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.