REVIEW: Manga: Sorcerers, Demons, and Smut, Oh My:  The Crimson Spell by Ayano Yamane

REVIEW: Manga: Sorcerers, Demons, and Smut, Oh My: The Crimson...

CS coverThe Crimson Spell by Ayano Yamane. Published by Kitty Media. Retail: $11.99. 1/2+ volumes. Rated: Mature (this title is adult-only, sexually graphic yaoi (MxM).)

Dear Readers,

This is my favorite manga release of 2007. There are some with loftier ambitions that I might admire more, like Town of Evening Calm, but when it comes to pure enjoyment of a book, The Crimson Spell wins hands down.

The story is a fairly simple one. Prince Vald’s country is overrun by demons and there’s only one way to save them, to take up an accursed family sword. For the sake of his people he does so, but the sword’s demon begins to take him over. At first it’s only at night, when he changes into an erotic beast-like version of himself (and whoo boy is he one erotic looking beast). His country’s wizards are able to give him ensorcelled shackles that keep the change at bay each night. But he knows it’s only a matter of time until the demon takes over, endangering everyone, so he sets off to find the one man who could remove the curse, the sorcerer Halvir.

Halvir (Havi) is beautiful, but he isn’t what I’d call an upstanding citizen, being greedy and lascivious. He not only wants the magical sword for himself, but once he finds the demon-controlled version of Vald at night and realizes he can absorb its power (through sexual contact of course), he begins an affair with the beast-half of Vald that the human half doesn’t know about (read right to left as usual, and don’t worry, I stopped right before the naughty bits)(sorry for my crappy scans):

CS_samp3 CS_samp2 CS_samp1<- start

To gain the sword and keep Vald nearby, he makes a deal with him. He’ll break the curse if Vald helps him gain certain magical objects. Vald agrees and they set off on a journey.

However, the journey, like in all good books, isn’t just a trip from here to there, but one of change for both the characters. Halvir is immediately touched by the prince’s beauty and spirit, and he’s captivated by the beast’s sensual nature, and he begins to fall in love with both. For the first time in a long time, he starts to think of another. The changes to Vald aren’t all that pleasant. His demon and human forms slowly begin to meld as the change approaches a time when it will become irreversible and control him completely. But this also brings a growing realization of an attraction to his companion, one that at this point he still pushes away in denial as a human but which he fully embraces as a beast.

Concerning the sex in the book, I’ve never heard anyone complain about it, but the fact that Halvir is having sex with the beast half of Vald while keeping it a secret from the human half might bother some people. Also, while the first sexual encounter between Halvir and the beast verges on non-con, that primal side of Vald loves his sex and jumps Halvir if he isn’t getting enough. The beast Vald doesn’t have the inhibitions of the human half and thoroughly enjoys himself no matter what they try. One side note, there is an extra story in the volume that has that staple of hentai, tentacle sex, when Vald encounters an aphrodisiac plant that works on him in more ways than just chemical. One friend labels that chapter “Tentacle Sex Done Right”. …. There’s really nothing I can add to that.

While sex and romance are an important part of the story, there are a lot of parts to the story that are just plain funny. Yamane-sensei has a way of drawing humor from the characters: Halvir’s greed and utter lack of concern for anyone but himself and Vald; Vald’s naivety about what’s happening to him each night. And then there’s Rulca, a very sexy spiritual being who likes to take the form of a bunny, and who delights in annoying Halvir and in trying to seduce Vald. This adds up to a story that’s much lighter in tone than the other work of Yamane’s released stateside, the Finder series.

Then there’s the artwork. Yamane-sensei is renowned in yaoi circles for it. The attention to detail makes each panel gorgeous to look at. She obviously revels in drawing the trappings of fantasy. (click for a bigger view)

CS_art1 CS_art3 CS_art2

Yamane’s men are breathtakingly beautiful and masculine. No emasculated ukes (bottoms) here, as happens fairly often in yaoi. Vald has fire and strength in both his forms, enough to make me suspicious that he’ll be turning the tables on Halvir before the end of the series.

Finally, the book’s quality deserves recognition. In the past Kitty has put out volumes that are on par with TokyoPop, quite average though great value for their low price. But for this book they worked directly with Ayano Yamane, and at her direction turned out a top of the line volume. This book is gorgeous with color plates, a high paper quality, and an exceptional translation. There were one or two typos, but really this is a premium piece of manga that’s a pleasure to hold and read. Honestly, the only thing that will be nicer than having this book in my hands will be to have this book plus volume two (hint hint, Kitty).

So, who is this one recommended for? Any adult who wants to see a great example of the sexier side of yaoi manga as done by one of its most popular mangaka. It’s beautiful to look at, a pleasure to hold, full of engaging characters, and funny and sexy to boot. That’s why it is my favorite of the year. Grade: A.