When shoujo heroines get attitude.
Sorry, no picture; in transit currently and have a slow connection.
I’ve been on a truly bizarre shoujo binge of late, as I’ve mentioned in a few other posts. I grasp desperately after shoujo, shoujo, SHOUJO!, and it still feels pretty weird since I was never a big shoujo fan to begin with – I did read shoujo, but I never sought it out specifically. Although, truly, I never sought out specific types of manga (so, demographic groups or genre) until I’d been reading the stuff for a few years already (teehee~ it was BL~~~).
Anyway, though, in my shoujo quest I wound up picking up the first volume of A Devil and Her Love Song. I was slightly hesitant, as I’d seen a couple bad reviews for it, but it’s always so much easier to do this sort of thing when you’re trading in manga as opposed to opening one’s wallet (this is also how I wound up with Alice the 101st Vol. 1 despite how uninspiring it seemed). I’d already grabbed all the Kamisama Kiss they had, owned the volumes of Sand Chronicles they had, and thought the likes of Jiu Jiu looked utterly wretched, so A Devil and Her Love Song it was.
Tentatively, I would call it a good move.
A Devil and Her Love song is about Maria Kawai, a girl who has transferred to a new school in the wake of her expulsion from her fancy Catholic high school. She’s pretty, she’s smart… and she’s extremely abrasive. This is honestly what makes the thing worth reading – for once we have a shoujo heroine who doesn’t bend over backwards being disgustingly pleasant despite her typically bad circumstances (she’s been tossed from her house! her relatives are bullying her! the love interest keeps telling her that she’s a moron!). And Maria’s circumstances aren’t great at all, as she is almost instantly set upon by her female peers.
Things here get a bit weak. I’m not big on “all the girls hate her because she’s pretty/the hot guys like her!” story developments. In this case, I actually am accepting and handling its inclusion better since it’s understandable why she would be bullied – she’s very blunt and doesn’t sugarcoat anything at all. So it makes more sense than what we usually see with this sort of thing. However, the degree of the bullying borders on absurd, with her own homeroom teacher joining in, and the class pushover pushing her down the stairs and then faking an injury and claiming she was the one pushed. Particularly with the teacher, it feels a bit comical.
I’m willing to look past it, though. Maria’s a pretty fantastic character, especially in a genre known for its blandly agreeable leads (hello there, Tohru). I can’t really emphasize enough how awesome it was to watch a female shoujo lead essentially tell her bullies that they’re insecure losers.
I am a bit worried that her rough edges will end up getting smoothed out during the course of the story, though. Maria tries to be pleasanter with her classmates in the second half of the volume, although the results are less than stellar on her part, which would seem to indicate that she won’t become a complete limp noodle. There’s definitely a strong bitter streak to her, so I suspect that is where we’ll see some rehabilitation of her character. Just hope they leave that bluntness intact.
The other characters aren’t much to speak of so far. There’s a girl called Nippachi who is the aforementioned pushover of the class; in a different manga, she’d end up as Maria’s friend, but here she’s just cowardly and willing to do the dirty work of others. The love interests are blonde-haired Yusuke and dark-haired Shin, both of whom are exactly what you would expect from that sparse description alone. They aren’t unlikeable, but they aren’t very interesting yet, either. If I had to pick a ship at this point, Shin wins simply since he and Maria seem to have more in common, as both are loners.
Getting into the technical side of the house, this is from Viz’s Shoujo Beat line, and they do a perfectly decent job, as has become their usual. The translation flows fairly naturally, and there are no typos to speak of. (As an aside, I would argue that Viz has the best track-record on quality for the longer-running manga publishers.) This is one of the Viz titles that doesn’t retain things like honorifics, although it honestly didn’t bother me very much, certainly less so than June’s recent movement away from retention of honorifics.
The art is fine; there are a few moments where Maria’s lips are a bit too large, but Miyoshi Tomori, the author, doesn’t have any other noticeable hiccups in her drawings. Other than Maria, it isn’t a terribly memorable approach, but it’s certainly competent.
The upshot is, A Devil and Her Love Song is a pretty decent manga with a slight chance of becoming infuriating, if Maria’s flux is toward becoming more socially palatable. The bullying edges toward unbelievable at points, but it’s easier to overlook here since our heroine isn’t one of those repulsively sweet types. If you’re looking for a shoujo starring a girl with a backbone, this is a solid bet.