By Miyoshi Tomori. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialized in the magazine Margaret. Released in North America by Viz.
In Volume two of this series, we delve further into the psyches of both Maria and Kanda, and get a good look at how the series overall is going to shape up. Basically, if you dislike hardcore bullying, or people abuse authority? You may wish to consider another series. I wish you wouldn’t, though, as this is really quite good.
It can sometimes be frustrating that so many manga series are devoted to life in high school. Do we really need to relive those years all over again? And this volume is especially good at showing us the darker side of high school – Maria has virtually the entire class (save our two heroes, of course, as well as Tomoyo, the girl we dealt with in Volume 1) united against her, with Ayu Nakamura only being the most obvious. Given the nature of shoujo manga, I expect Maria will eventually win over one or two more of these girls, but in the meantime, it’s hard to take – especially given how vicious they are here, calling Maria a slut and ripping off her rosary (which them gets thrown away by the teacher.)
Oh yes, that teacher. Another trend of Japanese manga and anime dealing with bullying is that ‘blame the victim’ seems to be the norm (not that this is limited to Japan). Fruits Basket had Kisa being urged to “get stronger” so that she wouldn’t be bullied, and Medaka Box has a bullied track star afraid to tell anyone as *she* would be the one cut from the track team. Towards that end, we have the class’ sadistic teacher, who seems happy enough to use Maria to further his own ends. He’s over the top, yes, but I also liked the fact that he is a clever bully – he manages to turn things around against Kanda quite well, and is compared uncomfortably with him. Teachers in Japan hate the nail sticking up, which is exactly what Maria is – and what Kanda tried not to be every day.
Vol. 2 delves deeper into Kanda’s psyche, as we see not only how much of his everyday behavior is a false front, but how much he relies on that front to get him through life. Maria has no filters, so is unable to see just how people use them to make things less harsh. (I’ve noticed her tendency to use full last and first names with everyone.) The trouble with these filters, of course, is it makes it harder for genuine feelings to get through – on either side. Maria is so unfiltered that she makes an impression right away, but I also loved the end, where Maria notes that the class is so angry with Kanda because he was so important to them in the first place.
This is a 13-volume series, and we’re barely into it. Which makes sense, not because Maria will have to defeat and/or befriend teachers and bullying classmates in order to get that brass ring, but that it’s becoming clearer that the biggest obstacle is her own self-hatred. If Maria keeps thinking of herself as making everyone and everything around her worse, then she’s never going to be able to open up. She seems to realize this, and is happy that she came to this new school. As we get more of her backstory (and the cliffhanger here seems to imply the next volume may have more of it), hopefully we’ll get to see her begin to cope with not being a devil, but simply a teenager who’s been through a harsh life.