I don't consider myself to be a devoted or active participant in the worldwide anime and manga community, since my knowledge of that sphere, after all these years, is still nil, but as a casual fan I still marvel at the enchanting stories and beautiful animation of this particular medium. A couple of series and movies that spring to mind include such classics as: Cowboy Bebop, Summer Wars, Death Note, Trigun, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Sword of the Stranger and Samurai Champloo. Well, maybe not all of them should be labeled as classics, but they've done for yours truly what they set out to do: to entertain.
But of more interest to the readers of this blog are manga books, also known over here as comic books and graphic novels, which really shows the knack the Japanese have for telling stories. Series I follow religiously are Case Closed (a.k.a. Detective Conan, one of the best modern detective series out there, but more on that later), Hikaru no Go, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning – to which this blog entry is dedicated.
Oh, and listen to this while you read the below.
The unlikely paladin of Spiral is Ayumu Narumu, a gloomy 10th grader, who has always lived in the tall shadow of his elder brother, Kiyotaka Narumu, a world-renowned detective and prodigy pianist – who mysteriously disappeared two years before the opening of the story. The only clue he left behind was an allusion to the Blade Children.
Fast forward to the here and now, and Ayumu's school has become the backdrop for a series of brutal crimes that include an impossible fall from a rooftop, the unlikely flight of an arrow, poised to kill, and a dying message left in a locked room – and everything can be traced back to a small group of students. Determined to uncover the truth about his brother he starts pursuing them, but quickly has to conclude that everyone is just playing their part in a elaborate cat-and-mouse game – including himself!
Take note that despite the conventional opening, which at first glance suggests another high school mystery, that this is not a traditional detective or thriller, but one vast, multi-layered battle-of-wits that's being played on many different levels – and the story continuously morphs as the plot develops. The orthodox approach is soon ditched for a logical survival game, involving a neat bomb-race across town, and from there into a more hardboiled and action orientated story arc – with recursive reasoning sessions at gunpoint. The maintenance of reason, no matter what the situation, is fairly typical for this series, and makes for pleasant reading – at least, I think so.
I realize that my description has been more summary than usual, but it's very difficult to talk at length about Spiral, pass the first three or four volumes, without spoiling important plot elements. This really is a series that one has to discover on his own, but with an open mind as this is not a story that tries to capture the essence of reality. It's a triumph of intertwining logic with the fantastic. If you're looking for something different in a mystery, Spiral is a good place to find it.
Note of warning: if you plan to read this series, try avoiding the spoiler riddled synopsis' from volume 6 onward. They reveal too much regarding the main plot thread of who's pulling the strings behind the scenes and for what purpose Ayumu is used by this shadowy entity.
There are fifteen volumes that make up this fun and fascinating series and the conclusion is to be released later this month.