The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 16

By Satoshi Wagahara and 029. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Kevin Gifford.

This series is finally ending in Japan this august, so we know that after this book there’s only five more to go. As such, it does appear that this “defeat God so that Alas Ramus can have an awesome birthday” plotline is going to be the final one, assuming that it’s not “oh hey, guess I am in love with Emi/Maou after all”. As for this particular book, we’re faced with another “power through a weak first half, because the second half is spectacular” volume. Maou was barely in the last book, so he gets a lot of time at the start of this one. Sadly, everyone ELSE isn’t around, so most of the first chapter is him admitting that he now has bonds with other people and feels very lonely when they aren’t constantly around. (Acieth is around, but sadly he takes no comfort from her very annoying antics.) It doesn’t help that Valentine’s day is coming up, and Chiho is, well, avoiding him as he’s still waffling about her, to EVERYONE’S irritation.

As I said, the first half of this book is not that hot, mostly as the reader is well aware of what character development Maou and Emi need to have happen to them, but the writer wants to drag it out until the main non-romance plot is done. As such, Maou is again too nice for his own good – this time accepting some seeming “obligation” chocolate that is too expensive to really quality as that. Chiho has decided that, having made her feelings clear – again – she’s not going to add to the pressure by getting him chocolates, and was thinking maybe something like miso for his stressed-out stomach. And Emi, of course, is freaking out at the very thought of possibly giving chocolate to the guy she supposedly can’t forgive, and ends up justifying things by figuring out that Alas Ramus can give her daddy candy. None of this is all that interesting.

Where the book takes off is when we go to Enta Isla, where, owing to various plot explanations that I’m not going to get into (don’t worry, the other cast will), Chiho has to participate in an archery competition as part of a contest to be the next chief of the Northern tribes. She’s not aiming to be a chief, but winning the archery part will allow the team to steal a powerful weapon that is also an iconic monument. The reason that it’s so good is that it features Chiho wanting to come out from the shadow of the more powerful characters… both because of her accuracy with the bow (which isn’t super duper – she’s helped by the fact that archery in this world is not nearly as advanced) and because she’s sick of being “the girl defined by her liking Maou”, which honestly is how a lot of fans tend to see her. We know she isn’t winning the Maou sweepstakes, so this is an important step to allow her to become her own person. Also, she’s badass.

There’s other things to enjoy in the second half too, such as a badass granny and Bell getting an unfortunate nickname. That said, it does remind me that I tend to like this series better when Maou is not par-timing. Or angsting.

The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 15

By Satoshi Wagahara and 029. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Kevin Gifford.

We’re back to the main storyline, but the devil is almost entirely absent from this book, not showing up till the end. Instead we get some of the other characters getting a section of plot, including Chiho (who is still dealing with “Maou hasn’t answered my confession and I know the moment Emilia realizes she loves him I lose”, while Emeralda is trying to drag out her time in Japan as long as possible, both because she likes it there more and also to make sure that Emilia is really doing OK. And, of course, there’s the choice that Emi and Maou have to make – help Laila and save Enta Isla, or stay in Japan and keep seeking their own future? Perhaps most importantly, it’s Christmastime, which ties in with Chiho’s woes – Maou’s working the entire holiday. All of these subplots end up coming together when we center on what to get Alas Ramus for a Christmas Present… a decision that ends up shaking up everyone and everything.

It’s fairly rare to have a Christmas-themed light novel come out in North America close to Christmas – owing to when a book is licensed here, we get far more “Christmas in July” series. It handles the Christmas plot well, and the concept of what Alas Ramus really wants for Christmas is a strong story beat. I also really like everyone thinking about their future going forward in Japan – Maou is absent from most of the book as he’s doing training to become a full-time McRonald’s employee (given the title of the series, I suspect this won’t go well), and both Emi and Chiho are studying to get into university. We see most of this from the POV of Emeralda, who is quite happy to see it as she’s been against Emilia sacrificing her life for some time now, and would be delighted if she actually did things for herself, be this a new career or romance.

That said, there are a few big flaws with this book. This series has never shied away from long expodumps, and I’ve criticized it before. Well, I’m going to do it again, as so much of this volume was characters sitting around listening to Angels and Demons explaining the backstory. I get the sense that the author wanted to put this into a side-story or a spinoff, but was told no, so instead we get to see it secondhand from other people. Sadly, that just makes things boring. The other issue I had was a “one fakeout too many” problem. The book begins with Chiho and Rika arriving at a deserted apartment complex, with Chiho telling Rika everyone connected to Enta Isla has now left. Then we get the book proper. When we return, we get the setup for what feels like another “sorry, humans, you have to stay behind” bit… only for Chiho to pitch an absolute fit, use a magical portal device, grab Rika, and leap into Enta Isla. I loved this. The problem I had was later, when Chiho’s rage, which I loved so much, was handwaved away as being Rika misreading the situation and Chiho being tired. I get they don’t want her to confront Maou yet, but I’d rather she’d have been angry.

Still, provided you don’t mind having the plot spoonfed to you, this is a reasonable solid volume of the series, and I liked one big revelation at the end, which made me think of the Doctor Who story State of Decay. Expect things to stay on the Enta Isla side for the next book.

The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 14

By Satoshi Wagahara and 029. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Kevin Gifford.

As hinted in my previous review, this does not give us the next installment of the main series, but is another series of short stories that are interspersed throughout the series’ timeline. Most of them, with the exception of the last one, were published in magazines, something that happens quite frequently in Japan but is not always collected into a volume, and even when it is sometimes is not picked up in North America (hi, Index). As you can imagine, the stories here range from merely OK to quite good. None of them are too serious and none of them really advance the plot, but they’re fun and make you smile. Ashiya’s reaction to winning a pressure cooker in a contest is as hilarious as you’d expect given his frugality. Maou finds buying a new phone to be a lot more difficult than he expected, as he has memories attached to the old, broken one. And Maou also bikes a lot, so needs new pants, in possibly the slightest story here.

Three stories do get a little more depth, though. In the first, which takes place between the first and second books, Chiho meets up with Emi, Albert and Emeralda for sushi and they discuss Maou’s past, why he hasn’t erased her memories, and Chiho’s own feelings for Maou. This is well done but also feels a bit unrealistic in terms of Emi’s personality – it feels like Vol. 13 Emi is overlaid with Vol. 1 Emi so that she doesn’t explode in rage. The funniest bits are probably Albert and Emeralda experiencing conveyor belt sushi and revealing their hideously large appetites to us. Another story deals with Kisaki’s past, as when the manager of the Sentucky Fried Chicken across the street comes into McRonald’s (with Sariel in tow, of course), Kisaki literally throws her out, and has to face disciplinary action. The revelation that they have a past is not exactly surprising, but it’s fun. I really liked the revelation that she’s stalling her career a bit because she’s debating asking Maou to join her in her dream. I suspect that ain’t happening, though.

The best story is the last one, the only one written especially for the book, which shows us Emilia’s life after arriving in Japan for the first time. Naturally, she’s chased all over the place by cops, particularly when she tries to live in a park and drink from the central fountain. She ends up at a familiar apartment building, though it’s empty at the moment, and the moment she broke into it I knew exactly what would happen, but that didn’t make this less funny or endearing. I am somewhat relieved that she did not drive her realtor namesake into an institution or get her fired, as I was expecting one or the other. It also helps to emphasize how, when not driven to kill by the likes of Olba, Emi is really a sweet, kind person at heart. Even when she’s being a samurai ghost.

So this is not essential in terms of plot, but is a nice, fun read with more of the characters you know. Next volume should get back to the plot, and has a Christmas theme – will it come out by Christmas Day?