Spiral Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     June 24, 2005
Release Date: June 21, 2005



What They Say
Rio and Hiyono are now safe after their kidnapping and subsequent rescue, and all seems well. That is until the ever elusive Kanone shows up in Japan. Before Ayumu can soak in the consequences of his arrival, the young Sayoko finds herself targeted by a Hunter! Ayumu faces his most powerful enemy yet, and it’s the last person he’d expect! Meanwhile, Madoka encounters someone from the past whose intentions are worse than death.

The Review!
With the return of Kanone and a new hunter in town, things begin moving at a brisker pace as the danger feels like it's around every corner.

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, Rutherford gets the front cover with a very strong green hue applied to him while the softer and more colorful image of Ayumu is watching him from the background, complete with spiral symbols and all. 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 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. One new extra we do get on here is an audio commentary by the director and the two lead voice actors as they get to talk about the show and their take on it as they've been working on it. This is set to the first episode on the disc only.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As this series has progressed, it's definitely managed to sink its claws into me. The first volume didn't impress at all and even the second, which was better, left me somewhat cold to it overall. But now here by the fifth volume I'm very curious to see where it's going and how each episode plays out. It's slowly built up its mystery, which by all accounts is simply not solved within the series, but it's done it in such a way that it has me curious as to what's going on. This is entirely on the strength of a couple of characters at that.

This volume brings Kanone back to Japan as he claims to have returned to do some sightseeing and eat some takoyaki. We've mostly just seen him in a couple of flashbacks with Eyes in some deep conversations or words of praise from the other Blade Children who claim he told them how to fight back before disappearing himself. His return is unsettling to Eyes since he keeps coming back to the question of how the Blade Children are going to deal with the growing threat of the Hunters and he wants a more violent approach given to it. But his return also seems to tip the balance of events in that as good natured as he seems with everyone, he is the type with something far more sinister running below the surface.

The return of Kanone also brings some other changes. A new hunter has arrived into the mix and seems to be focusing on Kosuke at first, or at least he seems to take the lead in being hunted and drawing his attention away from the others after the incident with Sayoko. That one was interesting in that it paired both Eyes and Ayumu together without the two of them really working with each other in order to protect her when the hunter plays a game with her and forces them to follow along and watch. Kosuke's intent on taking down the hunter but that goes against what he's promised Ryoko so he'll try to be the hero he wants to be and do it without her.

If there's one thing we learn across these episodes about the hunters, it's that it's a very good thing they have a lot of help in covering up things after they happen because they all seem to be incompetent on some level. The hotel experience was interesting but if they were truly intent on killing them there are far easier ways. This volume has two separate experiences for the hunter to go through. The first with Sayoko tries go the route of showing how easily they can manipulate everyone but the guy is so easily found out by just two of them that it's almost silly. His follow-up attacks on Ayumu are plagued by most villains problems, such as waiting too long to shoot and actually talking to his victim instead of shooting. Falling into ones own traps is pretty high on that list too and very embarrassing.

The characters do make the series though and there are a couple in particular that are making it very enjoyable to watch. The best one I think continues to be Madoka simply because she's the one working with the least information and the most frustration. Everything is set against her at this point, from losing her husband to being relegated to crap status at work. Even worse, her younger brother-in-law seems to know more about what's going on that she does but is completely silent about it. The frustration is evident for her and she tears into Ayumu about it and demands to know what's going on in a really well done scene. Everything is stacked against her and those she trusts the most are keeping her at arms length.

The other one that's really grown on me over time is the relationship between Ayumu and Hiyono. I didn't care for her at first but as she's become more of an asset and toned down her personality some, she's been far more interesting to watch in this as she becomes an important person for Ayumu to work with in trying to figure out what's going on. His relationship with her is quirky to say the least but I like how they play it without any real sexual/relationship tension but you can feel that there should be something more there and wondering if they characters will ever notice.

In Summary:
As a setup to the final set of episodes (as opposed to the finale of the property as the manga is still ongoing), the Spiral series looks to put everything together for a fight that will determine which path that Eyes has chosen will be the one that will lead to salvation or death. The players have all seem to be in place for what looks to be the closure of the first arc that will deal with those in this area that are related to the Blade Children issue. Those in power behind the scenes have made their moves and the Blade Children are striking back on their own and Eyes still has his belief that Ayumu will be the key. This has some good moments on it and does a good job of setting up the stage for the next and final encounter of the anime franchise. It's certainly become a lot more interesting than I believed it could from the first couple of episodes.

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, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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