By Mayu Shinjo. Released in Japan as “Ayakashi Koi Emaki” by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Margaret. Released in North America by Viz.
When I first heard this was licensed, I had assumed it was due to the popularity of Maru Shinjo, creator of Sensual Phrase and Ai Ore!, and that it would have lots of hot jerk guys trying to get into the female cast’s pants. Which is absolutely true. But little did I realize that the main reason this was licensed was probably because it played into Viz’s newfound obsession with yokai manga. I mean, this is basically just a sexier Kamisama Kiss, right? With adorable chibi-incubus!
This is very much on the ‘silly’ side of Mayu Shinjo’s work, which suits me just fine, as I like her best when she’s putting her heroes through the ringer rather than when they’re emotionally manipulating the heroine. Though there’s a fair bit of that going on here as well. But for some reason, I find it more acceptable here than I do in Ai Ore!. Miko is just a little bit stronger than Mizuki, and less likely to be taken in by some sweet talk and sweet loving (well, except in her dreams, where they’re apparently already gone pretty far). As for Kagura, there is a built-in plot device to keep him from being an ass – he’s in adorable SD-mode! Yes, many things that are hideously inappropriate when a grown man is saying them are totally OK when the guy snuggling the heroine’s breasts can fit easily in between them.
There are a few random yokai demons here, who look similar to the ones we see in, say, Nura, or Natsume’s Book of Friends. Those two titles would probably tone down the fact that Kagura is an incubus, of course. But Mayu Shinjo, who got her start writing softcore porn shoujo for Shogakukan and has never really strayed quite that far away, knows how to do the sexy. The relationship dynamics between the main couple go back and forth all the time, which makes things more interesting. Admittedly, things slow down a bit after the first 2/3 of the book, when the series switched from being a one-off to a longer run, and the author had to figure out what to do next. Thus we meet a new classmate who’s sensitive to spirits, and a manipulative fox creature (who, naturally, turns into a cute, shy bishonen).
This being a shoujo manga, there’s still plenty of waffling from the heroine about what these strange feelings are, with the added bonus of ‘what the hell did he do to me in my dreams?’. That said, the humor here is top-notch, with many amusing humiliations of our otherwise handsome seductive hero. There is a choice scene with a hamster that I won’t spoil, but made me laugh out loud. In Ai Ore!, Shinjo was always at her best when not taking her hero seriously, and the same applies here. Given all the cliches she has to work with – heck, the hero’s powers even awake with a kiss – I expect we’ll only see more of this in the future.
I always go back and forth on Shinjo manga, and indeed there’s a chance that this could turn sour in a hurry, depending on how Miko is developed. For now, though, we have a first volume that’s a winner, especially if you enjoy yokai comics but want a little spice to it.