on Zuda. Zuda was, basically, the first fully-funded foray that North American comics took into digital-first publishing. I know between Webtoon, Tapas, Shonen Jump, Comixology, and a dozen other digital services today it seems crazy that there was a time before that, but, yup! Funded and created by DC Comics, it was original content, mostly creator-owned, and killed very quickly when it wasn’t an immediate smash success. You can read more at Wiki

3:20 As David mentions, Shonen Jump+ is the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump’s digital magazine, which contains series that don’t quite ‘fit’ into Weekly Shonen Jump. It operates as an app and a website, and features new manga in Japanese for the Japanese audience. You can visit the site here, but it will probably not be of much use to you. https://shonenjumpplus.com/ 

Don’t worry, we give a more thorough explanation of all of the different Shonen Jump online stuff a little later. It IS confusing.

3:50 Chip’s Digital Justice League book is Justice League: Last Ride, published by DC Comics. Illustrated by Miguel Mendonca. https://www.dccomics.com/comics/justice-league-last-ride-2021/justice-league-last-ride-1 

6:10 I really did like Chapter 8.5 a lot. Here’s the title page, since we’re here anyway. 🙂

7:30 Man we are just mentioning SO MANY Shonen Jump series this week. I… I’m not gonna gloss them all, that’s crazy. There’s no point, these are the bestselling manga in the industry. If you wanna know more about these series, you can head over to https://www.viz.com/shonenjump. The first 3 chapters (and newest 3 chapters) of each volume are always free to read. Pretend this was a series of extensive descriptions though, okay?

9:20 Chip liked the colour pages! I think he’s right to, too. They’re quite nice. Here’s the opening color spread:

10:00 Assistants! Spy x Family creator Tatsuya Endo was an assistant for Kazue Kato on the manga Blue Exorcist, and for Tatsuki Fujimoto on the manga Fire Punch. So yeah, real great pedigree. 

11:00 We mention O Maidens In Your Savage Season, by Mari Okada and Nao Emoto, because Emoto-sensei was an assistant for Endo! All of manga is connected! O Maidens In Your Savage Season is published in English by Kodansha, and it even got an anime adaptation. The series (written and drawn by women) is about discovering sex as a teenager. It’s charming and not creepy, and you can read a huge 64 page preview over at The Kodansha website.


15:00 I keep mentioning episode 8.5, and just the title page and the first four pages perfectly explains and introduces the series. It’s so good. So, uh, here they are.

Remember to read right to left…!

17:30 David, who amazingly edits the audio of every episode, was very kind and edited out my filthy sailor mouth. Thank you, David.

18:10 Spies, man. Love ’em and leave ’em. 

20:00 We talk a lot about the art this episode, for good reason! But as Deb says, the art is very kinetic in a great way. David mentions a spit-take in the first chapter that’s pretty great.

21:00 “If Paris was Berlin,” pan-European is, as David says, very much a thing in Japan. As much as “pan-Asian” mythology is in the west. People borrow, mush-together, and rework all over the world.

22:20 Okay, since this is an older Shonen Jump series, we’ll gloss it. Dr. Slump is the break-through work by manga creator AKira Toriyama, his serial series just before he created Dragon Ball (which later becomes Dragon Ball Z, and becomes legendary). Dr. Slump features a collection of oddball characters, including super-strong robot girl Arale, all just sort of bouncing off one another and creating comedy. It’s a great comparison by David, though I do think that Spy x Family will go in more of an action direction eventually.

In a move that will surprise no one at this point, Dr. Slump is free to read with a subscription to Shonen Jump.

24:00 David with the most Elegant sound effects for us this episode. Hahaha. We have fun.

25:30 Two changes of clothes! Such ELEGANCE! Haha. Amazing stuff.

25:45 Look, as Deb mentions, that Gene Simmons Cow is such a weird addition but is a great visual gag.

27:20 Wow! Chip really dug this one! Huh! How about that.

28:00 Chef’s Kiss! The Dog who can see the future, Bond Forger, adds an incredible dynamic to this already strong series. The dog sees the future, the kid reads the mind of the dog and needs to tell the spy and assassin what to do without revealing that the powers of the kid or the dog. So, so smart. I think this is actually a stronger first volume than Yotsuba& actually, so you don’t NEED to keep reading until Bond makes their debut in volume 4/chapter 18… But I bet you’ll want to. 🙂

29:25 The covers with the mid-century modern chairs are so, so good. Deb did some amazing research on these chairs, she gets to it at 33:00. I’ll include her info there.

30:45 Here’s what I was talking about. Square jaw, heavy lidded eyes, from chapter 51. Here’s hoping you can see what I was talking about.

Spread from Chapter 51 of Spy X Family.
Opening color spread from Natsume Ono’s House of Five Leaves, published by VIZ. 

I dunno, maybe I’m crazy, but I’m getting real vibes.

32:00 David reinforces the Caricature points. Page 158/159: Clark Kent looking guy, and the lady on the left, different styles but still working in the same world.

