How do you learn to like other people when you don’t even like yourself? Making new friends is hard enough without the added personal issues. But that is Maria Kawai’s dilemma. Expelled from her old school, she must start over at Totsuka High. But fitting in isn’t her strong point, as her razor sharp tongue can often cut when she doesn’t mean for it to, and her cold personality gets her on many of her fellow classmates’ bad side and earns her a reputation as a devil. Only Yusuke Kanda and Shin Meguro seem able to see past it all to her real self, expressed in her angelic singing.
A Devil and Her Love Song Volume 1
By Miyoshi Tomori
Viz Media; February 2012. ISBN: 978-1-4215-4164-8
192 pgs., $9.99
A Devil and Her Love Song pairs up two tropes of shojo manga, the new girl who tries hard to make friends and the girl who’s sharp-tongued and difficult to get along with, and does so surprisingly well. Often the girl who tries hard to make friends is spunky and upbeat, and her obstacles are external. The sharp-tongued girl usually has a secret desire to want to be friends but does her best not to let it show. Maria Kawai, the protagonist of this title, combines these by trying to befriend her new classmates but is betrayed by her nature.
Maria is a fascinating character. She is very intuitive, often able to guess a person’s personality or motives just by looking at them. While this in itself isn’t bad, her blunt way of speaking and her apparent inability to tell when it’s appropriate to speak those intuitions out loud are what get her in trouble. She isn’t a very expressive person either, so it’s hard for others to tell if she’s truly sorry when she says so or is being snarky. This is exactly the part of her that she hates and wants to change. She doesn’t want to alienate people, but she really doesn’t know how not to. She takes some advice from Yusuke and tries his “lovely spin” to soften her words, but it seems to backfire on her more often than not. Her problem, though, isn’t really that she’s being unintentionally cruel. She’s just speaking a truth that others don’t want to hear.
Maria is also a very identifiable character for girls. She has a lot of self-doubt and really does want to be liked by the others in her class. When she doesn’t make a good first impression, she is subjected to bullying by the other girls. When she makes a connection with Shin, she is scared, but at the same time, she doesn’t want him to reject her. I made a personal connection to her myself in a scene she has with him, where’s she spent half the chapter apologizing to him for upsetting or inconveniencing him and he tells her to stop. I’ve had a similar conversation in the past. Besides being identifiable, Maria in some ways is someone for girls to look up to. Despite the bullying, she continues to come to class and doesn’t stop trying to fit in. When she realizes she may have hurt Shin’s feelings, she tries to make it up to him by asking for his help. She keeps trying no matter what.
A Devil and Her Love Song does a good job of reaching out to readers without being obvious about it. It combines two often-used plots of shojo manga, creating something new and different. The art is well done, but it’s nothing special. The characters and situations that Maria has to deal with are realistic and relatable without getting preachy or silly. While there is bullying, it isn’t extreme, and it is usually limited to ruining Maria’s school shoes and trying to get her in trouble with the teacher. It is definitely shown in a negative light, and Maria’s determination to keep coming to school despite it only makes her more sympathetic and the bullies wrong. This title would make a good addition to a teen library or collection.