Spirit Circle Volume 1 Manga Review
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: Fuuta Okeya was born with a mysterious birthmark on his cheek and the ability to see spirits but all he wants is to be a normal 14 year old boy in his 2nd year of middle school and grow closer to the new transfer student, Kouko Ishigami. Despite his attempts to keep his birthmark hidden and his attempts to bond with Kouko, things take a turn for the worse. Not only is Kouko hostile to him, she declares that they’re enemies who’ve hated each other for several lifetimes and she won’t rest until she has killed him. This sets off a chain of events that ensure that Fuuta’s life will be anything but ordinary and peaceful from now on.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Let’s get the most obvious flaw of Spirit Circle out of the way. It’s art is ugly..there’s just no denying it. Any reader who has been pampered by finer works of art in manga might immediately grimace looking at the peculiar character facial designs and the rough art. But if you can look past the art style and quality, there’s actually an enjoyable tale to be found here which may not be flawless but entertains all the same.
Spirit Circle starts off with a grand showdown, one that quickly reveals itself to be a flash forward and sets up the tone for the rest of the story.There’s no actual combat depicted in the pages but the coloured scenes do enough to give you a sense of action and energy. The following transition to a normal slice of life scene is immediate and swift, cutting away from the middle of a battle to a conversation between our protagonist, Fuuta and his two male buddies, Mashiro Tetsuma and Takayama Daiki. Their conversation reads like a typical one for characters their age in a slice of life story as they discuss the news of a transger student joining their class and makes for a stark contrast to the previous pages but helps to establish how ‘average’ life is for Fuuta otherwise.
Spirit Circle moves fast from page to page, which should delight readers who want their information dished out quick without becoming overwhelming though there’s a legitimate concern of Spirit Circle being too much of tell, and not showing and developing its cast and story in an organic manner and pace. In fact, we do not even realize that Fuuta is good friends or even friends at all with two female classmates until he mentions it to Kouko.
The past lives angle of Spirit Circle is quickly introduced and implemented and definitely the central focus of its first volume. We get to observe several past lives of Fuuta, some of which are nothing more than random and vague dream sequences while others are told in a lot more detail. It’s a rather unique way of getting to know your protagonists, as we watch them be themselves and yet also different people as we jump from one life to another. What makes it all the more intriguing is the fact that our protagonists seemed to have been very different people from one life to another, making for a story where you cannot immediately judge who is the good guy and who’s the bad guy.This reincarnation plot also gives the story the freedom to jump in between different time periods and set up, mixing things up and preventing the story from feeling stagnant. All in all, this makes for a solid story and while the transitions between lives may not always be the smoothest, they hold together without coming off as confusing or too disjointed to follow along for the reader.
Moving on to characters, in Volume 1, the focus is very much on Fuuta and to some degree, Kouko. There are a handful of characters introduced who pop in and out of from time to time but they never get any significant character exploration besides a short description through Fuuta’s conversation with Kouko nor do they seem that essential to the plot, atleast for now. It’s likely we’ll see a lot more of them in the upcoming volumes as seeing how close Fuuta is to his friends, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the story reveals them to have been a part of his previous lives too, and thus exponentially build up their importance.
Volume 1’s vibe is all about introducing us to the complicated relationship between Kouko and Fuuta in their previous lives. As mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of previous life exploration with almost every single one having a great tinge of tragedy. There’s also a lot of mystery left as to exactly why Kouko possesses so much unbridled hatred towards Fuuta, and why she seems extremely well aware of these reincarnation circles and powers while Fuuta seems completely clueless, most obviously to give the reader a reason to keep reading further.
To wrap it all up, while the art of Spirit Circle makes it look less than promising and may test more sensitive or refined eyes, the story it tells is brimming with promise, especially for those readers who love the mystery surrounding the concept of reincarnation. Spirit Circle uses that concept to tell a story that feels pretty unique thanks to the fact that we’re exploring several different lifetimes simultaneously. For now, our current day protagonists may not necessarily feel all that interesting or unique but the stories of their previous lives do. They’re not only attention grabbing but they introduce interesting concepts of morality and grey areas of right and wrong and help to alleviate the rather mixed up tone of the story that keeps jumping from silly to tragic to serious and might feel unbalanced from time to time. Spirit Circle is potentially a good fit for any reader in search of a supernatural mystery that features a young and lively cast, while also dabbling in tragedy/drama and a healthy bit of action. Just brace yourself for some peculiar art style and a constantly changing tone.