33:00 So yeah, Deb jumps in with all the deep research and detail here, on the chairs as they appear on the covers! Here’s some great images, and you can click to view the images larger.

From Left to Right: 1. Loid’s chair: Le Corbusier LC2; 2. Anya’s chair: Irving Harper: Nelson Marshmallow Sofa; 3. Yor’s chair: Eames La Chaise; 4. Bond’s chair: Ball chair by Eero Aarnio; 5. Yuri’s chair: Mies van der Rohe Barcelona.

Then we’ve got Fiona Frost, Loid’s co-worker, and Damian Desmond, Loid’s target in volume 2.

Thanks for this amazing info, Deb! 

[Deb]: Shout out to the @spyxfamilymanga Twitter account, which nicely gathered all this info in some nice images.

If you want a little more about these connections, I found an article that CBR did on the chairs as well. https://www.cbr.com/spy-x-family-covers-tell-own-story-chairs/ 

37:30 We mentioned him few times, so here he is: “Mario,” the world’s worst orphanage runner.

37:40 As David mentions, this entire sequence is pretty masterful. I’m not gonna spoil the whole thing, but here’s two of those spreads that David mentions that shows you what he’s getting at. The next 4 pages are… very satisfying. Worth checking out volume 1… or Chapter 5. 😉

39:30 So yeah, that smile I reference is actually from volume 2, and it’s a pretty great gag. Here you go. 

Just realized I talked about this for 2 minutes and Chip hadn’t read volume 2 and had no idea what I was going on about. Sorry Chip.

41:00 Hahaha, WOW. So, this changed between when we recorded it and when this episode went live. David just mentioned that the English stays on the VIZ Shonen Jump site, but actually it’s now ALSO live on the MangaPlus site, as of September,.

Weekly Shonen Jump: Japanese Language print magazine. http://www.shonenjump.com/j/ 

Jump Plus: Japanese Language Digital Magazine, stuff that only runs online, not in the print magazine.. https://shonenjumpplus.com/ 

Shonen Jump (Online): VIZ-translated chapters of manga from Japanese manga in English. Includes material from Weekly Shonen Jump, Jump Plus, Jump SQ, and other “Jump” family magazines. https://www.viz.com/shonenjump 

MangaPlus: Translated English (and other languages) Japanese manga chapters, for a worldwide audience. As of September 2021, this site now includes all of VIZ’s English translations, as well as other manga translations from other publishers. https://mangaplus.shueisha.co.jp/updates

What would we recommend for folks who read Spy x Family and maybe wanna check out a non-manga title:

Chip recommends Assassin Nation, by Kyle Starks and Erica Henderson.

Deb Recommends Bandette, by Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover

Christopher recommends Crowded, by Christopher Sebela, RO Stein, Ted Brandt, Triona Farrell, and Cardinal Rae

And David recommends Groo, by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones

Mendicant! That’s the word I was thinking of. 

51:15 So that story about Jeff Smith & the Scholastic edition of Bone… I know it’s a story he’s told on panel a number of times, but I can’t find a reference to it online unfortunately. I will say that Scholastic’s edition of Bone is uncensored, and that’s actually caused it to be challenged/banned numerous times over the years. You can check out this Case Study on the challenges to the series on the CBLDF website. It’s wild how often graphic novels get challenged, pulled, and banned. Manga especially…

52:30 THE BREAK – After this point, all timestamps are approximate.

It’s time for the Question of the Week, and it’s a long one!

“So I have been listening to your recent episodes and checked out some of the episodes of titles I was already familiar with like Naruto and FMA. Those were definitely the titles of my childhood. I have been enjoying it and it’s interesting to see where people are coming from who are new to manga. But I would suggest reading a manga as it comes out week to week as an experiment.

For me at least, that’s how I’ve consumed the majority of the manga I’ve read. Growing up, I was a really frequent visitor of scanlation sites and aggregate sites like mangahere or batoto. And I would read the major Shounen fan translations week to week.

And now with more reputable and legal sites like Manga Plus, and Crunchyroll’s or Comixology simulpub, I would totally suggest picking up a title, catching up if you need to, but then reading it weekly for a few months. Some newer titles that I really like on Manga Plus are Blue Box (if you read this, also read the one-shot! I wish you had read the one-shot for Naruto, just to explain how that process kind of works and the differences between them) and Dandadan. Neru also has recently debuted with its first chapter.

I find that the experience is totally different, like reading month to month versus reading in trade for American comics or binging a show versus watching it weekly. It might also make it easier to read. The barrier to entry is probably lower and it becomes a part of your routine. (I’d also throw that in for why webcomics are so popular)”

Matthew Viriyapah, Email

Whew. Lots, and lots to talk about here. And we do! Not much to gloss in our discussion, but here’s a few quick links.

David mentions that he’s enjoying reading Lockdown Zone Level X in serialized chapter form, by Romy Oishi and meshe, from Denpa Publishing. You can check that out here.

1:02:00 Just to clarify what the heck just happened, I confused Bleach creator’s new short series Burn the Witch with his new Bleach one-shot released a year later. Whoops! Haven’t been paying close enough attention to Jump. Sorry for the confusion, y’all!

