Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jul 1st 2013
Devil is a Part-Timer!
Episodes 1-13 Streaming
Ente Isla is an improbably geometric land in a world of magic and monsters. King among the monsters is Satan, ruler of demonkind. Spearheaded by his four demon generals, Satan's armies overrun Ente Isla's human lands. Just as all hope seems lost, a lone hero takes up her sacred sword and routs Satan's armies. Before she can land the killing blow, however, Satan escapes with his last surviving general into an inter-dimensional portal. They pop out on Earth, in modern-day Japan. Cut off from their kingdom and their magical powers, the two do what it takes to survive. Which in the dog-eat-dog world of Earthling capitalism, means working at MgRonalds. And if that wasn't challenge enough, Maou—as he calls himself on Earth—must also deal with an assortment of hostile visitors from his former home. Beginning with the Hero, Emilia.
In the world of reviews, the word fun tends to be a “but” word. As in: “the show is fun, but…” Consequently it has a somewhat pejorative connotation. It's simultaneously a positive and a dismissive thing to call a show. But it shouldn't be. Real fun isn't easy or simple. It's whip-smart and finely balanced; calculated yet seemingly effortless; funny and self-deprecating and secretly substantial. It is, in short, The Devil is a Part-Timer.
Take Devil's opening premise. You'd expect fish-out-of-water hijinks—and you'd get them in the series' opening moments, as Maou and demon general Alciel run afoul of Japanese police officers, who naturally assume that they're foreign cosplayers—but the real joke isn't how poorly Maou adjusts, but how spectacularly well he does. He takes to food-service work like, well, a fish to water. He's polite, driven, and utterly devoted, much to the consternation of everyone who knew him on Ente Isla. It's the show's major running joke, and an extremely funny one, but it's more than just a gag. There's a sneaky logic to Maou's devotion to MgRonalds, tied up in his inborn need to follow his ambition—regardless of how lowly it is—and in MgRonalds' rigorously hierarchical and ruthlessly goal-oriented corporate culture. Fast-food service is, the show implies with a smile, a strangely comfortable environment for the commander-in-chief of a demon army.
This is not to say that Devil is a cultural commentary; just that it happens to have some, if you care to look. No, Devil is entertainment. Pure, unadulterated, gloriously fun entertainment. If you were to quantify it, the show is about three parts comedy, two parts action, one part intrigue, and one part romance. But that's an awfully stiff way to think of something so fluid and free-spirited. The series flows with careless ease from the slice-of-life silliness of Maou's dirt-poor existence to the dark intrigue of Ente Isla and the rom-com capering of his relationships with Emilia and super-cute co-worker Chiho, using each to temper the others such that none of them runs amok or overstays its welcome. It has a preternatural sense for how far to push a joke, how high to crank up a dramatic confrontation, how serious to take a battle. It's never too absorbed in setting up a hilariously misplaced romantic misunderstanding to work in some cuttingly funny character insights, or too concerned with having a good time to detail the effects of Ente Isla's toxic history on the likeable likes of Emilia and diminutive Inquisitor Bel.
Of course the show has its bumps. Some of its episodes are genuinely silly, and there's some extended potty humor in the second arc that gets a little annoying after a while. It never satisfactorily explains the discrepancy between Maou's Ente Isla and Earth behavior, and it moves so quickly and changes so frequently that some characters—namely Emilia's stalwart companions Emeralda and Albert—get lost in the shuffle. The big kahuna, though, is the final episode—a bit of throwaway fluff that ends the show on a weirdly inconclusive note. Each of the show's main arcs built nicely to big, thrilling, emotionally satisfying (not to mention hilarious) conclusions, so it's a bit of a puzzle why the series as whole chooses to end with a shrug.
The show cruises over bumps with ease, though; carried by its immense fun-factor, and by the equally immense charm of its main cast. A charm that is very much tied up in the character-centric animation of WHITE FOX. Rarely has a series been blessed with such varied, enthusiastic, and frequently uproarious character animation. No one's face stays still for long, broadcasting a broad swath of usually extreme feelings. Sometimes they're cute, as when Emilia gets protective with Chiho or Chiho does just about anything. Sometimes they're intense, as when Maou confronts a deeply conflicted Bel or whenever Emilia gets riled. But mostly they're funny; especially Emilia's arsenal of disgusted expressions and the dead-eyed look Chiho gives Maou whenever he accidentally destroys a romantic moment. Director Naoto Hosoda and his crew do other things quite well, including demonic coolness and immensely destructive action, as well as the requisite atmosphere, but it's the character animation that has the most impact, both on us and on the show.
Speaking of atmosphere, Ryosuke Nakanishi's score is dripping with it, from the appropriately dark guitar that accompanies Maou's transformations to the faux-celestial themes that crop up in the Ente Isla sequences. Nakanishi's not on par with masters of atmosphere like Yuki Kajiura and Yasuharu Takanashi, but he's no slouch either.
If we're to be entirely honest, half of the reason that Devil's final episode rankles is simply because it's the last episode. It wouldn't matter how great the last episode is, we'd still resent it a little for being the last one. Unless, of course, there's a second season in the offing. Pretty please?
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Charming cast; great comic premise; exceedingly well-balanced mixture of humor, action, and affect; unusually expressive character designs.
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