A Devil and Her Love Song, Vol. 1

By Miyoshi Tomori. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Margaret. Released in North America by Viz.

I must admit, when I first started reading A Devil and Her Love Song, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Maria. Sure, she was blunt, and I quite like blunt heroines, but she seemed just a bit too stoic for me. Was she really going to be able to carry a 13-volume shoujo manga. Also, the genki blonde male co-star was really getting on my nerves. Then within a couple of pages she shows us how much of that ‘get on my nerves’ attitude was a facade (hint: all of it), and does a head tilt that must easily be seen to be believed. You’d think she was totally mocking him if she weren’t so deadly serious and incapable of understanding sarcasm. That was when I began to love Maria Kawai.

Speaking of those two guys, there not nearly as reverse harem as I might have expected. Shin is likeable right away, especially for long time readers of shoujo manga, and I’ve a feeling that he and Maria will be the main couple. Yasuke is perhaps more interesting to me personally, however. I noted that he annoyed me at the start, and that really didn’t precisely go away as the volume went on. I did like the growing sense of unease that he feels, especially as Shin notes that his act isn’t really working as well as he thinks. Maria is simply the only one willing to call him out on it. His best moment is right at the end, where he opens up to Maria and reveals how much of his life is a deliberate lie. Usually the “broken bird” type in manga like this is someone like Shin – grumpy, cynical, worn down by past events. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Yusuke in future volumes.

Back to Maria for a bit, as I wanted to discuss something else that separates this series from most other generic shoujo mangas with a blunt, in your face heroine – her faith. Japan has a very casual relationship with Catholicism, and its depictions in shoujo manga tend to simply involve the Catholic School as a setting – the strict nun teachers, praying to the Virgin Mary about someone’s love life, etc. Maria, however, seems to have a genuine faith. Not in an active, religious sense, but more a faith in the good in man, and belief in oneself. It’s a very personal faith, and one I can easily identify with. Of course, that faith also brings with it a great helping of sin, and Maria certainly seems to have a low opinion of herself – something that’s helped along by everyone around her.

For Maria is highly empathic. Which unfortunately, combined with no social filters, leads her to tell everyone exactly what she thinks, and point out the obvious walls that everyone puts up to protect themselves from being hurt. Maria has no such walls, and so is hurt all the time, to the point where she almost seems dulled to pain. Almost, but not quite – her “date” with Shin not only shows us that she can be passionate about something (even if it’s goth-loli shoes), but that she is aware of how she is to other people. She holds herself to impossible standards, and when everyone around her says she’s a horrible person (usually for calling them on their shit), it only reinforces her lack of belief. Back to faith again – Maria wants to believe in herself, in a Maria Kawai who she can love and be proud of. But since she hates herself, this faith has nowhere to go. Except into singing “Amazing Grace”.

The old hymn appears a few times throughout this volume, sung by Maria, who has a beautiful angelic voice. When I grew up, I didn’t realize that I was taught a “censored” version of the song – the lyrics in the 2nd line that I learned were “that saved and set me free”. The original, of course, carries a far greater sense of self-loathing – “that saved a wretch like me”. It is this version that Maria sings. She believes herself unworthy of being saved, but desperately wants to be. (I will note that this manga does feature a cast of female classmates who all hate the heroine, a peril in many shoujo manga. But Maria doesn’t exactly warm the heart. I’m hoping as the series goes on, we’ll get her some female friends.)

I could keep writing – I found a lot to talk about with this series. Probably a sign of how good it is. Go and get the first volume.

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  1. re: female friends – keep the faith! ^^


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