By Miyoshi Tomori | Published by VIZ Media
The back cover blurb of A Devil and Her Love Song contains the following lines: “Meet Maria Kawai—she’s gorgeous and whip-smart, a girl who seems to have it all. But when she unleashes her sharp tongue, it’s no wonder some consider her to be the very devil!”
And in my mind, this built up the expectation for a comedy, but that’s not what A Devil and Her Love Song is at all. It’s much more serious and sad than I had anticipated, but if I had done my research beforehand and realized that it originally ran in Margaret, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Beautiful Maria Kawai has been expelled from her prestigious Catholic school, St. Katria’s, and must now enroll in a new school. She carries a lot of mental baggage from her experiences at St. Katria’s, most notably the fact that someone she regarded as her best friend told her “You taint everyone around you.” And, as if to lend credence to these words, Maria stirs up hostilities amongst her classmates almost immediately. The problem is that she’s so perceptive, and so blunt in her delivery, that she points out personality attributes that her classmates would rather not acknowledge, like the fact that they’ve been gossiping about her prior to her arrival, or that one boy is pushing himself to be liked by all even though he is not naturally a people person. Over the first week of school, matters escalate to the point where Maria is shoved down a flight of stairs and a truly odious teacher is telling her she’s “rotten to the core.”
And yet, there are certain lessons from her St. Katria’s days that serve Maria well in tough moments, like “those who believe will be saved,” which provides her encouragement to get through bullying encounters with a group of Mean Girls in her class. But she’s not taking solace from a religious implication of these words; instead, she seems to feel that if she believes in people’s good intentions, has faith that one day they will accept her, that this will actually come to pass. And so, even though she knows the girls have it in for her, she puts herself in the path of their harassment in the hopes that one day, she’ll win them over. As I said, it’s really rather sad and makes her far more sympathetic than I ever expected a sharp-tongued heroine to be.
I regret to admit I made another snap judgment of the series based on the chapter one title page, which depicts Maria and a couple of boys, one a cheerful blond and the other a surly-looking brunette. I assumed these would be her stereotypical shoujo love interests, but though both boys are definitely interested in her, they are far more complicated individuals than I had assumed they would be. The brunette, Shin, is grumpy, rebellious, and not really friendly with the rest of the class, but has a kind heart. It unsettles him that Maria can so clearly see through him, and he’s terrified of what would happen if she could discern what he’s feeling about her, but he still comes through with her when no one else will. There’s one especially nice scene where she’s so happy and scared by his kindness that she can’t even find the words to explain, so she sings instead.
On the other hand, you have Yusuke, who is trying so hard to be everyone’s friend that he’s actually no one’s real friend at all. His philosophy is the “lovely spin,” which is a survival mechanism he tries to impart upon Maria with little success. Turn everything into something palatable and nice, even if you’re being untrue to yourself, is the basic gist. It’s probably good for her to master this subterfuge, to avoid further confrontations and to effect the personal change she seeks, but why is he doing it? Just as he helps her master the art of diplomacy, one wonders whether she will help him drop the charade.
I mean no slight to shoujo comedies when I say that A Devil and Her Love Song is much better, richer and more deep, than I anticipated. To say that I am looking forward to reading the rest of this story would be a gross understatement.
A Devil and Her Love Song is published in English by VIZ Media. The first volume will officially be released on February 7, 2012. The series is complete in Japan with thirteen volumes.
Review copy provided by the publisher.