What are the Blade Children?
Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning is the story of this mystery, into which Narumi Ayumu is drawn after an apparently attempted suicide at his school. The girl involved was a member of this mysterious group, a group that Ayumu's older brother, Kiyotaka, was investigating at the time of his disappearance two years earlier. So, against the wishes of Narumi Madoka (Kiyotaka's wife, and current detective), Ayumu begins his own investigation, assisted by the school's lone member of the newspaper club, Yuizaki Hiyono.
At first, Ayumu is simply challenged outright by the Blade Children, who claim to know something of the whereabouts of his older brother. Their "tests" are primarily tests of Ayumu's mental prowess and cunning, but occasionally test his luck as well (the Magic Squares/Bomb puzzle, for instance). As he begins to gain their trust, the mystery of "What are the Blade Children?" is supplanted by "Why are the Hunters trying to kill the Blade Children?" as the Blade Children's ostensible leader, Eyes Rutherford, is targeted by an assassin.
The Blade Children themselves are fairly normal, if prodigies can be called normal, and are physically identifiable as different only by a single rib missing from their ribcage. (They're also depicted with cat-like slit eyes, but that's probably just for the audience's benefit since none of the characters ever comment on this.)
Unfortunately, the anime ends without reaching the answers it set out to find, due to the fact that it caught up with the manga on which it was based. (The fourteenth and final volume of the manga was released in September of 2005, the anime aired between 2002 and 2003.) The final arc of the anime deals with a similar concept as volumes six through eight of the manga, but takes place under different circumstances.
The manga was followed up by the prequel, Spiral: Alive, starring three new characters: Genki Girl Sekiguchi Imari, reluctant serial killer Amanae Yukine, and Sawamura Shirou, a boy who wants to be a detective just like Kiyotaka. Oh, and they're also in a Love Triangle. (Insert Murder the Hypotenuse joke here.) While these three are the central characters, old favorites such as Ryoko, Rio and Kousuke are still central to the plot, and most others have at least made cameos.
Not to be confused with the manga Uzumaki, which means "spiral", or the Ring sequel Rasen, which also means "spiral". While we're at it, don't confuse the two with certain terms from Naruto, or with Spiral Energy. If you're looking for the French police procedural known in English-speaking markets as Spiral, see Engrenages.
- Absurdly High Stakes Game: several examples.
- Action Girl: All of them, except for Sayoko, and Hiyono in the anime. She plays her part in the manga, despite protesting against violence..
- Actual Pacifist: Though he eventually gets forced to turn into a Technical Pacifist, Ayumu will not kill anyone. Same goes for Hiyono..
- Adaptation Dye Job: Eyes has purple hair in the manga art, but the anime "upgraded" him into a White-Haired Pretty Boy. Kousuke's hair also goes from pinkish red to a more purplish red in the color art for Spiral: Alive. Word of God was that this was for contrast: in the black-and-white manga, there were too many characters with gray-screen tone hair, so Kousuke was switched to being inked black--as per his earliest pre-production designs. The color art was adjusted to match..
- Adults Are Useless: In general... but Kiyotaka is an odd case..
- Subverted by Madoka in the manga's Carnival arc - see Mama Bear entry.
- Also justified in that Kiyotaka often uses his influence to keep adults from interfering.
- Affably Evil: Kanone in the anime, Kiyotaka and Hizumi. In the manga, Yaiba is reported to have been very charismatic..
- A God Am I: Yaiba vs. Kiyotaka, Hizumi vs. Ayumu.
- Ancient Conspiracy
- Back from the Dead: Amanae in Alive.
- Badass Adorable: Rio specializes in bomb construction and has taken down numerous would-be assailants singlehandedly.
- Badass Bookworm: Eyes, Rio.
- ... and Ayumu, who defeats people with logic. And then along comes Kanone, of course.
- Balloon Belly Hiyono in episode 14.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: All romance is severely downplayed and the biggest Ship Tease hints are snarking and abuse.
- Big Bad
- Bilingual Bonus: Probably unintentional, but "Carnival" sounds pretty close to "Cannibal" in Japanese... and though he doesn't eat them, Kanone is hunting his kin.
- Bittersweet Ending: Welp, the long and short of it is, the Blade Children have had shit lives, and were targeted by jackasses with God-complexes. And they're biological ticking-time bombs. Now, most of these problems can be rectified, but the Blade Children's epic-level fatalism and depression look to cause far more harm in the long term. So, the protagonist Ayumu decides a Messianic Archetype is what the doctor ordered. But because perception is everything, Ayumu figures he has to be in a much worse condition than the rest of the Blade Children in order for the ploy to work. And so he is, with extreme prejudice. For the three years he has left to live. And it ends up being just enough to inspire the rest of the Blade Children to actually live their lives. The series ends with the implication that Hiyono will return and with Ayumu fulfilling his potential as a musician, even as he battles disease, depression, and death.
- Always Someone Better: Kiyotaka is better than Ayumu at everything, even though he has disappeared.
- Blind Without'Em: the cause of the attempted murder, or in the manga, the cause of an actual murder.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Variations.
