Wasted potential and an unfinished story
“Mugen Spiral” (Japanese for “Dream Spiral”) is almost a great comic. It has an interesting premise, well-developed characters, lovely art and the story starts strong but the whole thing just sort of…fizzles out. It fizzles so hard, in fact, that one wonders if the series was canceled out from under author Mizuho Kusanagi (as happened with her other 2-volume series Game X Rush) of if Kusanagi just isn’t that great of a storyteller. She is a fantastic artist, to be sure, but of the two series I have read of hers now, both have the same rambling narrative without anything resembling a satisfying conclusion. (Although she is currently on volume five of NG Life, so she must have improved in that area.)
Originally serialized in Shojo magazine “Hana to Yume” in 2004, “Mugen Spiral” begins right in the middle of the action. Sixteen-year old Yayoi (a name I kept misreading as Yaoi…) is the 78th in the line of Suzuka mystics, and the wielder of the Spirit Wheel that gives her access to the assistance of 108 guardian spirits as well as other powers. Being the most powerful mystic on Earth also makes her the prime target of a race of demons who absorb other’s powers by killing them, and are currently in a battle royal contest to see who will become the new King of the Demons. Every demon wants to drain Yayoi dry, and the first up to the plate is Ura, son of the current King who foresees an easy victory over Yayoi. She proves a little more difficult to kill, however, and seals away Uru’s power with a Cat’s God Rosary that forces him into the shape of a harmless and very cute black cat. All of this happens on the first three pages.
From there we get to move on to the comedy/action/romance series that works really well. Yayoi decides to keep kitty Uru as a pet, much to the Demon Prince’s chagrin as he keeps insisting that he will scarf down Yayoi as a tasty meal as soon as he frees himself from the Cat God’s Rosary. Of course, then some other demon’s come hunting for Yayoi and she finds that she may need Uru’s help to stay alive long enough so that he can kill her. Also into the mix come Hakuyo, Ura’s younger cousin, who wants to see Ura win the Demon Throne so that he can take his place as Ura’s lover and live a life of luxury, and Ouga, Ura’s younger brother who envies and hates is older brother, and uses this moment of weakness to striker and claim the throne for himself.
Overall I thought the series was balanced very well, with great action in the demon battles followed by the comedy scenes of Ura in cat-mode (I love the scenes where he gets angry because Yayoi pets him in the wrong direction, or where neighborhood cats give him advice on his owner), and a fully believable developing romance between Yayoi and Ura. Long ago Ura declared that he would never love a woman who wasn’t stronger than him, and after having been bested by Yayoi he finds himself impressed and attached to her. Meanwhile, Hakuyo, seeing his dreams for an easy life slip away, becomes the prankster character who tries to break the bond between Yayoi and Ura.
So where does the series fizzle? Right at the end. Clearly, there was enough story here for five volumes, but all of the sudden in the midst of the greatest point of drama, just when one threat has been defeated and the stage has been set for a new and more powerful enemy, when Yayoi and Ura almost admit their feelings, you turn the page and…you see the words “The End.”
That’s right, the series just ends. Right out of the blue. No resolution, the promised new enemy never appears, the romance never blossoms, the cat-curse remains unbroken, the demon throne untaken…absolutely nothing is resolved. And there is so much more story that could be told. We meet only two of the 108 spirits commanded by Yayoi, and could have met more. More demons could have attacked, and Ura could have been pulled further between his love for Yayoi and his duty to his father and his people. Seriously, the series could have gone on for at least four more volumes.
So what happened? I have no idea. The final fourth of the book is given over to two “Mugen Spiral Special Stories” that are well-done but only frustrating due to the lack of conclusion. They are brief character sketches that deal with Yayoi, Ura, Hakuyo and Ouga as children and some events that developed their characters. They would have been nice side-stories in the main plot, if it had ever been allowed to resolve.
I wish Mizuho Kusanagi would go back and finish “Mugen Spiral” someday, but seeing as how the series is now six years old that isn’t likely to happen. This single-volume collection collects what was previous two separate volumes and is in a little bit larger size than your average manga. It is billed as a “Complete Collection” and that is technically true, as all the “Mugen Spiral” published is collected here, but it is hard to call this unfinished story “Complete.”