The Power of Three Minus One: Spy X Family

One of the things that gets me about Spy X Family is how layered it is. It operates at so many layers of reality in its fictional world that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

I think I’ll try to figure that out one of these days. But today isn’t the day for all of them. Just one is enough for one day. I mean, after all, those crappy science fiction books I crank out don’t write themselves 🙂

The central three characters of Spy X Family, Loid, Yor, and Anya Forger, aren’t really a Father-Mother-Child trio, since they aren’t really related to one another. They just play an F-M-C trio on TV.

It’s always hard for me to find a Father-Mother-Child trio that is played straight, you know, with an actual father and an actual mother raising their actual child. Instead you get these fake trios where the characters aren’t really related but they play those social roles, right? Like Kobayashi, Tohru, and Kanna from Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid or Gin, Hana, and Miyuki from Tokyo Godfathers.

So here in Spy X Family we get another fake F-M-C trio, with spy Loid needing a fake wife and fake child for his cover, so he basically snatches Yor off the street and “borrows” Anya from an orphanage. Poof! Instant family.

From left: Loid, Anya, Tor. Tor on the outside looking in.

I don’t know why they don’t use Father, Mother, Child more often. It’s a powerful trio narratively because of the tensions and conflict built into it. Child grows, facing the tribulations of life: that’s tension. Mother and Father guard Child from his or her trials. That’s conflict. Mother and Father disagree on child rearing. That’s conflict. Boom. That simple.

But, of course, in a genuine F-M-C most of those things aren’t especially active. I mean, I don’t recall my dad punching anyone even once in my entire life. (He did say he once hit a guy with a bottle during a fight in the Army, but that was 194-freaking-2.) Real parents don’t do that sort of thing.

So we get Kobayashi’s dueling dragons, or the caper plot Gin, Hana, and Miyuki fall into. Because they are fake trios, they have skillz/situations that real M-F-C trios don’t face.

Here the action comes from Loid’s and Yor’s professions, spy and assassin, respectively. Lots of shooting, lots of stabbing, and more than a few kicks in the chops. Oh, yeah!

What bugs me – and this is a minor quibble about a great show – is that the show consistently undercuts one of the three of them, though, which is why this is called The Power of Three Minus One. Anya is pretty clearly Daddy’s Little Girl (yeah, that’s a trope), so at any moment where the three of them are together, she always goes to him and he always takes her. This bonds the two of them together and cuts Yor out of the embrace, and she spends a lot of the series watching the two others doing things together and smiling as she looks on from the outside.

In a particularly meta way that fits the script, of course. Their cover story is that Yor is Loid’s second wife, step-mother to Anya. It outwardly makes sense that she be emotionally cut out of the trio at key moments, except, of course, that we REALLY know that Anya has known Loid about ten minutes longer than she’s known Yor.

Bizarrely, they do the same thing with the trio in their psychological roles as well, right? Sociologically they are F-M-C; psychologically they are Mind, Body, and Soul.

See it? Loid is the brains of the operation, the cool, calm, collected planner. Yor is a fearsome physical specimen, throwing herself around like Bruce Lee and ending up liberally covered in other peoples’ blood (which she has personally liberated from their bodies) at least five times. And Anya is a classic Soul Woman apart from being a kid: She’s not very bright and she’s very clumsy, but her emotions hang out all over the place. She laughs and cries and dances and sulks and sometimes is destroyed by the oddest things. (“Oh, no! I stepped in poopoo!”)

But this set-up undercuts Yor as well, because Loid is also a physical force to be reckoned with. He’s James Effing Bond, after all: He shoots straight, dodges bullets, leaps tall buildings in a single bound. You can see this best in the castle episode, where to “save” “Princess Anya” he has to basically take on and defeat an army of lesser spies, and he does. (In the manga he only has to defeat Yor, but she’s drunk off her ass and one of her spike heels breaks off at a key moment, so they don’t have a “fair” fight.)

Well, if Loid is Mind AND Body, what do we need Yor for? Narratively we don’t. The only times she does anything are when she’s with Anya and Loid isn’t around for whatever reason, and there aren’t a lot of those because they are both working “parents” with a child in school; during the day they’re all separated and when they aren’t working or going to school they’re all together. Except when Loid has an outside mission, of course.

And when they’re all together Loid is the smart one AND the physical one and Loid is the dominant parent. That doesn’t leave any room for Yor, except to be comic relief.

The writers double down on this by making Yor appear incompetent at everything except a) killing and b) loving Anya. She routinely appears to be so naive as to be, frankly, stupid. (The excuse is that she was completely occupied developing her assassin skills.)

For example: Knowing that her cover may depend on her kissing Loid so they can give the appearance of being happily married, she still doesn’t know and can’t figure out how
Her cooking is so bad that it induces diarrhea and projectile vomiting
She tells her co-workers that she just forgot to mention that she was married for a whole year. THEY BELIEVE HER, which has to say a lot about her performance in the office
And while she obviously does love and want to protect Anya, sorry, Yor, like I said, Anya is DADDY’s Little Girl

Poor Yor, always on the outside looking in. That’s not the best way to treat one of your main characters.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Three Minus One: Spy X Family

  1. Come to think of it, you make an interesting point. Yor doesn’t really have much of a personality other than “just being around” for the sake of convenience. It’s really unbalanced in favour of exploring Anya’s dank shenanigans at school, or Loid going around doing his thing. Even though I’m only reading the manga right now, I glossed over the parts where Yor was explaining stuff to her co-workers and only stayed behind if either one of the two were involved to troll her in a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m reading the manga and watched the first season. They stick pretty close to the script. Later on Yor has more things to DO, but she’s still a subsidiary character or comic relief (as when she cooks). That doesn’t feel right to me; the three should be more balanced.

      Liked by 1 person

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