Anya may be the heart of both the Forger family and SPY x FAMILY as a whole, but not every volume can be just about her – it's called Spy x Family, after all. That means that, while the book is still replete with great Anya moments, it's also finally time for Yor to step into the spotlight with her own storyline, one that turns out to be much funnier than it has any right to be. That's because it revolves around that hoary old manga trope of the woman who can't cook (thus making her “amusingly” unfeminine), and while it still hits a lot of the usual beats, it also has a dollop of SPY x FAMILY's own brand of absurdity that really helps.
The story begins with Yor coming home late every night, her hands covered in cuts and bruises. Loid is, understandably, a little freaked out by this (has she fallen into enemy hands?!), but it turns out that she's roped a coworker at the office into helping her learn how to make food that doesn't also kill people. Her teacher didn't really want to be working with Yor in the first place – she got stuck with it when a cheery male colleague volunteered her – and her horror only grows as she beholds the slasher film that is Yor's culinary efforts. I've certainly managed to cut myself with a potato peeler before, but Yor, who arrives with a dripping bag of squashed tomatoes, looks more like she's been shoving her hands in a woodchipper instead. She happily informs everyone that she's better with a knife, and she is – but then proceeds to slice the beef into hair-width pieces. “Unqualified disaster” doesn't begin to cover it.
But there is one person who loves every single thing Yor does without reservation, and that person is her brother. This is easily the best part of the Yor Cooking chapters, because he's somehow not only built up an immunity to her weapons-grade food, he's also perfected the art of eating and barfing at the same time. Presumably this is the only reason why he's survived her “food” since childhood, and it's the kind of sight gag shounen manga was made for: gross and uproariously funny at once. This contrasts nicely with his reluctant volunteer tutoring for Anya, whom he still refuses to allow to call him “uncle.”
Anya's midterms feature prominently in the latter half of the volume, and since studying to her is what cooking is to Yor, she definitely needs some help. That's because stella stars and tonitris bolts are riding on these exams, and if Anya is going to befriend Damian Desmond (or at least triumph over him) for world peace, well, she'd better not fail and get herself expelled from Eden. Making this harder is the fact that midterms fall during the one time of the month when she can't use her psychic powers, so cheating isn't an option here. (The timing has to do with the lunar cycle – the kid's only about five, remember.) Loid tries to help, but Anya's a fairly desperate case, so Yor's brother is enlisted, leading to a couple of memorable lines as he tries to motivate her, such as Anya mishearing “whole enchilada” as “swole chihuahua.”
While this is going on, Loid hatches a plan to secretly improve Anya's grades by sneaking into the school, which introduces us to Daybreak, the spy who fancies himself Twilight's rival, but is really more like Maxwell Smart without 99 to keep him on track. He's one of two rival characters who rear their heads in this volume, with the other being Fiona, Loid's coworker at both the hospital and in the government. Fiona's been harboring a major crush on Loid for years, and she's infuriated that Yor gets to “play” Loid's wife in the operation. Completely uncaring, or possibly unaware, of how it would compromise the mission to switch wives at this point, Fiona decides to try and oust Yor. Naturally she's unaware that Yor is an assassin or that her brother is with the Secret Police, to say nothing of Anya and Bond's psychic powers. She could become more annoying than funny if she sticks around for too long, but as of this volume, Fiona brings an entertaining element to the book that contrasts well with Daybreak's role. Both of them are starting to make it look less like Twilight is a true master of his craft and more that he's just not an epic screw-up like everyone else around him.
At least he can enjoy believing that he's fooling Anya, who goes to the hospital with him to interview him for a class assignment. As always, she's fully aware of the truth of Loid's work and is on the lookout for things like secret escape hatches and other spy-centric features, which Loid thinks about with wild abandon, secure in the misapprehension that his thoughts are private. Anya's mind-reading always seems to get her in trouble more than it helps, although the scene where Bond destroys her stuffed penguin out of jealousy and Anya reads his thoughts about it is pretty cute. (This chapter also gets major points for pointing out that Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster.) As always, Anya's precocious intentions and age-appropriate screw ups form the heart of the story while quietly stealing Damian's, making her simultaneously utterly clueless and the only person who actually knows what's going on.
SPY x FAMILY is a wonderfully consistent series. It's funny, self-aware, and more often than not hits the nail right on the head. This volume is the first to use the actual words “cold war,” solidifying its setting and premise, but more importantly, it continues to be a madcap caper where nothing should work out nearly as well as it does.