Life, Death, and the Amazing Spirit Circle
Full Spoilers Ahead
Spirit Circle is the third manga I’ve read by the mangaka Satoshi Mizukami. Hoshi no Samidare was an instant classic to me while Sengoku Youko was a thrilling escapade that while not as tight and perfect as the former still constantly impressed me and I fell in love with it just the same. Spirit Circle is the only other longer series he’s made thus far but it’s only 6 volumes. With it, I wanted to ascertain the truth of Satoshi Mizukami’s talent. Is he a great author capable of churning out hit after hit, or is he a fringe creator who makes something really great and something ok on random? I need to be fully honest with you. After reading Spirit Circle I am convinced that Satoshi Mizukami is the most underrated mangaka I’ve possibly ever encountered. This was easily on the level of Hoshi no Samidare if not better depending on what you’re looking for in a story.
This manga has a very weird premise which is very common in Mizukami’s manga and is a gigantic part of why I love his work so much. He makes manga that are atypical. They don’t conform to cliché tropes or anything of the sort. He writes weird shit that is constantly emotional, fun and engaging while using his cartoonishly adorable art style to tell vibrant stories brimming with personality. Spirit Circle is a story of love and of hatred. Of death and rebirth. The protagonist is Okeya Fuuta, a normal Japanese kid who quickly falls in love with Kouko, a transfer student who shows up at his school one day. Sounds cliché enough but once she discovers the birthmark on his left cheek she declares herself as his mortal enemy, takes out a magic ring weapon and tells him that she will kill him… after he uses the titular Spirit Circle to relive 7 former reincarnations of himself and to see where the origins of their eternal battle started. This is reincarnations in a weird timeline sort of way, so 3 of them end up actually being in the distant future. Just felt like pointing it out. They give some context for it but I’m only saying don’t go expecting it all to be the past, there’s some marvelous content here that I was surprised he could explore in only 6 volumes.
Fuuta relives the lives of his former selves Fone, Vaan, Flors, Houtaro, Lafelle, Fuuko and then finally the penultimate Fortuna, who is the the one behind the entire chain of events that led Kouko to hating Fortuna and his reincarnations for all time. Each of the reincarnations have vastly different lives and personalities, with each ending up having a bittersweet melancholy to their life and times. If you ask me the most interesting one besides Fortuna who started it all would have to be Lafelle. I want to touch on Lafelle real quick because of how insane it was and it felt like the best way to convince you of how powerful this story was. Lafelle lives in I believe the 32nd century way, waaaaay off in the distant future. His story starts with him becoming a worker in the Tower of Sleep. It’s kept vague what the Tower of Sleep is until the end of his first chapter, with him only shown to be washing glass cases in an unending row. His partner, Lapis (this lifetime’s reincarnation of Koko) gets along well with him as they make small talk about their vague job cleaning these glass cases which you can’t see the inside of. Only later do you learn that these glass cases retain the brains of dead people which are kept alive artificially, because society has reached the point where dying is a thing of the past so long as your brain is intact they just keep these brains alive and in a permanent dream state where they can continue to live. But are they really alive? Lafelle’s story had some amazing moral and ethical themes discussed within it and was a huge departure from what I expected this story to tell. Color me immensely impressed.
The most important of all the 7 lives that Fuuta goes through is the aforementioned Fortuna. He also lives in the distant future albeit much further along than Lafelle’s time. Fortuna lives in an age so advanced that society resembles a techno-fantasy world where magic is the norm. Here Fortuna is a young scholar and we see him grow increasingly so into a mad scientist with sociopathic tendencies in a thrilling character arc. With each of the past lives Fuuta relives he ends up taking parts of their traits into his own personality and his struggles to battle this bleeding effect make him much more interesting than your average protagonist even if he isn’t the most engaging character on his own merits. Kouko on the other hand is a fairly interesting character by herself solely from her past self’s apparent merge with her current consciousness. The result of this is one half of herself violently wishing to kill Fortuna’s reincarnation Fuuta, while the other part of her wishes to be a normal girl and maybe even date Fuuta.
The themes of death and rebirth flow through this work constantly. In every lifetime Fuuta is surrounded by his same group of friends in slightly different forms though each sharing similar traits from one another. The human drama that unfolds from each continues to be engaging, and I have to say… This really reminds me of Phoenix and Apollo no Uta, both by the legendary God of Manga himself Osamu Tezuka. This whole story is on the same epic scale as those masterpieces and I really, really can’t recommend it enough. This work convinced me that Satoshi Mizukami is some sort of genius and I am DEEPLY sad that he doesn’t have any more major works I can read yet. I really look forward to anything this amazing mangaka creates in the future.