Few comedy anime have caught the eye quite like Spy x Family. The hit series has already amassed a huge following thanks to its charming characters and picturesque setting. However, how has the politically tense and dangerous period of Cold War Germany inspired Spy x Family, a light-hearted family comedy?
Spy x Family’s Setting Explained
The background of Spy x Family’s story involves political tensions between two neighbouring countries, Westalis and Ostania.
In Spy x Family, tensions between Westalis and Ostania are so high that the threat of war is imminent. Both nations run covert operations to try and either cause or avoid destabilising the situation further.
Loid Forger is a spy working in Ostania for WISE, a Westalian intelligence group committed to maintaining the fragile peace between the two nations. Yor Forger, meanwhile, works for an assassination group affiliated with Ostania’s shadow government.
Not only are Loid and Yor’s identities secret from one another, but they’re actually on separate sides in a major international situation!
Is Spy x Family Set in Germany?
While not technically set in Germany, Spy x Family’s setting is heavily inspired by Germany during the Cold War.
To be precise, Spy x Family takes inspiration from the period when Germany was divided into two nations.
At the end of World War Two, when Nazi Germany was defeated, the German land was split between the victors. Eventually, this led to two nations, the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), which was managed by the USA, UK and France, and The German Democratic Republic (East Germany), which was operated by the Soviet Union as part of the communist Eastern Bloc.
It’s worth saying that there was no direct combat between East and West Germany during the Cold War (named so due to a lack of military activity). You can learn more about the history of Germany at this time on sites such as Britannica.
Spy x Family’s main two nations, Ostania (Ost is German for East) and Westalis, are both heavily inspired by East and West Germany.
Little is known about Westalis, but many features of Ostania are in line with East Germany at the time, such as the likeness of official uniforms in the anime and the nation’s official name, The People's Republic of Ostania, which shares similarities with many communist states.
How Berlin Inspired Spy x Family
A lot of Spy x Family’s story takes place in the capital of Ostania, Berlint. Obviously, this is inspired by Berlin, the capital of Germany.
During the Cold War, Berlin was split into two, with the infamous Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany. For many, Berlin was seen as the epicentre of tensions during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall became an iconic symbol of division, and then of peace when it was torn down.
You can see how a story and world inspired by Cold War tensions would want to use a city like Berlin as its central location. However, during the actual Cold War, East Berlin was not always a nice place to be. Therefore, removing the divisiveness of the Wall from Spy x Family and placing the city firmly in Ostania, while also giving it a luxurious makeover, allows for a story that’s less rooted in those dark tensions.
However, those worries can still be found in Spy x Family. An example is when Yor’s co-workers warn her about being seen as suspicious due to not having a partner; people spying was a very real threat in East Berlin, which led to a lot of false accusations and people hiding secrets from each other.
Is Spy x Family Based on the Cold War?
Spy x Family is loosely based on the time of the Cold War. However, the story tries to remove itself from the politics of the time and instead focuses on the activities of its main characters.
There are many similarities when looking at the politics of Spy x Family and the reality of life during the mid-to-late 1990s in Germany, and Berlin in particular. The themes of espionage, secret organisations and political incident all pay homage to that period.
However, the Spy x Family story itself is only loosely inspired by the Cold War. For example, there is almost no mention of idealogical divisions between nations and very little propaganda, both of which were pillars of the real-world conflict.
Instead, Spy x Family uses the world of secrets and espionage as a base to deliver a unique comedy caper full of intriguing double-personalities.
While understanding the Cold War can help provide a little background to Spy x Family, the story does a good enough job of portraying that atmosphere without you having to return to history class!
Related: The Best Historical Anime to Watch