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Kanone: fighting god, lover of kitties. Even worse is Kiyotaka in Alive: his idea of a disguise is a cartoony frog suit. Which he wears while riding a bicycle. Despite it not having eye holes.
- Butt Monkey: Kousuke never gets a break. If he's acting cool, expect someone to bang a door in his face.
- This has interestingly translated in the realm of Fanfic: in many fics in which he's not prominently featured but just mentioned in passing, that mention will include something nasty about him. It's mostly affectionate teasing though.
- Cain and Abel: Eyes and Kanone. Played with in that they seem to be the "childhood friends" variation, but then Eyes reveals to Ayumu and the audience that while the Blade Children all have the same father, Kanone is the only one he regards as his brother.
- And of course, Ayumu and Kiyotaka, though the anime never quite gets there.
- Cassandra Truth: Eyes' little story about how his mother tied him to a piano to prevent him from killing animals, which is how he learned to play. Naturally, the reporter assumes it is a very off-color joke.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Everyone is still recognizable when the artist has fun switching around hairstyles and outfits in manga omakes.
- Chess Motifs: In the manga volume #11.
- Chessmaster: By the middle of the Kanone arc in the manga, everyone is pretty much convinced that Kiyotaka is God.
- Chick Magnet: In the manga: Kanone, Ayumu (especially in the Hizumi arc, but also earlier with Hiyono and Rio; and in the prequel Alive... Ryouko.)
- Combat Pragmatist: Chapter 68 has Ayumu very unexpectedly pull this on Eyes, easily overpowering him by: 1. Aiming a gun at an unarmed Eyes, 2. Taking advantage of the element of surprise, 3. Punching him in the chest... meaning, on the wound he got from Kanone in vol 6. Low blow, Ayumu.
- Composite Character: Sayoko Shiranagatani originally wasn't part of the Blind Without'Em incident, but the anime co-opted her from the locked room mystery story to simplify things and create a better segue between them.
- Death Course: The Excellent Hotel.
- Demoted to Extra: Detective Saeki Tohru from Alive initially seemed like he'd be a main character of the series, until Kousuke barged in. He finally showed up again to complain in the last volume's omake.
- Despair Event Horizon: Oh, Kanone. Oh, Hizumi. Oh, Ayumu... even though he doesn't believe in despair.
- Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Kanone and Eyes have tea together after the latter gets out of hospital because the former almost killed him AGAIN. Then again they're both quite cheerful about it. For some reason though Kanone is surprised to learn Hizumi and Ayumu are doing pretty much the same thing.
- Doomed Appointment
- Explosive Leash: Ayumu gets a bomb collar for his rematch with Rio.
- Five-Man Band: The Blade Children form one.
- Foreshadowing: Incredible amounts of it as you keep re-reading the manga.
- Hiyono is about to say the name of Kanone's father when he interrupts her. And then there's the fact she knows that name at all. No, it's not just her insane info-collecting skills.
- Pretty much the whole discussion Eyes and Kirie have about Kanone during the Carnival arc.
- The end of Spiral: Alive, of course, introduces Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning.
- Freudian Trio: Kousuke as Id, Rio as Superego, Eyes as Ego. In Alive, Kousuke as Id, Ryoko as Superego, Rio as Ego.
- Friendly Enemy: Ayumu and Hizumi.
- Gecko Ending
- Genius Bruiser: Kousuke, Ryoko
- "Get Out of Jail Free" Card
- Great Detective
- Hair Colors
- Ho Yay: Everyone in the series seems to
shipidolize the platonical relationships of Kanone/Eyes and Ayumu/Hizumi. Mostly it's discreet and treated seriously more than just fanservicey... with the exception of the picture of Kanone and Eyes from the anime's ending, for which there are simply no words. Ayumu and Eyes also have moments, especially in the anime.
- Idiot Hero: Subverted. Ayumu's lounging on the roof, ditching class. He must be just like every other stupid shounen protagonist, right? Wrong.
- Inaction Sequence: more of an ending alteration
- Invisible to Normals: no huge explosions, but the Blade Children and Hunters are not common knowledge, and their activities are covered up regularly.
- Killed Off for Real: Manga only: Kanone.
- Little Miss Badass
- Living with the Villain: Ayumu and Hizumi again. Also Ayumu/Hiyono, Rio/Ryoko/Kousuke, and Kanone to a lesser extent: all go to the same school.
- Locked Room Mystery
- Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Subverted, as Ayumu blocks the lock before entering the room.
- The Lonely Piano
- Magical Database
- Mama Bear: Madoka pulls out the badass to save Ayumu from Kanone.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Certain characters are literally unable to commit suicide--one character survives around 25 separate attempts to off himself, one of which was a straight 90 meter drop that shattered his spine. It is repeatedly stated that they can only be killed through the "composition", i.e. by their metaphysical opposites.
- Also, a brilliant geneticist was unable to find a biological cause for the Curse of the Blade Children.
- Mercy Lead
- Morality Pet
- Rio and Ryoko for Eyes and Kousuke; some mild inversion in that being one also softens up Rio's own character.
