Buddy Daddies Review: The Netflix Adaptation of Spy x Family

Directed by Yoshiyuki Asai

Produced by PA Works

Streaming on Crunchyroll

It is the nature of corporate media to notice trends and attempt to capitalize on them. After the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney mistakenly believed that what the public demanded was not more charming action adventure movies, but more movies based on theme park rides. After some Shonen Jump editor made the worst decision of their career and passed on Attack on Titan, the magazine doubled down in the hopes of finding their own dark fantasy tentpole, eventually leading to the creation and wildfire success of Chainsaw Man.

So, I am not surprised that hot on the heels of the first season of Spy x Family, we are already seeing writers put their own spin on childcare comedies. Though, due to the way that the anime industry works, you can safely assume that this is a result of Spy x Family’s success as a manga, rather than as an anime.

But I was not expecting to see a presumed cash grab rip-off come in the form of an original anime from PA Works. If you aren’t the type to pay attention to anime studios, then the best way I can explain it is that every once in a while, PA Works puts out an original anime, and they flip a coin. Heads, it’s one of the most inventive or powerful stories you’ve ever seen, like Appare Ranman or Angel Beats. Tails, you put out a dud like Charlotte or The Day I Became a God. The fun part is that you usually don’t know what you’re going to get until the last second.

So, take my review of the first few episodes of Buddy Daddies with a grain of salt, but if I may say so, this one is turning out to be real special.

Rei Suwa is a deadly assassin, capable of dodging bullets even as he fills his targets with lead. The problem is that he’s a lazy, video game-addicted NEET who would subsist on cup noodles in his apartment all day until that cholesterol time bomb finally blew. That’s where Kazuki Kurusu comes in; he’s a fixer of sorts, or maybe it’d be more accurate to call him Rei’s manager. He takes the jobs offered and puts his otaku killing machine in the right place to carry them out.

The series has thus far only hinted at Kazuki’s tumultuous past, or about what happened to his pregnant wife seen in a flashback. What we know is he skims his check from each job to send to someone who never accepts the money, and that he’s not the nurturing type, when he sees Rei brought home a stray cat.

Their lifestyle of two bros in a hot tub, five feet apart because they’re not gay is broken up by the arrival of Miri, the precocious four-year-old daughter of one of their targets. That target happens to bear a striking resemblance to Kazuki, and in a desperate effort to get the kid out of the line of fire, the hitman coordinator identifies himself as her father. Now, here comes the hard part.

With no idea where her mother is or what to do with her, Kazuki and Rei are stuck caring for a little girl. They have plenty of experience in taking life, but caring for one is another matter entirely.

Say what you will about the writing of many of PA Works originals, their animators don’t slouch. It is bound to be compared to death with Spy x Family, as I’m doing right now, and keeping up with the combined efforts of Cloverworks and Wit Studio, both at the top of their game, is no easy feat.

The character design is on point, because yeah, Miri is the cutest thing to come out of anime. However, I would like to point out that Rei was clearly created in a scientific experiment to produce the perfect Tumblr sexyman; it’s unclear if he showers, he looks perpetually half-dead, he wants a cat and his video games, and he sleeps in a bathtub. He’s perfect.

Also, the music is distractingly good. The voice acting, writing, or direction are all at least competent, and most of the time they’re quite good, but the music consistently pops off. It has a jazzy feel to it that, while reminiscent of Spy x Family’s spy movie inspired soundtrack, has its own identity. I haven’t had the pleasure of running into Katsutoshi Kitagawa’s work before this point, though he arranged most of the opening songs for Oregairu, but he’s definitely a name I’m going to look out for.

The CG compositing is also particularly well done. The backgrounds and cityscapes are heavily stylized and brightly colored, so the vibrant and boldly defined CG models used for vehicles look natural. It’s a lot like the planes and cars in Great Pretender, if you’ve seen that, and it’s nice to see more of the industry figuring out tricks of integrating their 3D animation more smoothly.

I’ve spent a lot of this review comparing Buddy Daddies to Spy x Family, and that’s not without good reason. Two cold-blooded killers forced by circumstance to take care of a child while carrying on their covert operations was a novel idea when Tatsuya Endo first introduced it, so a second iteration was going to come under a microscope. However, the stories are different enough to merit telling both.

Spy x Family plays with the idea of its characters being reluctant or unfit parents. Loid generally knows what he’s doing, so it’s funny when he briefly considers getting Anya a pistol for her good behavior, while Yor has experience in taking care of her little brother, but has never received outside input on that childrearing, so while her brother is the only person who can eat her noxious cooking, he associates the vicious bouts of vomiting it produces with happy childhood memories. Spy x Family likes the idea of its assassin and spy parents struggling to accomplish parenting as a goal.

Buddy Daddies, on the other hand, makes its incompetent parents the butt of some especially funny jokes. These are two men who have not spoken to a child since they were children themselves, and while they have the vaguest idea of what to do with a kid, it’s much different in theory versus in practice.

Spy x Family has a more complex web of characters than Buddy Daddies, though that may change throughout its run, but they focus on different parts of childcare. Anya is the closest thing we have to a main character, and Loid’s goals are being fulfilled through her, so her school life takes priority in the story. Buddy Daddies’ story is about how its parents juggle their newfound responsibilities with their jobs, rather than how they intersect. As such, it’s a more grounded approach to childcare comedy.

I won’t say one’s better than the other, though I think Buddy Daddies’ limited 13-episode run gives it the advantage of tighter plotting, especially as Spy x Family began to lag in its second cour. Still, time will tell.

I wasn’t expecting it, but this season has a nice balance of content. Maybe a little overloaded on the romantic comedy side of things, but I’ve already told you that you should be watching Kubo, and only Kubo.

As the winter slate of reviews winds up and comes to an end, I have to say it’s been one of the more interesting seasons. A lot of sequels, but the reason I started reviewing was to highlight the many new and original titles that deserve your attention. Here’s hoping that spring’s Oshi no Ko and Hell’s Paradise don’t get overshadowed by new Demon Slayer or the Konosuba spin-off.

As for Buddy Daddies, the ratings are getting a little cramped here, but we’ll call it Entertaining Pleasing and move on to our last review. That leaves us with only the fantastic slots, or the mediocre and egregious ones, doesn’t it? Which one will this final review of the winter turn out to be? Tune in next week to find out.

If you want to get a ding when that comes out, follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress. I’m on Twitter, viciously tweeting about Genshin and whatever JRPG I’m playing (Scarlet Nexus at the moment, and the combat is just oh so crunchy), @ExhibitionOtaku, so follow me there. Until next time, thanks for reading.

EgregiousAyakashi Triangle
MediocreThe Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten
FineTomo-chan is a Girl!
PleasingKubo Won’t Let Me Be InvisibleNieR:Automata Ver1.1aBuddy Daddies
FantasticTrigun Stampede

One response to “Buddy Daddies Review: The Netflix Adaptation of Spy x Family”

  1. Yeah, Buddy Daddies has been a really cute anime! I think one of my favorite characters has been the caregiver at Miri’s daycare. She is just sooo understanding and chill about all the random wackiness the comes from Miri’s two daddies. It’s very funny and cute!

    Liked by 2 people

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