I can't believe that I found ANOTHER shoujo manga with a shota complex. How the hell does this keep happening?
THE DEVIL WITHIN (Tenshi no Naka ni Akuma Ari), by Ryo Takagi. First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2007.
Rion knows two things for certain: grown men are nothing but devils, while young boys are nothing but pure, beautiful angels. A childhood trauma led her to this conclusion, and ever since she can only find herself attracted to pre-pubescent boys. This throws a wrench in her father's business plans, as he's determined to marry her to one of three teenaged heirs for his benefit. Neither the boys nor Rion's father care about getting her consent on the matter - they're just determined to profit from the connections. All the while, Rion pines for the angelic-looking boy in the apartment below hers even as he abuses her verbally at every turn. Soon Rion discovers that there's more than just a business deal at stake with her choice of husband and that her choices may have divine implications.
I knew from the start that this was going to be a bad one. After all, it's literally about a girl who is a shota-con. This isn't me reading into things; she is literally referred to as such at one point! What I couldn't have expected was for The Devil Within to find a way to somehow dive under that low bar and make things ridiculous to boot.
The reverse harem side of the plot is bad enough to begin with. Rion is very much (and very vocally) against her will into this marriage scheme and both her father and the boys involved make it plain that she will have no say on the matter and no refuge from their attentions. They will move into her apartment, share her bed, even force themselves into Rion's previous all-girls school until she makes a choice. You'd think then that the moments with Rion's precious Tenshi-kun (with his oh-so-subtle name) would be a relief, but he spends all of his screentime disparaging Rion's intelligence at every turn. Reverse harems are meant to be romantic fantasies, but I have a hard time imagining how anyone would look at a premise like this and declare it dreamy.
That's a pretty bad start, but somehow The Devil Within manages to get WORSE. The twist is that Rion is a demon. Well...technically, she's half-demon on her father's side. Her dad is literally Satan and all of her prospective fiances are angels. You can probably guess the twist with Tenshi-kun from here. Honestly, I'm almost conflicted about this stupid, redonkulous excuse of a plot twist. On one hand, it's a welcome relief from the neverending downpour of abuse upon Rion. On the other hand, it's the sort of twist that comes straight from fanfiction and it's such a hard turn left narratively that it's downright laughable. If not for the constant abuse and the shota-con angle, I would almost declare The Devil Within to be so bad it's good. As it stands, it's simply too bad to be borne.
Takagi's art is decidely less inspired than her plot twists. All the characters are boring and gangly to the point that I'm convinced that all of the fiances are actually secretely snake-men. It seems no one can express themselves beyond creepy leers and wildly out-of-place super deformed moments. Worst of all, Takagi's composition is cluttered and hard to follow, something that the dingy screentones only add to.
There's a brief side story that goes back to what Takagi is best known for: BL. It's a piece about a guy literally struggling with his inner angel and demon, and it's by far the least creepy thing about this book.
The Devil Within looks like crap and reads like insanity. It trades in nothing but uncomfortable fetish material and bad plot twists and should be avoided like the devil himself.
This series was published by Go!Comi. This series is complete in Japan with 2 volumes available. Both volumes were published and are currently out of print.