Review of Crimson Spell (Vol 1)

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Crimson Spell is a Yaoi manga written by artist Ayano Yamane. This fantasy tale is set in the kingdom of Alsvieth, which at the start of the book is being attacked by an army of monsters. To save his subjects from harm, Prince Valdrigr is forced to call upon the power of a cursed blade in order to repel the monstrous invaders that are assaulting his castle. The move succeeds in winning the battle, but condemns the regent to a terrible fate. The sword’s mystical properties turn whomever wields it into a bloodthirsty creature, which is somewhat inconvenient for anyone tasked with ruling over a realm.

Thankfully Alsvieth’s wisest wizards are able to craft some magical accessories for Valdrigr that can temporarily supress the rabid transformation. In order to find a permanent solution for his plight, Valdrigr sets off on a pilgrimage to seek out Halvir – a powerful sorcerer who may be able to concoct a cure for his beastly ailment. When the two eventually meet Halvir agrees to help the prince get rid of the curse, but in exchange Valdrigr must first agree to aid him in a number of quests. What’s the deal with fantasy worlds being populated with ungenerous gits? It’s just like playing Zelda or Final Fantasy. No one is willing to help you out unless you perform fetch quests for them first.

Over the course of this inaugural volume Valdrigr and Halvir come across bandits, rival spell casters and even a dragon. Their party eventually grows in size after they adopt the series’ comic relief character, who happens to be a flying bunny that can morph into an effeminate man. By day the intrepid duo partake in medieval adventures and by night they engage in erm… homosexual sex. It appears that during the evenings, when Valdrigr changes form, his violent urges can only be satiated via buggery. Valdrigr’s gay companion seems to be okay with the arrangement, particularly as the prince’s beast form is far from repulsive (it’s pretty much a toned man, with sexy fangs and ordinate tattoos.)

Although I do enjoy a good fantasy tale I am only able to award Crimson Spell two stars out of five. The artwork is decent, but the story itself failed to hook me in. It often feels like the writer is rushing past key events to set up the narrative’s status quo, as soon as possible. The attack on Valdrigr’s castle for example is told in a couple of pages and most of the action sequences barely last beyond a few panels. I’m also not sure what to make of the story’s romantic elements, as they are far from consensual. Halvir’s idea of foreplay consists of waiting for his partner to go comatose, at which point he removes Valdrigr’s magical restraints, which triggers a transformation. Once the hanky panky is done Valdrigr reverts back to a human with no memory of what transpired… aside from a sore rectum.

Maybe I am being unduly harsh as the subject matter isn’t my cup of tea. If the protagonists had been lesbians perhaps I would have been more generous in my scoring. With that in mind, if you are a lady (or chap that bats for the other team) you may want to upgrade my rating to three stars. For anyone who is drawn to such books for the smut you’ll be pleased to learn that the copulation sequences are rather graphic. I was actually surprised by what the artist was permitted to show. I expected things to be tamer as Japanese porn is normally conservative when it comes to things like displaying genitals… or so I am told from perverted friends. I am a wholesome manga reviewer with no interest in such debauchery… honest!

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