Just as there are many BL books about angels, there are just as many about devils, including this one from one of the genre's best loved creators.
THE DEVIL'S SECRET (Akuma no Himitsu), by Hinako Takanaga. First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2008.
Father Mauro is a priest in a small, rural village. One day while out on a walk he finds a strange, badly beaten young man in the bushes named Raoul. Raoul can't remember a thing, much less why he was injured in the first place or why he has horns on his head. He swears he can't be a devil, yet the more he molests Mauro the better he feels. When the truth is revealed, Mauro has to decide how much he values Raoul over his faith.
Despite what the blurbs might suggest, this is actually another BL anthology. While the title story is probably the most well-developed of the lot, none of them last more than a couple of chapters. While the stories might be short, she does manage to make the most of that space and build up these relationships moderately well.
The title story takes up the most space, as it covers the full arc of Mauro and Raoul's relationship as well as a couple of side stories featuring Raoul's interfering half-brother. Between this, Challengers, and The Tyrant Falls In Love, I'm getting the idea that Takanaga really loves the idea of an overprotective older brother type caught up in gay relationship of his own. For a story about a priest and an incubus, Mauro and Raoul's relationship is surprisingly sweet and largely consensual. That being said, I feel like Takanaga missed some narrative opportunities with Mauro.
In-story, his reason for pushing Raoul away isn't the fact that he's a Catholic priest sworn to celibacy or a member of a church largely opposed to homosexuality, but merely the fact that Raoul is a demon and priests are meant to fight against demons. Even if this was always meant to be a short story, this choice makes Mauro's conflict feel too simplistic and doesn't give him enough reasonable cause to tear himself away. After all, Raoul is grateful for Mauro's care and attention and sees the sex he offers as a way of displaying his affection and making his caretaker feel good. Their relationship is positively cozy, a word seldom used with BL. So why not let real life help support your Second Act Break-up and give Mauro a little more depth?
The other chapters focus on a straight-laced first-year teacher who finds himself frustrated by an easygoing and flirtatious student who simply likes what he sees and lives to gently tease. There's something oddly endearing about the dynamic between these two, something which helps to overcome the potentially distasteful age and power difference between the two. That being said, the inevitable sex at the end feels too sudden. It's as if the moment the teacher conceded any sort of tolerance for the student, Takanaga declared TIME FOR BUTTSEX lest the reader get bored. There wasn't a lot of build-up to Mauro and Raoul's coupling either, but some of that could be hand-waved away with the fact that one of them is a sex demon. That is not the case here. The final story is the dullest and least fleshed out of the lot. Two high school boys dance around one another's feelings for years, only to reconnect as college students thanks to a lost cell phone. If it had a little more time and page space, maybe it could have been more distinct and endearing. As is, it's just filler.
The stories that make up The Devil's Secret are unusually even in quality for a BL anthology. They're all pretty sweet and well intentioned, even if the sex feels kind of superfluous. At worst, they come off as a bit dull and toothless, but I'll take sweet dullness over the usual sort of mediocre BL nonsense.
Takanaga's art is a cut above what you normally see in BL. Her characters do tend to be a bit gangly but she's got a better grasp of anatomy than most BL artists. She also gets a fair bit of intentional humor from their expressions. Her smut is nothing special, save for her occasional use of speed lines for accent. The backgrounds are rather mundane, but she draws them frequently and saves the screentones for the most emotional moments, using them as accent rather than as emotional telegraph.
The Devil's Secret isn't quite good enough to make a convert of BL skeptics through sheer quality, but fujoshi who prefer sweetness to smut will find a lot to like here.
This book was published by Digital Manga Publishing. It is currently out of print.