Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 2nd 2014
The Devil Is A Part-Timer!
BD+DVD - Complete Series [Limited Edition]
In the fantasy world of Ente Isla, the monster armies of the devil Satan, led by his four generals, overran half the lands before the celestially-empowered Hero, Emilia, rallied humanity to push back. Faced with ultimate defeat at the hands of Emilia and her powerful allies, Satan and his remaining general, Alciel, retreated through a mystical gate, winding up in a modern day version of Tokyo – a world largely devoid of magic, which not only greatly curtails their powers but also, curiously, reverts their physical appearances to those of ordinary humans. Left with little recourse until they can find a way to replenish their magic, Satan and Alciel do the only sensible thing: take on human identities and try to get by in the modern-day world. For Satan (now Sadao Mao), that means getting a part-time job at a McRonald's, which he vows to use as a stepping stone to conquer the world (by climbing the corporate ladder, of course). For Alciel (now Shiro Ashiya) that means keeping house and researching their new world's possible sources of magic. But Emilia (now Emi Usa and a call center worker) has also come to this world and is determined to either finish Satan off or, at the very least, ensure that he doesn't cause trouble, as her powers are also limited. The problems for her are that Sadao is behaving anything but evil, her obsession with Sado often gets her mistaken as his girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, and dangers from Ente Isla which are a threat to both of them occasionally pop up even here.
The concept here is nothing less than a brilliant reversal of the standard gimmick of transplanting ordinary individuals from a modern-day world into a fantasy realm where they become Someone Special; here, instead, you have the most important individuals from a fantasy realm being transplanted into a modern-day world where they become Someone Ordinary and have to learn to cope. That alone gives this endeavor a lot of potential, but the writing is not content to rely just on that. The result is a series which can be dramatic but is at least as often both outright and subversively funny, and certainly has an air of freshness to it that anime comedy/dramas too often lack. That all contributes to making it the best comedy series of 2013 and one of the year's most consistently entertaining series of any type.
Although no single factor can be pointed to as the key to its success, one strength is the way that the humor works on multiple levels. Yes, it does occasionally aim for and produce some outright laughs, such as Alciel's bout with what seems to be intense diarrhea, Sadao posing in his underwear when he regains his demon form at one point, or Sado's neighbor Suzuno's utter misunderstanding of what proper modern water park attire should be, but it also aims for more sophisticated jokes as well, ones that provide underlying amusement instead. The very notion that Satan has decided that the path to power in the modern world is to work his way up the corporate chain, and that a once-mighty being like him takes such relish in small accomplishments like getting a raise or becoming a shift manager, is a wonderfully multilayered running joke; it is silly on the surface and perverse when applying a sense of scale, but it has at least a hint of truth to it since success in business is, in fact, one of the main ways in the modern world to virtually get people to bow down at your feet. (The others are politics, religion, sports, and the entertainment industry.) Mao is always portrayed as being pretty sharp-witted, so clearly he understands both that and that the other four ways are less feasible for his situation. Nearly anyone who has had a stint working in the fast food industry has probably imagined achieving some degree of greatness that way, which makes Mao's boasts about conquering the world eminently relatable, too – and they are all the more funny for not being entirely megalomaniacal, since he actually might mean them. On the other side, that the Hero's role of saving and protecting the public has been reduced to her being a call center employee is just as perverse a joke, as is a mighty demon general being reduced to washing underwear and scheming for supermarket discounts or the role that another demon who pops up later on gets forced into by circumstances.
Sharp character dynamics, and the way they can simultaneous feed into both drama and humor, are also a big plus. That the Hero ends up being the acerbic one while the Devil ends up being a generally pleasant guy in the new world is its own joke, although enough background is provided to fully establish why Emi/Emilia would have no desire to give Sadao/Satan any slack despite his seeming character change; as wholesome as he seems now, he did do dastardly things back in Ente Isla, and Emi has every right to take at least some of them personally. Her obsession with Sadao getting regularly mistaken for a romantic interest becomes a running joke as the series progresses, and indeed, the two do have the chemistry of acrimonious ex-lovers, with both going so far as to claim that, because one is a hero and the other is a devil, it is their lot in life to give the other grief. (Rarely does anime come up with a more perfect justification for one of these combative relationships!) Short, busty teenager Chiho complements both well as the outsider who gets deeply involved, a co-worker of Mao's who starts to fall for Mao (who is invariably clueless to her romantic intent since he doesn't understand humans that well yet) and initially sees Emi as a romantic rival before later befriending her. Two later additions from Ente Isla also smoothly fit into the core cast on both dramatic and comedic fronts, while Alciel continues to be comedy gold throughout as the put-upon and sometimes-put-upon-himself loyal henchman of Mao.
