The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, Vol. 17

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

Even more than the last volume, this one gives off the feeling of an author who has been told precisely when his series will be ending. We have five more to go, including this one. As such, it’s far more concerned with the future of the main cast than previous books, as well as pointing blinking arrows at one of the main unanswered questions of the series: why is Maou so dedicated to working his way up the McRonald’s ladder? Shouldn’t he be more worried about Enta Isla? The ongoing battle against God gets shunted to the last fifth of the book (which is quite good, don’t get me wrong), leaving the bulk of it focusing heavily on Maou having the 23-year-old equivalent of a mid-life crisis. He still hasn’t answered Chiho, Emi continues to give him the most mixed signals imaginable, and he’s also reached a crisis point at his job: he failed the managerial exam. Like most huge corporations, they won’t tell him why. Does Maou have what it takes to lead?

It’s a bigger problem than you’d think. He can’t retake the exam for a year. And he has to be recommended again, which is a problem, as Kisaki, who graces the front cover, is being promoted. She’s not leaving the store per se, but she won’t be managing anymore, meaning she won’t be able to help guide Maou’s career. Indeed, she seems far more concerned about her own dream of opening an upscale coffee bar. That said… that dream might include Maou. As well as Sariel, surprisingly, who Kisaki points out is very good at managing money, hopelessly devoted to her, and won’t actually lay a hand on her – the perfect lackey. (This seems cruel, but Sariel is really too pathetic to sympathize with.) That said, Maou simply can’t accept right now – not with everything else in his life up in the air, including monstrous lizards invading Japan, injured chickens, and White Day chocolates needing to be purchased.

One theme of the entire series has been that Maou is excellent at leadership skills when they involve concrete things that need doing, but he’s very bad at reading the emotions and hearts of anyone he deals with. This is especially proven in the scene where he gives out the White Day chocolates – he thinks of everything, including getting chocolate for people who only gave it to him indirectly (coughEmiliacough), then proceeds to ask Emilia to help him go to the demon territories, which sounds to everyone (including her) like he’s taking her on a date and going back to his place. He is dull when it comes to love and romance. Which is why he hasn’t answered Chiho either. Fortunately for him, the crisis at the end of the book will likely make it OK to forget about that again for a bit. They really DO need to clear up Enta Isla first.

There’s even a bonus short story here, which was not in the Japanese volume, showing off Maou’s terrible fashion sense. Assuming Devil Is a Part-Timer fans have not spoiled themselves on what happens next, this should be a great pickup for them.

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.