Spiral Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • 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.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Spiral

Spiral Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     February 02, 2005
Release Date: December 28, 2004


Spiral Vol. #2
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
As Ayumu and Hiyono continue to investigate the murder of Mr. Imazato, an impending danger lurks. Hiyono becomes the target of the Blade Children’s latest ploy, who issue Ayumu his greatest challenge yet—a chance to settle things once and for all! But, a poisonous puzzle must be solved before Ayumu can claim victory. Could Hiyono deal the Blade Children a devastating trump card?

The Review!
The games played by the Blade Children become all the more deadly in this round as Narumi starts to get closer to them.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Using some of the artwork from the Japanese DVD cover, Hiyono via a pink filter is used for the cover here and her cute character design with its inquisitive look works well. The cover art here is done similar to the first volume and is pretty neat in that it works the shades of my favorite colors so well. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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. A section of dub outtakes is included and I have to say it's extremely easy to figure out which lines Monica Rial messes up since she just keeps laughing which in itself is infectious. There's 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)
After the first volume of Spiral, the show left me feeling pretty cold towards it since it looked like it was moving towards a murder of the week mystery that has Narumi solving things with the kinds of leaps of logic that only someone gifted like him could make. The background premise of the Blade Children and his own missing brother who had gone off in search of more about them provided something that could be an interesting hook, but it wasn't played out so well initially and the Blade Children themselves came off looking pretty poor.

With the second set of episodes here, it moves away from the murder of the week scenario and into something that covers the four episodes in their entirety here and, outside of some basically pretentious characters and dialogue, provides something a bit more interesting to watch and listen to. With the first bit of clues that Narumi had regarding the Blade Children and potentially his brother murdered in the form of the teacher Imazoto, he's realized that there are certain things that are unique to the Blade Children and he's ready to cast his net to find out who caused the murder. Though he didn't want to involve her initially, Hiyono has forced her way into all of this with her extensive network of informants and other intelligence and he can't help but use her since she is providing a good deal of useful data. Knowing that she can figure out what the connection between all the Blade Children is, he also knows that it'll mean she becomes a target of them as well, so he spends his time hanging out with her in the newspaper club room so that she's guarded as often as possible.

While we get to see that the secret that binds that Blade Children together is their missing rib, it's something that Rio has managed to work around in order to cover her tracks about the murder of Imazoto. While she uses it as an attempt to take Hiyono out the picture and thereby close down another of Narumi's paths, it doesn't exactly backfire but it pushes things into a way that allows Narumi to go and confront Rio about it directly. The confrontations from here end up becoming like a game to outdo the previous ones but with the balance of their lives on the line as the challenges come forward. It's an interesting progression of events across the four episodes as they go back and forth, often within the confines of just one hospital room, but it makes for discussion of the show very difficult.

The change in the tone of the show is very welcome here and it turns it from something that I feared to seeing for another twenty-odd episodes into something that's now potentially rather interesting and challenging mentally if you want to see how they get out of each of the schemes. We also get some interesting moments where through Narumi's sister in law we see more of Kiyotaka and what he was like before he disappeared as well as finding out that his disappearance is something that's been placed as untouchable information for even her now. Things are taking on a more sinister feel the higher up they go with this and while it's not gone into much detail, it adds a new layer to things. Narumi's sister in law doesn't get a lot of time in these episodes but the moments she does are some of the best there, especially when she tries to point out why Narumi is better than his brother and why being different is important.

I've said before but I have to say it again, "reversioned" is the absolute worst phrase to use in describing the domestic release of a show. It only gives the impression of what the old Dragon Ball material went through as opposed to the rather good work on everything else in recent years.

In Summary:
While the series hasn't won me over completely, the change in the mood and progression of the events in this set of episodes is definitely making me more interested in it than I was previously. The verbal sparring isn't on the level of some other shows that I enjoy but it's providing to be a challenge to the characters to solve what's being thrown their way and since they have to do it with their intelligence and not action-hero skills, that alone makes it more interesting to watch than a lot of things out there. The show has a ways to go before really impressing me but they've managed to get past some of what made the series hard to get into at first.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Series Prologue,Textless Songs,Image Gallery

Review Equipment
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.

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