by Theron Martin,

The Devil is a Part-Timer!

Novel 1

The Devil is a Part-Timer! Novel 1
Satan, the mighty Devil King, came within a hair's breadth of conquering all of the fantasy land of Enta Isla before a heavenly-empowered Hero appeared and united the remaining humanity in a successful resistance. Facing imminent defeat, Satan retreated through a magical Gate with his one remaining General, his strategic advisor Alciel. The two wound up in modern-day Tokyo where, due to a serious shortage of magic, they found themselves reverted to human form and forced to scrape by as two ordinary guys under the named Sadao Maou and Shirou Asiya. While Sadao uses a part-time job at a MgRonald's fast-food restaurant to sustain the household (and thereby use it as a stepping stone to conquer humanity by climbing the corporate ladder), Shirou serves as househusband and researcher on how they might reacquire enough magic to eventually return to Enta Isla. What Satan/Sadao didn't bank on was that the Hero Emilia – who in this world has taken the name Emi Yusa and holds down a job as a contract call center employee – successfully followed him, though she wound up alone. Despite retaining no more of her divine power than Sadao does his magic, she still aims to kill him, though his current pathetic state and seeming character change make her hesitate. Further complicating matters is a teenage coworker of Sadao, one Chiho, who is sweet on Sadao and thus mistakes Emi for being his ex-girlfriend and a mysterious magic-using assassin who seems to know both Emi and Sadao's true identities. Though bitter enemies on Enta Isla, here they may have to become reluctant allies in the face of common threats.

The anime adaptation of this light novel series by Satoshi Wagahara was one of the best and funniest series of 2013, with a concept well-suited to American audiences, so its source material eventually making its way to the States is no surprise. And while the humor comes through better in the anime version, it is only slightly less entertaining to read than the anime is to watch.

For those who have not seen the anime series (whose Blu-Ray/DVD release I reviewed here, the concept is a wonderfully perverse reversal of the “a nobody in the real world becomes Someone Special when transported to a fantasy world” gimmick which is so common in fantasy literature. In this case the two leads and one of the two most important supporting characters were the biggest of bigshots in their original world but have become (mostly) average Joes and Janes in their new world. Though they can occasionally access fantastic powers, they typically have to make do just like anyone else. That also causes the epic Hero/Devil King conflict to be transformed into a spat which is mistaken for a lover's quarrel by more than one observer, resulting in heavy consumption of humble pie by all involved. Just as amusing is the way that Sadao transforms his goals of world conquest into terms which fit his new setting or the way that each of them cannot argue when the other points out that it's the job of Hero and Devil King to give grief to each other. On a more sobering note, it also hypothesizes that the reason the Devil King was so evil towards humanity was that he just did not know them or live among them. Once he has, he develops a strong sense of responsibility towards them.

What separates Wagahara's writing effort from a lot run-of-the-mill light novels out there is the cleverness with which he executes the concept. While the story does have its share of magic use, it smartly finds much of its humor in the mundane, in the way its characters have to adapt, muddle through, and even find ways to frame their old conflicts in modern-world terms. It also introduces interesting innovations, such as the magical sonar technology and the amusing notion of “gate sickness.” Just as importantly, it does not treat its cast as fools or idiots. For all of Sadao's power when he is able to manifest his Devil King form (and the novel does a pretty good job of portraying how immense that power is), the story gives the clear sense that power alone was not what propelled him to the top of the proverbial demon food chain. He is smart as well, smart enough to work out the motivations and plans of his enemies very quickly once he knows who they are and to quickly figure out what he and Alciel must do to survive. Emi/Emilia also is no dummy, as she is shown employing a strong ability to read people and a high degree of adaptability. Late plot twists come from all-too-sensible logic, too.

In comparison to its anime form, the first novel corresponds to the first five episodes, a few certain scenes in episode six, and one scene from episode 13. The novel actually begins at the halfway point of the first episode, with all of the content before that being based either directly or indirectly on flashbacks described later in the novel. (This was a wise reordering, as one of the novel's few weak points is its inauspicious way of starting.) Otherwise the anime follows the novel pretty closely; a few scenes are shortened or lengthened (the conversation in the “Devil's Castle” after the Sasazuka Station business is quite a bit more involved in the novel, for instance) and a couple of scenes get pushed until later in the anime (Emi giving an umbrella back to Sadao, for instance), but there are no major skips and the only significant addition is Sadao contemplating using magic to restart the broken fryers in MgRonalds, which is the trigger for Emi pinning down his real identity in the anime version. (In the novel version she just intuits it without that.) Nor does the novel version offer a lot of additional insight; it does elaborate on exactly how Emi was able to get a much cushier job than Sadao, which is interesting and logical, but that's about it.

The production quality is typical for Yen Press releases. Only one minor grammatical error – a place where two words unintentionally run together – was noted, and the novel interprets an apparent speech affectation by one character by having her regularly draw out the sounds in some words; this was, fortunately, dropped in the anime version, as it is a bit irritating. As with most light novels, it opens with a few glossy pages of color illustrations and contains occasion black-and-white illustrations throughout, all done by the artist 029 (who also did the original character designs for When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace). They have a tendency to oversize Emi's head and use limited or no backgrounds but otherwise are pretty standard anime-styled quality. It ends with an Afterword by the author, which is written in the context of making a demon contract, and a set of joke-laden résumés for Sadao, Emi, Shiro, and Chiho.

Overall, the first The Devil is a Part-Timer! novel offers little that is going to be new to fans of the anime version, but it is a good read in its own right, one that will not disappoint.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B-

+ Smart writing, can be very funny, great twist on a standard concept.
Weaker start than the anime version, carries on a couple of conversations a bit too long, one irritating speech affectation.

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Story: Satoshi Wagahara

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