Title: A Devil and Her Love Song
Author: Miyoshi Tomori
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2006 by Shueisha in Japan, February 7, 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Romance, comedy, drama
Maria Kawai was recently expelled from her private Catholic school for getting violent on a teacher. She enrolls in the public school Totsuka High School, hoping to start a new life there. The beautiful Maria is stunning on the outside, but she has a sharp tongue, and is not afraid of speaking her mind. She is not malevolent, rather it’s like her mouth has no filter, and she prefers blunt honesty over fake or forced socializing. However, because of this, she is not well liked. Maria also has the uncanny and almost otherworldly ability to read people like open books. She’s incredibly intuitive and observant, but her reactions often come across as rude or cruel. For example, during the opening of the book, the people on the train are criticizing Maria in harsh whispers for not giving up her seat to allow an elderly woman to sit down. When it’s time for Maria to get off, she kicks the sleeping man who was sitting next to her, resulting in more scorn from her fellow passengers. However, it turns out that the woman was intending to pick pocket the sleeping man, and Maria was trying to prevent that. At her new school, she immediately irritates her classmates with her sudden confession of why she was kicked out of her previous school. Then, when the popular and cheerful Yusuke Kanda tries to be friendly to her, she bluntly informs him in front of everyone that he doesn’t need to bother, because it’s clear to her that he’s not a people person and he shouldn’t force himself. Her intent isn’t to turn the entire class against her, but that is the obvious result. Yusuke brushes it off, but his friend Shin Meguro despises aggressive people like Maria. Yusuke even offers to show her where to buy a school uniform, and along the way gives her a lesson in making others like her. Put a “lovely spin” on things and tilt your head when you say it. In other words, sugar coat your words and act cute and innocent and everyone will love you. Maria tries this tactic when she runs into some girls gossiping about her, but it comes off pretty creepy and backfires. Things start looking up when the girls in class finally begin to talk to her, but after school she finds her old uniform shredded up and tied to a broom in the empty classroom. Her spirits momentarily crushed, she begins to sing “Amazing Grace,” which is overheard by Shin and Yusuke. As they watch Maria sing her soul out, they’re stuck by the beauty of her voice. Yusuke is surprised and delighted, but Shin wears a look like, “Oh…it was you.” The bullying continues. The girls fill her school shoes with ink, and then decide to finally put her in her place by convincing one of the girls, the meek Tomoyo Kohsaka, to report Maria for bullying her. Maria’s punishment rates too low for them, however, so they move on to another plan. They’re going to invite her to a welcome party at a karaoke cafe, spend a lot of money, and stick her with the bill. They send Tomoyo to invite Maria, but as Maria gets too close to discovering the kind of person she really is, Tomoyo freaks out and pushes her down some stairs. With a sprained ankle, and knowing the party is likely a set up to harass her more, Maria still decides to go, deciding to have faith in the girls in the hope that someone there might want to be her friend. She meets Shin on her way, and he immediately suspects something suspicious is going on. Yusuke finds out about the party from Shin, and surprised that he wasn’t invited, decides to go anyway, meeting up with Tomoyo along the way. Yusuke arrives just in time, as the girls all begin turning on Maria, and somehow manages to salvage things. Shin, in the meantime, and quite surprisingly, is running all over town trying to find Maria, but just misses her. The next day at school, the girls once again try to tear Maria down by having Tomoyo fake a foot injury to make it look like Maria pushed her down. As things get heated, the normally quiet Shin gets fed up, particularly as Maria is saying nothing to defend herself, and steps in. Having noticed it was Maria who was really injured, he scoops her up and leaves the school to take her to a clinic. Surprisingly chivalrous, Shin also offers to get her a new pair of shoes since hers were ruined once again. Maria, who has never had someone stand up for her or show her concern, is happy but confused by Shin’s actions. Shin is just as confused by his own actions, wondering why he’s bothering with Maria at all. When Maria ends up opening up to him, he’s surprised by how fragile she really is, but refuses to recognize what he’s feeling. Despite this, he doesn’t look thrilled when Maria invites Yusuke with her to visit Tomoyo, who has stayed at home since the fake foot injury incident.
