The Ghost And The Grudge: Should You Be Reading ‘Spirit Circle’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
Satoshi Mizukami's Spirit Circle is about destiny and reincarnation. More meaningfully, it's about forgiveness and compassion --- how to heal your blood rift. It's a series that warns the reader implicitly against binge reading, while also acknowledging that the reader, like the main character, will be way too invested to listen.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Spirit Circle frames what's technically an anthology book with modern school children's attempts to grapple with the resentments and investments left over from the previous lives they all knew each other in, in different formations. The meat of the narrative is in protagonist Fuuta remembering those past lives. How?
A new girl arrives at his school, and she has a ghost in tow; she tells our Fuuta that they're destined enemies, with centuries worth of interactive enmity built up between their eternal souls. Who wronged who first? Who wronged who last? And does it have to matter, in the here and in the now?
Fuuta doesn't want to hate Kouko --- he thinks she's pretty cute. Kouko is openly disgusted, because she already remembers everything they've done to each other before. As Fuuta experiences more of his past lives (he's warned not to do this too much; he doesn't listen), and Kouko's hate is destabilised by his gentle attitude and humble overtures, it becomes clear that, while there were plenty of wrongs and mistakes in the past lives that he and we have seen, there's something truly sinister yet to come.
WHO’S IT BY?
Satoshi Mizukami has a penchant for comedy, which is low-key but occasionally present in this otherwise emotionally heavy book. It's a visual, slapstick style that doesn't necessarily register as tonally appropriate to a western reader.
This shouldn't put a reader off, as these insertions are short and sparse, and don't shade the light of the greater content. They're generally focused upon Fuuta's guardian ghost, a girl, who turns up after not too long, and "loves cosplay". A throwback character, who is allowed depth of feeling and increased relevance as Fuuta's past life regressions progress. (This is when she isn't functioning as clueless fan service, though her breastier scenes are at least balanced by a respectfully sexless scene of toplessness for another character, early on.)
Spirit Circle is Mizukami's most recent work.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Emotion. Deep, complex, varying emotions, across circumstances, ages, outlooks... all of which belong to one soul, and all of which are processed through one teenaged boy. His willingness to forgive, to move on from whatever happened in the past --- his willingness to apologise for his past selves' sins, and to mourn the people he knew in those lives in his modern, present one --- tell a reader that this is an uncommon child.
But it also shows the reader how to make him common by becoming like him: how to open oneself to vulnerability and connection in ways that match his capacities; how to empathise. That's a skill that can't be underestimated.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Those who may be struggling with a grudge, or with the knowledge that they have hurt somebody; those looking for historical manga, and those in search of shounen stories that prize compassion and affection.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?
Three volumes are currently available on Crunchyroll; updates are ongoing.