Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Misfit of Demon King Academy
GN 1 & 2
Two thousand years ago, Demon King Anoth Voldigoard sacrifices his life to end the brutal wars raging between demons and humans. In his final moments, he casts a spell that will reincarnate him in the far future, when he hopes that the two races will have worked out all of their pointless issues. Fast-forward to that day, when an unassuming couple's newborn suddenly announces who he is (Anoth, of course), and within a month is a full-grown teen, ready to enroll in the Demon King Academy to prove himself as THE Anoth Voldigoard. But history has a nasty habit of being written by the victors, and a few things have definitely strayed from the truth Anoth lived, making proving himself much more difficult than he ever imagined.
There are two sayings about history that are particularly relevant to The Misfit of Demon King Academy: history is written by the victors and anyone who fails to learn that history is doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately for Anoth Voldigoard, his voluntary death two thousand years before the story starts didn't precisely make him look like the “victor” in the wars he died to put an end to, and even if he was technically the winner, no one seems to have acknowledged it. Needless to say, this puts a definite crimp in his plans to tell the world that he has returned.
It is, however, precisely the things that stymie Anoth that make these books so much more than you might have been expecting based on the title and cover art alone. For one thing, Anoth may be reincarnated, but he's not from another world; he's just himself transported two thousand years into the future in his own world, and by his own volition. The eponymous “Demon King Academy” is designed specifically to prepare for his return and to locate him when he comes back rather than train his successor, and the classes and students are so invested in the mythology of who the original Demon King was that they're willfully blind to the real one sitting right under their collective noses. While a lesser character might have proclaimed frustration and attempted to prove his worth using all of his energy and power, Anoth is more concerned with figuring out what went wrong in the years between his death and rebirth; he knows he's awesome and powerful and his ego doesn't need everyone else to know it too – although he's certainly not averse to letting them know if they get too foolish.
That's a large part of what helps to make the books. Anoth is utterly comfortable with himself and confident that he'll eventually make his point, and he really doesn't feel compelled to show off to force the issue. While he won't sit back and let people push him around, he's also not constantly in everyone's faces about it. This makes him truly seem like someone at ease with who he is rather than someone the story tells us is confident and comfortable; Anoth walks the walk while talking the talk. In most of his interactions with people who don't believe him, he's willing to just give them the rope and let them do the rest, allowing their own prejudices and egos to do most of his work for him before he lands the final blow. Sometimes that's literal, as with the fight that's part of his admission test, but other times he lets the other party's bluster do the job, as we see when Sasha challenges him in the second volume and across both books as his teacher repeatedly tries to put him down.
That Emilia does so because she plainly doesn't understand Anoth is another part of the story that works particularly well. One thing he's beginning to notice in these introductory volumes (analogous to episodes 1-3 of the anime) is that not only has his name been lost to history, but the biases that existed in his day seem to have gotten worse. They may not be specifically directed against humans anymore, but there's definitely a belief that being a “pure” demon is better than being mixed-race. What exactly separates humans and demons is at this point an unknown, but they look virtually indistinguishable; the only race with any overt racial traits appears to be the spirits, who have long, pointed ears. This suggests that rather than bring about peace, Anoth's ultimate sacrifice somehow backfired, ushering in a set of new prejudices instead of eradicating them altogether. Since Anoth himself doesn't appear to be biased against anyone based on their race, that's an interesting bit of world building — especially since he's immediately befriended Misha Necron, a girl who appears to be shunned even by her own family.
Misha and Sasha's narrative takes up most of volume two, as Anoth tries to figure out not only who the ruling class of demons currently is but also why Misha is treated so much worse than her apparent twin sister. It appears to go against everything Anoth believes, which is valuing people for their skills rather than their lineage or status, and although he's blasé about nearly everything on the surface, it's clear that he's not pleased with the way Sasha continually puts Misha down. In fact, his decision to challenge Sasha (which the poor fool accepts) is entirely based on a new belief that he's rapidly beginning to espouse: that family is important and needs to stick together, even if it means chucking a castle at someone's head to make it happen.
That's another theme that we see quite a bit of in these volumes – family. In his previous life, Anoth doesn't appear to have ever known his, so to be suddenly blessed with very loving parents is probably the strangest thing for him in this new one. He muses a lot on whether this is what “family” is supposed to mean, so when Misha tells him that her family has voluntarily downgraded her at school, something Sasha demonstrates continually, it strikes Anoth as wrong. It's interesting that even though it's much more in line with what he remembers, he's upset with any family he sees where there's overt rivalry and antipathy; perhaps it shows not only the power of his new parents' influence on him but also something he missed but couldn't put a name to in his past. That, combined with his decision to end things two thousand years ago, paints a sad picture of the life Anoth lived before. His throne appears to have been a cold, lonely one.
There are bits of humor scattered across the volumes to add a little light to what might otherwise have been a very serious story. Anoth being the king of terrible dad jokes is one of the better ones, but also seeing how history has warped some of his actions provides a little humor, such as how he accidentally scorched a town in his sleep because he was dreaming being passed down as evidence of his awesome and dreadful powers, and his habit of making comments like, “You didn't think I'd die just because you killed me,” are always entertaining. His parents are slightly less successful as sources of humor because they're almost too over-the-top (particularly in volume one), but they also bring the mood up, so they work in that capacity. The art does a good job of playing to the writing's strengths without overplaying its hand, with showing a horned past Anoth (demons don't have horns normally) being a particularly nice touch as a demonstration of how truth and recorded history have parted ways. Interestingly enough, even though skirts aren't actually that much shorter in the manga than in the anime, they look as though they are, and overall bodies are thinner than in their animated incarnation.
The Misfit of Demon King Academy's first two volumes are not only a nice complement to the anime's first few episodes, but also an equally interesting take on the story with more focus on Anoth's thoughts. It's surprisingly serious at times and entertainingly light at others, making it just an enjoyable book all around.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ More on Anoth's interior monologue than the anime, interesting premise and execution. Balances the serious with some funny.
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