Crimson Spell Volume 1

 “Of the myriad of monsters I have seen, none have been as beautiful as this one.”

The capital of the Kingdom of Alsvieth is under attack by demons, so young Prince Valdrigr of Alsvieth, desperate to protect his people, takes up a magical crimson sword  – and, in wielding it, falls under its curse and becomes possessed by a demon himself. The only one who can help him break the curse before it destroys him is the young silver-haired sorcerer, Halvir Hroptr. Having tracked him down, Prince Vald finds himself agreeing to accompany the sorcerer on another quest while Halvir (Vald calls him Havi) decides whether or not he will accept the prince’s mission. Vald, a courtly and well-bred young man, is utterly unaware that, at night, Havi has been releasing the demon that now dwells within him and they have been having scorchingly hot sex together ‘to calm the beast’s energy’. Havi, who has some dark secrets of his own, embarks on the journey for purely self-serving reasons – but, as the quest continues, it seems that he may be beginning to develop feelings for Vald – and his daemonic other self. Others feel very differently – and Vald’s life is soon in danger as the two are separated and Havi’s past returns to haunt him with a vengeance.

Unpronounceable names; cursed swords; long-haired mages; dragons… yes, we’re in the realms of high fantasy here – and, thanks to the gifts of mangaka Ayano Yamane (Viewfinder) Crimson Spell is seasoned with just the right amount of deliciously wicked humour to make the more clichéd fantastical elements palatable. Her men are, as ever, extremely good to look at; Prince Vald, in full fanged daemon form, makes a strikingly attractive beast, even though in her Afterword, she laments the fact that – again – she has so many long-haired characters and long hair is, of course, time-consuming to draw (‘it seems I never learn.’)

A little history here: the first two volumes of Crimson Spell were originally published in English by Kitty Media in 2007-8. Fans had some issues with the translation – but then Kitty Media went bust and no more volumes followed. So the rescue of this sumptuously drawn series by Jennifer LeBlanc of SuBLime is to be doubly celebrated: first of all, for promising to bring out more volumes in 2014 (five to date) and secondly, for commissioning a new translation from Adrienne Beck, which includes all the sounds effects (omitted from the Kitty Media version) and provides a better, more coherent interpretation. 

It goes without saying that Crimson Spell earns its M for Mature rating; intimate scenes are explicit and there is a mischievously funny bonus chapter ‘Along the Way’ in which Vald encounters an amorous plant with tentacles. Yes, tentacles. Need I say any more? Ayano Yamane’s gift lies in telling a BL fantasy story which goes beyond the stereotypical tropes of curse and quest, and creates two central characters whose relationship is growing and deepening – and yet is complicated by their circumstances and potentially conflicting issues. And did I mention that there’s also an adorable rabbit-familiar, Rulca? Yamane-sensei has great skill in the deadpan aside “Tonight we have rabbit stew” – and it’s fun to look out for the tiny magical creatures that Havi makes callous use of (as with the fairy lamp he gives Vald).

This first volume makes an excellent start to an ongoing series – and the second volume should be out very soon! A real treat for all fujoshi and fudanshi who are fantasy fans.

8 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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