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Review: Mugen Spiral Omnibus

Sixteen-year-old Yayoi is descended from a powerful line of mystics tasked with protecting the human world from the demon. When Ura, a demon prince, attempts to steal her powers, Yayoi transforms him into a cat and treats him as a house pet, temporarily lifting the spell on him when she needs help defeating powerful foes. Yayoi and Ura’s uneasy truce is threatened by the arrival of Ouga, Ura’s younger brother, who wants to make Yayoi’s gifts his own so that he might rule the demon world. Yayoi now faces a tough choice: should she break the seal on Ura, freeing him to fight Ouga, or should Ura remain in her thrall?

Mugen Spiral: The Complete Two-Volume Series
By Mizuho Kusanagi
Rating: Teen (Mild violence, mild gore, mild language, non-sexual nudity)
2010, Tokyopop, ISBN: 9781427818508
$14.99, 400 pp.

First published in 2007, Mugen Spiral reads a lot like other horror-fantasy manga such as InuYasha, Night of the Demons, and Her Majesty’s Dog. Part of the problem is the staleness of the basic concept: how many series also feature a pretty teen mystic trading barbs with a handsome, untrustworthy demon as they team up against a common foe? The other problem is that Mugen Spiral never reaches a satisfactory conclusion. The story comes to an abrupt halt just as Yayoi and Ura are reaching a critical stage in their battle with Ouga; it’s as if Mizuho Kusanagi was planning a longer series with several major story arcs, only to have her publisher cancel Mugen Spiral just as she was wrapping up the first one.

Where Mugen Spiral shines is in its more relaxed moments. Yayoi and Ura’s owner-pet dynamic is funny, as Ura gossips with the neighborhood strays and schemes to bump off Yayoi; much as he grumbles about his new form, Ura proves surprisingly adept at being a house cat. Though Yayoi and Ura’s antagonism is to be expected — it’s de rigeur in this kind of shojo fantasy — their banter suggests that the grudging respect they feel for one another is genuine, not contrived, making it easy to see how their mutual admiration slowly blossoms into a romantic attachment. And the few supporting players — most notably Hakuyo, Ura’s younger cousin — offer additional comic relief without expanding the cast to unmanageable proportions.

I’m of two minds about the new Tokyopop all-in-one-edition. On the plus side, the new binding offers shojo lovers a short, entertaining story in an economical package; the omnibus retails for $14.99, making it considerably less expensive than the two individual volumes. The larger trim size is also a plus, allowing Kusanagi’s sometimes busy layouts more space to breathe. On the minus side, the print quality is mediocre; some of the pages look smudgy, a problem compounded by the greyish paper stock. I’m not sure how well the paperback binding will hold up to vigorous circulation; librarians may prefer the the older library editions, which had more durable covers. (You can find more information about those volumes here.)

In sum, Mugen Spiral is a decent if predictable series that should please fans of supernatural romance.

Review copy provided by TOKYOPOP.

Katherine Dacey About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.


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