A Devil and Her Love Song, Vol. 1 by Miyoshi Tomori
If you find yourself fatigued by ordinary shoujo manga, A Devil and Her Love Song is a great series to try read to restore your enthusiasm for the genre. It has an unconventional heroine, two quirky guys, and the promise of an examination of teen social issues with actual psychological depth. The “Devil” referred to in the title is Maria Kawai. She’s introduced to the reader as the object of derision on the subway, as she sits without getting up to offer her seat to the old lady suffering in front of her. When she gets off at her stop, she jostles the sleeping old man sitting next to her and whispers in the old woman’s ear “You must be a lousy pickpocket if you’re targeting a sleeping man, you old crook.” Maria possess incredible powers of intuition. She can instantly see the true feelings and motivations of the people around her. She also has absolutely no filter on her speech, and the habit of bluntly sharing her insights. This ensures that Maria is going to be a target wherever she goes.
Maria starts a new school and soon attracts the attention of an outgoing boy named Yasuke who offers to help her settle in. She comments “I can tell you’re not really a people person, you don’t have to force yourself to talk to me.” Yasuke comments to his friend Shin, “How did she know? I’m upbeat, I’m fun, everybody loves Yasuke!” Shin says that Maria is either being malicious or thoughtful, but in either case he wants nothing to do with her. Maria soon finds herself singled out and bullied, but Shin and Yasuke help her in different ways. With his outgoing facade, Yasuke advises that Maria needs to put “a lovely spin” on what she says so people will get along with her. This results in Maria developing a terrifyingly mannered tendency to tilt her head to the side while saying something horrible to people. Maria begins to start caring about the way she relates to people, seeing “a lovely spin” as a way to view people in the most adorable light possible, while Yasuke attempts to explain that it is a mask he takes off at the end of the day.
Despite Shin’s protests he’s drawn to Maria, intervening in a number of bullying incidents while Maria returns the favor by finding his secret hiding place and dumping water on him when he’s taking a smoke break. Maria is actually able to talk to Shin in a direct way without driving him away, and she actually shares some of her own feelings and experiences instead of commenting on his behavior as though he is the subject of a psychological experiment. Tomori’s character designs are all very attractive, and she does a good job portraying Maria’s cool outer shell when dealing with other people contrasting with the more natural expressions Maria exhibits when she thinks about her own feelings.
I put down A Devil and Her Love Song feeling incredibly intrigued to find out how Maria is going to grow and evolve as a character. She has incredible reserves of inner strength, but I think it will take a long time before she’s able to make true friends or navigate the treacherous hallways of high school without incident. Maria is a refreshing change from the peppy or passive heroines that populate many shoujo series, and I’m excited to see where she’ll wind up.