What’s in a Medium? The Three Faces of “The Devil is a Part-Timer!”

The Devil is a Part-Timer! anime banner, Ascii Media Works

The Devil is a Part Timer! vol 1 Yen On 2015

The Devil is a Part-Timer!

Satoshi Wagahara (writer); 029 (Oniku) (illustrator); Kevin Gifford (translation)
Yen On

(Please note: review copies of the manga and light novel were provided by Yen Press.)

Once upon a time, in the cross-shaped kingdom of Ente Isla, the devil had his day. Or many days, really. In fact, he and his demonic hordes nearly conquered the entire kingdom. And then, as happens sometimes, his demonic highness met a hero, and the hero gave him a smack down. So the devil king took his little cloven hooves and charmingly broken horns away, secure in the knowledge that some day, some day, he would return and conquer Ente Isla once more. Bwahahahaha and all that.

Unfortunately for his Demonic Highness Satan, the realm he escaped to wasn’t exactly as he, er, planned. He and his faithful Great Demon General Alciel arrived on Earth. In Tokyo, Japan, in fact. And they found themselves human. And with very few demonic powers. And piss poor. Whoops.

But do not despair! Satan has a game plan. First, he changed his name to Sadao Maou. Then, he got a part-time job at fast food chain MgRonald. And now, armed with nothing more than his part-time wages and his supreme confidence, he plans to climb the corporate ladder, conquer Japan, and then return to Ente Isla and conquer it too. Simple! Until he runs into the hero again. Apparently she followed him to Earth. Uh oh!

And that’s how The Devil is a Part-Timer begins! Interested? Well, pick your medium: you have three choices for how to engage with Satoshi Wagahara’s story. Do you want to watch it, read it, or read it with pictures? Choose! Anime, light novel, or manga? Choooose!

Sadao Maou from The Devil is a Part-Timer! Ascii Media Works 2013
His Demonic Highness, Sadao Maou, as depicted in the anime version. [Ascii Media Works]
It’s okay, it’s okay, I jest. You don’t have to choose. But, you may ask, isn’t one better than the others? Which is the “authentic story” amongst the three?

I’m here to tell you: it is entirely up to you! And please know that I mean that. This is coming from someone who has been, for most of her life, an unabashed purist, Defender of the Original Text. (I, like fellow WWAC writer Anna Tschetter, am currently in recovery from that.)

But there are differences. So here’s the scoop.

The Devil is a Part-Timer light novel by Satoshi Wagahara - illustrations by Oniku - Yen On 2015
The light novel features full-page illustrations by 029 (Oniku). Maou and his general Ashiya work on paperwork shortly after arriving in Japan. [Yen On 2015]
First things first. For those who are unfamiliar with light novels, Seiji Horibuchi, the founder of Viz Media, defines them:

“Light novels are literature written for a young adult audience that includes roughly the same demographics as manga, anime and video games.  Light novels have the essence of manga, animation, and video games combined.”

Short (“light”) novels, in other words. These light novels often feature illustrations, as well. (Please tell me you’re familiar with Yoshitaka Amano’s illustrations for Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D. If not, check them out!)

A lot of anime and manga series spring from light novels, and a lot of light novels spring from anime and game franchises. Seriously, there’s a lot of cross-pollination going on here. Here are some: Boogiepop (aka “Boogpiepop Phantom”); Seirei no Moribito (“Guardian of the Spirit”); Log HorizonSword Art OnlineThe Twelve Kingdoms; Durarara!!; and Spice and Wolf. There are many, many more. In recent years, much to my delight, publishers such as Seven Seas, Yen Press, Dark Horse, and more have begun translating and publishing light novels for English-speaking audiences. That’s practice isn’t slowing down, either, as we learned at this month’s Anime Expo.

As far as the chicken and the egg goes in regards to The Devil is a Part-Timer!, the light novel came first, written by Satoshi Wagahara and illustrated by 029 (Oniku). The manga by Akio Hiiragi and the anime produced by White Fox followed in the next few years. Like a few others in the above list, Wagahara won a prize in the prestigious Dengenki Novel Prize contest. (Winning that seems like a pretty good recipe for success, doesn’t it? Yeah, but the competition is incredibly stiff!)

