The Devil is a Part-Timer Review

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

When you’re trying to convince a newcomer about the diversity of anime shows and the power of the anime medium to tell vastly different stories, show them an action show, followed by something completely different – like a comedy. On paper, you’d think something like a slice-of-life drama or a workplace comedy wouldn’t benefit from being done in animation, but along comes something like The Devil Is a Part-Timer!, which turns its high-concept into a hilarious comedy, and it makes you realize that anything could benefit from being animated.

What if I were to tell you that Demon Lord Satan, the Devil himself, nearly conquered his world of Ente Isla but right before killing his enemies, a hero named Emilia forces him to escape through a gate that transports them both – as well as Satan’s right-hand demon Alciel – to modern day Tokyo? With no powers and rent coming up, what’s Satan to do but take a part-time job working at a fast food joint called MgRonald’s?

From there on, The Devil Is a Part-Timer evolves into a hilarious, often sweet and thought-provoking comedy. Though it isn’t afraid to dip its toes into some fluid and exhilarating action scenes, the focus is always on Satan’s struggles to stay afloat the current economy, and whether people can actually change.

What Makes It Great

From the get-go, this is a high concept show that shouldn’t work. You have the absolute most evil character ever – the literal Devil himself – and you expect people to root for him in his mundane life. Somehow, Naoto Hosoda manages to carry the concept on for 13 tightly written episodes that never feel tiresome, resulting in a fantastic one-off series that will leave you wanting more of, but feel satisfied with what you’ve got. No matter how many new complications get in Satan’s way – getting sick and not having insurance, getting a replacement for a crashed bicycle, a roommate buying a bunch of expensive things off the internet, an archangel showing up to try and kill you – The Devil Is a Part-Timer remains consistently funny throughout its runtime. 

Without a doubt, the best part of this show is its Robert Altman-like dialogue, which often overlaps to give conversations a natural feel. Characters interrupt each other, get distracted, and go back to the conversations in the span of a couple of seconds, which at times may overwhelm but often results in hilarious comments and one-liners. Because the concept of the show requires the dark lord of the underworld to be a struggling millennial once he crosses over to our world, the show often comments on the struggles of the gig economy and how hard it is to make it when the world is against you.

The show also isn’t afraid to evolve past its initial premise. After a couple of episodes of Emi checking in on Satan and being skeptical of his good behavior, new celestial and demonic threats start joining the cast, including Lucifer himself – who after crossing over to Earth, becomes a NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) – whose clashes with Satan will have you in stitches.

What It Brings to the Conversation

Beyond the quick, snappy dialogue, and the jokes at the expense of seeing the mighty dark lord Satan as a puny 20-something MgRonalds’, what makes The Devil Is a Part-Timer special is how it starts to question whether we are simply born good, or if we can learn to be good. 

At first, Satan is just trying to lay low and bide his time until he can gather enough magic to return to Ente Isla and rule over its citizens. But we slowly start to see that Satan is not only pretty good at his job, but he seems to enjoy taking care of people, from his loyal servant Alciel, to his coworker Chiho. He even goes out of his way to protect Emilia, even if she is still trying to kill him. 

Many shows have its antagonist suddenly turn into a good guy, but they usually do so by having the bad guy have a sudden change of heart or be convinced to do good by the hero. The Devil Is a Part-Timer doesn’t do that, but instead it slowly shows that Satan isn’t really a good guy – he still talks about enslaving people and killing them for fun – he’s just super protective of the people under his command, even if that includes his former enemies. The show constantly asks the audience if they believe someone as evil as the devil himself can do good. The answer is entirely up to the audience, but one thing is for sure, the devil can make great burgers.

Why Non-Anime Fans Should Check It Out

The Devil Is a Part-Timer is an anime that is short enough to be binge-watched in a single day, and accessible enough that you can go in knowing very little about anime and understand everything. Not only would this be a great starting point, and a hilarious one at that, but it introduces many traditional tropes of anime like the tsundere (a female character that starts cold and even hostile before becoming friendlier and warmer over time), and the isekai genre. 

As mentioned last month in my Digimon column, an isekai anime deals with a protagonist being transported from Earth to a fantasy land. With the genre being really popular today and with dozens of new isekai shows premiering each season, it is fun to see something like The Devil Is a Part-Timer doing something new. In this case a reverse-isekai where the fantasy character gets trapped on Earth and losing all his powers. Though the show does involve a lot of references to the current state of socioeconomics in Japan, there are plenty of references and universal struggles that any newcomer will enjoy. Who knew the devil could be so much fun?

Watch This If You Like: Lucifer, The Office, Roseanne

***

The Devil is a Part-Timer! Is streaming on Netflix.

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