Spell of Desire
魔女の媚薬 (Majo no Biyaku)
Josei – Romance, supernatural, smut
5 Volumes (complete)
Kaoruko has a quiet, serene life running an herb shop. However, one day a man comes in with a surprising announcement: her mother is a witch, and her mother’s power as the Witch Queen is now inside Kaoruko! Will Kaoruko be able to control her new powers or her growing feeling for her mother’s knight Kaname?
This series didn’t put me under its spell.
So why didn’t I care for Spell of Desire? I can’t quite put my finger on it. When I first read volumes one through three, I thought maybe it was the characters. No, Kaoruko and Kaname are not idiots, jerks, or annoying. I thought maybe it was because neither have a strong personality. While as annoying as genki and tsundere types can be, those type of characters are also more likely to leave an impression on you (good or bad). In RPG terms, think of Kaoruko and Kaname as characters with medium stats across the board, ones with perfect pentagons or heptagons on a radar chart. Kaname, for instance, makes several comments about how he’ll teach Kaoruko the ways of enjoying womanhood. Unlike other leads who make passes at the heroine, he doesn’t do so in an overly flirtatious or sexual way; his comments are just that: comments. Kaoruko doesn’t accept the concept of witches at first, but she doesn’t keep denying them. Their personalities are probably closer to real people than many characters with more extreme traits, but they are also not as interesting to read about. There’s a reason why you don’t see so-called normal or regular people on reality show: they wouldn’t get the attention.
This time around, however, I started to suspect my lack of interest in this series was due to the lack of world-building. While Kaname gives some basic information to Kaoruko at the beginning, there is so much we as readers don’t know. What does the coven of witches do? What do most witches do? Is there a coven for white witches, and did nobody take interest in the granddaughter of the great white witch? Who knows. Even when Kaoruko starts her formal training, she doesn’t receive (or ask for) many explanations. More info about Kaoruko’s mother is given in the last volume, but there really was little need to wait that long.
Speaking of the last volume, Ohmi decides to implement at least two instances of “start at the end, go back and explain what’s going on, then pick up from the beginning of the chapter”. The events that are happening are all connected and are occurring in chronological order; there was absolutely no reasons to randomly make the bulk of the chapters a flashback. While most pages of flashbacks feature a black border, these do not. It’s jarring and, more importantly, ruins the strength of the characters’ decisions. Why should I as a reader care about what is currently happening when I’ve already seen the future? I know the author mentions after one particularly weak chapter she was ill, but I don’t know if being sick affected the rest of the series or whether if it progressed as planned. She does mention she never got to bring in some characters and some threads were left untied, so I imagine Spell of Desire ended at least a little bit earlier than planned. It sure feels like it. The final events don’t fully make sense, but I won’t go into that for spoiler reasons.
Outside of Kaoruko and Kaname (whom I’ve already covered earlier), there really aren’t that many other characters. While some are recurring, they don’t hang around for long after the story outgrows its need for them. More time is spent referring to people than them actually being in the story. Spell of Desire is purely Kaoruko and Kaname’s story, so don’t expect any really great side characters. The one really interesting one would be a treat for Ohmi fans…if the work he was from was available in English. Sigh… I will add we as readers are given a lot of insight into Kaname’s thoughts, so I found him much better than Kyohei in this regard.
The artwork is a cleaned-up version of Midnight Secretary. Fortunately, both hero and heroine are not clones of that series’ leads. The art is also brighter here since neither Kaoruko nor Kaname need to avoid light. So while the styles are similar, the visual tones are quite different. Ohmi uses plants to represent strong power, a rather unique choice. It’s much more interesting than the usual beams of light and sparkles, although at times the vines clearly look pasted on. Kaoruko and Kaname both have several versions of themselves. Kaoruko has her sedate and her seductive looks; Kaname’s face appears quite different depending on whether he has glasses or not, a trait shared with Kaya from Midnight Secretary. Animals in this series are quite cute in their pet forms, but the fact all the witches wear boring robes is a visual disappointment. The sensual scenes focus on the two leads’ feelings for each other rather than finding excuses to get them naked. Fans of her earlier work will not be disappointed.
No honorifics are used. This is hardly surprising considering the publisher, translator, and adapter. Most honorifics are simply dropped, but “Mr.” is included in front of Kaname’s last name for story reasons. Otherwise, there’s not much to say. It’s a faithful adaptation.
Out of all of Viz Media’s josei offerings, I feel the least desire to reread this one. (Yes, I had to do both puns.) Midnight Secretary has the strong female lead and the supernatural elements, Happy Marriage?! has the romance, and Butterflies, Flowers has the comedy. Pick your pleasure.
The author is more famous for her work Midnight Secretary, also a title in the Shojo Beat line.
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