Story/Art: Tomu Ohmi
Translation/Adaptation: Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane/JN Productions
What They Say
Kaoruko Mochizuki runs an herb shop in a small seaside town. One day, a mysterious man dressed in black named Kaname Hibiki enters her shop and reveals that Kaoruko is actually a witch. And what’s more, Kaoruko needs Kaname to help control her awakening power!
The only thing that can keep Kaoruko’s powers in check is a kiss from Kaname, but she can’t help but be drawn to him! While Kaname struggles with his own growing attraction to Kaoruko, he suspects that Kaoruko’s volatile powers will bring unwanted attention from the Black Witches Coven…with dangerous consequences for her!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
“Spell of Desire” is a pretty trashy josei series so far. The whole shtick involves Kaoruko possessing incredible witchy powers of attraction when she experiences strong emotions, which in turn causes men—and beasts! and spirits!—to want her body. Only Kaname’s kiss can direct that power onto him, thus containing Kaoruko’s raging sex appeal. The real reasons behind Kaoruko’s power and why Kaname can calm Kaoruko—with a kiss, of all things—are all so convoluted and bogus it hurts, but at least Ohmi doesn’t spend too much time on those reasons. There’s a strange self-awareness to the story, particularly in volume 2: Ohmi knows she’s writing harlequin drivel, but she doesn’t excuse it or try to wrap it up in exposition. Furthermore, I don’t want to spend too much time on sexism in manga or else I will write pages, but the idea that Kaoruko “invites” rape with her powers is highly problematic, despite the fact that the near-rape scenes (no nonconsensual intercourse actually occurs) result because of black magic Kaoruko did not want and could not control. Readers should not dive into this series unaware of the premise (as I did), as these issues do become somewhat uncomfortable at times.
For the amount of discomfort surrounding her new life, however, Kaoruko seems pretty comfortable with kissing Kaname. It helps that Kaname is possibly the most handsomely drawn josei love interest I’ve seen, and furthermore, Kaname and Kaoruko have a passable amount of chemistry together. When the two go out together to run an errand, Kaname ends up making out with Kaoruko in a normal scenario, when the latter is not even losing control of her sex appeal powers. This gives Kaname some concern, and he returns to his headquarters to research a solution to his reaction to Kaoruko. Unfortunately, he doesn’t find anything of use, and instead, Kaname learns the Black Witches Coven may soon discover Kaoruko’s powers, in which case there will be a scramble to either take her power or kill her. Furthermore, some within the Coven want Kaname as their own knight, for reasons not explained. For the record, none of these new developments make sense to me. Although the information is given in an obscure enough way to indicate later volumes will explain the situation more clearly, in reality, the conflict between witches is not what “Spell of Desire” is about, as will be illustrated soon.
The next few chapters have Yu, Kaoruko’s childhood friend, becoming ensnared in a burst of her powers and nearly raping her until Unicorn prevents disaster. A couple of Coven Witches discover the out-of-control Kaoruko and want to seize her powers, but after returning from his trip in a timely manner, Kaname rescues his mistress. Here, we see that ultimately, “Spell of Desire” is about sex—although I am sure that fact comes as no surprise to anyone. Kaoruko runs to go take a shower, and Kaname walks in after her, noticing that her body is covered in obvious marks where Yu touched and kissed her. Kaname becomes jealous and decides to kiss her in the running shower in a scene both uncomfortable and hilariously overblown. Kaoruko rejects his advances and Kaname immediately apologizes and walks away.
As if that wasn’t enough of an indicator, in the next chapter the couple is summoned to the Coven. The Coven wants to train Kaoruko in their headquarters to be a black witch so that she can control her own power. Kaoruko agrees to train as a witch as long as Kaname is not taken into questioning for failing to report to headquarters. In this moment, Kaoruko also admits her love for Kaname and asks for him to stay around as her knight. The Coven agrees, but after taking Kaoruko away, the Coven secretly strips Kaname of his station. Furthermore, we learn that to initiate Kaoruko, the Coven plans to make Kaoruko have sex with an incubus. Apparently, virginity is not allowed if you want to be a black witch. The volume ends on this revelation, and it’s a good revelation in understanding “Spell of Desire’s” obsessive and yet anxious relationship with sex. “Spell of Desire” is a smutty romance, but Kaname and Kaoruko’s consummation seems forever delayed, not because the creator wants to increase the tension but because the story has an underlying fascination and uncertainty with sex in general.
Kaoruko and Kaname become very close and even admit their love for each other—which must be a record, since the series only just reached volume 2! Despite their passable chemistry, their steamy romance has yet to really reach fruition. I’m not particularly invested in this series or the characters, but if you’re a fan of trashy yet entertaining romance, keep reading, as I imagine your patience will be rewarded at some point soon.
Content Grade: B-
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 18+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: November 4th, 2014