Devil and Her Love Song 6

February 28, 2013

Miyoshi Tomori – Viz – 2012 – 12 volumes

Hmmm… I’m quite fond of this series, actually, but my ardor has cooled somewhat with this volume. I still really want to like it, but it’s doing some of the typical shoujo manga things to extend the story and mess up the character relationships, and I really thought it was better than that.

Anna is still hanging around causing trouble, but this time, she’s hoping to interfere directly with the relationship between Maria and Shin. She tells Shin directly how she feels, but he turns her down. When she knows Maria is ready to do the same, she sets a trap that makes both Maria feel like Shin rejects her, and Shin feel like it’s not a good idea to get close to Maria. And she does it in such a way that it should be impossible to detect her meddling. At the end of the volume, it seems like Maria may have an inkling, but she still thinks that Shin rejected her because he doesn’t want a romantic relationship.

While I disliked Anna’s meddling, that offense pales in comparison to the story we get about Maria’s parents, which is so unbelievably tragic that it could only happen in a shoujo manga. I was disappointed that that particular trope was dusted off, but it made me even more angry in the way it came to bear on the story. Honestly, the leverage it’s supposed to exert makes no sense to me.

And again, I did dislike Anna’s particularly shoujo brand of meddling, but I found it hard to dislike Anna herself. She’s not a completely evil Sae-from-Peach-Girl-style villain, and… well, yeah, she likes Shin, so of course she’s going to throw a wrench in the works.

Again, it’s not that I dislike shoujo manga tropes like this. I might eat this up in another series. It’s that A Devil and Her Love Song was better than this. The characters seemed a bit deeper, and could see through the usual shoujo lies. I know it’s prone to melodrama, but it was a fault that I was willing to forgive. Now that there’s extra melodrama, plus the characters are falling into the usual shallow shoujo traps… hm. I’m not so sure.

I’m going to keep reading, of course. It’s still addictive, in a way that only shoujo manga could be. I’m just doing it less enthusiastically now.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Devil and Her Love Song 5

January 2, 2013

Miyoshi Tomori – Viz – 2012 – 13 volumes

I love this series! It’s a bit ridiculous how much I look forward to every volume of this, actually. The only reason I haven’t read the more recent volume 6 is because I haven’t written this one up yet. But I’m about to rectify that barrier.

This volume was pretty great, since it moved on from abuse in the classroom and changed the topic to misunderstandings among friends. Maria’s best friend from her old school, the one that drove her away in the end, re-appears in her life and wastes no time fitting in among Maria’s new friends. Anna can’t speak, and Maria still does an admirable job of interpreting for her. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of conflict between them… but the whole volume, I was simply waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maria is a good judge of character, but this verged into some strange Papillon territory, where it became more about the students dissecting their relationships with one another and their motives for doing so. It’s hard to believe that Anna’s as pure-hearted as she seems.

Admittedly, part of the conflict is probably that both Anna and Maria have a crush on Shin, but neither seems to… really hold that against the other. Which is a little strange. But maybe that’s it? As much as I cannot pin down the exact motives behind Anna’s friendship, it also doesn’t really seem like she’s out to destroy Maria.

All the same, it was great to see her. New characters in this series are a lot of fun, and it was nice seeing the motherly, friendly side of Maria. Again, I was a little uncomfortable with Anna’s unclear motives throughout the volume, and I was a little disappointed that the melodrama (which I usually like in spades) seems to permeate even the best friendships Maria has. But I still loved this volume to pieces, and I’m picking up the 6th one as we speak.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Devil and Her Love Song 4

August 13, 2012

Miyoshi Tomori – Viz – 2012 – 13 volumes

Ooh, I love this series so much! It’s become one of my new favorites, right up there with Skip Beat. It’s not even a good mix of comedy and drama, my usual shoujo flavors. It’s sort of bittersweet, but not in a very heavy way. Maria is definitely in a bad situation, but it’s never hopeless, and you get the idea she never really gives up, even during the worst case scenarios.

