The Curious Case of Devil King Maou

Sometimes an anime or light novel says something so well that I want to draw attention to it, yet struggle to know how to add anything new beyond what it said. Most recently, this occurred with a passage in The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, vol. 1. If you’re unfamiliar with the series or its anime adaptation, it’s a sort of reverse isekai story in which some demons and a hero from a fantasy world wind up living in modern Tokyo. The light novel is absolutely hilarious (for more on that, see the Light Novel Club’s discussion).

The Hero, Emilia, finds employment in a tech support call center, and becomes friends with her coworker Rika, a perfectly ordinary human native to our world. When difficulties arise and Emilia needs help, Rika is there for her. Their interactions lead to the following speech from Rika:

“Some people out there, they try to take advantage of the chaos to do real bad stuff. Then there are people who really work hard to help out others, even though they have no idea what’s gonna happen tomorrow. And it makes you think, you know? It’s kind of like those old cartoons, where whenever you’re pondering something, this little angel and devil appear on your shoulders… It made me think that, like, people really can be angels; they really can be devils. It all depends on what they choose to do.”

Yes, Rika, it does, indeed, make one think. In the context of The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, the obvious application of this message is to the erstwhile Devil King. The scourge of humanity in his homeworld, Maou is now a hardworking, kind, law-abiding employee of a certain major fast food chain. The Hero finds herself perplexed at the drastic changes Maou undergoes, but the truth is that we are all capable of Maou’s wide range of behaviors. The Bible is full of stories that reflect this fact. The apostle Paul springs to mind as prime example, swinging from the most vehement opposition to the gospel to the most ardent devotee to it.

Considering our curious capacity for both good and evil, I am reminded of a couple lines from a song, a hymn titled “O How Glorious, Full of Wonder.” Part of it reads thus:

“Child of earth, yet full of yearning,
Mixture strange of good and ill,
From Thy ways so often turning,
Yet Thy love doth seek him still.”

We are truly puzzling blends of good and evil. And yet God doesn’t give up on us. Day by day, moment by moment, we get to choose to be “angels” or “devils.” We’ve all chosen some of both at times. (Dare I say it? We’ve all been part-time devils. *rimshot* ) But what the light novel leaves out is the how we become more “angelic.” While goodness is certainly a choice, a biblical understanding of human nature doesn’t suggest that we must become more righteous through sheer force of will alone.

Rather, we learn of love and goodness from God himself, and we become better people through a long, slow process of God’s word and Spirit working in us. It’s easy to look at obvious examples of evil and think “I would never do THAT,” but we all have the capacity to become monsters. Likewise, we have the potential to be something better. That is our choice to make, and choose we must. Thankfully, if we desire to be good, there is great comfort in remembering that we are not striving on our own to perfect ourselves. We have a Creator and Savior working alongside us to shape us into something greater.



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