Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Apr 26th 2014
A Devil and Her Love Song
Shin has gone overseas to have his injured hand operated on, leaving Maria and the rest behind. Can their relationship survive the distance? And with graduation approaching, will Maria ever find just what it is that she wants to do in the future? As the story comes to a close, everyone finds themselves asking these questions and others as they strive to become the people that they want to be – now and in the future.
When A Devil and Her Love Song's first volume began, it was less a love story and more the tale of a girl who had been ostracized all of her life finding a place in the world. As the series progressed, it did in fact become a romance, but now in its final volume, Miyoshi Tomori's story once again leaves strict romance behind as it shows us how the characters have grown over the course of thirteen volumes, making A Devil and Her Love Song's final book a coming of age story about how life does not simply stop once high school is finished.
Given that a lot of shoujo manga does in fact end with high school, or at least on the understanding that hero and heroine will get married, Tomori's ending is noteworthy. Even the romance is by no means a fully settled thing, with the implication that there's a lot of life to be lived in different places, and that nothing is set in stone. In part this is emphasized by giving the majority of the volume's narration to Yusuke. This helps to indicate that he will continue to be a large presence in Maria's life, perhaps even more of one than Shin for a considerable time. While this certainly helps to add a slight air of uncertainty to the series' finale, it also aids in conveying the message that the story is not over – yes, the characters have graduated from high school, but there's a lot more tale to tell. We as readers will simply not be there to see it.
Unfortunately the book does continue with one of the more uncomfortable parts of the last three volumes, Maria's relationship with her father. While on the surface this doesn't sound like it should be an issue, the fact remains that he is in fact her mother's rapist, and whatever semblance of a relationship they may have formed through letters later on, John's rape of Anna absolutely contributed to her eventual suicide. While it is good that he has gone so far on his quest for redemption, it is difficult for at least this reader to swallow or stomach the way Tomori has chosen to handle the situation. Yes, Maria has had a difficult life, nearly devoid of loving relationships. But to so warmly and willingly embrace the man who raped her mother? It just feels wrong and does the more serious aspects of Maria's past a disservice by coating the situation with a rosy film.
The real payoff of the series is the emotional growth all of the characters have gone through, so perhaps Tomori is simply trying to show us how Maria has grown able to express her feelings. Throughout this volume we see that in action – when Ayu and Tomoyo narrate chapters, we have the chance to see how Maria has affected their lives and how they have grown through their associations with her. Shintaro, the third boy to fall for the heroine, also becomes a stronger character through his affection for and friendship with Maria, as she grants him what he has never had much in the same way he contributes to her emotional growth. Once again, however, it is Yusuke's thoughts that really help to show us how the characters have changed and evolved, and ending the book with his words is, in some ways, more powerful than if the narrative voice had remained Maria's.
Tomori's artwork remains attractive, with everyone having their own distinct looks, even background classmates. Scenes where Ayu, Maria, and Tomoyo are all standing together are especially striking, as few shoujo mangaka bother to make their main characters so drastically different in terms of not just hair, but also face and eye shape. (In fact the Ayu character is rarely a main one at all, unless she's meant to be a joke.) Maria's shiny bob and bee-stung lips remain the most noteworthy features, although the increasing number of facial expressions for Shin is also a highlight. Speech bubbles in this volume switch in terms of the directions you read them in, which can be confusing at times, but over all this book is visually easy to read.
A Devil and Her Love Song has, for nearly all of its run, been a fascinating shoujo series. At times a romance, at others a school story, it ultimately ends on a coming of age note that indicates that the story for these characters is far from settled or over. If Tomori undermines her own narrative at times with too much or too easy forgiveness, she still creates a compelling tale of a girl who, through her own determination and with the help of her friends, ultimately manages to find the grace she is looking for.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Characters are all strikingly different, Yusuke's narration helps to give the story a sense that life goes on for the characters. Ending feels triumphant for Maria and her friends.
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