Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
I’m not usually one for pure romance manga. I don’t mind lovey-dovey-ness in my entertainment, but I usually want some blood-spurting action to go along with it. That’s why I’m always (pleasantly) surprised when a romance manga captures my attention as completely as A Devil and Her Love Song has! Read on as I try to work out just what about this series has me so enraptured.
A Devil and Her Love Song vols. 1-6 by Miyoshi Tomori
“Meet Maria Kawai – she’s gorgeous and whip-smart, a girl who seems to have it all. But when she unleashes her sharp tongue, it’s no wonder some consider her to be the very devil! Maria’s difficult ways even get her kicked out of an elite school, but this particular fall may actually turn out to be her saving grace. Maria’s frank nature gains her more enemies at her new school, but her angelic singing voice inadvertently catches the attention of Yusuke Kanda and Shin Meguro. Can these boys mend her hardened heart, or will they just end up getting scorched?” ~ blurb on the back of volume one.
This is a good manga. Let me just lead with that. A Devil and Her Love Song is one of the best paced romantic stories I’ve read in a long while, and it features one of the most unconventional protagonists I’ve had the pleasure to follow. In the very first pages of the manga, Maria Kawai refuses to give up her seat for an old woman on the train and intentionally kicks the sleeping salary-man next to her when she gets up to leave. Not the most promising start… But it turns out the old woman is a notorious pickpocket, and the sleeping salary-man her latest target. Suddenly, the reader’s opinion of outwardly-frigid Maria Kawai is reversed, and so begins the predominant pattern of averted expectations that is A Devil and her Love Song.
Maria is the single most fascinating aspect of the manga. She’s so different from the usual romantic protagonist, those virginal, pure-hearted, easy-to-love girls whose only flaw is that they love too much. Maria is a very kind person, but she expresses herself with unadulterated frankness. She doesn’t mince words, and she won’t withhold the truth in order to spare someone’s feelings. Because of this, she’s fascinating to watch interact with her fellow students, all of whom react to her in a variety of ways: some immediately hate her, believing that her frankness is born from a need to be elevated above people; others simply avoid her. But there are those who recognize that Maria’s honesty is not evil in and of itself, and these are the people who ultimately become Maria’s closest friends.
Particularly interesting are her interactions with Yusuke Kanda and Shin Meguro, the other two sides of the promised love triangle. Yusuke is unabashedly kind, the kind of guy who wants to take Maria under his wing and teach her how to put a “lovely spin” on things. Shin, meanwhile, is more like Maria than he would care to admit: difficult to befriend but unflinchingly loyal, the sort of person who accepts everyone for who they are, flaws and all. The way Maria relates to these two boys and slowly grows closer to them is a joy to watch.
But no story is without its struggles, and Maria is constantly beset on all sides by people who cannot or refuse to understand her. Mean-spirited classmates, a rival love interest, and a villainous teacher all conspire to put Maria down, but Maria perseveres not only because of the help of her friends but because of her own inner strength. Maria is not one to wallow in self-pity. She doesn’t resign herself to her fate. But she is dignified under pressure, and because of that she’s an absolutely admirable character.
(Remember how I said [Say “I Love You”] was A Devil and Her Love Song done wrong? Whereas Yamato Kurosawa sees Mei Tachibana as a problem that needs to be fixed, Shin sees Maria as a person with flaws. Whereas Yamato forces himself into Mei’s life, Shin and Yusuke both let Maria come to them at her own pace. Maria is standoffish in spite of her own inner strength, whereas Mei is alone because she doesn’t have any inner strength at all, at least in that first episode.)
Now that I’ve adequately expressed my love affair with the character of Maria, I really ought to discuss the artwork of A Devil and Her Love Song as well. As you can tell from the covers, Miyoshi Tomori’s character work is technically proficient and pleasing to the eye. Each character has a design that’s unique to them and which reflects their personalities: Yusuke’s hair is as sunny as his personality; Shin’s downturned pout adequately reflects his outlook on life; and Maria looks both beautiful and strong. Tomori obviously enjoys and is good at drawing Maria’s hair, which flips and flaps in the breeze in eye-catching ways. Also, they may not make the covers, but the other female characters of A Devil and Her Love Song have just as wide a range as the men.
The majority of this manga is dedicated to talking-heads panels, where people stand around and talk to one another, but when action is called for, Tomori is talented at motion as well. Her backgrounds are more than adequately detailed and the few panels that don’t have the entire setting fleshed out at least have shoujo bubbles or screen tones to fill the white space. The end result is a pleasing and detailed manga that rarely feels as empty as something like Dawn of the Arcana.
I think it should be clear by now that I love A Devil and Her Love Song and would recommend that you go out and read it at the earliest opportunity! If the typical romance or shoujo manga is too girly for you, or if the protagonists are too bland, please give this manga a chance. And for those of you looking for a strong female protagonist, you could do much worse than Maria Kawai.