The choral performance rages on in this volume. Lots of things happen. More and more classmates begin speaking their minds to each other’s faces. Former opponents of Maria begin to see that they are being manipulated by Hana, and then by the teacher. Things go back and forth several times before the actual performance. But perform they do, though not before one last lousy thing happens to Maria before she steps out in front of the cameras.

Again, the whole thing is touching. People keep spreading bad rumors about Maria, and her bluntness does her no favors, but she never stops trying to make friends. No matter what happens, she just makes the best of a bad situation. It’s a lot nicer than most of the usual trashy shoujo I read, since it can be a bit inspirational, too, and I like that about it. Plus, I love Maria’s bluntness. There’s not much comedy here, but the way Maria simply speaks her mind no matter what can be very funny.

One interesting thing about the series, I wonder where it can go from here? There’s only so much drama that you can do in the classroom setting. The class is either going to love Maria or hate her, but it’s not going to be very realistic if they go back and forth for another 9 volumes. So I wonder what form the story will take after this? Maybe Maria will join a club? Maybe the rest of the school will be treated to her barbed opinions?

Or maybe it’ll be more of a romance? I still like that either of the two potential romance candidates is likely at this point. That’s a little unusual too, since it’s always obvious who the lead character will wind up with. There are only hints of romance thus far, but maybe it’ll focus more on Maria interacting with the two boys after this. I’m an absolute sucker for romance comics, so I’d love to see that.

But I can’t get over how much I love this series! It’s really quite different from your usual shoujo manga, depressing and uplifting at the same time. And Maria is really easy to root for, despite her somewhat mean disposition. I’ll be happy to be past the choir performance and on to something else next time, and I can’t wait to see what it’ll be.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Miyoshi Tomori – Viz – 2012 – 13 volumes

I’m still completely in love with this series, and I’m a little sad I’m caught up to the current volume. I’d love to read more. The story demands it, as much as a shoujo romance can. Which is quite a bit, in this case. The twist, in this case, is that the main character is extraordinarily unlikable, and her class does have a reason to misunderstand her. Yet the story portrays her sympathetically, and you really do want her to make friends, which seems impossible with her extremely rude and off-putting demeanor.

This volume follows a storyline about a classmate named Hana, and Maria’s efforts to fairly host the upcoming choral competition. Hana has been absent since Maria started school, so Maria is meeting her for the first time. She is the complete opposite of Maria herself. Friendly and well-liked, Hana heals the boy/girl schism in the class caused by the choral competition with a few words. And it even seems like Hana wishes to be friends with Maria when she admits privately to liking Yusuke.

But Hana’s friendship turns very ugly very fast when she finds out that Yusuke publicly confessed his feelings for Maria. Then we find out that nice Hana has been forcing her feelings on Yusuke for years, even after he politely rejects her, and she makes Yusuke into the bad guy for doing so. She also teams up with the teacher and other female students in the class in elaborate plans that make Maria look worse and worse and turn even the people who have begun to understand her away. The ultimate goal is to disgrace Maria on TV during the choral competition and make both Hana and her class look much better for having to deal with such a problem child.

These schemes are all sorts of ugly, and this, mixed with the bad signals that Maria gives off, gives the story some seriously bad vibes. Nothing goes right. But again, Maria wants to do the right thing, and because this is a shoujo manga, she usually manages. The bittersweet tone is perfect, and is my absolute favorite thing about this.

The next volume can’t come out fast enough. Seriously.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Miyoshi Tomori – Viz – 2012 – 13 volumes

This series is my new favorite thing. So good! I’m a complete and total shoujo junky, I admit, but this is good stuff. I love that the series has a snobby main character that is made completely sympathetic. Maria really doesn’t know how to interact with others, and it makes her sad. She tries, but so far, has not really been succeeding. The fallout comes in bizarre, bittersweet moments where Maria both fails to make friends and manages to come off as scary when she uses a technique she thinks makes her more friendly.

