Fuuta Okeya is just your average, unassuming middle schooler. So average and unassuming it’s hard to believe the new transfer student Kouko Ishigami wants him dead for atrocities he committed in a past life.
The Past Lives:
Since they often pull the e-brake on pacing, I tend to cringe when a flashback wedges itself into a narrative, but in the case of this manga, I looked forward to its flashbacks of Fuuta’s past lives, because his previous reincarnations had much more interesting lives. One life had him as a knight who slays an alleged witch, gets cursed, gets disowned by the knights and his family, and starts living with a bunch of drunks. In comparison, his modern life just isn’t that exciting, even with a murderous middle schooler in it.
Reincarnation seems like a straightforward enough notion. You die, get reborn, die, get reborn, ad infinitum. The manga maintains this simplicity at first, but by its third act, things get real complicated real fast. I like a heaping dose of complexity to my stories, but this manga slaps you in the face with its bungled-up plot, barely gives you the time to register what you just got slapped with, then leaves you to untangle the mystery item after sticking Chinese finger traps on all your fingers.
The Murderous Middle Schooler:
For most of this manga, Kouko isn’t that likeable of a person. She spends most of her time assaulting or threatening Fuuta, and her grudge against him for the actions of a long-distant past life comes off as the most petty thing I’ve ever seen in a person. That’s like getting arrested because you had the audacity to live three houses down from a pedophile.
I don’t believe in it, but reincarnation as a concept fascinates me, especially when it explains life circumstances or that assumption that a stranger we just met comes off like the type to snort cocaine on the holidays. Spirit Circle does a bang-up job at weaving these attributes into its narrative, though it oversteps its bounds a tad when it starts bringing alternate universes into the mix. The redemption of Fuuta’s past life’s crimes is engaging, but I think working that action out and putting the focus on the growth of Fuuta’s soul during its reincarnations might’ve made for an even more compelling drama. Oh well. Maybe in the next life.