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Before you go running to doesthedogdie.com, let me reassure those of you who were as traumatized by Where the Red Fern Grows as a child as I was – no dogs are harmed in this volume of SPY x FAMILY. In fact, Bond the dog drastically increases the caper level of the book with his amazing doggy powers; not only is he able to rescue children and see the future, he also increases Anya's own adorableness factor a hundredfold.

The whole volume, including the short stories at the end, follows the same basic storyline, which is fairly unusual for this series: a group of disaffected (and probably too cool for you) college students thinks that it would really amazing and somehow helpful to reignite tensions between east and west not-Germany. To that end, they plan to use dogs put on the black market after a government experiment was shut down to bomb politicians into oblivion. Twilight hears about this through work channels and heads off to take the world's longest poop (excuses are not his strong suit) while Yor and Anya stumble onto the plot while looking to adopt a dog. The dog who will become Bond bumps into Anya, who reads his mind, and the two take off to put an end to a plot that might very well kill Loid, while Yor hares off after Anya, convinced she's been kidnapped by pedophiles. The result is one of the best spy caper stories in the series thus far, with everyone coming out thinking they've saved the day.

It's also a plot that makes good use of everyone's specific skills: we see Twilight's spycraft at the top of its game, Yor kicks a moving vehicle out of her way in her quest to save Anya, and Anya and Bond's complimentary psychic powers arguably do the most to stop the actual murder and bombings from succeeding. That Bond and Anya both have experience with being unwanted certainly helps to cement their role as a duo. While Anya is now less afraid of being sent back to the orphanage, it's still something she worries about, so Bond's vision of a future sans Loid is one that scares her in more than one way. (After all, he's the one who adopted her, so she may have concerns about Yor as a willing single parent.) Bond, meanwhile, has been the victim of truly brutal experiments, as we see in what for my money is the single most disturbing scene in the series thus far. That hasn't curbed his love of people or his desire to have a family of his own, something his precognition has informed him is possible. Even without that, though, we see that he's invested in saving children, because he's not just a good boy, he's clearly one of the best. When he and Anya team up, he's willing to do almost anything she asks. If you're looking for a dog who fits the definition of “noble” in your manga, Bond is your pup, and while my love of dogs may be making me wax more poetic about him than others might, there's really something lovely about seeing Anya and Bond work together. It's perhaps oddly wholesome for a spy comedy, but that just makes it stand out more.

It certainly helps that they're the main driving force of the action. Alongside the cuteness factor here, we also have the humor value of a five-year-old doing her best to stop a plot she doesn't really understand while riding through town on a large herd dog's back. (Endo says he based Bond on a Great Pyrenees. He looks like that combined with an English Sheepdog.) Bond, it should be mentioned, isn't actually all that much smarter than the average dog; he's just got psychic powers that grant him visions of the future. That means that we don't have a brilliant kid and a preternaturally genius dog pursuing the bad guys – it's just your average small child/large dog duo, kind of like if Clifford the Big Red Dog had to stop the bombing of an embassy. While this isn't the funniest volume of the series, their adventures are still pretty darn entertaining, and it's nice to see Anya's family concerns focus on something beyond “they might send me back” for a change – in part because that means that she's feeling more confident about her family life, provided both parents stay alive.

This is also in some ways the book with the most alarming content, which again does work with the storyline and action. Anya's fears of Loid's death – plus a glimpse of it via Bond – are much more solid than her previous nebulous concerns, and there's a lot more physical danger for the entire Forger family. For animal people, there are also dogs in danger (and a non-graphic but still unsettling scene of Bond's past) and dogs in too-small cages, although the implication in the end is that no animals were or will be harmed in the production of this storyline. None of this is outside the realm of normal for its genre, but it is darker than we've seen from the series before.

Despite all of that, this is still a great volume of what has thus far been a consistently good series. No matter who you think saved the day (Anya and Bond have my vote), everyone has a part to play and things come out feeling much more evenly distributed than they have before. Yor's still a bit underused, but the story continues to trend in the right direction, making this a total delight, even if you don't like dogs.

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