Of course, there was plenty of shoujo series that were merely content to jump on the bandwagon, and apparently this year's bandwagon is "be just like Kamisama Kiss."
THE DEMON PRINCE OF MOMOCHI HOUSE (Momochi-san Chi no Ayakashi Oji), by Aya Shouto. First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2015.
Himari Momochi couldn't be happier to be getting a house for her 16th birthday. As an orphan, this house is her last connection to her birth family and she's determined to make this house her home. There's just one problem: the house is already occupied by all manner of spirits, led by the seemingly normal boy Aoi. It seems that years ago the house chose Aoi to become its protector, but Himari refuses to leave the house that is her birthright. Now she and Aoi must learn to live together if they're going to keep all the spirits satisfied.
Well, this manga may be a rather naked ripoff of Kamisama Kiss, but it at least has the decency to be a competent and occasionally enjoyable ripoff of Kamisama Kiss. It's not subtle about that fact, either. All the elements are there: a generically spunky heroine with no family to speak of, a cute boy who takes the form of a kitsune, a gaggle of spirits both big and small that need the help of said heroine, and a budding romance between our two leads that's ready to be dragged out for volumes at a time. I feel like I should be more offended by how much Shouto apes it, and yet I'm OK with it here. I suspect that the reason for that is almost entirely because of how Shouto handles the romance.
All too often in these sorts of stories, you'll see the girl try to fuss and fret over the boy while the boy does his best to get his tsundere on. This will go on for many, many volumes until the girl's innate kindness eventually wears down the boy and the two can finally become a couple. Shouto has wisely sidestepped that formula here. Aoi might resist Himari's presence at first, but he warms up to her fairly quickly and starts working with her to manage the household. He makes genuine effort to open up to Himari and explain things to her. Their relationship feels less like a battle of the sexes and more like a genuine and gentle friendship with the potential to blossom into something more.
That romance makes up the heart of Demon Prince and it's also the manga's saving grace. It lends the story some grace and gentility to what is otherwise a fairly generic and derivative story, and it helps to distinguish Demon Prince from the manga it knocks off.
As far as shoujo artists go, Shouto is a fairly pedestrian one. She's not a hack by any means, but her generic yet delicate character designs and fondness for fussy, swirly details means that her art doesn't stand out very well from every other B-list shoujo mangaka. Sometimes I found myself wishing that she would take the focus away from the leads and shift it instead to the titular house and its inhabitant. After all, one of the biggest draws of any yokai-focused title is all the crazy yokai designs, and what we do see of Momochi House shows a sprawling, old-fashioned, and somewhat fantastical manor. It's just that we don't actually see much of the house itself, even in backgrounds, and the yokai and other spirits tend to be either wispy, smoky things or these tiny, squishy, Pokémon-like things. It's a scenario that demands a bit of wild imagination and the lack of it in the art is something of a disappointment.
The Demon Prince of Momochi House isn't going to dazzle its audience with stunning originality or visual flare, but it's got just enough heart to keep it from being an entirely disposable series.
This series is published by Viz. This series is ongoing in Japan with 8 volumes available. 2 volumes have been published and all are currently in print.
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