Happy Marriage Vol. 3 and Demon Love Spell Vol. 5

Happy Marriage Volume 3

I continue to enjoy Maki Enjoji’s series about an office lady who abruptly finds herself married to a seemingly cold and domineering company president. Chiwa and Hokuto have gradually grown closer over the first two volumes of this series, and the relationship continues to develop further in the third volume. Chiwa finally deals with Hokuto when he’s in a vulnerable position when he suddenly becomes ill, and she has to tend to him at home. One thing I enjoy is the way Enjoji slips into showing action without words or thought balloons in order to show events with more emotional impact. When Hokuto wakes up in the middle of the night and sees Chiwa sleeping by the side of his bed, he looks absolutely shocked, then silently pulls her over so she can sleep more comfortably beside him. There are still some slice of life humorous moments in the manga, like when Chiwa deals with Hokuto’s hidden slovenly habits at home and her tendency to become an “Octopus Woman” when she sleeps.

The big emotional breakthrough in the volume occurs when Chiwa and Hokuto have to go visit his family, and Chiwa sees how poorly he’s treated by his relatives. This explains a great deal about his personality and motivations, and Chiwa gets so angry she is more emotionally honest about her feelings for her husband as she’s sticking up for him than she’s ever been when talking to Hokuto directly. I’m looking forward to what happens next! It is a bit odd to root for a married couple to get together, but Enjoji manages to pull this situation off with an engaging story and sympathetic characters.

Demon Love Spell Volume 5

This volume will be particularly fun for any fans of Mayu Shinjo’s series Sensual Phrase. Demon Love Spell can be depended upon to serve up plenty of humor and paranormal romance hijinks, and this volume picks things up with a funny plot device. Incubus Kagura and priestess Miko decide that they’re going to move out of Miko’s family home/shrine and her father promptly agrees! But before they go Miko’s father uses his priestly powers and puts a curse on Kagura so that he will be utterly incapable of romancing Miko in any capacity. The young teenager and incredibly old incubus struggle with finding an apartment. Miko starts working a part-time job to support them. They barely ever see each other, and it seems like their new apartment may also be haunted!

In any romance manga, misunderstandings get in the way of true love, and when Kagura decides to go into showbiz in order to make some money to support Miko, she promptly becomes jealous and concerned that he’s getting “powered up” from other women. Kagura’s demonic hotness ensures overnight success as a male model, and he soon becomes a pop sensation as well. Much is made of Kagura’s resemblance to the hero Sakuya from Sensual Phrase, and I found it hilarious that Shinjo’s habit of drawing her male heroes in a very similar fashion was acknowledged in this manner. All in all, this was another fun volume of this series. I’m definitely enjoying Demon Love Spell much more than Ai Ore, and I hope that more of Shinjo’s series get translated over here.

Demon Love Spell, Vol. 3

Demon Love Spell Volume 3 by Mayu Shinjo

It is nice being able to read a Mayu Shinjo series that I can wholeheartedly enjoy. There are so many overly serious paranormal romance stories out there, it is still refreshing to visit Demon Love Spell for a bit of a comedic spin on the genre. Bumbling shrine maiden Miko and overly alpha male incubus Kagura are just goofy enough to be funny but not ridiculous, and their relationship has enough character-based humor that it is easy to root for them as a couple.

This volume opens with the overly theatrical banishing of a demon by Sou Yamabuki, a former pupil of Miko’s father. Kagura in chibi-form gets jealous that Miko is crushing on Yamabuki on TV, but she assures him that she thinks he’s the coolest. At school the next day Miko gets a bunch of attention from other guys and excitedly assumes that she’s now popular with boys. Miko and Kagura go on an actual date with some great moments where Miko blackmails Kagura into ignominious activities like eating hamburgers by threatening to shrink him again. The ending of the date is interrupted by Sou, who promptly banishes the source of Miko’s new found charms – a weak succubus demon. With Sou, Shinjo explores the old standby “sudden fiance” as he decides that he needs to marry Miko in order to take her away from Kaguya. Sou also reveals that while Miko’s ability to apply her power might not be the best yet, she’s actually extremely gifted. Sou’s desires seem to center more on gaining demon fighting power than truly caring for Miko. Kaguya decides upon an extremely unorthodox method to fend off his rival, but it does show how much he actually cares for the priestess. The next main story in the volume focuses on the sudden appearance of a handsome snow demon who spends some time protecting Miko when Kaguya storms off in a huff.

