Mugen Spiral Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 1-59816-829-0
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Mugen Spiral

Mugen Spiral Vol. #01

By Connie Zhang     May 07, 2007
Release Date: January 30, 2007

Mugen Spiral Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Mizuho Kusanagi
Translated by:Nan Rymer
Adapted by:Christine Schilling

What They Say
Yayoi is a mystic with a power so great, it inevitably attracts those with the desire to steal it from her, and Ura the Demon King is just one of them. But the fight is short-lived when Ura is sealed away into the body of an adorable black cat!

Kusanagi-sensei's magical manga is filled with cat demons, spunky high school girls, and a fair share of hot guys who act like such devils!

The Review
Cats, spunky girls and hot guys notwithstanding, Mugen Spiral tastes like a latte, all froth and no filling.

Tokyopop preserves the art of the original Japanese tankouban and envelops it with a pleasant blue-gray background. The cover features Yayoi in the embrace of devious-looking demon Ura. The back cover is the real winner here with a gorgeous portrait of pensive Ura draped in his native demonic dress. However, Tokyopop's decision to deck the book in curly q's detracts from the artistry and is unnecessarily distracting.

The logo also leaves much to be desired. The coloring is great, but the bold typeset of "SPIRAL" is just odd and sticks out. Moreover, the print reproduction needs some work: it ranges from dark to darker to black. The lines are sharp, but the shading is so dark that too often, it's hard to determine what's happening. Extras include author commentary and character memos interspersed throughout the chapters.

Kusanagi's art is shadowy. While the excessive shading lends to the oft-grim atmosphere during fights, it detracts from the humorous moments between Yayoi and Ura, where the manga really shines. Her heavy reliance on shading is unusual in that Mugen Spiral is a romance at heart. In shoujo works, we're used to seeing light shading, thin lines, sharp eyes and faces, absentee backgrounds and a lack of detail. With the exception of too much shading and a refreshing focus on Yayoi's changes in clothes, Kusanagi's art follows shoujo convention.

As much as she might want to create a fantasy rich with fantastic beasts and wily demons, her ideas are somewhat uninspired and her designs generic. Especially in the demon fights, her art is mostly static and overflowing with superfluous dialogue. She would do better to remember that the fantastical externalities are just an excuse for the two protagonists to meet and create sexual tension.

There are a few errors in the text, most notably in tense confusion and misspellings. For example, in the next volume's preview, heroine Yayoi is accidentally (and humorously) spelled "Yaoi." However, the biggest problem is the clunky dialogue. In particular, during battles, the characters spout out bubbles and bubbles of text that lack any sense of urgency or individuality. Yet, we're supposed to believe that only a few seconds had elapsed, not to mention the difficulty in discerning just who had spoken. Yayoi, especially, is too verbose. There's entirely too much explanation and too little action.

Fortunately, SFX is not translated. Most sound effects are made obvious by the art itself. If any more bloated text were crammed into the panels, the art would be completely covered.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yayoi Suzuka is the last descendent of a long line of mystics. When her mother passed away, she became the 78th mystic of the powerful Suzuka bloodline. As such, her immense powers are coveted by all demons that wish to usurp the throne of the underworld, known as "Infinite City." Enter perpetually cranky Ura, the Demon Prince, who seeks to "eat" Yayoi to steal her abilities. But Yayoi proves to be very formidable and using a Cat God's Rosary, she transforms Ura into a cat. As long as Ura wears the rosary, he's just another talking black cat.

All is not well, however, as demon after demon arrives to attack Yayoi. Some don very clever disguises and others manipulate Yayoi's friends into assailing her. Predictably, Ura is all talk about devouring Yayoi and actually ends up saving her countless times from his greedy brethren. Thankfully, Yayoi is no pathetic crybaby and has a few powerful tricks up her sleeve, including healing powers. She can also summon 108 spirits to her aid " from a womanizing ninja to a shadowy beast that feeds on darkness. However, for all her hardheadedness, she is quite dense and slow to react when confronted with seemingly trustworthy people.

In between the various battles, Yayoi and Ura bicker constantly (with occasionally humorous outcomes) resulting in some surprising revelations about their respective families. As it turns out, Ura's father is the dying King of the Demons and younger brother, Ouga, is eager to assert his supremacy over the demon race. Most importantly, Ouga wants to defeat (read: kill) his older brother, the favorite for the throne. And what better way to lure Ura into a confrontation than to kidnap Yayoi? Throw in Hakuyoh, a rival love interest (who happens to be male, Ura's cousin and "in love" with him) and it's all-out war on both fronts.

Yayoi is no dime-a-dozen shoujo heroine. She's neither damsel-in-distress nor obnoxiously headstrong. Instead, she's a lonely girl who's had to deal with an unenviable number of tragedies in her life. The standalone stories in the first half of the book are quite good, especially in evolving the relationship between Yayoi and potential love interest, Ura. However, the storytelling weakens considerably with the introduction of Ura's younger brother. Kusanagi's attempts to wring emotion from the reader for the brothers' broken relationship are halfhearted at best. Ouga is unsympathetic and an unwelcome interruption in the quirky life that our protagonists had begun to build together.

While Mugen Spiral relies heavily on established clichés, it redeems itself with an unconventional heroine and a hero who becomes more interesting by the page. Recommended.


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