Spell of Desire Volume 1 by Tomu Ohmi
I am unapologetically enthusiastic about Shojo Beat’s new habit of releasing slightly smutty josei manga under the Shojo Beat imprint. More josei is a good thing! I was happy to see that after a few volumes of Tohmu Ohmi’s Midnight Secretary, another series of hers was licensed by Viz. Spell of Desire is that series, and I might even like it more than I like Midnight Secretary, as impossible as that might seem.
As you might guess from the title, with Spell of Desire, Ohmi has turned her attention to witches! Kaoruko Mochizuki is a herbalist in a small village, but one day a mysterious man named Kaname Hibiki shows up at her store and announces that she’s a witch, descended from a long line of women with mystical power. It turns out that Kaoruko’s long lost mother is a Witch Queen, and she’s sealed her power within Kaoruko. As the power begins to activate, Kaoruko will need help controlling it, and Kaname just happens to be the Knight dedicated to her protection.
I loved the contrast between Kaoruko and Kaname. She’s drawn as an earthy, hippie type, with flowing layers of clothing with botanical prints that reflect her connection to her profession. Kaoruko is a bit naive, but committed to the customers at her shop and the simple way of life that she enjoys. Kaname’s severe, with an all-black wardrobe and glasses that make him look stern. He also has a bit of a snarky and cynical personality. Kaname comes with two animal companions named Dragon and Unicorn, that appear to be a fluffy white cat and dog, but actually possess mystical powers themselves. When Kaoruko accidentally activates her mystical powers, they manifest as black vine tendrils winding across the panels in the manga, becoming more tangled as her powers become more out of control. Of course, there is a fail-safe mechanism to calm Kaoruko down – kisses from Kaname.
The first volume deals with the conflict between Kaoruko and Kaname as he insinuates himself into her life in order to protect her from her runaway witch powers. It is terrible, but Kaname and Kaoruko have to kiss very often because her powers are starting to really get out of control. While at first Kaoruko is resistant to the idea that she’s a witch, she decides to accept her situation calmly and deal with it even if there are things that she doesn’t understand. Kaname comments in response, “You’re such a decent person it’s almost ludicrous.” Kaoruko is left wondering about Kaname’s real relationship with her mother the Witch Queen, and I can see how there will be plenty to explore in future volumes as Kaoruko has to deal with her new reality as a witch and Kaname’s place in her life. Fans of Midnight Secretary or paranormal romance manga in general should snap this up!