Spiral (The Ring, Vol. 3)
Koji Suzuki, Sakura Mizuki

I have to thank the Japanese for completely making the Ring series far too confusing for their own good. While the novels have taken a certain path, the movies (and by intimate association, the manga) have gone in a more splintered path. I guess the whole "making two attempts at direct sequels" to the first film has made it all a little confusing. As with the film Rasen, the manga Spiral takes the path that the book sequel develops, shying away from the malevolent horror to a more supernatural mystery/thriller.

As with the book, Spiral follows the story from the perspective of Ando (I have no idea why its spelled as Andoh in the manga), who must perform an autopsy on his former schoolmate Ryuji. For those with short memories, Ryuji died at the end of Ring, a victim of a cursed videotape that kills anyone who watches it after seven days. Ando's investigation into Ryuji's death leads him to a string of victims and a realization that the cursed videotape is only the surface of the issue. Of all the connections Ando makes, his meeting with Mai Takano, Ryuji's girlfriend, becomes the strongest in dragging him deep into the mystery of the cursed tape and deadly virus it spreads.

Unlike the failed movie sequel, Spiral follows the events of the book with a great degree of depth and detail. While not every single aspect is word-for-word, it follows the intent of the novel with a firm conviction that drives home what Koji Suzuki was trying to do. Spiral was never intended to continue Sadako as the violent spirit killing people from beyond. It was intended to put a real-world face to the true cause of the curse. With that said, though, the manga does a really wonderful job in making Sadako's return creepy on a scale that one might never think possible.

This is all because of illustrator Sakura Mizuki. Unlike the illustrators from the other mangas, Mizuki's rendition of Sadako is quite disturbing. This isn't because of he dumps a lot of gristle or detail, but because her face looks so off-kilter. The art for Spiral is clean and crisp, a far more minimalist approach where darker tones are rarely used. The characters have a bit of personality in the way they're drawn and the dramatic events of the story feel well handled by the style.

Although Spiral takes a different path than the movies and the associated mangas, it does prove to be a worthy entry in the series, if only for its faithfulness to the written word. The art is probably my favorite in the series and I enjoy the way it handles the supernatural drama. If you enjoy the Ring series, this title should be in your collection.

- - Kinderfeld

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