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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

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Satan's Secretary (manga, vol. 1) by Kamotsu Kamonabe, translated by Jennifer O'Donnell

Satan's Secretary, Vol. 1 - Kamotsu Kamonabe, Jennifer O'Donnell

When a child is born with the Crest of Light on the back of his hand, it's a signal that Satan, too, will soon become unsealed and threaten world domination. Satan's a bit of a heavy sleeper, though, so it takes another 13 years for him to drag himself out of bed. After he finally gets up, he demands that a female human scholar be brought before him, so that he can torture her for her knowledge of other humans.

The human his minions find for him is a secretary. She came willingly and has, in fact, been planning world domination for a while now. Not long after being brought before Satan, she negotiates herself from "human slave" to "paid employee with a conveniently nebulous position in the demon world's new organizational chart." As she completely reworks the Demon Lord's army to her own specifications, the Demon Lord is left wondering what happened and how he can somehow keep himself from becoming a mere figurehead.

Satan's Secretary was originally created in 2014 and first published in Japan in 2016 or 2017, so the parallels I saw between several things in the first half of this volume and current events and the Trump administration were probably accidental. But this volume was first published in English in 2018, and the translator had to have known what they were doing when they had one of the human characters say "We need to make the kingdom great again." Between that and one of the secretary's more detailed plans eerily resembling what's going on in the US right now, the first half of this volume occasionally made for uncomfortable reading. Oh, and then there was the way both the human king and Satan were so easily manipulated, and the king proposing the annihilation of some demons as a way to distract his subjects from his bad leadership and decision to use tax money for his own personal benefit.

So 2020 may not have been the best year to read this. But even if I had read it at a different time, I'm not sure it would have worked much better for me. Layout-wise, this volume was a bit of a mess. Panels were crammed with text and tiny art, making this a more exhausting read than I was expecting. And the comedy wasn't particularly funny. It was one part corporate humor, one part satire about bad leadership, and one part experimentation with conflicting tones.

The secretary tackled everything from new hiring practices for the Demon Lord's army, to improving the morning commute, to the complexities of providing financial aid to demonic families. It was clever, and I suppose it was a little amusing watching the Demon Lord struggle not to be overshadowed by his new secretary, but there was nothing that really made me laugh.

The Demon Lord and his minions were terrible but, despite mentions of torture and rape, were largely presented as jokes. It was no wonder they never succeeded at world domination. The secretary, on the other hand, was true evil. She came to Satan with multiple detailed plans for accomplishing world domination, and, if the demons hadn't had more of a conscience than she did, she'd likely have managed it by the end of the volume. While I liked her efficiency, her competence, and the fact that she didn't take crap from anyone, she was so coldly evil that I found her impossible to root for. There was a single moment when readers were given a glimpse of her motivations, but even that didn't make her more sympathetic or relatable.

One last thing before I wrap this up, more of a note for my own purposes than anything: there's a scene involving a lust spell that confirms that the secretary is canon asexual and aromantic. I still wouldn't recommend this for that reason, though, because it's not like the world needs another evil aro ace character. Also, it makes the moments when Satan imagines the secretary as his sex slave even slimier.

I didn't think this was completely terrible, but it wasn't to my tastes and I doubt I'll ever read more of it.

Extras:

Single-page extra scenes in between chapters, five pages of the original 2014 doujin version, one full-color page, and an afterword by the author.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)