Special Review: The Devil is a Part-Timer novel series

Note: This review assumes the reader is at least familiar with the content covered by the 2013 anime series (i.e., the first two novels). It talks about the story and character development after that in a general sense and largely avoids major spoilers.

The stunning revelation last December that action/comedy/drama series The Devil is a Part-Timer is getting a new anime season after nine years off is bringing the franchise a well-deserved second wave of attention. After all, it was one of the funniest series of its year, and its reverse-isekai construction put a big twist on a genre which was just starting to gain major traction at that point. It was clever in the way it poked fun at fantasy tropes while also establishing interesting characters, lively interactions, and hints of a bigger story at work. That story plays out over the course of the next 19 volumes, leading to a conclusion in volume 21 that has received mixed reactions. Now that the final volume is available in English, I can see what all of the fuss was about, though I am ambivalent on how I feel about it myself.

Without getting too much into specifics, the angel Sariel is far from the only angel from Enta Isla that Maou, Emilia, and crew run across in Japan, and other demons eventually pop up as well. Other powers also come into play, and their presences help explain one of the biggest conundrums left hanging at the end of the first anime series: who, exactly, the apartment manage Mikitty is and how she seems to knows about Enta Isla. (It always bothered me that none of Maou, Emilia, or Alciel ever questioned that more in the wake of the Lucifer/Olba incident.)The presence of the baby shown in the novel cover above is also explained very early on; in fact, she might debut in the first episode of upcoming season 2, since she will be a driver for the plot in the first half of the content likely to be animated. That is also the point where the story’s bigger plot starts to take shape, which eventually leads to the revelation of what exact machinations the angels are actually up to.

However, don’t expect the truth of that to come up in any new animation, as the full story about that gets spread out all the way into the later stages of the final volume. In fact, the series as a whole takes frustratingly long to play out major plot developments, instead spending a lot more time on the minutiae of how Maou, Emi, and crew are managing their day-to-day lives and all of the new challenges they face at their workplaces. Granted, some of this can be quite entertaining, but the middle volumes in particular can be a slog. Even a plotline involving Maou and Emi both temporarily returning to Enta Isla – which should be a highlight – stretches out longer than it needs to. A few short stories also get thrown in along the way, but I have less objection to those, since some of them (especially a flashback about Emilia’s first days in Japan) are quite insightful.

The main complaint about the final resolution of the series has been the way the romantic developments shake out. One additional character does become at least a minor romantic player concerning Maou, but she also clearly has no real chance with Maou, a point which even she acknowledges herself. Despite arising in the later stages of the story, she is not a factor at the end. There is one other jaw-dropping development on the romantic front, but it also doesn’t concern the core of the story, so the romantic entanglements – as has been implied since early on – come down to only Maou, Chiho, and Emilia. The story tries its best to leave the final resolution vague until the last few pages of the last volume (despite the last volume being regularly interspersed with “the status quo three years later” bits), but quite a few fans have been unhappy that the resolution doesn’t go the direction that they thought the story seemed to be pointing for a long time.

I don’t have a major problem with how that all plays out. I always felt the story was pointing firmly in the direction it ultimately went despite some attempts to obfuscate that, and frankly, I would have been unsatisfied if it had fully gone the other way. I have a bit more of a problem with how certain compromises were handled in the end, but the relationships in the series were always too messy and multi-layered for any kind of clean, simple resolution to happen.

Will this be it for the franchise, or will it take the Spice and Wolf route and continue to pump out follow-up short stories and spin-offs? While there have been a couple of manga spin-offs – one which transplants the cast into a high school setting and another that’s a food-focused collection of short stories – nothing equivalent to what Spice and Wolf is doing has come out in the nearly two years since the publication of the last novel in Japan, nor do I expect any such development. More could maybe be done with the way things stand at the end, and there are still at least one or two significant loose ends. However, everything which drove the plot and character developments throughout the story is settled, and circumstances at the end necessitate that any further developments would be far more mundane. The story feels finished at that point.

Despite the way the overall story stretches things out, the overall story is still an entertaining-enough read, and the 2-3 volumes likely to be animated for the upcoming anime sequel in July is one of the series’ strongest runs past the first two. I heartily recommend continuing with it if you have seen the first series.

Overall Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

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