The opening volume of Tomu Ohmi’s latest josei manga series introduces Kaoruko “Koko” Mochizuki, a young woman who owns an herbal shop in a small seaside town. Never knowing her mother, Koko grew up with her grandmother, a gifted herbalist who trained Koko until she passed away several years ago. Koko has a pleasant personality and she is always willing to help those around her. Despite the prodding of her elderly customers, she has had no real relationships and she leads a simple life.
That simple life changes with the arrival of a tall, broad-shouldered man, all dressed in black. The handsome stranger, Kaname Hibike, reveals that not only is Koko’s mother still alive, she is the queen of the black witch coven. The witch queen is in danger, and before she disappeared, passed her powers on to Koko—powers that have been seeping out of Koko without her knowledge, drawing everything and everyone towards her. Kaname, a witch knight, has been charged to train and protect Koko in her mother’s absence. Kaname is accompanied by two adorable beasts: these familiars initially resemble a cat and dog, but when they release their powers, they turn into a dragon and a unicorn.
As expected in any romance manga, Koko’s powers are sexual in nature; when released, she feels hot and flustered, attracting the men around her. In order to rein in her power, Kaname must kiss her, drawing the energy into himself. So their relationship does not seem scandalous, Kaname tells Koko’s neighbors and customers that he is her long-distance fiancé. Interestingly, while the manga is rated Mature, the first volume has no sexual content or even partial nudity; Kaname likes to tease Koko about her virginity, but it never goes further.
As the story progresses, Koko’s magic grows stronger, and Kaname wonders whether it is the manifestation of the witch queen’s immense power, or if Koko already possessed latent abilities of her own. As Koko becomes dependent on the mysterious man who protects her from her own powers, it becomes clear that a romantic relationship is starting to blossom. Yet Koko feels conflicted, knowing that Kaname has a life debt to her mother, to whom he is completely devoted. At one point, she looks into the mirror and wonders whether her distant mother is more beautiful than herself.
Spell of Desire is a fun read, but the first volume feels very much like a teaser in that there is little backstory and a lot of repetition. The biggest draw in this volume is the artwork, specifically the beautifully drawn landscape of the seaside town that gives readers a clear sense of place, as well as Koko’s intricate clothing designs. While Kaname is drawn similarly to the lead in Midnight Secretary, Koko is a unique character: tall with flowing blonde hair, a great sense of fashion, and uniquely shaded eyes. As with Tomu Ohmi’s other series, Spell of Desire is recommended for libraries in need of supernatural romance manga for readers ages 18-24.
Spell of Desire, vol. 1
by Tomu Ohmi
Viz Media, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: M