Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
A Devil and Her Love Song
GN 5 & 6
The choral competition over, Maria seems to have settled in with a set group of friends. Shin, inspired by his friendship with Maria, decides to brush up on his piano playing and enrolls in a music program after school. There he meets Anna, Maria's former friend from St. Katria. Anna seems like she wants to patch things up with Maria and maybe be friends with the whole group. Is she for real, or does she hide an ulterior motive?
Every story needs a good villain. That's doubly true for high school based tales, where the emotional stakes are higher by virtue of the protagonists' ages. If you really want your story to resonate with an audience of either high school students or those who once were, you'd better have a really vicious bad guy. Miyoshi Tomori understands this, and with these two volumes of A Devil and Her Love Song, she raises the bar for bitchy characters and gives us one we can love to hate.
These two volumes spend more time on Maria's personal thoughts and interactions with her small group of friends than previously. The choral fiasco over, the majority of the class seems to have come to terms with Maria, although her teacher most certainly has not. This allows for Maria to firm up her relationships with Shin, Yuusuke, and Tomoyo, showing the three as a real group of friends. Maria is still awkward, to be sure, and her newly realized feelings for Shin do not help her to matriculate smoothly. She knows that Shin likes her too, but she is unsure about how to approach him. Yuusuke, meanwhile, who also likes Maria but is pretending not to, firms up his role as a great friend to both Shin and Maria, constantly encouraging them and working to get them together. Tomoyo plays a much smaller role, but is a constant physical presence.
The heart of these two volumes is Maria's past, both with Anna and before her. Shin meets Anna at his new music school, a beautiful, seemingly charming girl who has apparently lost the ability to speak. She communicates by writing on a notepad, a contrivance that works much better in manga than in real life. Anna, having learned that Shin knows Maria, begins showing up at Maria's new school under the guise of wanting to rekindle the friendship. This forces Maria to think long and hard about things that Anna said to her in the past and on the nature of their original relationship, bringing the action of the books into her thoughts.
While there is certainly no shortage of shoujo heroines with self-image problems, there aren't many as outwardly undamaged as Maria. We, as the readers, know precisely how emotionally crippled and full of self-disgust Maria is, but unlike other heroines, she doesn't allow that to make her appear outwardly weak. That distinction is fully visible here as we are privy to Maria's thoughts about her relationships and why things turned out the way they did. Anna has her own version of things – which she holds on to until she can use it to her own advantage – but Tomori makes us question it by virtue of what we know of Maria's character, not just from these two volumes, but what we have learned over the course of the whole series to date. This is one of the strengths of A Devil and Her Love Song: the way it steadily builds on itself, taking events in Maria's, Shin's, and Yuusuke's lives and showing us how they affect the characters' thinking and reactions to the new plot developments that occur.
Yuusuke gets to shine in this set of books, displaying a genuine care for his friends that we have seen hinted at but not fully developed before. He particularly shines in the latter half of volume six, caring for Maria while still suspecting that there is more going on than he is aware of. Shin also shows some great developments as he balances Anna's words with Maria's actions, and if we don't like him for parts of both books, by the end of six he's well on the way to redeeming himself. It is too bad that Tomoyo has just become a token character, inserted to make Maria have a female friend to go with her two popular boys; perhaps she'll get a chance to do more later on.
Tomori's art remains as consistently attractive as it has been, with Maria having the most distinctive character design and splash pages showcasing her costuming ability. Anna's design is appropriately sweet and innocent, like a Wataru Yoshizumi heroine, and pages maintain a flow that is easy to follow. Tone can, as with many shoujo manga, get a bit overwhelming, but once you get into the story, that ceases to matter.
A Devil and Her Love Song has maintained a compelling plot and an ability to evoke emotion that holds as true for these volumes as for the first. We're at roughly the halfway point here, and things are really coming to a head for Maria as her deep-seated emotional insecurities begin to show their origins. Shoujo fans should not miss this one – it isn't always nice, happy, or sweet, but it is interesting and gives us a heroine who is both unusual and not nearly who she thinks she is.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ A very good new villain, starts to get at the root of Maria's issues. Yuusuke and Shin really develop as characters.
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