One notable trend in both anime and manga these days is an increase in series with fujoshi appeal. While Free! and Attack on Titan have led the charge, there are plenty of manga series that were licensed with the hopes of attracting the same audience. How successful they were at that task is debatable.
DEVILS AND REALIST (Makai Oji: Devils and Realist), written by Utako Dukihiro & art by Madoka Takadono. First published in 2009, and first published in North America in 2014.
William Twinning has a plan for his life. He will graduate at the top of his class from his very exclusive (and expensive) academy. From there he will go on to Oxbridge, then on to a brilliant career in politics. Unfortunately for him, his plans go up in smoke upon discovering that the family fortune has disappeared, along with most of the household possessions and most of the servants. In his desperation to find something to sell for tuition, William stumbles upon a strange room in the basement. A quick accident and a bit of blood activates the seal on the floor, bringing forth the demon Dantalion. Dantalion believes William to be the reincarnation of King Solomon, a man whose power can end the ongoing power struggle for the leadership of Hell. William thinks this is all nonsense. After all, he's a man of learning and science! He doesn't believe in silly supernatural things like demons or Hell! Still, William may have to make a bargain with him if he wants to keep up appearances, and in doing so he unleashes all sorts of new complications in his life.
You'd think that a story like this could mine a lot more comedy out of the notion of someone being such a skeptic that they refuse to believe in the supernatural even in it stares them in the face. In spite of that, the main joke here never quite takes off, and the story feel quite flat for it. So you'd think then that it would be a cheesecake-fest, meant to titillate the fangirls with the promise of pretty demon boys fighting to possess another frail young man. Yet it doesn't really play up the inherent ho-yay in the story, so that's a dead end as well. So what direction does this story take? Hell if I can tell.
William is a hard protagonist to like. If we're being perfectly honest, he's a prat. Sure, he's determined and ambitious, but he's also stubborn as a mule and oblivious to everything that doesn't benefit him directly. He's not a skeptic, he's just an idiot, and that idiocy only grows the more he's confronted with these demons and their powers fighting over him like he's the last Oreo in the cookie jar. The irony of William being descended from King Solomon is not lost on the reader, considering that William's idea of wisdom is "put off the decision as long as possible and reap what benefits I can get."
William may indeed be a selfish prat, but he does at least possess a personality that is all his own. Compared to the various demons in his life, he's a towering force of character. Dantalion is meant to be an alluring and clever creature, but for a demon he's rather toothless. His method of fighting consists of growling a little, throwing around a bit of magic, and hoping that he can shit-talk his opponent into submission through sheer boredom. This seems to be a common battle tactic in Hell, as Dantalion's opponents use more or less the same method. If they were more forceful personalities, this might work. It would turn the demon fights into a clash of will just as much as it would be a clash of force. As it is, these fights have all the impact of a wet bottle rocket.
You'd think a story that's full of nothing but bishies would be dripping with homoeroticism. As I've noted, the very premise begs for such a treatment, and honestly I would have forgiven a bit of fujoshi fanservice if it helped to give the story a bit of cheeky life. Instead, the cast remain as chaste as an abbey, which is kind of ironic when you consider that most of them are demonic forms of historical killers. Dantalion makes a few half-hearted attempts at flirtation, but that's as much as we get, and it goes absolutely nowhere.
So what is the purpose of Devils and Realist? Apparently it's to bore the reader with a colorless cast and a premise that never really delivers on whatever promise it might have held.
The artwork at least makes a genuine effort at appealing to the fangirls. Everyone here has a major case of the bishies, even if they aren't that terribly distinct or beautiful compared to the rest. Sadly, they decided to make up for that by dressing the demons in the most ridiculous costumes possible. The worst of the lot is Gilles de Rais, who looks like he got a makeover from Paradise Kiss's Isabella. That's the only explanation I can find for his giant floppy hat, his strange eye makeup, and his decidedly, fashionably androgynous look. The backgrounds aren't badly done, but the panels are so frequently tilted and the action scenes are so incoherently drawn that it's rarely possible to appreciate them. Indeed, the whole thing comes off as visually incoherent, causing this lifeless story to fall even further short of quality.
Devils and Realist takes too many cues from its dull prat of a protagonist and not enough from the fabulous demons. It all feels bloodless and aimless, unsure of what to do or whom to appeal to beyond 'people who like average-looking bishonen doing things." Those folks would be far better served by other, far better manga.
This series is published by Seven Seas. This series is ongoing in Japan, with 9 volumes available. 3 volumes have been published, and all are currently in print.
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