Maria…I just met a girl named Maria. And suddenly that name will never be the same…. I know this is only the first volume, but I already feel I can say that Maria may become one of my favorite female characters, up there with Tohru Honda, Kyoko Mogami, Haruhi Fujioka, Shurei Hong, Revy, Tsukasa Kozuki, Amir Halgal, and Mafuyu Kurosaki. She’s a strong, no nonsense kind of girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind, but at the same time, she just wants to be liked for who she is. And she wants to be able to love herself, as well. If she can just learn to fit in, maybe people will come to like her. However, even with that thought, she’s not willing to compromise who she is. She isn’t a fan of other people compromising themselves, either. It’s like she doesn’t understand why anyone would put on an act to make people like them, like Yusuke does, and she doesn’t want anyone putting on such an act in front of her. She wants the people around her to be true to themselves, as well. She also wants to believe there is good in people, so badly, and her faith in people helps her to keep moving forward. If she can’t believe in others, what’s left to believe in? She doesn’t want to doubt people from the outset, because that might prevent her from finding the goodness in someone. She didn’t doubt Shin, and now she’s seen the kind side of him he rarely shows to anyone. On the other hand, I think she may end up bringing out something dark in Yusuke, whose cheery facade seems to be hiding something. She does tend to bring out the worst in people, after all, forcing to face themselves by pointing out their flaws or innermost secrets. As I mentioned early on, she’s not at all malicious, but at the same time I think she sees that her mouth can get her into trouble and even hurt people, so she may be trying to control herself more. Unfortunately, since she’s always spoken her mind, she’s got a long road ahead of her if that is indeed her goal. I’m not really sure yet. At times she seems to firmly believe in being herself, but at other times she says she wants to change. It could be she’s just lonely, and simply wants to have real friends, but just isn’t sure how to go about that. If who she is now isn’t working, maybe making a change will. I hope she doesn’t change too much, though; I love her as she is. A couple of certain male classmates seem to think the same. Shin starts out wanting nothing to do with her, but Yusuke attempts to befriend her right off. It’s her singing, however – a lonely moment when she bares her soul with a beautiful sound – that really draws them to her. Shin in particular, as if he’s thinking, “How is that sound coming out of a devil like her?” It piques his curiosity. The song choice, “Amazing Grace,” which I’ve been informed is also what she sings in the original Japanese version…. The lyrics are powerful here, as if Maria is asking for forgiveness from someone, and also giving herself hope, the hope that she’ll be saved by someone. (She appears to sing whenever she is feeling a strong emotion, so it’s a clear form of emotional expression for her.) I’m not sure about Yusuke, but I have a feeling that Shin picks up on the meaning of the lyrics right away, and is struck by that side of her, so different from the aggressive and cold performance she gives in class. He is a really nice guy, but so adorably awkward and shy. I’m already head over heels for him. He is clearly seeing something in Maria that the others have not, but I worry that he may feel too much like he needs to protect her. I really think Maria can take care of herself, she just sometimes chooses not to because she’s too stubborn. Also, she’s not used to anyone coming to her defense, so if she feels it’s pointless to argue or defend herself, she just won’t say anything. Shin isn’t the kind of guy who will just sit by and let an innocent person be dragged through the mud, however, even if that person is Maria Kawai. This is my first exposure to Miyoshi Tomori, and this appears to be her first work licensed in America. I’m enjoying her art style. Occasionally it looks a little amateurish, particularly when she draws the male characters. The manga has a cute look to it, but avoids a fluffy shoujo vibe, and I’m so far pleased with her ability to express emotions on her characters’ faces, especially when she draws Maria. This volume is almost painful to read at times, and I was nearly brought to tears by how much bullying Maria goes through, but I also laughed quite a bit. The first volume of A Devil and Her Love Song was a joy to read, and I can’t wait to see where the story will go.
Thanks to the English adapter, Ysabet MacFarlane, for answering a couple questions for me about the translation.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.