So just who are the Blade Children, why are they cursed, and what does our hero have to do with all this? In
Those questions all pop up in "Spiral: What are the Blade Children?," the first volume of this intricate mystery series. While it only introduces the overarcing mysteries of the series, the elegant animation and intricate one-off mysteries are more than enough to draw you in.
Two years ago, Ayumu Narumi got a phone call from his older, genius brother Kiyotaka. He announced he was investigating the "Blade Children," and then vanished.
Currently, a girl named Sayoko falls from a balcony, and dies. Ayumu has the bad luck to be near where she fell from, and a new teacher publicly accuses him -- and though the police inspector is his sister-in-law Madoka, he's still the prime suspect. But Ayumu has the same astounding analytical skills as his older brother, and with the help of a flaky school reporter, he soon ferrets out the real murderer.... only to find that she is somehow connected to the Blade Children.
Things grow stranger when a murder is committed at Sayoko's house -- a blackmailing translator is found dead, in the mansion's locked library. Before she died, she drew a squared spiral in her own blood, indicating that it was murder. But how did the killer murder her without entering the room -- and what connection does she have to the Blade Children?
Unfortunately, the Blade Children are getting interested in Ayumu -- first a "smart bomb" is planted in a piano concert, and then a weird boy lures Ayumu to an abandoned school, playing a deadly game with the young genius. And when a teacher who offers to tell him about the Blade Children is found dead, Ayumu faces the possibility that the Blade Children have infiltrated his school...
"Spiral" starts delving into the mystery of the Blade Children literally from the first scene, and those expecting lots of action, slapstick and flashy superspecial powers will probably be bored by this smarter brand of anime. The only confrontations usually end in a murder, and the only special powers Ayumu has are his intellectual ones.
While the writers don't really reveal much, they do spin a web of clever, intellectual mysteries, with magic squares, strange falls, mysterious symbols, card tricks and a murder that happens with absolutely no signs of foul play. Some of these are pretty hard to figure out, despite their simplicity.
And when Ayumu isn't pondering mysteries, the episodes are peppered with comedy (Hiyono irritates the usually stoic Ayumu into yelling, "Knock it off! You're driving me nuts!") and overhanging suspense. And though we don't find out what the problem with the Blade Children is, the episodes are infused by a sense of ominous hopelessness, but you never quite pity them yet because of their casual brutality.
Daniel Katsük does an excellent job with both Ayumu's laid-back, unemotional demeanor, and his inner turmoil over his similarities to his brother -- while it's hard to really be sympathetic to someone who has so many natural gifts, he makes it understandable that Ayumu would feel so inferior to his mysterious, seemingly perfecr brother.
The other work is rather mixed -- Caitlin Glass' Hiyono is rather annoying and hyperactive ("Thank you God, for blessing us with these awesome seats"), but John Burgmeier, Greg Ayres and Gwendolen Lau are all quite good as the stoic pianist, his devilish, somewhat nihilistic pal, and Ayumu's equally dogged sister-in-law.
"Spiral: What are the Blade Children?" is a clever, intricate anime with a haunting central mystery, and solid characters to go with it. See where the spiral leads.