Welcome to the first installment of our Light Novel Club in 2019! This time around, we are flipping the usual isekai script on its head and bringing the fantasy world folks to modern Japan! How will a Devil King and a Hero cope when their fateful battle is replaced with flipping burgers and answering phones at a call center in order to pay the rent? Well, if you had been reading The Devil is a Part-Timer Vol. 1 with us this month, you would know, so join TWWK and I as we dive in with the discussion about this book.
(Note: I am aware that our discussion this time around was rather short. I am still figuring out how to best schedule and format the Light Novel Club, and as such I plan to schedule more time between installments to allow for more discussion time. Also, my current format splits the discussion into general impressions and one specific deep-dive topic, but if you prefer the old format of a list of questions, or have any other suggestions for the Light Novel Club, let me know in the comments!)
stardf29: This was a really fun volume. Especially reading it now, after the isekai boom, it’s fun to get a story where things go in reverse and it’s the beings from a fantasy world that end up in the modern world.
There’s also the fun contrast with how the powerful Devil King has been reduced to living a frugal life and working at a fast food joint.
TWWK: I found it all quite jarring—not in a good way or bad way. It was the same with the anime (for which I’ve only seen the first episode). It’s not a typically cute setup, but a really interesting one.
I think what I liked best, though, is that the epic quality of these characters is put to good use. You expect a grand adventure in isekai, but I didn’t expect it in this story because it’s in reverse, so when it went from a semi-traditional romcom story into an adventure, with mystery connecting the two genres, I was really taken for a ride. And I loved that!
stardf29: Funny thing is, I remember when I watched the anime way back when, the more adventurous aspects were jarring to me (likewise, though, not in a bad or good way). Having gotten used to it though and now expecting that, I definitely enjoy that part too.
It makes it feel like a combination of modern slice of life and adventure fantasy, rather than just something focused on one or the other.
TWWK: I’m really impressed by the writing, because it takes those two styles and blends them well. They should be a strange fit, but enough backstory is given us for the fantasy aspects to work and Satan, Alciel, and Emilia are characterized well enough (and joined by tropes that help us to accept them in these roles more easily, I think) that the slice of life aspects work well. In fact, if one thing was lacking for me, it’s the amount of time spent at MgRonalds! I’m guessing we’ll get more of that in later volumes, but that was a fun setting that I needed more of!
stardf29: Yeah, I too hope for more fast food shenanigans in later volumes.
Deep Dive: Sadao’s Morality
stardf29: What do you think of Sadao/”Satan”‘s current moral state? How has being in the modern world changed his notion of good/evil and what do you think of that development?
TWWK: There’s are a couple parts in the volume where Sadao reflects on why he’s become the way he has. In one, he mentions that he likes the people in this world and in the other, that he fought against humans because that’s sort of the way it’s always been. That’s what demons do. I thought that was really telling.
Sadao is very obviously a good guy. He does so many things that are admirable, which is at first, part of the fun of the book and later, cause us to reflect on this very question. Because he’s no longer surrounded by evil all the time and seeing humans as the enemy, he’s able to really be open to them and understand them for who they are, resulting in compassion. And because he IS human now, in a sense, he also has empathy. It’s quite comparable to people who have been bystanders or participants in atrocious events; they treat their enemies as “others” or as vermin. To dehumanize them is to be able to hate them and destroy them; for Sadao, as Satan he “humanized” them and so was able to do the same.
I think it’s interesting that he’s so open to people and to this change. It’s harder for Emi, in great part due to her blaming Satan for her father’s death, but also because she’s very rigidly in the role of hero. She constantly pronounces herself as such, and she has trouble deviating from it and opening her heart and mind to a changing reality.
stardf29: Well, you pretty much said everything I could have said about Sadao…
I will say that this is the main difference between Sadao and the actual Satan of Christianity: the actual Satan knows he is acting in evil and is intentionally doing so, as opposed to “Sadao” Satan who only acted the way he thought he was supposed to as a “devil king”.
The interesting thing going forward will be how Emi deals with this “reformed” Sadao. Especially if more people from the other world start getting involved.
TWWK: Emi is given good reason to hate Sadao, but she also has that pride which we might think of as a good thing, as part of heroic character, and yet it keeps her from being open. I really empathize with that maybe because I’m absolutely like that! I’d rather stay stuck in my opinions and judgments, especially if they’ve been right before, than expose myself to new information and accept things that might change my worldview. And for Emi, accepting Sadao changes EVERYTHING.
stardf29: So before I close out this discussion, I’d like to give a shout-out to Chiho, whom we didn’t talk about much but who is the other main character of the story. She’s definitely adorable with her crush on Sadao and how she comes to accept the crazy things happening around her, and she likely played a big part in humanizing Sadao, too. Plus, the reveal on why she was receiving warnings about the earthquakes was hilarious. Definitely looking forward to seeing more of her in later volumes!
You can buy The Devil is a Part Timer! Vol. 1 from Yen Press either on paperback or digitally.