Maria is the new girl in school, having recently been expelled from St. Katria, a private Catholic school. As the girls gossip loudly in front of her, Maria explains that she was asked to leave when she beat up a teacher. This conversation stopper and her blunt commentary on the other students leave her friendless and bullied on her first day. The only person willing to give her a chance is Yusuke, a boy who seems desperate to maintain his popularity. He attempts to teach Maria the “lovely spin” where you can say true, awful things without hurting people’s feelings as much. Maria just sounds sarcastic and a little bitter. Yusuke’s best friend, Shin is the brooding, silent type and just wants to write Maria off as a mean girl. However, when the other girls plot Maria’s demise, Yusuke and Shin are the only ones who even attempt to help.
Maria isn’t exactly a loveable character, especially at the beginning. She’s blunt to the point of rudeness. She never smiles, and her extremely sensitive observations of people do not include how to respond to other peoples’ suffering. She can see through people to their basic faults, which makes them hate her as a mirror of what they hate in themselves. However, Maria is simply observant, not hateful, and doesn’t seem to understand how she keeps getting herself into these messes. She has a depth of character that is very interesting, as well as a well-hidden insecurity rooted in the anger of those around her.
My jury is still out on the other main characters in the story. Are they unique or will they fall into the classic shojo tropes- Shin as the brooding love interest and Yusuke as the hyper, overly enthusiastic guy pal? There are hints at further depths, but I want to see future volumes before making an endorsement.
The art seems to be typical manga style — big eyes, random extremely cartoony faces (surrounded by exclamation marks), and sailor style school girl outfits. I always had to pause when the main character went to a cartoony mode because she had the oddest pursed lips, although she looked fine otherwise. Fortunately, several panels contain very expressive features that really bring the story to life. The mean girls who bully Maria are portrayed perfectly, with a hint of snide in their eyebrows even when they’re faking nice.
While I am all for fluff (as a balanced part of any reading diet), A Devil and Her Love Song goes beyond the often fluffy shojo manga to a complex story of a socially awkward girl coming up against bitter intolerance. The complicated character of Maria, from her sharp observations to her love of bedazzled shoes, gives an interesting element to the story that left me intrigued to read more.
A Devil and Her Love Song, vol. 1
by Miyoshi Tomori
VIZ Media, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: Teen/13+