The Devil Is a Part-Timer! light novel cover - Satoshi Wagahara - illustration by 029 (Oniku) - Yen Press 2015In an effort to compare apples to apples, I read volume 1 of the light novel, volume 1 of the manga, and watched episodes 1 through 4 of the anime. So while in this case the light novel is the source material, I am happy to report that the manga and the anime stay incredibly true to it, right down to using much of the same dialogue and the exact same scenes. For a recovering purist like myself, that is an incredible relief. (Frankly, the reason I held tight to the source materials for so many years is that in my experience, adaptations are highly likely to be terrible. Yes, telling a story as a movie requires the use of different storytelling techniques than if you’re telling it as a novel, but that’s no excuse to subvert the original plot and characters and replace them with trite, pandering crap. /rant over)

In recent months, I’ve read and watched the light novel, manga, and anime versions of three separate series, and I’ve found consistency between media for all three. What it comes down to is that they’re telling the same story with the same characters and the same plot points. Sometimes scenes may be rearranged slightly differently (what’s told as a flashback in one is told in the story’s timeline in another, for instance), but the intent behind the scene is the same. Character designs are also incredibly consistent. While different artists naturally have their own styles, there’s not a lot of deviation or reinterpretation happening.

For The Devil is a Part-Timer!, I noticed that details you may gloss past in the manga or anime are hard to miss in the light novel—for obvious reasons, the novel spells it out. You don’t have to be a sharp-eyed manga reader or particularly perspicacious anime viewer to catch pieces of the story’s backdrop or hints of things to come; they’re presented right there for you. For instance, Wagahara explains the pun in Maou’s name in the light novel (translated by Kevin Gifford):

“Thus, Devil King Satan (aka Sadao Maou, the surname of which was written with perfectly ordinary Japanese characters whose pronunciation just happened to be the same as ‘Devil King’) and Great Demon General Alciel (aka Shiro Ashiya) set off on their quest to reconquer Ente Isla, room 201 at the Villa Rosa Sasazuka apartments serving as their Devil Castle for the time being.” (page 22)

Obviously, fluent readers of the Japanese text would understand this pun without the explanation, but English readers have to reference the translator’s notes at the back of the manga to catch that particular joke.

You’re also likely to catch subtleties in different ways. When I was doing research to compare Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, I ran across a reviewer who stated that the distinctions between the two series was the same as the difference between first person and third person. He probably hadn’t read the light novels at the time he recorded the review (as volume 1 of Log Horizon was released by Yen Press five months afterward), but he’s spot on. Log Horizon is written in third person; Sword Art Online is written in first.

At this point, I’m going to circle back around to say that it’s all up to you! You get to choose how you want to experience The Devil is a Part-Timer!, and I’m not going to tell you that any one medium is better than the others. That’s pretty awesome, don’t you think? Wagahara’s tale can be experienced by book worms, anime heads, and comics bingers alike, and we’re all going to be immersed in the same world with the same characters and the same plot.

And, of course, supreme fans of his demonic highness can pounce on all three. Would you like a side of fries with that?

Sadao Maou from The Devil is a Part-Timer! © WAGAHARA SATOSHI/ASCII MEDIA WORKS/HM

Media referenced:
Amanda Vail MgRonald Employee Extraordinaire
Um, yes, I took a selfie wearing a MgRonald visor. What of it?

The Devil is a Part-Timer! volume 1 (light novel)
Satoshi Wagahara (writer); 029 (Oniku) (illustrator); Kevin Gifford (translation)
Yen On, April 2015

The Devil is a Part-Timer! volume 1 (manga)
Akio Hiiragi (mangaka); Satoshi Wagahara (original story); 029 (Oniku) (character design); Kevin Gifford (translation); Brndn Blakeslee & Lys Blakeslee (lettering)
Yen Press, March 2015

“The Devil is a Part-Timer!” episodes 1–4 (anime)
FUNimation/ASCII Media Works/HM, 2013

Amanda Vail

Amanda Vail

Amanda is a staff writer for WWAC. She is also a developmental editor and copywriter in less-than-sunny Seattle. She likes to poke her nose into things, mainly manga, graphic novels, sci-fi & fantasy books, and art galleries. Then she writes about them. She also drinks a lot of coffee. Tweet her @amandamvail.