Demon Love Spell
あやかし恋絵巻 (Ayakashi Koi Emaki)
Shoujo – Romance, supernatural, comedy, smut
6 Volumes (complete)
Miko wants to inherit her family’s shrine, but she can’t see or detect spirits! One day, she accidentally shrinks the most powerful demon, the incubus Kagura, into a chibi form. Kagura won’t give up until he goes back to his regular form. But he needs love to survive!
While it won’t make anybody’s top 10 list, Demon Love Spell is an enjoyable romp, especially since the male lead doesn’t get to “romp” much.
Shinjo is definitely a polarizing author. She obviously has some popularity and recognizability (two other series of hers have been released, more than YAZAWA Ai, for instance), but she has been criticized for her weak heroines and smutiness. I own three of her series (including this one), but I would not necessarily call myself a fan. I will say she deserves some of her criticism, but other of her flaws can be found in other popular authors’ works as well.
But back to Demon Love Spell. It was conceived as a two-shot but was extended. Even after becoming a serial, however, it was only released in special issues. So it faces some significant structural differences than a normal bi-weekly or monthly shoujo series. The original two-shot features Miko and Kagura already becoming a couple since, of course, that was going to be the end of the story. In a typical serialization, they probably would not officially get together for at least another couple of chapters. Most characters and plotlines are introduced for a chapter or two and then disappear forever. It’s obvious Shinjo didn’t know how long the story would go on, and she even confirms it in the author’s comments. One arc, for instance, makes a big deal about a “lovey-dovey day”, yet the idea is never brought up again. I would have thought this should be rather important since Kagura always wants an excuse to get in the mood and Miko often hesitates. One chapter in particular did make an impression on me, but otherwise, story arcs are pretty episodic and stand alone. Time also flies by in-universe. In volume 3, Kagura has been living at the shrine for a year, but I don’t feel I’ve met with Kagura and Miko enough to have a whole year pass. (Volume-wise, it isn’t unusual, but the chapters are thicker than most and some take place immediately after the previous.)
Despite its shortcomings, the length of the series actually helps the story. If it had gone on much longer, it would be harder to recommend Demon Love Spell since the author would have to have either a) continue to stall the sexual tension or b) turn it into full smut. Either would have diminished its comedic aspects. And the comedy — particularly the earlier volumes in which Mini Kagura plays a bigger part — is a significant part of the story. The comedy (thankfully) does not solely rely on Kagura’s reluctant abstinence. The fractured fairy tale chapter is a particular delight. I wish there were more stories in this series like that one.
Between the two leads, I actually think Kagura is the better character. The “demon/monster gets subdued by a girl and then they fall in love” story has been done before, and most of the time, the demon is quite pissed. The first few chapters usually involve the powerless monster looking to seize an opportunity to get their powers back and perhaps get revenge on the heroine. While Kagura does not want to be stuck in his chibi mode, he falls for Miko quickly. He never really goes through self-doubt or loathing because he falls for a human (and a servant of the gods, at that). Despite his sexual escapades, he almost has a child-like view of love: he likes her, so he wants to be with her and have Miko like him back. He also tells her his feelings. It’s amazing (especially for a monster of lust) that he doesn’t remain silent and expects Miko to somehow divine how he feels because he keeps pouncing on her. Of course, he does still want to make love to her (and freely admits it and tries to keep the topic in Miko’s mind), but he does manage to control himself when necessary. It also doesn’t hurt that Kagura’s chibi form is pretty comedic. He (somewhat reluctantly) becomes friends with a hamster, and he (very reluctantly) finds himself being treated like a doll or keychain.
Miko is pretty much a typical “I-love-him-but-do-I-really-I-can’t-love-him-I-really-love-him” shoujo heroine. Kagura actually calls her a tsundere. It’s not just that she is hesitant about the physical part of their relationship; she is indecisive about the relationship itself. Her friend in the last volume finally tells her what she needed to hear several volumes earlier. Miko is not the worst or most irritating heroine, but she really needed some more moments where she believed in Kagura and their love.
Often in shoujo stories with a live-in boyfriend, the parents are either a) absent (most of the time living elsewhere) or b) completely clueless about the guy’s sadistic and/or perverted streak. Miko’s parents go out for work a lot, but they are not uninvolved in their daughter’s life. They discover Kagura’s true form early in the story, and Miko’s dad takes on the typical overprotective father role. Unlike a lot of dads, he actually has the power to reign in Kagura. Of course, as I discussed earlier. The mom does not play as much of a part, but she still gets a few key comedic moments. I also cannot neglect the pet hamster, Mini Kagura’s neighbor and friend.
Art-wise, if you’ve read on Shinjo manga, please copy and paste the leads into here. Even the side characters bare a striking resemblance to the two main characters. There is a slight art shift over the course of the series. This isn’t too surprising since she didn’t draw them on a regular basis. Very few artists’ styles do not change over six years. The pages and panels are crisp and clear. However, I never did think Shinjo’s art was very expressive. I don’t feel the characters light up when they’re happen or sink into depression when they’re sad.
No honorifics are used. Miko’s job is translated as “priestess”, the direct translation of “miko”. It does downplay the “Miko is a miko” joke that comes up early in the series. Several words are kept in Japanese with little to no translation notes. In volume 3, for instance, Kagura says he’s going to sleep in the washitsu room. A chapter involving the mixed-up fairy tales is given no explanation other than one quick, non-descriptive sentence. The actual text is pretty typical Viz Media with straightforward sentences. Spells are fully translated.
This is actually one of Shinjo’s best. Her best may still not be enough, though. It’s not a must-read but not a terrible series to choose to marathon. If you’re looking for a sexier light romcom, Demon Love Spell just might fit the bill.
Viz Media has released two other of her series: Sensual Phrase and Ai Ore!