A Devil and Her Love Song
悪魔とラブソング (Akuma to Love Song)
Shoujo – Romance, drama, comedy
13 Volumes (complete)
Maria is very good at reading people. Unfortunately, other people don’t appreciate her bluntness. After being expelled from a private school, Maria transfers to a public school. But will this “devil” finally gain some friends and learn to love herself in the process?
A Devil and Her Love Song has some shaky story arcs, but I love the titular character’s bluntness.
For the first half of the series, it’s hard not to like A Devil and Her Love Song. In a genre dominated by naive genki girls, Maria is a breath of fresh air. She speaks her mind and can see into people’s hearts. I’m sure we’ve all wished to be a Maria at one point in our lives. However, as Maria has experienced first-hand, knowing too much can be a double-edge sword. People don’t like having their dark sides or hidden intentions constantly exposed. If you try to force yourself to be outgoing, for instance, do you really want someone commenting on it? It’s not necessarily wrong to try to change yourself or just to want friends, but not a lot of people would appreciate the world knowing you’re pushing yourself.
Anyways, we meet Maria as a girl who almost has a sixth sense when it comes to people. Most of her classmates initially dislike (or are afraid) of her, but in true shoujo style, she finds her first friends in the form of two guys, cheerful Yusuke and grumpy Shin. Maria ends up turning enemies into friends while Yusuke and Shin, of course, develop crushes on Maria. The story may have been done many times before, but it’s not often told with a lead like Maria. One of her best lines in the first volume is in response to Yusuke asking if she’s going to show up to school tomorrow after being harassed by classmates: “Of course.” She says it so matter-of-factly and not after being counseled by someone or after a night of tears. However, while she seems strong, she also wants friends. She can stand alone, but she doesn’t want to because it’s lonely.
Volume four brings a nice conclusion to the “meet Maria” arc, and had it ended there, I have no doubt I would have wished for more of the misadventures of Maria’s sharp tongue. The good news? It continues on for several more volumes. The bad news? The next one or two sections (depending on how you divide it up) are not that good at best and terrible at worst. The first volume opens with Maria remembering how she pushed her first “friend” into a psychological corner, and I figured it would be addressed in the story. Once Maria’s former schoolmate reappears, the story turns into some weird combination of psychological analysis, teenage angst, and a strange frenemy-like relationship. Another new character is introduced, and just when it seems like the darkest part of the manga is over, the story then goes even further into Maria’s past. The whole situation with her father and extended family can be pretty disturbing in how almost casual things are brought up and resolved. This is where the angst and drama should have went, not in a teenage friendship gone south. Part of me wants to go the Bunny Drop route and pretend it doesn’t exist. I did enjoy the new character when he showed up, but once he took Maria to his house… Le sigh.
I’ve talked quite a bit already about Maria. Suffice to say, she’s quite entertaining… in the beginning. Not everyone will appreciate her later self, but at least the old Maria never completely disappears. Yusuke and Shin are pretty typical as far as love interests go, but I was surprised at how quickly one of them fell for Maria. It takes a while before Maria makes any female friends, but at least they really show their support in later volumes instead of just meeting the female friends quota. Anna is annoying, and that’s all I’m going to say about her for spoiler purposes. There’s a few more characters, but everyone — including the main cast — really can’t beat the early volumes’ Maria. She really is the shining star, and even though characters like Yusuke and Tomoyo are interesting, Maria’s conflict between her blunt self and her insecurities is just more engaging for readers. There’s the issue of her characterization in later volumes, which, again, drags down the whole manga. I don’t mind diving into people’s true personalities and source of their issues, but I wish we could have seen Maria struggle more with certain circumstances and less with others.
Many times in a manga, characters are called beautiful but don’t really look gorgeous. Maria, however, looks like a beauty. Tomori’s designs are very modern without being of the cookie cutter variety. She often uses chibi characters, and Maria’s oversized head and lips are especially entertaining. Maria has a fascination with frilly things, and Tomori does a nice job with Maria’s goth-loli style in the manga and on tobira-e / title pages. Seriously, this manga has some of the most beautiful chapter-opening art. The guys’ hairstyles seem to change suddenly. I guess this is supposed to reflect the passage of time, but sometimes the changes seem abrupt. Screentones are light, making the pages bright. I think this is a nice touch in artistically showing the devil versus everyone else. Her art is clear and clean, and it looks quite sharp.
No honorifics are used. Maria’s habit of using full names is generally kept. However, most of the characters refer to each other by their first names. This is a change doesn’t really make sense sometimes. It just seems odd that a teacher who barely likes teaching would be calling students by their personal names. I mean, in English, schools almost always use first names, but considering Maria is singing in English and confusing people, they’re definitely in Japan. We also lose some little aspects of their personalities, like Yusuke’s penchant for giving people nicknames. The manga occasionally jumps narrators, and it can be a little hard to figure out who is narrating simply because English just doesn’t have all the different “I” pronouns like Japanese does. Plus with all the characters just calling each other by their first names and no honorifics, the manga ends up a little more confusing than it could have been. There’s a couple of interesting moments here where the characters translate foreign songs like “Amazing Grace” into Japanese. So nothing like taking an English song, translating it into Japanese, and then changing it back. All in all, I guess how much you like this adaptation depends on whether you like characters speaking to each other more like they do in the U.S. or if you want a more Japanese-like atmosphere.
Volumes one through four of A Devil and Her Love Song are an excellent read. The later half of the series is weaker, so I recommend trying out the next couple of volumes to see if you like where it goes.
Some of the manga was made into a vomic with Kuwashima Houko (Sango from Inuyasha, Claire from Claymore) as the titular character. Go and listen to her beautiful voice.
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