The Spring 2018 Manga Guide
What's It About?Satan has just awakened from a long slumber and is ready to begin his war against the Armies of Light and humanity as a whole. He decides he needs some of the best brains available to start his campaign and sends demons into the world to kidnap scholars and bring them back to work as slaves.
He never expected them to return with a woman like her!
She negotiates a contract, demands a salary, and signs on to become his cunning secretary. Satan's Secretary is an original work by Kamotsu Kamonabe. Seven Seas Entertainment is publishing the manga in English and the first volume will be released on June 5.
Is It Worth Reading?Amy McNulty
Satan's Secretary volume 1 is a comedy centered on a deadpan human secretary and the bumbling demons whom she winds up guiding and in effect ruling, though she doesn't seek personal glory or wealth. No, like a good secretary, she's there to support the agenda of her boss—the Princess of Darkness himself—and see it accomplished in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Supposedly kidnapped on Satan's whim, she winds up reveling in the situation, truly acting as humanity's most dastardly foe because of her cold and callous attitude toward the eradication of humankind and her ability to make Satan's army a more efficient one. Secretary is amusing with her lack of emotions and persnickety bureaucracy. However, it's Satan himself who's the highlight of this first volume. His eagerness to seem menacing and dominating is easily overshadowed by Secretary's ability to get things done and his pride suffers for it. There are a number of secondary characters who stand out, like the tentacle demon who impregnates others too easily and the lazy, insipid king whom Secretary used to serve and keep in line. Satan's lust for Secretary, present though at least not overpowering in the narrative, is easily and quickly deflected by her disinterest in romance and her desire to focus on her “company”'s goals, making a running joke that could have become grating a fairly funny addition.
Kamonabe's demons are more hilarious than frightening, even when it comes to Satan himself. However, that meshes perfectly with the tone of the series, as these demons work according to an RPG-like structure—with dungeons, treasures, and adventurers—and are often bumbling and/or just trying to get by. This first volume is noticeably dialogue-heavy, so backgrounds are minimal and often skipped entirely for dialogue bubbles. It's somewhat detracting from the overall impact of the manga, but the dialogue is necessary and funny, so it doesn't feel obtrusive.
Satan's Secretary volume 1 is full of laughs, especially for anyone who's ever worked in a job bogged down by office politics. Because of its overreliance on dialogue, it's a bit of a slow read, but every new task Secretary undertakes is droll and never feels unnecessary. Since the characters have no clue yet as to the Hero's whereabouts and so much work left to do to whip the Demon King's army into shape, this first volume sets itself up for a long ride. However, it's demonstrated so far that it will entertain every step of the way, even if the core concept—the ruthless office bureaucrat nonplussed to be working in the underworld—seems like it could be overplayed.
So, the gag here is the demon lord has found a human so diabolical and efficient, that his goals of world domination are actually within his grasp. Her strategies are perfect and lack any consideration for the suffering of Satan's opponents. She (the secretary is nameless) astounds the demons with her attention to detail and cold-hearted plotting.
The jokes, usually one or two pages, revolve around this set-up. Satan himself is kind of a blowhard. He's a guy who wants results without putting in any of the effort while his secretary starts screening demons to improve local working conditions. It's funny, but in the way where you chuckle to yourself. There's no real stakes and a very general overarching plot involving the secretary's former employer (a king who felt terrorized by her) and managing the demon population but otherwise there's very little to chew on or wring laughs out of here.
The “demon lord” thing is a bit played out by this point, but I can appreciate centering the story around a unique subordinate instead of just making Satan a little girl or the reincarnation of a gamer or an lolita-type that loves fluffy things (sorry Beelzebub). I guess Satan's Secretary falls into a weird category where it's not interesting enough to recommend but it's not so boring that I actively disliked reading it. It's just sort of there kinda doing its job as a comedy but not to the best ability that it could.
Satan has definitely gotten more than he bargained for with his new secretary. Apart from the fact that she was initially supposed to just be his human informant for taking over the world, it turns out that she's far more motivated than the Lord of Darkness will ever be – this is a guy who kept hitting “snooze” on his alarm clock for ten more years. In her capable hands, the world will be conquered, whether Satan wants it to be or not!
That's only part of what makes Satan's Secretary so much fun. I suppose for me part of the joy comes from having been told by my mother before my first teaching job to be sure to befriend the school secretary (administrative assistant) because she had the real power in the system, a truth that's very much on display here. Satan is only marginally invested in his conquest of the human realm, but Secretary is as gung-ho about it as any number of evil monsters in other series. Before anyone quite knows what she's doing, she's managed to organize the demons into departments, set up daycare, and established health care, all the while suggest various deviously vicious ways the humans can be tricked into wiping themselves out.
The book is saved from just making fun of and wallowing in terrible plans by the fact that towards the end of the volume, Secretary reveals to Satan that she's never been treated well by her fellow humans. You wouldn't think that this late-breaking attempt at pathos would work, but surprisingly it does – it makes Secretary more understandable while also presenting the point that Satan probably doesn't have to do anything at all but wait, because humans can be more inhumane than any number of tentacled monsters. The very humanity of the demons is a point used for both humor and to counteract Secretary's evil plans; the aforementioned tentacled monster is a good example of this. Like hentai has taught us, he's very much drawn to human women, but then he gets them pregnant, and then they want child support…that's the stuff they leave out of the tentacle porn, apparently.
Satan's Secretary is a delightful, at times laugh-out-loud funny story about a demon lord who isn't sure he's up to conquering the world with all of these millennial monsters (whose parents have even done their killing for them) and his truly devilish secretary. With creative monster designs, a good sense of humor, and some surprising depth at times, this is not a comedy you want to pass by.
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