I can't say I was looking forward to a new title from Mayu Shinjo. Her works tend to be...well, kind of rapey and irritating. Still, I saw a lot of reviews saying that THIS series was different. Will this be something new and interesting or is it just Shinjo harping on the same clichés?
DEMON LOVE SPELL (Ayakashi Koi Emaki), by Mayu Shinjo. First published in 2008, and first published in North America in 2013.
Miko is the only daughter of a long line of shrine keepers. Her family is renowned for demon exorcisms. Miko is enthusiastic about fighting demons, but unfortunately for her she's kind of lousy at it. Unlike her parents, she can't actually see the demons and has trouble remembering which spell seals away what demon. One day she gets lucky when she hears about a boy who keeps cheating on his girlfriend, and seals away what turns out to be the incubus Kagura in a convenient doll-sized form.
Kagura only wants to get back to normal size, but Miko isn't sure quite how to do so. Still, he needs female contact to live, so he's content to hide on her person and occasionally try to sex Miko up in her dreams. Miko puts up with it because his presence allows her to sense and see other demons, although soon enough she begins to questions whether her feelings are truly professional.
Shinjo's stories tend to play things along the same shoujo romance plot structure that we've been reading for decades. The most notable thing she tends to add is a greater emphasis on sex and sensuality, generally painting her male leads as the sexiest things to grace the pages of manga and making liberal use of the Rape card. It's safe to say that I'm not a fan of hers. While I can't say that Demon Love Spell completely sold me on her and her works, I can say with confidence that it IS a step forward. She's made a few little changes to her formula, and it's vastly to this work's benefit.
Miko is very much your generic shoujo heroine. She's spunky, good natured, and completely innocent when it comes to boys and sex so that she can stretch the drama out further with the old "why is my heart beating so fast?" act. Kagura, on the other hand, is a little different. Personality-wise he's very much your typical Shinjo love interest - dark-haired, leering, sleezy. Once he's chibified, though, Shinjo gets a lot of comedy out of his situation. He's forced to wear cutesy doll clothes. He has to conceal himself as things like a purse charm or even as a hamster. And worst of all for him, he's now completely dependent on Miko for the affection and touching he needs to sustain himself. It's this power reversal which makes this story so enjoyable. Miko is the one who holds the reins in this relationship, and while Kagura does his best to win her over through sexytimes in dreamspace, she's mostly resistant to his charms. He can't seduce her, so their relationship has to be built up gradually as a proper partnership, and that's where the greatest charm of this story is found.
I'd never thought I would find a Mayu Shinjo work that was so funny. I'd also never though I would find one that didn't have an exploitative, one-sided relationship. Nonetheless, Demon Love Spell possesses both, and it's easily her best work.
Shinjo's art is kind of old-fashioned for shoujo. Her male characters are still very much stuck in the 90s, with needle-sharp chins, gangly proportions, and messy, pointy hair. The girls are generically cute, as is Chibi!Kagura. There's a lot of big, broad reactions, which makes sense considering the greater emphasis on comedy. Nothing's heavily detailed, save for the screen-toned prints used for the demons' kimonos. Backgrounds are shockingly blank, filled instead with a variety of screentones and textures. Her artwork is ultimately nothing special and even a little behind-the-times, but it does what it needs to do.
Nothing to see here.
This series is published by Viz. This series is ongoing in Japan, with 6 volumes available so far. 5 volumes have been published, and all are currently in print.
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