Manga Review: Demon Love Spell / by Mayu Shinjo

Demon Love Spell, Vol. 1Demon Love Spell, Vol. 1

by Mayu Shinjo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Demon Love Spell is a short 6 volume series by Mayu Shinjo.

The story follows Miko (a miko) and daughter to a famous Shinto priest who has abundant powers but no abilities to sense or see spirits… and Kagura (an incubus) the strongest demon from the demon world who gains his powers from the directed love and passion of women. Miko is surprised when she accidentally seals his powers, and they are both surprised when they begin falling in love with each other.

This story is so a-typical of Mayu Shinjo. And, if you were familiar with her work, you would know exactly what I mean. From the love/hate relationship of the main couple, the continual passionate declarations of love followed by complete denial and forgetfulness, and of course the classic art style with bizarrely over-proportioned features (particularly hands and torsos) – it is her work from start to finish.

Compared to some of her other works, this story tends to be lighter and fluffier. And, is nearly void of the rape, torture, and drug abuse that you would expect from her. Probably the most dynamic of Miko and Kagura fights lead to no more than a bit of pouting on Miko’s side. So unusual, but personally, also nice and refreshing.

I often have a hard time deciding whether the situations Shinjo writes belong in a shoujo or josei subgenre – this one I believe fits neatly as shoujo. Apart from the constant sexual references from a being whose entire life is supported by sex, this is no more than a silly high school fantasy of a romance. A handsome virile man who is suppressing his immoral nature because he is desperately in love with the plain, boring, moral, and slightly disconnected school girl… what girl can win against that combination??

The end for me was a failure. It ends, yes, and the solution is what you’ve been waiting for the entire time. But, with a story so focused on the “getting together” of the main characters (from page 1), you’d think there’d be a bit more romance at the end. Instead it just fizzles out, because well, it had to happen. Oh well.

Despite the ending, I actually enjoy this series. And, of Shinjo’s works it is probably my favourite. The best scene for me falls in the beginning of volume 4. Miko finds a baby/demon in a peach while bathing in a hotsprings (think Momotaro), and she and Kagura raise it as their own child. But, of course, as you read and as the source of the baby is determined, you realize that Mayu Shinjo has thrown together some of Japan’s most famous fairy tales and weaved them into one very strange outcome to the point that even the characters are left scratching their heads. It was a nice fun diversion.

For the most part it was a fun romantic series. And, I’ll probably read it over many times.

Manga Review: Sensual Phrase by Mayu Shinjo

Sensual Phrase, Vol. 1Sensual Phrase, Vol. 1

by Mayu Shinjo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, as I said I would I read through Sensual Phrase (Kaikan Fure-zu) by Mayu Shinjo. The story of Sakuya, a visual kei rock band singer (with a distorted past) and Aine, a high school girl. Upon a chance meeting (Sakuya almost runs her over) Aine becomes the lyricist for Lucifer, Sakuya’s band — and their relationship quickly develops into a hot & heavy romance.

I like this series but some parts are certainly better than others. Some of the angsty feelings between this couple get annoying after a while. They’ve obviously said they trust and love each other, and then seconds later they will not trust each other. It’s like no matter how much they can say something, they don’t actually mean it — and that can get annoying.

There are parts which are really good. I love the little side-stories where Sakuya’s bandmates fall in love. I love the relationship their producer has with them. And I do appreciate that bad things actually happen to the characters. Sometimes stories about teenage angst is only emotional. This series gives you plenty of terrible situations that the characters have to overcome. Sometimes they’re more successful than others, but usually they’re entertaining.

The worst part of the series comes in book 18, the final volume. The short-story where Aine, and Sakuya return home from New York after 2 years. The artist is clearly different — it almost feels like a fan-made doujinshi. The characters have metamorphosized into being younger and cuter, which doesn’t suit their characters or where they’ve come from. They’ve been through too much garbage to be looking so cute by the end. I also think the bedroom scene moves it too closely to the “Ladies Comic” (i.e. pornographic) genre of manga. I didn’t think this was necessary, but whatever.

There are a few short stories by the original artists at the very end. They are highly enjoyable, and take away the awful saccharine taste that you get earlier in the volume.