The Demon Girl Next Door (Japanese name: Machikado Mazoku) is the best anime of the Summer 2019 season that no one watched. Well, maybe not “no one”, but in a season full of big-name titles, this show was definitely largely overlooked as “just another silly cute-girls-doing-cute-things show”. Even I, despite having watched the first episode, did not write a First Impressions post for it because I did not have any thoughts on it other than “this is silly, cute, and fun.”
As it turns out, though, it is actually quite deeper than it looks.
Warning: Mild spoilers ahead. No major plot twist spoilers, though (yes, this show has some legitimate plot twists).
The Demon Girl Next Door is based on a manga from the Manga Time Kirara label that has given us cute-girls-doing-cute-things classics like K-ON!, Is the order a rabbit?, and Laid-Back Camp, among many others. The story features Yuko Yoshida, an “ordinary” girl from a poor family who one day wakes up and finds out that she has grown horns and a tail. Then, her mother reveals to her that she is actually descended from a line of “demons”, which, due to an ongoing conflict with the “Light Clan”, has resulted in a curse on their family that forces them to live off only 40,000 yen (about $400 USD) a month. In order to break this curse, Yuko (or rather, Shadow Mistress Yuko, a.k.a. Shamiko) must find a Magical Girl from the Light Clan and take her blood. Problem is, Yuko has a frail constitution and pretty much zero physical strength. She encounters a magical girl soon enough: Momo Chiyoda, who saves her from getting run over by Truck-kun. The difference in strength between the two is astronomical, but Yuko nevertheless resolves to defeat Momo someday…
That is the plan at first, but as Momo decides to help Yuko with her training, the dynamics between them begin to evolve. This is in part because Yuko begins to see how Momo is not exactly happy about being a magical girl. She seems to have some traumatic memories from that time, and even now she lives alone in a house way too large for one person. Her living conditions contrast well with Yuko’s, who lives in a small, shabby apartment but surrounded by love from her mother and little sister. Momo definitely seems to be very lonely, and while she says she is monitoring Yuko to make sure she does not become a dangerous demon, it definitely feels like that is just an excuse to have someone she can actually interact with.
On Yuko’s side, she starts to want to help Momo out despite her being her “mortal enemy”. When she sees her living conditions and her eating habits (Momo’s cooking is considered a lethal weapon, so she mainly eats instant noodles and the like), she immediately gets to cooking for her. She pretends it’s to make sure Momo is healthy for a fair fight, but Yuko is ultimately a very kindhearted girl and simply cannot ignore someone in need. As the story progresses with some story-changing developments, Yuko’s motivation shifts from wanting to defeat Momo to wanting to be recognized by her as a worthy companion.
All this is fodder for some great comedy, of course, but it also highlights just what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The example Jesus uses to explain this commandment is the story of the good Samaritan: when a Jewish person is mobbed by bandits and left for dead, the one who helps him is not one of his fellow Jews–two of them passed right by him–but a Samaritan. Overall, the Jews and Samaritans considered each other enemies, yet the Samaritan puts aside the conflict of his people for that moment to take care of his “enemy”. Likewise, Yuko puts aside her mission to defeat a magical girl in order to make sure Momo is properly cared for, and Momo puts aside the magical girl’s mission of defeating demons to help Yuko. This is ultimately a reflection of God’s love for us: as sinners, we are by default God’s “enemies”, yet even in this state, God loves us so much that He sent his Son to die for our sins, allowing us to have a loving relationship with Him.
Of course, in the context of a cute-girls-doing-cute-things comedy, a friendship between a demon girl and a magical girl is nothing unusual. However, in the context of our own world, it is very much the exception. We live in a society where people will criticize Ellen DeGeneres for sitting next to George W. Bush at a football game and joking with him. For Ellen, an openly gay liberal, to dare to call Bush, a conservative politician that opposed gay marriage, a “friend” is unacceptable to some of Ellen’s fellow liberals. To them, Bush is an enemy, not someone to befriend; they “demonize” Bush as if he is not worthy of being befriended or joking around with at a sports game. Of course, this behavior is not at all exclusive to liberals; I’ve seen plenty of similar behavior from conservatives. It also is not at all restricted to political divisions; these sorts of “us vs. them” divisions are everywhere.
Most notably, as tempting as it is to call this a “modern” problem, the fact is, this “us vs. them” mentality has probably been around ever since Cain killed Abel. At the very least, it was definitely present right when Jesus told the aforementioned parable of the good Samaritan. The story came about because a lawyer wanted to justify himself, and, knowing that God’s law required “loving your neighbor as yourself,” he asked Jesus who counted as a “neighbor” with the implication that anyone he hated was not a “neighbor” anyway and deserves to be hated. But Jesus’s story tells a very different picture: everyone you meet is a “neighbor”, even those you have “demonized”. After all, that “demon” might be the one who takes care of you when you most need it–just ask Momo.
The Demon Girl Next Door is a charming, hilarious comedy that is also the heartwarming story of a demon girl and a magical girl who should be mortal enemies instead coming to care about each other. I would definitely recommend this show to anyone looking for a fun show that also has a lot of heart in it. And even if you do not watch this show, at least take some inspiration from Yuko and Momo and avoid demonizing those you might consider your “enemy,” whether they have different political beliefs, religious beliefs, favorite sports teams, or taste in anime from you. Be willing to befriend and care for your enemies. Love your neighbor as yourself, even if that neighbor is the demon girl next door.