For all of its comedy elements, the series also does have distinct, serious storylines and character development – one big advantage of it being based on a light novel series rather than something like a 4-panel manga. Episodes 1-5 essentially form one story arc, which establishes the premise and how even moving to the modern world does not isolate Satan and Emilia from the conflicts of Ente Isla, and episodes 7-13 form a second one involving new threats to both of them which somewhat spin off of the first arc. The episode in between, episode 6, links the two by cleaning up elements left over from the first arc and setting up both some of the conditions in Ente Isla that feed into the next one and one of the major players in the new arc. Some dark elements underlie these stories, with indications of Church corruption in Ente Isla that is almost as deep and nefarious as that of the forces they were fighting against (assassins, inquisitions, a willingness to betray the Hero for political expediency), and both Emi and new arrival Suzuno have to struggle with messy and/or tragic pasts. The series even touches upon the fact that, in Ente Isla, Mao and Alciel were both either directly or indirectly responsible for atrocities, although interestingly, it never shows Mao having any real remorse for that; when pressed on the matter at one point, he makes a comment about how he never previously appreciated humans, and that's that. (The implication is that, because he is still a devil even though he is in human form, he simply does not feel remorse, but this could also just be the writers dodging a potentially weighty emotional issue.)
The series also finds some time for action scenes. Its opening sequence is an elaborate, splashy affair full of dramatic maneuvering and spectacular displays of magic, but beyond that such scenes are merely minor complements to the humor and light drama and thus compose only a small fraction of the running time. In other words, they work well to punctuate particular dramatic developments but are hardly a draw on their own. The animation supporting them is solid enough, and on the whole the artistic effort by studio White Fox is quite strong, especially in the intense opening sequence. Character designs are distinctive and pleasing, with Emi standing out with her sharp features and almost-perpetually-perturbed expression and Chiho being treated surprisingly respectably visually (except for the water park episode) given her ample bosom. Vivid but not usually oversaturated colors, restrained but skillful use of CG effects, and good background art also provide support. (The one major discrepancy? No one who has ever worked in fast food would find the size of the McRonald's manager's office to be even remotely credible, as such things are typically cramped cubbyholes.) Graphic content is a bit intense only in a couple of places after the opening sequence, and fan service is very mild and almost entirely limited to brief, infrequent swimsuit and undergarment shots.
The musical score is also used well, with a predilection towards rock numbers and light-hearted ditties, with the former sometimes being skewed to serve the latter purpose as well. Opener “Zero!!” is a nice but nondescript number whose visuals are more interesting than its song, while three different visual versions of closer “Moon Flower” by nano.RIPE (whose distinctive voice can also be heard in theme for Hanasaku Iroha, Sankarea, and GLASSLIP) are used as the series progresses; the last, which is also the most fully visually realized, is by far the best. Alternate closer “Stardust,” which shares some of the same visuals, is used for the final episode.
Both dubs posed unusual challenges, as the language of Ente Isla is used extensively in the first half of the first episode and occasionally at various points after that. In both Japanese and English manufactured alternate languages were used for this, and between the two, the English dub handles it better. Head writer Jamie Marchi explains in a 13 minutes included Extra the process she went through to create the language (largely it involved a modified reversal of beginning and ending consonant sounds) and ADR director Christopher Bevins elaborates in one of the audio commentaries on advising voice actors to use a vaguely Russian accent when speaking it. The result is a remarkably smoothly-delivered, consistent-sounding language with an eastern European flavor, one which does not restrain the voice actors at all from actually acting. By comparison, the Japanese effort in the same scenes sometimes sounds very stiff, as if they were struggling more to find a proper cadence. In the regular language, Felicia Angelle initially comes off as just a little shrill as Emilia/Emi (those used to the Japanese performance by Yōko Hikasa may find that her voice takes some getting used to), and relative newcomer Alex Moore uses a very dry, distinctive delivery style to convey how Suzuno's speech patterns stick out (also takes some getting used to, but ultimately fits quite well), but other roles are typically on-the-money and well-performed, with Aaron Dismuke's interpretation of Hanzo/Lucifer being particularly amusing. The dialog is as sharp, smooth, witty, and hip as one would expect from a Marchi-written dub script.
In addition to the aforementioned language special, the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack release includes audio commentaries for episodes 1 and 12 and clean opener and closers. Only the earlier commentary, which includes Bevins, offers anything substantive. Both cases include different cover art and interior bonus artwork, and both come in a sturdy artbox. The Blu-Ray transfer showed no significant technical flaws on the visual front, and the 5.1 English audio track offers a somewhat better audio mix.
Perhaps the best feature of The Devil is a Part-Timer! is how smoothly it integrates is dramatic, action, and humor components. (The romantic elements are comparatively minor.) One flows nicely into another, and even in the midst of a heated action scene a comedy moment might pop up without throwing off the scene, such as one case where Emi dodges a ranged attack only to have it hit Mao in the face. Only rarely does the series ever feel like it is resorting to tired gimmicks, and rarer still does it disappoint.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Very funny on multiple levels, excellent mix of humor, drama, and action elements, fresh and creative premise.
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