Thursday, March 25, 2010

Manga Review: Mugen Spiral Complete Series

Originally released in Japan in 2004 Mugan Spiral has made its way to the States in the form of a collection of its two volumes. Created by Mizuho Kusanagi, Mugen Spiral came out in America back in 2007. Tokyopop has collected both volumes and is presenting them as a massive 400-page edition slated to be released next week. If you already have the prior release then there's really no need to get excited about what's here (unless the special stories at the end weren't included in the first printing?), but if you haven't read the book before then you may want to give this a shot.

In some ways Mugen Spiral reminded me of a cross between Natsume's Book of Friends and Inuyasha. The series follows the exploits of a mystic named Yayoi who happens to be 78th in the line of Suzaku mystics. As it stands she's pretty powerful, but despite this ability she's also quite lonely. Her parents are both dead and she pretty much just gets by due to the fact that demons continuously try to kill her in order to ascend in rank. When one such demon, Ura, tries to take her down he finds much more than he bargained for.

Ura is strong, even by demon standards, and he's the son of the current demon king. Taking down Yayoi should have been an easy job, but she used her powers and the magic of some rosary beads made of cat bone to turn him into a black cat. Now Ura lives with Yayoi as a pet of sorts, though he becomes a trash-talking demon kitty hell-bent on taking Yayoi down and eating her. Normally people would be a little put off by that, but Yayoi just goes with it and brushes his constant tirade of threats aside.

Early on in the book it becomes clear just what kind of relationship the two are going to have. While Ura does remain in his cat form he is able to release his powers and turn into his true form whenever Yayoi kills off one of the beads on his necklace. She winds up having to do this quite a bit because Ura isn't the only demon gunning for her head. Sure she's more adept than most other mystics and she can pretty much take care of herself, but other demons want to become king and in order to that they basically have to kill her. Lucky for her Ura won't let another demon eat her before he does, so he becomes himself at just the right times to rescue her when she is in over her head.

Predictably over the course of the book a relationship forms between Ura and Yayoi, despite their adversarial beginnings. Yayoi sees through Ura's tough exterior and she begins to grow on the demon after a while. She perplexes him in ways girls often confuse boys and the manga is full of development of the character's personalities and their relationship. Through the course of the story other characters are introduced as well, such as Ura's brothers, and they certainly shake up the continuity and dynamic of the series.

Kusanagi's Mugen Spiral was a fun book with some fantastic artwork. The designs were sharp with a wide range of expressions (I particularly enjoyed Ura's cat form and how he was portrayed). Backgrounds were rather simplistic, but there were a few panels packed with details. The translation work was solid as well with some liner notes and sideline commentary.

Despite feeling rather familiar in some respects, Mugen Spiral is a fun two-volume manga presented at a very affordable price here. You can pick this up on Amazon for around $11 and frankly you can't argue with that. Sure it's a little predictable and the setup is nothing new, but it packs in plenty of laughs and personality.

Maki Rating:

Review material provided by Tokyopop. Mugen Spiral is rated Teen Age 13+ for Non-Sexual Nondescript Nudity, Mild Violence, Mild Gore, and Mild Language.

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