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Why Does Spy x Family Have the X in Its Title?

Spy x Family is a highly popular shonen manga/anime franchise, and while the original manga has plenty of fans, the anime really drew in the crowds and put Spy x Family on the map, to the point where people are cosplaying as its characters at soccer matches. The title says it all, with the Westalis spy Twilight forming a found family so that he can complete his mission.

There’s a lot to love about this comedy action series, from its wacky characters to its stylish 1960s-inspired Cold War setting and thrilling action scenes. However, there are still some lingering questions and conspicuous oddities, including the series’ own title. It’s clear why “Spy” and “Family” are in the title, but the lower-case “x” between them is the real mystery — and a source of confusion among fans.

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Why Spy x Family Has a Cross in Its Title
spy x family teaser image poster
Author Tatsuya Endo went through a few ideas for his new manga’s title before Spy x Family was chosen, and he had written some one-shots as well. Endo’s editor experimented with these titles, such as “I SPY,” and liked the idea of a title including spies and a family, though Japanese characters weren’t necessarily the best fit. One early draft had the title “Spy Family” in Japanese, but the editors decided to put it in English instead. Now, the Spy x Family manga volumes have that English title on them, with katakana under them so that Japanese readers can at least phonetically read the title. One possible title was Spy Family, but Endo drew inspiration from another manga series to round things out with extra flourish.

Endo and his editor added a cross between the English words in the title, resulting in Spy x Family, paying homage to Yoshihiro Togashi’s Hunter x Hunter. Notably, the “x” in each title isn’t exactly the English letter X, even though those titles have English words in them. It’s really just a visual — an X-shaped cross to make the title look cool and imitate Hunter x Hunter. Amusingly, this may lead to come confusion, with fans wondering if they’re supposed to pronounce that “x” at all. The same sometimes happens with Hunter x Hunter, with new fans saying “Hunter ecks Hunter” because that’s what the title shows. The same may sometimes happen with Spy x Family.

In the end, however, that “x” is just decorative and isn’t even a letter, so of course, there’s no need to say it. Fans are meant to call this series “Spy Family” out loud, similar to “Hunter Hunter” for Togashi’s work. In a way, that latter manga’s title could be thought of as “Hunter, Hunter,” in terms of its message and pronunciation. It’s not a Hunter being multiplied by another Hunter, nor is it the “Will of D” found in One Piece. There’s no great puzzle, trick or mystery to that “x,” and nor is it a proper letter. It’s just ornamentation for a manga title in English.

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When Anime & Manga Series Experiment With Letters & Punctuation
D.Gray-Man title
Spy x Family and Hunter x Hunter are just two examples of manga and anime series that use creative visual flair for their titles, and some are truly original in their presentation. This helps them stand out from more ordinary graphic novel or comic titles such as Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman and Preacher, which are far more straightforward.

It’s a common trend for anime and manga series to add more excitement and energy to their titles with unnecessary but fun punctuation, which by now is a quirk of the manga/anime industry. Often, series titles will have an exclamation point on them, with examples ranging from the shojo series Maid-sama! to Toradora!, Mahou Sensei Negima! and the edutainment anime Cells at Work!. If that weren’t enough, some titles add even more exclamation marks, such as My Love Story!!, Durarara!! and Yuri!!! On Ice. Creatively, the Cells at Work! franchise added a second exclamation point to its second season, Cells at Work!!, meaning the “!!” serves as both visual flair and as a variant of the Roman numerals II to indicate Season 2.

Finally, a few niche series use even stranger wording and punctuation than Spy x Family, Hunter x Hunter or even the likes of Cells at Work!!. The unfinished gothic shonen series D.Gray-Man has a truly bizarre title — one that few, if any fans can fully explain. The title uses a period after just one letter and then a hyphen, and it’s not immediately obvious why any of this title’s three parts are present. What is D?, some new fans may ask, and does the period mean it stands for something? And who is this gray man, or does it mean something else?

Such creatively weird titles help many manga and anime series stand out in today’s massive pop culture market, from the not-x in Spy x Family to extra exclamation points and far more. That’s part of the fun of being a manga/anime fan, and it can be just as fun to explain to curious “normies” who might stumble upon these titles on a bookstore’s shelves.

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