- It's arguable whether Rio also this for Kiyotaka as well, or if seeing the unshakeable trust she has in him makes his actions seem worse.
- In Alive, if you think about it, Imari is also one for Amanae... weirdly enough.
- Mr. Fanservice: Pretty much all of the guys are Bishounen, but Eyes Rutherford fills the "Bait" part particularly well as he's the reason many fangirls got into this fandom in the first place.
- Names to Know in Anime
- Neutral Female: Hiyono: though she's usually out of her depth mentally, she does occasionally subvert this by aiding Ayumu.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Kousuke claims this is his opinion of Ryoko. In Alive, she wonders why it's only girls asking her out, and her classmates explain all the boys in town are afraid of her and the "Takamachi Ryoko Legend." Which is, basically, a bunch of over-exaggerations of things she actually has done.
- Noodle Incident: In Spiral : Alive.
Ryouko: "(...) like that time it looked like I was being attacked by an anteater !!"
- Oh Crap: When Kanone goes all out.
- Older Than They Look: Rio, and in Alive Charlotte, 14, easily passes as 17.
- Omniscient Morality License: Both played straight and subverted with Kiyotaka. The Blade Children believe that whatever he is doing, it must be for the best, while his younger brother questions this.
- : Although that changes for some characters as the manga goes along; for instance, Ryouko seems to distrust him, and Kousuke cannot tolerate (nor, at first, believe that Kiyotaka played with Kanone and Eyes' relationship.)
- Ordinary High School Student
- Parental Abandonment: Ayumu, whose parents both seem to be gone, and who lives with his brother's wife, in a rare case of "Sibling Abandonment"
- Only played with in the manga, actually: they're revealed to both be still alive, but Ayumu decided to leave them and live with his brother when he was still young. He went back to live with them after Kiyotaka got married, then came back to take care of Madoka after her Husband Abandonment. The parents are still a very good example of Abusive Parents through utter neglect: they clearly didn't care at all what Ayumu did.
- Pet the Dog: Kousuke and Eyes, only with cats. And Rio. Also, Kanone's love for cats is definitely playing with this - come on, he's just bought a giant cat plushie, he can't be that bad can he?
- Pin-Pulling Teeth: Ryouko pulls one of these during the Carnival arc.
- Prequel: Spiral: Alive
- Ship Tease: So. Much.
- Shout-Out: Numerous chapters of the manga as well as one episode of the anime are named after classic works of American science fiction, including "The Man In The High Castle" (anime), "The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth", "Blood Music", "The Game of Rat and Dragon", and "The Mote In God's Eye". Other chapters have names that strongly suggest, given the previous very obvious examples, that they are the titles of other such works that didn't entirely survive a double translation. These include "A Cold Equation" (try The Cold Equations), "The Scanner of Darkness" (no, A Scanner Darkly), "The Darkness Must Not Fall" (perhaps you meant Lest Darkness Fall), and "Time for Love" (Time Enough For Love..)
- Slap Slap Kiss: See above.
- Sleep Cute: Ayumu and Hiyono after the face-off with Rio. Probably the cutest moment of the entire anime.
- Spanner in the Works: Hiyono deliberately sets out to be this to Kiyotaka.
- The Stoic : Eyes, especially in the anime. Ayumu also has his moments, but mostly he tries and fails.
- Strange Minds Think Alike:: Hiyono and Rio simultaneously muses that they want to marry Ayumu when he cooks for them, which is quite understandable, but the Yen Press translation has them word it "I want to make him my bride", which is... noteworthy.
- Thanatos Gambit: Loads, what with the Blade Children's tendency to risk lives in their games. The manga's plot also relies heavily on those:
- Kanone's plans change a few times but always include his death, at his own hands if necessary. When he finally does get killed, it's unplanned for once, but he manages to turn things to his advantage and "win" by dying.
- Hizumi is trying to get Ayumu to kill him.
- And so is Kiyotaka.
- At the very end, Ayumu uses the fact that he's dying to give the Blade Children hope. It Makes Sense in Context: though it might give you a headache and probably make you want to cry
- Those Two Guys: Imari's two friends in Alive
- Time Bomb: the Magic Squares/Bomb puzzle. Also the Blade Children themselves, in a way.
- Token Mini-Moe : Rio
- Twin Switch: Amanae Yukine & Charlotte in Alive. Even though they're not actually related as far as we know. Scanlations, please.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Manga: Kanone arc. Repeatedly.
- Violence Really Is the Answer: Completely averted in the anime; in the manga, only averted until Kanone comes in, then... inverted, subverted, double-subverted...?!
- The Watson: Hiyono or Kousuke, usually
- Xanatos Roulette: Everything from the BlaChil meeting Ayumu to Kiyotaka stealing his crush was planned by Kiyotaka, and it gets steadily more convoluted as the story passes, especially in the manga.
- Xanatos Speed Chess / Gambit Pileup / Out-Gambitted: The major appeal of the series is watching Ayumu, the BlaChil and later, the Hunters, attempt to outsmart and kill each other. The Kanone arc of the manga is basically five volumes of these.
- However, it was Lost in Translation and turned into a generic cry of pain by Yen Press.