I still sort of wish that some of Shinjo’s other, earlier series would be translated over here. Sensual Phrase has most other English-translated shoujo beat for unadulterated melodrama. But Demon Love Spell is a nice substitute. It has the humor of Ai Ore without going too far out into left field, and the relationship between Miko and Kaguya is nicely balanced due to the power imbalance inherit in him spending a good portion of each day as mini-figure clipped to her handbag. This was a satisfying volume of this series, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with Miko’s newly revealed power in future volumes.

Demon Love Spell Vol. 1 by Mayu Shinjo

I ended up liking Mayu Shinjo’s Ai Ore a bit more than I thought I would after reading the first omnibus volume. The second series settles in as more of a straightforward comedy series, without some of the problematic gender dynamics that were present in the earlier series. Still, Ai Ore didn’t inspire much rereading or long term affection from me. One of my problems was that the male lead of Ai Ore looked nothing like Sakuya from Sensual Phrase. Shinjo has a somewhat limited set of character designs, but when she does hit on a design she does execute it very well. I experienced far too much cognitive dissonance in Ai Ore expecting a Sakyua clone to pop up, only to be disappointed. Fortunately in Demon Love Spell, the demon in question looks like a typical Shinjo hero half of the time!

Miko is a shrine maiden (ha ha!) who isn’t very good at her job. She can’t sense the demons that she battles, so her technique is limited to chanting random spells and hoping that one of them works. She sees all the girls in her class crying over a faithless boy named Kagura. One of the victims jokes that Kagura has to be a demon because no human boy could go through women that fast. Miko makes up for her lack of skill with enthusiasm and she decides to rush off and exorcise the womanizer. Miko fins Kagura kissing yet another girl and starts lecturing him about the dangers of being possessed by an incubus who preys on the sexual desire of women. Kagura finds Miko extremely hilarious until she casts a spell on him and he actually disappears. Miko starts crying because she thinks that she accidentally killed someone when she hears an angry voice yelling at her from the vicinity of her shins, saying that it is impossible that someone like her could bind his powers.

Kagura wasn’t possessed by an incubus, he actually is one of the most powerful incubi around, and now he’s trapped as a powerless chibi version of himself only a few inches tall. Miko and Kagura end up developing a symbiotic relationship. When she’s in contact with him she can actually see the demons she wants to battle. If Miko gives Kagura a tiny amount of affection, his powers kick in and he’s able to help her. Kagura in appearance and demeanor is very much a typical Shinjo alpha male. He’s imperious and demanding, which doesn’t always play very well when he looks like a three inch tall cherub. One of the reasons why I wasn’t able to enjoy Ai Ore as much is that the relationship between the protagonists was a bit unbalanced. Even though this was deliberately done to contrast with the character’s outward appearances, Mizuki was too tremulous and Akira too demanding for me to really root for them as a couple. The personalities of the characters are much more balanced in Demon Love Spell. Miko might not be the best shrine maiden in the world, but she has no problem torturing Kaguya in his chibi form by dressing him up in clothes belonging to an old doll of hers. She decides to fasten Kaguya to a chain and hang him on her handbag to take him to school with her, and she starts lecturing him on proper behavior, saying “Bag mascots aren’t supposed to talk!”

Kaguya is still able to use manifest his regular form and power up when he visits Miko in her dreams, but she doesn’t remember anything the next morning. The incubus helps Miko fend off all the demons that are gathering around her, drawn by the fact that she managed to capture him. As the story develops, it seems like Kaguya is starting to feel genuine concern and affection for Miko. Or perhaps he’s just comfortable with the fact that he’s able to hang out in her cleavage when they enter battle together. Demon Love Spell was a fun comedic version of paranormal romance manga. While the comedy explored in Demon Love Spell is on a bit of a similar wavelength as Ai Ore, I found the characters much more interesting and sympathetic. I think readers who tried Ai Ore and didn’t care for it should give this series a try. I still tend to prefer Shinjo when she is in serious and dramatic soap-opera mode as seen in Sensual Phrase, but Demon Love Spell was quite enjoyable.