Spiral Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, February 25, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 01, 2005
What They Say
The thrilling mystery Animé series SPIRAL follows the adventures of Ayumu Narumi as he investigates the disappearance of his older brother Kiyotaka. When his search leads him to a shadowy organization known as the Blade Children, Narumi becomes implicated in the group's criminal dealings and finds himself accused of murder. With the help of his journalist friend Hiyono Yuizaki, Narumi sets out to prove his innocence, unravel the mystery of his missing brother, and figure out why the Blade Children have become inextricably linked to his destiny. SHOOTING FALLEN STARS features the Animé series' third volume of episodes.
Bringing Rio's arc to a close and then slowly opening up to more of the series, Spiral starts to tease with information but does it at such a slow and leisurely pace that it's almost sleep inducing.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is pretty solid with some moments of directionality apparent across the forward soundstage. There's a lot dialogue in this show and not quite as many action moments so a lot of what we do get is center channel based or has a full feeling to it. In checking out the other two mixes, the English stereo mix came across slightly louder which isn't unusual but the English 5.1 mix was significantly louder, enough that we had to turn the volume down quickly since it was such a difference. We didn't notice much in terms of directionality or clarity in the 5.1 mix as it was more just a volume different to our ears. We had no trouble with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the Japanese language track.
Originally broadcast in 2003, the transfer for Spiral is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being a recent show, the source materials are in tip top shape and are very clean and problem free. FUNimation has once again employed alternate angles for the opening and closing sequences where one angle has the English production credits being prominent and followed by a portion of the Japanese production team while the other angle retains the original Japanese text. The transfer in general here looks great though with bold solid colors that have only a few faint moments of blocking going on. Cross coloration and aliasing are virtually non-existent but there isn't exactly a lot of expressive animation in the show as it is very dialogue heavy with pans and stills.
Using some of the artwork from the Japanese DVD cover, Rio takes the cover this time around and her bright smile is definitely something that looks cute here since it along with the orange bows in her hair really capture the eye since so much of the cover is in grays or other dark colors. The back cover plays off of this and provides a smattering of shots of the characters from the show in a spiral form. The top has a brief sentence to hook you in while below the artwork there's the standard summary information and a listing of the discs features and extras. This section is far better than many other recent FUNimation releases as it's very clean and clear and doesn't use bad colors on top of bad colors to get the info across. As seems to be more consistent with FUNimation, there's no insert with this release and I really like that trend.
The menu layout for the series is both attractive and bothersome at the same time. The backgrounds chosen, still images of the characters that are really beautifully done pieces of artwork, look great and really fit with the haunting piece of instrumental music chosen to go with it. The part I don't much care for is the renaming of the selections to things like "progression" for play or "skew" or "exponents" for extras. Maybe it makes sense later in the series but it doesn't seem to have any relation to it in these first episodes and it certainly doesn't for the first time viewer just getting into the show. The access times are solid though and submenus load nice and fast. As usual, we didn't bother wondering if the language presets we have worked due to the angles and odd way that FUNimation sets up their discs.
There are a few extras included on this volume. Both the opening and ending songs are included in textless format and there's an image gallery of shots from the show as well as a set of character profiles. There is also a brief piece called Prologue to the Series which is exactly what it seems.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second installment of Spiral managed to provide a lot more interesting entertainment than the first volume which had given the idea of the series being something of a murder of the week. Going for a more extended plotline with Hiyono being kidnapped and Ayumu getting an explosive collar thrown around his neck, the stakes of the game became more personal for the leads and it became more interesting since it was knocking off people that you didn't care about every episode.
In fact, even though Rio seems like an unlikely character for this kind of situation, she pulls off this segment really well because of her confidence and the fact that she's never truly lost before. Her confidence is something that she wishes Ayumu had since she knows just how much they need him and you can see how frustrating it is for her to see Ayumu be just as pathetic as he is at times. This new challenge that she's given him though has given her a spark of hope that he'll have picked up some confidence and be able to tackle things as needed. When the two of them eventually come face to face this time though as Ayumu goes for the idea of ensuring that if he goes up in an explosion so should she, there's a great face off that goes on as each in their own way tries to out bravado that other.
This goes across the first two episodes roughly with a bit of follow-up but what remains on the disc is a curious mix. It brings Eyes Rutherford back to the forefront and through his slowly mental discourse with himself and with the other Blade Children we know, we get a bit more background on the group and we eventually learn about the Hunters that are after them. This is initially all brought up in parallel with Ayumu and Hiyono searching for a Christmas present that he can give to Madoka for all that she does do for him, which is an amusing bit of storytelling since it continually pushes those two closer together, but the idea of tying a lighter story to a darker one isn't new but it does work here when set against the rainy days before Christmas itself. Rutherford's dealing with his past and the loss of Kiyotaka as well as Kanone, nearly a year gone now, is just far too drawn out.
The pace does pick up a bit more once an actual Hunter enters the picture and it becomes clearer that it's one of the reasons that the Blade Children are trying to mold Ayumu in his brother's image so that they can use him for their own purposes. A bit more of the background starts to come out about past Hunters but the plot is kept relatively light as it wants to focus on this particular one and his attempts to take down Eyes during a concert of his that he's giving for charity. Having Ayumu actually working with them now, even briefly, does give the entire event a different feel but what little oomph that's added here feels drained from the overly laid back and drawn out manner of Eyes himself.
Swinging back more towards my opinion of the series after the first volume than the second, the plot changes a bit more this time around as we do get some new revelations about what the Blade Children that we do know about are doing and why they're messing with Ayumu. The opening half of the volume does a good job of bringing the events of the last volume with Rio to a close and that so far continues to be the real highlight of the series. Spiral feels like it's got something really interesting to tell and I like a number of the characters, particularly Madoka, but it's method of storytelling is just painful at times to watch.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Series Prologue,Textless Songs,Image Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2