A triangle forms in this volume when main squeeze Shin is all but forgotten as cheerful Yusuke tries to help Maria overcome bullying from both classmates and the teacher. The two grow closer as Yusuke helps Maria through a couple difficult situations. By the end of the volume, Yusuke declares war on Shin, and the two are apparently now on equal ground with Maria, romance-wise. It’s interesting, because I’ve never quite seen an even triangle like this. Usually one boy has the clear advantage. Perhaps my heart is merely rooting for sulky Shin, since cheerful Yusuke is stealing the show here, but the two do appear to be equal.

After the resolution to the Tomoyo storyline last volume, Tomoyo comes around and begins to see that Maria’s gruff, off-putting personality is simply how she is, and isn’t her trying to be openly antagonistic. The two become friends, of a sort, though not much passes between the two of them after the first chapter or so. The observation is made that their respective tastes would suit the other’s personality better (Tomoyo likes black clothing, Maria likes frilly things), and Maria offers the tidbit that few people can be who they want to be.

The teacher begins to ride Maria hard in class, and Maria is put unwillingly as the head of the choral competition committee. Most of the volume is Yusuke struggling to get the other students to play nice with Maria, and Maria realizing she’s hated a lot more than she thinks. But this book is all about making lemonade, and nice things are happening by the end.

There are some parts of this where the bullying truly is difficult to read, and you can watch as Maria digs her own grave by saying the wrong things. It really is a bittersweet book, and touching in a way that few shoujo manga are. Rarely do we see a heroine who is reviled for as good a reason as Maria (usually the story goes the Fruits Basket route where the cheerful heroine is an outcast just because), and again, watching Maria try to sort out her problems and be as good a person as she knows how makes for an interesting story. I can’t wait to read more of this. Luckily, volume three just came out!

Miyoshi Tomori – Viz – 2012 – 13 volumes

This one really took me by surprise. I passed over it when it was solicited, because the summary makes it sound like just another shoujo romance about a stuck-up girl finding friends and love. But A Devil and Her Love Song is a bit different. Not extraordinary, but I really, really enjoyed the first volume.

The thing that sets it apart is that the main character, Maria, really isn’t stuck-up. She just comes across that way. She’s good at observing people and nailing down personality traits, both good and bad. But she herself isn’t very good at talking and communicating with others. She’s very blunt, actually, and will often contradict people by pointing out that they are merely pretending to be nice to her face, when in fact their personalities are completely different. The fact that she’s tall, pretty, and constantly has a sneer on her face also doesn’t help.

It’s hard to make a character like that not seem mean, but Tomori does a good job at portraying Maria in this first volume. Maria is starting at a new school, and promises herself she’s going to try hard to make friends. But she starts her time off by announcing why she was expelled from her old school when she notices her classmates gossiping behind her back, then tells a boy that tries to be friendly that he shouldn’t try so hard to be friendly to everybody. She’s not wrong about any of it, and the latter example happens throughout the volume. It doesn’t make her any friends. But her narration throughout these scenes is about how she’s trying to change. She takes advice about putting a “lovely spin” on her words, basically lying to people’s faces about what she thinks, but the lovely spin makes her look really scary. She also goes through the motions when it comes to bullying, constantly walking into setups, sure that if she has faith that people really want to be her friend, she will be rewarded. It’s very bittersweet, and Maria is a great character to root for.

She has a beautiful singing voice too, and her rendition of Amazing Grace catches the attention of the class outcast, who doesn’t talk to anyone but the boy that tries to be friends with everyone. There’s a romance between the two by the end of the volume, just a little, but it so far is really sweet and awkward. I can’t wait to read more.

Basically, this takes the mean girl stereotype and uses it in a different way. It’s interesting to be in the head of a “mean girl” that isn’t really mean, and also seeing her call out all her other classmates on their individual personality flaws and things they try to hide from others. Her relationships with everyone in class seem almost doomed as of volume one, and it would be a shame if her very unique personality softened into something more normal by the end of the series, so I’m very curious to see where this goes. But as of volume one, it’s definitely worth picking up for any fan of shoujo romance.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.