1:05:00 So, yeah. We didn’t do this yet. But we will! We’re figuring out the best time to add an extra chapter a week to Chip’s “Homework,” but as mentioned, Chip’s a little overwhelmed right now with launching his newsletter and his new series’ and on the next episode he reads like a whole extra volume.

1:07:45 Now it’s time for SHOUT OUTS! 

David recommends Guy Ritchie’s Wrath of Man

Christopher recommends Image Comics’ THE FALL by Jared Muralt. Does not have zombies in it. 

“After losing his wife, one father will have to face a world in freefall, shaken to its core by an economic, social, political, and health crisis without precedent. Facing seemingly unreal and very unexpected dangers, he will do whatever it takes to protect his loved ones in a country on the brink of collapse. In this internationally acclaimed series, JARED MURALT not only tells the story of one family struggling to survive, but also questions the very reasons that brought mankind to this apocalypse.” 

Image Comics Solicit Text

Deb recommends The Little Succulents, by Yonemaru. Available digitally at https://www.mangamo.com/. Unfortunately you can’t link directly to series’ on the Mangamo website, but here’s an article at The OASG that talks a little about the series and includes some preview images. https://www.theoasg.com/articles/the-great-mangamo-manga-tour-part-2/18290

And that’s this week! Thanks so much for listening!

Find a comics and manga specialty retailer near you at Comicshoplocator.com. And check out your local library for great manga!

And check out D.A.D.S. on Spotify, he made our cool theme music for us.

‘til next week!

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10 Responses

  1. This episode was mighty helpful to me! When I studied in Tokyo last year, it felt like half the people I spoke to were reading Spy×Family. When I checked it out, though, what I saw on the cover were two conventionally attractive, “flawless”-looking adults, and a moé little girl. This led me to believe that it was directed at the otaku crowd, and I mentally categorized it with your isekais and what have you. Reading the back-of-the-book blurb, I (perhaps unfairly) got the impression that the characters were Mary Sue-adjacent, as well.

    However, after listening to your discussion, this manga seems to be a lot closer to something like Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto – a profoundly silly story about ostensibly too-cool-for-school people! It’s a sort of inverse of the “stupid done serious” that David mentioned in the Seven Billion Needles episode. That is “the story is ridiculous, but it’s meant to be taken seriously”, whereas this (along with series like Sakamoto, Househusband, and perhaps even Saiki K) is “the characters are dead serious, and that’s the joke”.

  2. Matthew says:

    Thanks for reading my email guys!! Honestly didn’t expect it considering how much of a word vomit it was.

    So I don’t know if t’s just because I’m in America, but the only place I’ve been reading Spy Family is on Mangaplus since it started. Either way, I liked the that whole discussion.

    One thing I wanted to add is how much I Iove the simul-publishing. Most mainline Shonen titles, it seems like they put out the latest couple of chapters for free. So as long as you’re caught up and read every week, you don’t have to pay for anything.

  3. KC says:

    I love Spy x Family. I’ve been reading it ever since it was a Manga Plus exclusive, before Shonen Jump (Viz) got their hands on it. You touched on everything that makes the story wonderful. I’m so glad you chose it.

    Hey, don’t diss Chip for buying the book! Don’t worry, Chip. There’s nothing wrong with paying 10 dollars to buy the book outright instead of reading it in Shonen Jump. In addition to the joy and satisfaction of actually owning the content, you get all the extras that are added exclusively to the graphic novel. Afaik Shonen Jump only posts chapters, not any of the extras found in the book. For some series, extras are a big part of the book and thus a big incentive for buying it.

    I didn’t know that story about Scholastic wanting to get rid of Smiley Bone’s cigar and Jeff Smith walking away. Thanks for sharing it. Good thing Scholastic wised up and changed their mind.

  4. dm00 says:

    Thanks for tracking down all the chairs! I was being driven batty looking for the original of the Willow chair.

  5. Devon says:

    I’m reading this in french, and unfortunately they don’t go as hard on the repetition of ELEGAAAAANCE somewhat to its detriment.

    Just read the stuff about Bone as well and just wondering what on earth people thought was racist about that book? Racist against cows? Rat-creatures? Who? Parents being mad about the mildest of mild smoking and drinking references is par for the course, but I’m struggling to work out where they got racism from.

  1. September 18, 2021

    […] continues apace, and this week Deb Aoki hosted an episode diving into recent Shonen Jump darling, Spy X Family by Tatsuya Endo, and the comedy potential of its genre-melding […]

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    […] meaning to read but never had a chance. I’m finally reading Spy x Family now and it is as good as everyone says. […]

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    […] are this might be a popular episode because of picking a big Shonen Jump title, I figured. Honestly our Spy x Family episode is our most popular episode that isn’t episode 0 or 1 (which new listeners tend to […]

  5. August 15, 2022

    […] are hiding all of those things from each other. It’s great.If you don’t believe me, listen to the Mangasplaining crew fall absolutely head over heels for this delightful, masterfully executed […]

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