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?

The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 13

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

I’ve said for a while now that this series does a good job of having romantic interests in it but sort of keeping it on the back burner rather than being a full-blown romantic comedy. Well, that changes with this volume, which devotes a large chunk to our heroines and how they feel – in this case, Chiho, who has now confessed to Maou TWICE but still hasn’t gotten much of anything from him, and Rika, who is in love with Ashiya and decides to do something about it when he invites her out for dinner and cellphone buying. Things arguably don’t go well for either of them, but in Chiho’s case there’s a larger issue, which is that she worries that soon she’s going to have to do other human stuff – study for exams, go to college, etc. – and will not see her supernatural friends anymore. Especially given Laila is still trying to get them on board with her big project, which could take a month to complete… or a hundred years.

There are a lot of confrontations in this book, and it’s interesting that some of them we only hear about secondhand. We see a teary Chiho run into Suzuno, but their conversation is heard second-hand later on, and Maou being “punished” for upsetting Chiho is also off screen (well, the setup, anyway). I’m not sure if this is just because the author is trying to keep the books to a certain length, but it is somewhat odd. We do get a great conversation between Chiho and Rika, two characters who are both best friends with Emilia but rarely interact. I worried that Rika and Ashiya’s date would also be off screen, but we do see that, and also Ashiya rejecting her… in fact, he tries to do the “I am too scary, please never see me again” thing, but Rika’s too smart to fall for that, though he is pretty damn scary. I did enjoy seeing Rika tell Chiho that she could possibly be the exception to the “demons don’t have human lovers” thing.

As for the main plot, Laila provides most of the humor in this volume in her desperate attempts to explain why she needs Maou and Emilia’s help. We first hear about the issues via a term paper (no, really, that’s how it reads), and it helps us to understand why everyone is so wary of her – she’s been living on Earth, but is she just an angel in disguise, or is she actively trying to fit in and be human like the others? We eventually find out it’s the latter, and why she’s been so wary of taking anyone to her apartment, in a joke that you can see a mile away but is no less satisfying. It does, however, lead to the big reveal, which is that what Laila is asking will take forever, and some of the people involved are normal humans who will grow old and die. But Maou isn’t… and neither, it turns out, is Emilia, whose half-Angel background means she could live a lot longer than anticipated.

In the end, Maou tries to be nicer about it, but still hasn’t responded to Chiho’s resolve. He can’t keep avoiding it forever, and it’s not as if the answer is “I like Emilia instead”, as he doesnt. If anything, he’s in love with his work. Which is appropriate for this series. What happens next? Can’t wait to find out. Sure hope the next volume isn’t a collection of short stories or something.