Today I discuss two recent volumes of Yen Press' Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning. These volumes really up the ante concering the mystery surrounding "the Blade Children," but leave the mastermind behind it all too much like a god-like puppetmaster, out-of-reach from the characters' view and the readers' understanding.
These two volumes introduce a new character -- Kanon -- who has come to Japan to literally end the suffering of the Blade Children by killing them and then killing himself. He's creepily cheerful about his mission and also surprisingly effective. While most of the Blade Children and the protagonist Ayumu like to talk a good game they completely suck at that thing known as "follow through" (aka plot momentum). Previous volumes of Spiral tend to feature lengthy cat-and-mouse games in which antagonists talk at each other for long periods, explaining the various conditions and puzzle pieces that will allow them to come out on top in any variety of stand-off situations they find themselves in.
These volumes are an improvement over previous ones precisely because Kanon is a man of action and pretty much immediately strikes out at one of the Blade Children -- a precious and beloved childhood companion -- the second he sets foot on Japanese soil. In other words, this little shit means business. He first strikes with violence in the sixth volume, and when he learns that his attempts haven't been successful in the seventh he appears to pretty much lose it. Which means more violence and more people in danger. The stakes have been raised but it isn't clear if there will be a pay-off commensurate with the life-and-death outcomes the creator is trying out.
There's a new sense of menace in these volumes and a somewhat half-baked attempt to speak to the psychological effects of being a tool of someone so powerful he can control people's behavior years in advance. The end of the 7th volume returns the psychological focus to Ayumu and his bizarre emotional hang-ups concerning his brother. Everyone in the book treats his brother like a brilliant (and potentially evil) mastermind, including Ayumu himself. The characters all seem to imply that all the violence and danger occurring has been set in motion by Ayumu's brother to inspire Ayumu to reach for greatness in order to stop it.
In other words, everybody is a pawn to help one individual achieve some form of self-actualization. All I can say is, for all the people being messed with, that better be some damn good self-actualization at the end of all this. The narrative, in the long run, hinges less on the creepy-manipulator brother than the hopes that the main character can get his act together and come out the hero of his own story.
Review copies provided by Yen Press.