Mania Grade: B-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: C
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: TV PG
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
- MSRP: 49.98
- Running time: 650
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Spiral
Spiral Box Set (Viridian Collection)
By Paul Gaudette
January 18, 2008
Release Date: December 11, 2007
Spiral Box Set (Viridian Collection)
What They Say
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
What are the Blade Children? This is the question Ayumu Narumi has been asking himself ever since his brother disappeared two years ago. But today isn't a day to bother with that, as Ayumu has been accused of murder! While he tries to defend himself against growing allegations, Ayumu must unwrap the mystery of his innocence - as well as the mystery of the new professor who seems determined to pin this crime on Ayumu.
Contains all 25 episodes!The Review!
A typical high-school tale with more death threats… and less guns!Audio:
I listened to the 5.1 English dub for the purposes of this review and was surprised at the depth of the track even if there is little in the way of directionality. Dialog is almost always from the center speaker, but everything is clearly separated and well-defined. The best thing about the track is the ambient music and sound effects. The rear speakers always get a work-out, and the result is pleasantly immersive. Video:
Originally produced in 2003, the show is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The only noticeable issues were a few minor moments of mosquito noise and banding during some darker shots. Outside of these issues, I believe Funimation did the best they could with what they had to work with. Occasionally, the show will get a little soft or oversaturated during scenes with a lot of light, but I’m certain this is due to the source. The vast majority of the show is very sharp with rich coloration. Packaging:
Funimation released this boxset under their “funimation green” label in an effort to be more ecologically friendly. I’m all for helping the environment and I feel terrible for bad-mouthing any such attempt on their part. First, the good: The artwork on the package is well-designed if a little simple, and this six-disc set is about the size of a regular 2-disc release so it will save a lot of space. On the negative side, I can forgive the outer cardboard that seems to dent at a moment’s notice. (My slipcase arrived with a few dents in the plastic.) However, there should have been some more thought put into the disc tray. The discs are housed in slits in the cardboard pages themselves, and they can be heard scraping against the page while being removed. This is sure to make any serious collector a little nervous.Menus:
Every menu features one or two characters from the show on a simple cg (almost vector-like) background with the options to the other side and an aggressive synth mix playing over it. In an effort to be cute, Funimation didn’t call any of the options by their regular names and instead used mathematical/scientific terms. “Progression” is selected to play the disc, “Skew” is the setup page, “Exponents” is the extras page, etc. It sort of fits in with the cerebral nature of the show, but will leave the viewer wondering which option is which at first. Access times are fast so the menus work once they’re all sorted out.Extras:
There are a ton of extras to wade through on these discs but only a few prove worthwhile. Scattered among many of the discs are character profiles and image galleries while every disc features textless songs. Also found on discs 2 through 5 is the “Prologue to the Series” which is just the first minute of the pilot episode. This extra seems rather pointless as the only important thing is Kiyotaka’s phone call which is repeated every few episodes anyway. This leaves four extras which may be worth checking out for those interested. Discs 4 and 6 feature single-episode commentaries by the director and actors which are light but fun. The commentary on the last episode is a little hard on the ears though and sounds kind of hollow. Disc 2 also features English outtakes which are cute if not very memorable, and Disc 1 has an essay discussing the “History of Magic Squares” which are featured prominently in one episode. Content:
“I’m going to pursue the mystery of the Blade Children.” Those were the last words Ayumu Narumi heard from his older brother, Kiyotaka, before he went missing. For the past two years, he’s been living with Kiyotaka’s wife, Madoka, who is also haunted by the mysterious phone call. Things get worse when he becomes the main suspect in a murder case at his school and he hears the Blade Children mentioned again.
After clearing his name, he is still followed around by the bubbly editor of the school paper, Hiyono Yuizaki. She is instantly drawn to his calm behavior and impressive detective skills not to mention that trouble seems to follow him around wherever he goes. Her information and faith in his abilities comes in handy when the Blade Children themselves start to emerge and draw Ayumu in to high-stakes games of life or death. What do they want from him, and who are these “Blade Children?” Also, why do they keep mentioning Kiyotaka?
The best thing about Spiral is obvious to the viewer from the very beginning of the show. A lot of care went into writing the characters and the elaborate set-pieces that Ayumu finds himself wrapped up in.
The strength of the character writing is no doubt helped by the satisfying set-ups. Ayumu has always followed in his brother’s footsteps, but after Kiyotaka’s disappearance, Ayumu questions if he is just a pale imitation of his brother in everything that he does. After all, his brother shared the same love of the piano and keen intuition. Ayumu and Madoka are holding on to the belief that he will come back and their life together as brother and sister is more intense because they share the same pain. Hiyono’s energetic attitude and unwavering faith in him play very well off the serious character who is continually doubting himself. These characters and relationships are fleshed out from time to time. Every new development makes it that much easier to get invested when they find themselves in peril.
Many episodes of the show revolve around unusually complicated murder cases and unique death traps. These are equally satisfying to watch because of the fresh ideas and the way that they are explained. Ayumu exhausts all the angles before making any moves in this show, and the situations are explained well-enough to remove any doubts of his suspicions. As a result, the traps and “games” that pepper this show feel like a mix between battle-heavy shows and detective serials which is uncommon. The battlefield is always fair even if it doesn’t seem like it in the beginning. The argument could be made that some of the traps are like those found in the Saw movies, but the presentation is far more refined. The murder investigations are the closest thing to a modern-day Sherlock Holmes that this reviewer has ever seen.
Of course, a show like this must have a good major plotline to follow and the mystery of the Blade Children is intriguing. However, it also creates quite a few problems. The format of the show leaves the viewer in the dark about their true intentions and motivations so it is hard to feel threatened by them or sympathetic towards them for the first half of the show. The characters themselves are well-drawn and their relationships become as endearing as the main characters, but it takes quite a while for them to become more than villains with no clear motivation. After all, if Ayumu is really in danger with these mysterious kids, why is he always given a chance to get out of it? About midway through the series, a new set of villains start appearing and they feel much more threatening. Unfortunately, it’s entirely possible that some viewers could become bored and apathetic by then and just stop watching.
The show would still be really solid if that were the only problem, but it isn’t. The other major problem is the ending. The problem? There really isn’t one. It’s incredibly open-ended and doesn’t even answer some major lingering questions. The way they left it would be fine for artistic dramas or slice-of-life stories, but in a show that was so thorough in answering minor mysteries, it’s unforgivable. In Summary:
Spiral really hurts itself by providing an intriguing mystery that is never fully answered. The series is still enjoyable though thanks to its interesting characters and well-developed scenarios. The brainy battles between Ayumu and the Blade Children are always fresh and satisfying even if they rarely seem threatening. The new price-point might make a good blind buy for fans of detective shows looking for something new if they are prepared for the open ending. However, serious collectors with an interest in the show would probably do better to seek out the previous boxset since the packaging on this Viridian Collection release is a bit misguided.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Audio Commentary, Character Profiles, Image Galleries, Outtakes
Review Equipment: 26” Olevia 16:9 LCD HDTV, Sony Playstation 3 (upconverted to 720p through HDMI), Kenwood 550-watt 5.1 surround system