Playing the Melody of Logic
Everyone loves a good murder mystery, where everything is explained in the end with logic. Just ask Sherlock Holmes...Spiral's his kind of mystery.
It starts out innocently. It's been two years since the sudden disappearance of genius detective and pianist Kiyotaka Narumi, leaving his wife, Madoka, and younger brother, Ayumu only one clue: he went away to solve the mystery of the Blade Children. As Ayumu contemplates this on the school's rooftop, a schoolgirl falls off of the fifth floor, seemingly nothing but an accident. But there are no accidents in the world of Spiral; only fate.
The first thing that you will notice about Spiral is the bright colors and character designs, reminiscent of Kingdom Hearts. That is to be expected, as J.C. Staff and Square Enix are among the companies behind this new detective series. At first glance, the characters seem stereotypical, yet they each have unique personalities, merits and flaws.
The pacing of episodes at first has a 'crime of the week' format, the core of all detective mysteries, but you can feel the presence of a greater plot at work behind the scenes, giving each single crime foreboding and greater importance than otherwise. The metaplot of Spiral is Ayumu's investigation of his brother's disappearance, tied to solving the mystery of the Blade Children. As the story progresses, Ayumu finds himself being drawn closer towards these mysterious individuals, who are a threat to Ayumu as much as they themselves are threatened by the outside world. People who learn about the Blade Children have a habit of dying from murder. Luckily, Ayumu is there to solve the case and to glean any new information about the Blade Children.
However, Ayumu is not alone. Madoka Narumi is the assistant inspector of police, assisted by the bumbling Wataya, who always comes to the wrong conclusions. As Ayumu's sister-in-law, she plays the role of adult overseer, supplying Ayumu with enough information to make his own (correct) conclusions to crimes, yet trying to protect him. As much as she presents a cool face to the world, it is obvious that she is as driven as Ayumu is to find out who the Blade Children are and Kiyotaka's fate.
Ayumu's partner in crime is school newspaper editor, Hiyono Yuizaki. With her connections and eavesdropping skill, Hiyono knows just about everything about everyone. When Ayumu is framed for the attempted murder of the schoolgirl at the start of the series, Hiyono tracks him down for an interview, which soon turns into a mission to prove Ayumu's innocence.
Ayumu is a far more moody character than Conan of Case Closed. He has a habit of internal monologues and suffers constantly pangs of self-doubt; whether he is an individual or just a replacement for Kiyotaka, and a poor one at that. Everything that Kiyotaka did with ease, Ayumu has to work for or employ some sort of trick to even the odds. Even Madoka compares the two brothers. Ayumu has reached the point where he no longer plays the piano, as he feels that his flawless style is nothing more than imitation of his brother's music. Despite Hiyono's assurances that it's beautiful and that it's a shame to waste such great talent, Ayumu simply can't play.
Thoroughout this series, Kiyotaka Narumi exists as a negative character, existing in negative space. He is rarely shown, yet his presence is felt deeply, lying at the core of Spiral and its metaplot. There are two symbols that seem to be the key to unlocking the mystery of the Blade Children, one of these being the iris. (The other is the spiral, which seems to be rather obvious, giving the title of this anime.) Kiyotaka is tied to the iris, calling it a sign of the happiness of those who believe in themselves; those who can surpass fate. Fate plays a large role for all of the characters in Spiral: Ayumu's fate is to live in the shadow of his brother, never being as great as him, and the fate of the Blade Children, a curse only hinted at. But can fate be changed? That seems to be the question that Spiral seeks to answer.
Unlike the typical detective mystery, however, Spiral is not overtly serious. Light comedy occurs in the interactions between Ayumu and Madoka, but especially between Ayumu and Hiyomo. Hiyomo constantly tries to give Ayumu a boost of confidence with her own belief in his logic skills, teasing him with her own skills as an investigator, which results more from spying and observation than deduction. Ayumu loves to cook and to watch the shopping channel on TV, scouting out new utensils for his kitchen, leading into more opportunities for humor.
Yet in its entirety, Spiral is a great anime for mystery lovers. Each of the cases have an original solution, ranging from a bomb deactivation sequence using a magic square to a classic Clue-based 'Miss Scarlet did it in the Library, with the Rope' confrontation scene in front of all of the murder suspects, so the cases never get tedious. Some people may be annoyed by the age-old cliché of the detective always being right, with his deductions based on mere scraps of evidence, but this is easily overlooked and just as easily enjoyed by mystery fans. Only remember this: once you begin the spiral towards the hidden truth, there is no escape back into this surreal, fake world.