One of the shows on my top ten anime list is called I Couldn’t Become A Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided To Get A Job. It explores an idea that’s rarely seen in fantasy fiction: what happens to the adventurers after the villain has been defeated and peace is restored to the land? Apparently, they’d have to take on mundane jobs at department stores, exchanging their swords and shields for uniforms and name tags. I was drawn to The Devil Is A Part-Timer! because it sounded like another story that condemns once-mighty powers to the humdrum lives experienced by us humans—and though that is the case, I was surprised by the direction in which the story takes its characters.
In the fantasy realm of Ente Isla, a war has begun: holy knight Emilia leads the charge against Satan and his four loyal generals, determined to rid her homeland of the devil’s influence. In the ensuing battle, the prolonged fight drains Satan of his magic, forcing him to flee through a hastily-created portal with his top general Ashiya. The two find themselves in the heart of present-day Tokyo, where they must come up with a way to regain their magical abilities if they want to return to Ente Isla. In the meantime, the great devil king, scourge of the good and righteous, takes a job at a fast food restaurant called MgRonalds—earning the series the coveted award, “Best McDonald’s Parody Since Coming to America.”
The summary on the back of the book sends mixed messages: it gives one the sense that Satan, now living under the human guise of Sadao Mao, is a force of pure evil on Earth, putting his co-workers through hell and growing frustrated when his plans for world domination blow up in his face. Yet as far as the script is concerned, Satan is really a model employee—he’s not just good at his job, he’s DAMNED good! He interprets an upcoming promotion to the position of assistant manager as an essential first step towards world domination, though he hides his intentions, offering no hint to those around him that he plans on taking over the world. In the meantime, he goes out of his way to make sure his customers are happy, which earns him the adoration of his manager and the affections of his coworker, Chiho. At home with Ashiya, Sadao shows no signs of embracing his infernal nature. Though other villains might find creative ways to cast aside their good personas and cause a little mayhem, these two live quiet, mellow lives.
Though Sadao and Ashiya have come a long way from burning and pillaging villages, their secret life is uprooted when the hero Emilia follows Satan to Tokyo and discovers his new identity. She renews her quest to kill him, but Sadao doesn’t seem worried or even interested. Their reunion creates a unique conflict for the holy knight, who now works for a call center: Emilia has sworn to defeat the devil king, but her nemesis enjoys relationships and pleasant interactions with humans, leading her to think that the devil has changed his ways. Although Sadao does reveal his intent to regain power, ruling Ente Isla and Tokyo, his growing comfort with the human world may suggest otherwise. Fate routinely pushes the two characters together, especially when they become the targets of a mysterious assassin from their homeland.
I was quickly hooked on The Devil Is A Part-Timer! thanks to its well-developed characters and the interactions between them. The writing is entertaining, especially when Emilia must suffer the indignity of asking the devil king for help. Sadao himself is an interesting character whose behavior seems uncharacteristically selfless. As both characters must rely on one another, united by their experience as strangers in a strange land, their relationship could go in some surprising directions. Can they put aside their differences, oaths, and morals to carve out a life in Tokyo, or is it their inevitable destiny to fight each other to the death?
The Devil Is A Part-Timer!, vol. 1
by Satoshi Wagahara
Art by Akio Hiiragi, Oniku
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)