Reviewby Theron Martin,
The Devil Within
Pretty 15-year-old Rion emphatically regards all men (including her own father) as devils, while fixating her romantic interest on pure young boys. Although her fetishes are occasionally justified by the behavior of uncouth males, her strange fixation does not prevent her from being stuck in a situation that otherwise would be enviable: her father Satan-sama (no, really), whom Rion refers to as “The Great Devil,” has arranged for her to marry one of the three dashingly handsome sons of his new business partner, and Rion must choose between them even though she has fallen head over heels for the adorable young boy who lives one floor below her. As it turns out, everyone directly involved is more than what he or she seems, and much more is at stake here than just a future husband for Rion.
The Devil Within radiates the feel of a typical shojo reverse harem series despite its desperate efforts to distinguish itself from the pack by throwing in odd idiosyncrasies and all manner of supernatural elements, many of which cannot be discussed here without revealing major spoilers. All the male characters embody dashing charm and make the beautiful but abnormal female lead the center of their attention, and romance stands at the forefront of plot considerations. The content does get a wee bit edgier than shojo fare normally does, as Rion seems to have an innate talent for finding herself in dangerously precarious situations with members of the opposite sex (which, of course, allows for regular rescues by the gorgeous guys), but it never fully escapes normal shojo romantic comedy doldrums.
It does, however, offer a lot of unusual twists. Unlike most romantic comedies, a near-constant subtext of ulterior motives underlies everything that nearly everyone except the guileless Rion does. Koki, Fuuya, and Somi, the three prospective fiancés, all hide a couple of huge secrets common to the three of them as well as more individualized motivations, and those motivations may actually have little to do with wanting Rion for herself. Tenshi, the boy Rion has fallen for, does eventually return her affection after initially regarding her as a nuisance, but it seems he also has his own selfish reasons for doing so that have little to do with actually having any feelings for Rion. Indeed, as the secrets start to come out (including Rion's own secrets, which she does not even know about herself at the start of the series), it becomes increasingly clear that Rion is less a true love interest than a valuable playing piece that everyone, including Rion's aptly-named father, covets for their own personal gain. The full truth of what all is afoot, and exactly why Rion is so valuable to everyone other than Tenshi, does not come out in this volume, which may leave enough reason for readers to want to continue on to volume 2. Actual substantive plot in a shojo romance comedy – who would've thought?
The comedy, such as it is, mostly involves Rion going off about one issue or another or Satan-sama's male secretary/driver going googly over his master's attributes, although cat-related jokes also get a lot of mileage. The minimal-personality male leads, surprisingly, are mostly played straight. Rion's shota-con (the male equivalent of lolicon) behavior may have been intended as a joke but comes off a bit on the creepy side, though not as much so as it probably should; reverse the genders and this title would be lambasted to no end for such an obsession by its main character.
Artistically speaking, the title does nothing to separate itself from a plethora of other shojo titles currently on the market. All of the male characters – even the very young ones – have the impossibly lanky builds mandated for inclusion in any shojo title, although Rion also has a similarly lanky build at times. Rion looks suitably cute/sexy when not in chibi form, but overall artistic quality does not step beyond run-of-the-mill and background art appears too infrequently to be given much consideration.
Go! Comi's production of the title translates all of the sound effects but provides dull, unimpressive cover art which clearly advertises its shojo style but will do little to draw in readers who are not already shojo fans. It does include regular Chibi Devil/Chibi Angel four-panel strips, ten pages of unrelated, nonsensical bonus stories with yaoi leanings, and a page of useful translator's notes at the end that are appropriately noted in the text.
Ryo Takagi's most recent effort fits comfortably within its shojo styling and framework while forcing in just enough twists to slightly distinguish itself from its competition. Whether or not it has enough substance to provide staying power should be proven by its next volume.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B-
+ Provides some interesting twists and an actual plot.
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