Spirit Circle, Vol. 1

By Satoshi Mizukami. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialized in the magazine Young King Ours. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jocelyne Allen, Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.

I greatly enjoyed Mizukami’s last series to be published over here, Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, and so was definitely looking forward to this. The first volume is very much a manga of two halves. In the first half we set up the situation and meet out heroes and find out what grudges they may have against each other. That said, this is also a tale of reincarnation. And so the second half of the manga is seeing Fuuta’s past lives, which are various types of tragic so far, and seeing him grow as he slowly starts to remember things. Being a first volume, I’m unsure whether the bulk of the series will be the war between Fuuta and Kouko or the flashback lives – hopefully it will continue to be somewhat balanced – but it’s off to a pretty good start, and is only six volumes, so is unlikely to wear out its welcome.

Our hero, as seen on the cover, is Fuuta, a nebbish dude who can see spirits. Our heroine is the girl on the BACK cover, Kouko, a new mysterious transfer student ™ who initially seems rather cool and standoffish but once Fuuta gets to know her proves to be much worse. Because after she throws him headfirst down a flight of stairs (as you do), he suddenly finds himself flashing back to his previous lives, reincarnation style. No, they aren’t long-lost soulmates – in fact, long-lost enemies is a better term for it, and in the two lives that we see in this initial volume, Fuuta’s past selves make life miserable for Kouko’s past selves – or in some cases simply kill her outright. Helping the two of them are two ghostly familiars – hers is older and serene, his is the bubble pinkette on the cover.

The familiars are a weak part of the book so far – Juno, the pink girl, seems to fulfill no function Except to be bubbly and cute in a series with two rather dour leads. The strong part of the book are the previous lives – the second one in particular could almost be a different, separate manga, and shows Fuuta’s rather bitter and cynical past self, cursed by the witch he killed (Kouko, of course, who was literally making a medicine to save a village, but hey, witch) and living a rather desolate and depressing life, till he is redeemed to an extent by an abandoned child. I’m not actually sure if Kouko and Fuuta will get set up romantically, by the way – certainly she’s not fond of him right now, and the past lives both seem to hint of a connection to some other girl (who, if she’s in the present, we haven’t seen yet). Indeed, a romance may not be the point of this at all.

This first volume does its job quite well – it’s good, and I want to read the next one. That’s really all you can ask for in a new series.