Spiral Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Revelation Films
  • MSRP: £15.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Spiral

Spiral Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     February 15, 2007
Release Date: January 22, 2007


Spiral Vol. #1
© Revelation Films


What They Say
"I'm going to pursue the mystery of the Blade Children." With these words Kiyotaka Narumi vanished without a trace. Two years later, Kiyotaka's disappearance still haunts his younger brother Ayumu.

The wheel of fate turned when Kiyotaka Narumi vanished. On that night, Kiyotaka's younger brother, Ayumu, was forever changed. Ayumu found himself thrust into the baffling mystery of the Blade Children. Who are they? What have they done to deserve their fate? Why do they believe Ayumu is the key to their salvation? Only one thing is certain: the Blade Children will stop at nothing to complete their destiny. And only Ayumu stands in their way....

The Review!
It's all about mystery and intrigue with one recurring question in the opening volume of Spiral.

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review. The mix sounds good, with the music and effects coming across quite well. I noticed no dropouts, distortions or other technical issues with this disc.

I briefly sampled parts of the English 5.1 track, and from what I heard the English performances seemed quite likeable, and it flowed well. I didn't notice any problems with this track while checking.

Video:
The transfer here is pretty good. The colour palette is quite vibrant at times but at others it comes across as a bit bland, but it's all well-represented with your standard quality Madman transfer. There were a couple of moments during the opening where I noticed a bit of artifacting, but it was negligible.

We also get alternate angles for the openings and endings. This means that you can either watch the translated, English credits in the opening, or the original Japanese opening with kanji, and the same for the ending, depending on which language you select from the menu. It works well and caters to both sides of the audience, though Funimation could perhaps be a bit more comprehensive with their translated original Japanese credits.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

Packaging:
The front cover looks nice, featuring an image of Ayumu, with some shapes and one of the Blade Children looming in the background. The logo, episode numbers and disc title are at the top of the cover. The back cover has a layout similar to other new Revelation releases, with a bit of text at the top, some images in the middle, and a volume description at the bottom. Technical information isn't in a grid but is clearly stated at the bottom of the cover. Also of note is that the spine lists the episode titles between the letters of the word "Spiral".

Menu:
The main menu is mostly static, with the cover image of Ayumu present, as well as the logo of the show, volume number and selections. There is a bit of movement in the background, and it all looks very blue. A piece of music plays over the main menu. Sub-menus are all static, sporting the same design but with just the text selections available, and they don't have any music playing. Once again, there's also no scene selection menu. Overall, as is often the case the menus are functional but just very bland in their design.

Extras:
The first extra on this disc is a bit superfluous, but nice, explaining the history of "Magic Squares" seen in the third episode on the disc. We also get the usual textless opening and ending, some reasonable text-based character profiles and a rather pointless image gallery 9done as still images playing to a piece of music from the soundtrack). All in all, it's not an inspiring selection.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Spiral has had a rocky road to release in the UK. Originally announced as one of the first shows MVM had picked up under their distribution deal with FUNimation, it had several release dates before finally switching hands to Revelation when they took over FUNimation distribution at the turn of the year. And so, after such a long wait the show is finally in our hands, and the first volume proves to be quite an interesting ride.

In Japan, Spiral is subtitled "Bonds of Reasoning" and it's easy to see why, much for the same reason the first volume's title is so apt ("The Melody of Logic"). The show harks back to the good old days of the mystery show, where the protagonists are presented with some sort of unexpected event and then have to solve the case. In a sense, it's almost like a slightly more adult-orientated Scooby Doo, right down to the way the Scooby Gang used to reveal their lines of reasoning and exactly how the reached their conclusions. Like that cartoon, Spiral does come off as a little bit over the top and quite contrived, although again the deductions at least seem a little more mature.

The story in the show focuses on Ayumu, a boy in school whose brother, Kiyotaka, went missing two years ago, leaving behind only a vow to answer the question of "what are the Blade Children?" As well as his brother, he left behind his wife, Madoka, a police detective, and the pair end up locking horns in some interesting ways. It turns out that Ayumu, much like his brother, has some impressive powers of deduction, which makes him a dab hand at solving mysteries. So when he's wrongly accused of a murder, he gets involved and tries to solve the case, stepping on his sister-in-law's toes in the process. He is joined on his quest to solve all things mysterious by the school reporter Hiyono, who ends up as his rather annoying sidekick.

Every episode of Spiral is shaped around some sort of mystery, several being the obvious choice of murders and who committed the crime. The first episode has Ayumu accused of pushing a girl off the roof at school, with a strange man called Sonobe blatantly pointing the finger. So Ayumu sets off to clear his name and prove that though he was right behind the girl, he didn't push her. The second episode sees another murder, but this time at a huge mansion with Ayumu not one of the suspects. He does get involved to help solve the case though.

Things are shaken up a little when the Blade Children get involved in things though, as Ayumu and Hiyono go to a piano recital and get more than they bargained for. They are forced to solve some tests at the hands of the Blade Children in order to stop the auditorium being destroyed. This is where the story starts to get interesting, as the show begins to feel a bit more focused on an ongoing story playing out in the background while the episodic mysteries are at the fore of each outing.

The fourth and fifth episodes both give us a bit more information, first when Ayumu and Hiyono meet one of the Blade Children, who agrees to tell them everything if they solve a puzzle, only to back out when Ayumu does, and then when one of Ayumu's teachers tries to tell him all, they are killed by the Blade Children. It's all still very mysterious at this early stage, but we do know that Kiyotaka is somehow involved as all the Blade Children seem to know him, and also that Ayumu is somehow the one that can bring them salvation. Quite who or what they are is obviously one of the mysteries that is going to continue through the entire run, so we don't get any answers to those questions yet, but hopefully things will become a little clearer soon.

The characters are an interesting bunch; Ayumu clearly being an intelligent young man who has a somewhat over-the-top knack for finding even the most obscure clues and making sense of them, contrived though they may be, while Hiyono manages to be a sometimes annoying, sometimes amusing sidekick for Ayumu. Madoka is an odd supporting character, as she sometimes seems to forget that Ayumu is actually in school when it's more convenient for her to get some help in solving the case. Alas that's always going to be a shortfall.

With a bit of intrigue story-wise and some interesting enough characters at this stage, Spiral is shaping up pretty well. My biggest concern with it is that it might get quite boring and repetitive if all we get is mainly murder mysteries with few questions being answered. The slow pace is to be expected early one but hopefully it will pick up a bit in the next volume. The series' animation is as basic as you'd expect for an unspectacular show like this, and the music hardly stands out either, but it all works within the confines of the show.

In Summary:
Spiral shows a lot of promise after its first five episodes, but whether it lives up to that in future episodes remains to be seen. With the plot at times dragging and the mysteries some times seeming contrived, it could quite easily go the other way and become something of a snore-fest. With the characters holding quite a bit of interest, hopefully it'll come good though, so for now it seems safe to give this series a recommendation.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),History of Magic Squares,Textless Opening and Ending,Character Profiles,Image Gallery

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.

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