Even the teacher’s a bully.
I think it is best if I preface this review by noting that I ended up going out to buy the fourth volume only a few days after finishing volume three… so, yes, I do rather like A Devil and Her Love Song.
Volume two brings more of the same over-the-top peer-on-peer hatefest we saw in volume one, with Maria’s direct personality continuing to win her few allies. However, she’s finally got a female friend in the form of Tomoyo, the same girl who shoved her down the stairs in the first volume. Tomoyo manages to overcome her own social fears to tell off her peer-group when they start saying rotten things about Maria for roughly the thousandth time; she is fairly instantly ostracized. We also learn that she loves rock and roll.
I enjoyed how Tomoyo was handled in becoming one of Maria’s friends, as Maria didn’t do the whole “I’m so nice, kill you with kindness~” routine that we typically see in shoujo manga. Tomoyo ends up becoming a friend of Maria’s because Tomoyo appreciates that Maria didn’t sugar-coat things to her, and feels that this allowed her to finally break away from her old wimpy habits. As a person with a burning distaste for the Tohru Honda school of heroines, I was pleased with the route taken here.
Volume two also introduces the homeroom teacher as a significant bully himself, as he steals Maria’s cross… and then gives it to another student in volume three. Said student is Hana Ibuki, freshly returned from surgery and a hospital stay. And unlike the obviously cruel classmates Maria’s already encountered, Hana prefers to keep her true intent hidden under a thick layer of bubbliness and a dash of airheadedness. In fact, Hana turns out to be worse than the other girls, as she’s much more devious than they seem to be capable of being; she also keeps a lot of her end-game under-wraps when she first turns up.
Homeroom teacher forces Maria to lead the class for a choral presentation, and Hana exacerbates the problem more or less with his blessing, but volume three ends in a cliffhanger – Hana angrily reveals the conspiracy, and Maria… agrees to go along with it. And then I started thinking hard about when I’d be able to finally get around to grabbing that fourth volume.
A Devil and Her Love Song is still every bit as over-the-top and ridiculous as it was in the first volume, and I think it would quickly wear out its welcome with most readers; that I still am enjoying it is surprising, since high schoolers being shitty to each other is generally tiresome to me. But I really, really like Maria – she’s abrasive and unwilling to compromise, and I love it. And in volumes two and three, our other protagonists start to get fleshed out a bit; our designated Love Interests (as indicated by one having blonde hair and the other brunette) are edging past being simply one-note personalities.
I also appreciate that these volumes showed the boys of the class participating in the social shunning as well; having experienced bullying myself and having had friends who experienced it as well, I can tell you that even when things started out as one particular gender group targeting a particular kid, it very rarely remained that way. I think it also helps highlight that even when the boys weren’t actively being cruel to Maria, they were certainly doing nothing to help her out.
Production values here are standard Viz, no surprises there. I found the translation easy to follow and smooth, and was pleased to find no typos or misplaced dialogue. But Viz has always been fairly professional in this way, even when other big-names (Tokyopop and Yen Press) were tripping up on this front. Some folks will tell you that a couple typos aren’t a big deal, but try to tell me when you found a typo last in a non-manga book published through traditional channels. A professional product is a professional product… and if ultra-niche publishers like Vertical can avoid such slips, surely larger efforts can as well. So, good on Viz, although you don’t get cookies for meeting the minimum.
I would hesitate to recommend A Devil and Her Love Song in a general sense because I think its too melodramatic and extreme to have wide appeal. I think shoujo readers who are looking for something a bit different will find a lot to like here, even with the rather tropetastic “all the girls hate the heroine who is super pretty!” set-up. Non-shoujo readers who want to try some shoujo but are leery of the more sparkly approaches may also find that A Devil and Her Love Song satisfies their curiosity, although, again, ridiculous levels of bullying. But maybe I’m being too careful, here, as I know I’ve totally fallen under its spell despite its faults. Eh, if you’re curious about it, give the first volume a whirl – you can find it easily for about $5 a pop used, so it definitely won’t croak your wallet.