The Devil is a Part-Timer Volume 1 – Review

The Devil is a Part-Timer:

Volume 1

Reviewed by: Tom

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Synopsis: Ente Isla was once ruled by the Demon Lord Satan and his four generals. But a hero of the people managed to slash through Satan’s army and whittled his forces down into nothing. During their final confrontation Satan escaped through an inter-dimensional portal, vowing to one day return and retake Ente Isla. Satan retreated and found himself in our world. Earth would’ve been in tremendous danger, save for Satan discovering he was drained of his magic.

Forced to start again Satan, renamed Sadao Maou, along with his last and loyal general Ashiya, now lives in Japan working as a lowly part-time MgRonalds employee. As Sadao works his way through the ranks, hoping to one day rule again, he’s confronted by Emi Yusa, who is in actuality the hero who defeated him back in Ente Isla! Now Sadao must work his way up the MgRonald ranks, conquer the Earth and deal with the hero who managed to beat him in the first place. And people think a nine to five shift by itself is grueling.

Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Devil has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek as we follow Satan’s now painfully mundane life and eventual conquest of the MgRonalds food chain. The series only barely takes itself seriously, often poking fun at its own hamfisted and cliche’d developments especially during the book’s climax. Indeed the revelations the audience finds waiting for them are tinged heavily with cliche, fitting right in line with some of the more tired tropes found in Japanese media. But the charm here comes from Devil’s willingness to admit such flaws and make fun of itself for them. It’s a tactic that’s going to depend largely on how tired you are of these predictable developments. That’s not to say everything within Devil is in fact tired and overused. Rather, Devil has a few nuances that, beyond the self deprecation, lend themselves to creating a satisfying conclusion to the series’ first volume.

But Devil is actually at its best when focusing away from the grander aspects of the story. Surprisingly the best parts are not the explosions, the demon on angelic hero battles, but rather the more mundane aspects of Sadao’s life. When Sadao is wholly focused on his achievements within the MgRonalds business there’s real comedy that comes off the page. The humor of a powerful figure like Satan so squarely intent on rising through MgRonalds chain of command makes for some hilarious reading. Unfortunately these sections, along with others, have a tendency to be all too short.

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In an effort to ensure its story fits within the confines of a typical light novel’s length, Devil truncates many of its scenes, offering mere cliff note descriptions of events as our characters move from one day to another or one major event to another. It can be jarring as we go from a fully fleshed out scene, with dialogue and proper prose description, to a bare bones description that glosses over potentially interesting events.

While the story has its up and downs, Devil’s true shining quality is its characters. Sadao is hilarious as a main character, especially the way he’s often sidetracked from what many might consider the important goals by such meager accomplishments at his place of work. Ashiya, Emilia and Chiyo are not nearly as interesting, but each provide ample entertainment: Ashiya trying to get Sadao to focus on more wide-reaching goals, Emilia and her stalwart defiance that she is not interested in Sadao, and Chiyo’s constant embarrassment over her very obvious feelings for Sadao. However, if none of these characters sound like fun that’s going to be a huge blow to Devil, as these are the primary cast to the exclusion of anyone else. Even the villains get such little definition and page time that they act as little more than plot points to thrust the story into its violent and explosive climax.

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Devil’s basic writing style could be its biggest fault. Many scenes offer only the slimmest of description for our heroes, their actions, the tone of speech, etc. Minimal effort has gone into creating each scene in the reader’s mind and that means without a healthy imagination to extrapolate and add to the text on page Devil is potentially a dull read. It doesn’t help that a few of the metaphorical phrases used to describe action or speech don’t always work, painting a vague or inaccurate picture as to the events unfolding on the page. It’s disappointing, and the brief snippets of art (which are quite adorable) don’t alleviate the problem. If anything it’ll at least take some getting use to if the series doesn’t improve in quality.

The Devil is a Part-Timer acts as part of the new push, starting back in 2015, to bring Light Novels over to the west. At ten to fifteen dollars a novel these books are cheap enough to jump into on a whim. But like many of these early efforts they come on after their anime adaptations which made it to the west years prior. So it begs the question: Is it worth a read for someone who’s seen the anime?

Devil’s anime can be intensely faithful at times. Maybe dialogue has been reworked here, or events play out slightly different there, but at the end of the day the same ideas and sequences are presented and little has been left on the cutting room floor. In some cases the anime cuts some content in favor of cramming the first Novel’s content down into just five episodes. For example the Novel has Ashiya and Maou working at least one separate job prior to Maou’s employment at MgRonalds. It’s a short sequence, and suffers from that truncated, slim writing style, but is completely absent from the anime adaptation (safe for a brief mention via flashback.) It’s perhaps disappointing, but not all the cuts are content that was worth keeping.

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In another example when Maou and Chiyo are working at MgRonalds during the first episode a woman arrives with her baby and Maou offers to heat the baby’s milk for her. This scene is somewhat longer in the Novel, as Maou also educates the woman on McRonalds allergy chart (something that, for some odd reason, impresses both Chiyo and the Mother.) Maou also has to instruct Chiyo on how to properly reheat the baby’s milk. Cuts like these help to trip fat that failed to add anything of interest to the Light Novel’s story and I think help to make the anime a better realized version of the story.

Other cuts are a bit more disappointing. Such as information on Emilia’s past, which is slimmed down during Episode 4 of the anime, and a late Novel revelation concerning Emilia’s mother was removed from the anime altogether. The anime also adds content, namely a sequence of scenes in episode 3 depicting Emilia’s stalking of Ashiya and Sadao as she tails them to see what horrible evils they’re up to– instead only to discover them off to a late night bath house or in a rush to take part in a local grocery market’s sale.

Content from the Light Novel’s conclusion suffers the most from the Anime’s cuts. Much of the aftermath of the Novel’s climatic conclusion is missing from the anime. Information concerning Emilia’s mother, conspiracies back on Ente Isla and even a few comedic moments are missing from the anime all in order to cut the novel down to just five episodes worth of content. All in all however, I can’t say that the content lost in the adaptation necessitates fans purchasing the Light Novel. And that brings us to the biggest question: Which is the better way to experience Sadao’s life in Japan?

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If money were no object I’d recommend the Anime adaptation every time. If you already have a subscription to Funimation’s streaming service than you’re set, but I also wouldn’t say Devil is worth a 9.99 monthly subscription by itself (Although the first two episodes are available for free via Funimation’s service.) The Bluray set itself is approaching forty dollars, making the Light Novel’s eleven-dollar price tag a much more affordable venture. The Light Novel isn’t bad, just not the best version of this story, and is worth the purchase if you’re strapped for cash.

I finished The Devil is a Part-Timer both excited and disappointed. Some of the content cut from the anime was cool to read, little extra tidbits of information lost in the translation from page to screen, but the Devil’s lackluster prose and minimal description left me aching for a better read. The story itself was as fun as ever, and I’m still interested in trudging through the second volume to note the differences between its adaptation and the original, but this is one of the cases where the original is not in fact the best version of the story and reading Devil’s Light Novel only really left me hungry to re-experience the anime.

The Devil is a Part-Timer Volume 1 is available for purchase via Amazon.com.

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