I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
I've seen several positive reviews for The Selfish Demon King, which just goes to show you how subjective reviews can be. Personally, I thought this book was pretty bad. The best thing I can say about it is that it was a quick, light read. Also, I have (unfortunately) read worse.
It's hard to know where to begin, but I think I'll start with the worst stuff (Duga is a rape-y alphole – consider yourself warned) and work from there. It'll be like ripping off a band-aid – do it nice and quick and get it over with.
Shizuku and Duga's entire “relationship” is unhealthy. Shizuku's father and brothers find Shizuku shortly after Duga kidnaps him. Shizuku starts to run to them, but Duga threatens to kill them if Shizuku chooses them over him. After Shizuku promises to stay with Duga in order to keep his family safe, Duga proceeds to passionately kiss him, right in front of his family. Shizuku is embarrassed and bewildered. Thankfully, Duga and Shizuku's first sex scene doesn't start until after Shizuku's family has left.
That first sex scene essentially involves rape. Duga has informed Shizuku that he can and will kill his family if he leaves. Shizuku has nowhere to go, and Duga is not the sort of guy who takes “no” for an answer. Shizuku protests a little, but Duga gets down to business quickly, and it's not long before teenage hormones and/or awakened incubus needs drown out the last of his resistance. In the world of this book, since Shizuku enjoys the sex, it's not rape. In fact, the word “rape” never even comes up. However, I'd still argue that that's the proper word for what happened.
The other thing that had my jaw dropping: At one point, Shizuku is thinking about how he grew up and decides he is relieved that his father raised him in the human world. Had he been raised in the demon world, he suspects Duga would have had sex with him (i.e. raped him) at a much earlier age than 17. As it turns out, Shizuku is probably correct. During a particularly WTF-filled passage later on in the book, Duga provides a little more information about what his “mating season” entails, explains that incubi “enjoy sex at a younger age” (pg. 46), and confirms that, had Shizuku been younger than 17 when the mating season happened, he (Duga) would have had sex with him. While I was relieved that Shizuku, at least, found all of this to be horrifying, my mind was boggled at the idea that the author probably still expected readers to find Duga appealing.
The primary thing Duga had going for him was his good looks. Also, he was supposedly a very gentle and excellent lover. Whatever. Other than those things, he was pretty awful. Like I said, the first time he and Shizuku have sex, it's technically rape. Duga then keeps Shizuku trapped in the palace – he is not allowed to leave, not even to visit his family. Shizuku's family members are only allow to visit for an hour a day, and Shizuku isn't permitted to touch any of them. In fact, he can't touch anyone, because Duga might kill them out of jealousy.
Doesn't Duga sound awesome?
I spent a good chunk of the book wondering how Wakatsuki planned to redeem him. Surely it would dawn on him that his behavior was appalling and that he needed to make up for what he'd done and do better in the future? Surely he'd then have a “Beauty and the Beast” moment and realize he needed to set Shizuku free and trust that he would come back?
…Nope. I think Wakatsuki considered proving Duga's love for Shizuku to be more important than redeeming him. Either that, or it didn't occur to her that Duga needed to redeem himself. At any rate, Shizuku becomes more and more worried that Duga doesn't really love him and also wonders whether what he feels for Duga is love. Duga proves his love by protecting Shizuku, saying “I love you,” and swearing to kill himself if he ever falls in love with anyone else (wait, doesn't Duga need to find a new incubus before each mating season?). Shizuku's answer about his own feelings boils down to this: He enjoys sex with Duga, doesn't like the idea of sex with someone else, and likes that Duga is kind to him, so therefore he must be in love with Duga. Yes, really.
It feels almost like overkill to discuss any of the book's other problems, but I feel I should mention them anyway. The writing isn't very good. When dealing with translated novels, it's not always clear whether the issue is bad writing or a bad translation, but in this case I'm inclined to think bad writing. Two pages in, and Shizuku has already met Duga, at which time readers are slammed with expository dialogue. Wakatsuki barely bothers with characterization, much less character development, so all of the characters, including Shizuku, Duga, and Yui, are little more than cardboard. The world-building can, at best, be described as weak. And ellipses are incredibly overused.
One final problem before I wrap this review up: The book doesn't really have a proper ending. It just stops. The story doesn't even make it as far as the mating season that Duga made such a big deal of. In her afterword, Wakatsuki says that she hopes to write a story about Duga's mating season next, but, as far as I can tell, that volume was never written. Even if it was, it wasn't published in English.
If you haven't figured it out already, this is not a book I'd recommend. However, there are aspects of it that I can see as being potentially attractive to readers, and my read-alikes/watch-alikes list is based upon those aspects.
I was worried that the illustrations would create problems with reading this book on my Nook 1st Edition, but everything displayed fine. Because of the small “page” size, I wouldn't want to try reading manga on my Nook, but these were just images without text (except for the first image), so it wasn't a big deal.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)