by Mayu Shinjo; adapted by Tetsuchiro Miyaki
published by Viz; $9.99 US
I sometimes wonder if there’s something wrong with me because I don’t follow creators devotedly. I loved Mayu Shinjo’s Sensual Phrase, the story of a young lyricist and the rock band she gets involved with (although maybe now I should reread it to see if I still enjoy it as much), but I didn’t care at all for Ai Ore!, her next (unfinished) series to be translated here.
Now comes Demon Love Spell, a fantasy romance with her usual sexual overtones. I’m not a fan of the “girl deals with demons” genre in the first place. These days, I’d rather see stories that seem a bit more like real life. Layer it in with “cute but dorky girl can’t do what she’s supposed to because she’s adorably clueless”, and I’m not the target audience.
Miko’s supposed to be a shrine maiden, taking care of the place of worship and banishing demons, but unlike her father, she can’t actually sense spirits. When a classmate comes to her, complaining about how a womanizing boy named Kagura “couldn’t be human” and manage to date so many girls, Miko takes her seriously and tries to exorcise the slutty player. Turns out he really is an incubus, and her spell binds his powers and turns him doll-like, shrinking him to about six inches high.
Contact with the now tiny Kagura gives Miko the ability to see the demons she overlooked before, which helps her in her dream of following the family trade. Since Miko lets him ride around in her cleavage, Kagura’s also happy. He returns to adult size in her dreams, where he seduces her to build his power. So this comic has everything a teen girl might want:
- Heroine with lots of flaws, so the reader can feel “if she can do this, I certainly can”
- Sexy guy who will literally die if he doesn’t make her happy; her pleasure is what he lives for, but since it’s in dreams, nothing really happens
- Cute doll/pet-like friend (who pretends to be a toy keychain on her bag) who’s always with her and protects her
- A boy who seems tough and powerful but only reveals his soft, caring side to her, making her feel special — and all three are the same guy!
- A star-crossed romance: He’s a demon! She’s a demonslayer! However will they make their love work?
- An excuse to enjoy sex without reproach: he needs it to stay alive, even if only in dreams
- And a selfless motive: By distracting his attention to her only, Miko is protecting all the other girls from being used and discarded, so it’s not selfish to keep him to herself, it’s charitable.
I’m impressed by how these various elements are blended by Shinjo into something that almost makes sense. There’s a certain amount of alternately wacky and wicked humor here, too. I was reminded of Midori Days, that manga about the guy whose hand turns into a girl, or maybe Minima!, about a troublesome magical pet. The scenes where little Kagura is hanging out with the hamster his size reinforced those associations.
Shinjo’s theme of a girl who thinks she wants a relationship but isn’t confident in her desires yet reappears, as Miko begins refusing Kagura access to her dreams because she’d rather build their memories together in real life. That’s complicated when a rival, a transformed fox spirit, appears in Book 2. (He’s mostly human but still has ears and a tail, making for a cute manga visual convention.)
There’s a lot of “I love you and want you! No, wait!” but I suppose that’s authentically adolescent. I didn’t care very much for the story where a mind-controlled Miko tries to kill Kagura, particularly when the way-overused rape threat was trotted out, but it was neat to see him interacting with her parents. This series has grown on me more than I suspected it would. (The publisher provided review copies.)