The devil as typically presented in literature and the arts strikes a red, bloody figure. Often with horns and pitchfork included.
But as a fast-food franchise employee?
I’ll bet you’ve never seen the devil like this.
The premise for the light novel turned anime series The Devil is a Part Timer! is as quirky as it is bizarre. It follows the adventure of Maou Sadao, the titular devil from the realm of Ente Isla. In the midst of a battle to determine the fate of his world, Sadao and one of his generals, Alciel, are transported to modern day Japan and forced to assume human form. Also unceremoniously hurtled through the void is the hero of Ente Isla, Emilia Justina, whose mission to stop Sadao extends beyond worldly borders.
The three must then settle on Earth until they fulfill their purpose: whether to return to Ente Isla (Sadao and Alciel) or to stop the devil (Emi). Sadao, Alciel, and Emi were all equipped with magic in Ente Isla but their magic is ineffective on Earth, making their respective missions very difficult to fulfill.
Surprisingly, the first of the group to recognize the necessity of blending in as well as the means to do so is Sadao. He finds a job at MgRonalds (McDonalds much?) as a part-timer, hence the title.
Here’s where the humour kicks in.
Sadao approaches his job in the same way he approaches his plan to conquer the world. He has ambition and drive, which makes him the perfect employee. When a KFC opens across the street from MgRonalds, Sadao approaches the situation with the gravitas of a war: spies are sent out, tactics observed, and a counter-attack prepared. Meanwhile, Emi takes up a cubicle job and plans to watch over Sadao.
I’m not someone that usually laughs out loud over movies or TV shows, but specific scenes of this anime had me laughing until I cried. The anime thrives on moments such as when Sadao tirelessly promotes the various specials of the day or when he learns how to use a fryer for the first time.
Up to this point the anime appears to be a typical fish-out-of-water comedy. Don’t misunderstand, it adopts those elements very well. But what makes this anime special is its balance of action and humor.
Underneath the glossy veneer of humour and incongruity, the characters of the anime break free of conventional tropes and engage in complex moral dilemmas.
Emi is presented as the classic hero. She is a powerful general who seeks to defeat Sadao, who she has always viewed as the personification of evil. She prepares to destroy him in Japan as soon as her powers allow.
However, Sadao behaves differently in the human world and his actions are kind, generous, and, dare I say, a little heroic. Sadao’s changed nature forces Emi to question her entire purpose. It makes her doubt her role as a hero and forces her to reconsider her desire to finish him off.
In the beginning, Sadao occupies the traditional role of a villain. After all, he is the Demon King who led an army that killed thousands of people, civilians included.
Sadao’s human form is deceiving. It allows the viewer to condemn his actions and furthers the belief in an evil Satan. However, as the anime progresses, it becomes apparent that Sadao never saw his actions as being good or bad. For him, morality was not apparent in the furthering of his goals; his actions were simply a means to an end.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Sadao should simply be forgiven, and the anime makes no attempt to fully exonerate him. It simply juxtaposes his past evil with his present goodness and leaves the viewer and Emito decide his fate.
I’m not going to deceive any of you. The second arc of this thirteen-episode series appears weaker than the first. Jokes are more worn-out and the absurdity of Sadao’s situation becomes wearying. The second half is more character-packed and loses the perfect balance of humour and action championed by the first arc. There are plot details left unexplained which heightens desire for a second season.
I must confess that prior to this, I had exclusively invested my time in the Shoujo genre (a guilty pleasure of mine). The Devil is a Part Timer! is my first venture into an anime with action fantasy and it took me for an amazing ride.
While it is not perfect, The Devil is a Part Timer! is humorous and relatable, and with empathy and compassion it addresses the problems of simply being human—such as working a part-time job, struggling with living expenses, and dealing with your own convictions in life. Go watch it if you like day jobs, epic battles in the sky, and the devil, of course.
-Contributed by Molly Cong