When the first episode of Devil is a Part-Timer! had reached its end credits, I felt like I’d just finished watching something really special. Here was a great-looking, genuinely funny series with a truly original premise and likable characters that, based on the promise of the debut episode, surely had to turn out to be as complex and deep as we could possibly have hoped. I don’t want to get carried away and suggest that this episode was some kind of masterpiece, but it was legitimately great. Was it wrong to get my hopes up?
I won’t rehash the plot here (if you need a rundown, click here). All I’ll say is that it could have been a springboard for all kinds of really interesting possibilities. Has there ever been an anime series (or any television series at all) that’s really focused on the drudgery of the workplace? The sense of tedium and frustration that comes with working in the lowest-paying sectors of the service-industry? Even after the global recession, has television (or films, books, fucking anything at all) bothered to tell the stories of people who’ve lost their jobs and been forced to start all over again from the very bottom? Because that’s essentially what this anime is about. Or could have been if it was willing to be about anything at all.
In my review of Blue Exorcist, I complained about the series’ lack of interest in exploring deeper spiritual themes. Heck, I’d have been satisfied with cheap exploitation of its religious subject matter if it would have contributed to the plot, or at least to the viewers’ sense of intrigue. Much like that series, The Devil is a Part-Timer! sidesteps any commitment to religious references beyond its superficial depiction of a corrupted, Inquisition-practicing church (which is shown to take place in an alternate dimension, but it’s pretty clear what denomination is being portrayed). Would the writers be up for discussing prickly theological questions? Yes, I know that the main character is not the Satan we all know from the Christian Bible. And I know that Japan views religion in a very different way from what we’re used to in the West. So what?
Anyway, there’s a lot of potential here but it’s squandered very early on as the creators rush to embrace cliches and conform to the safest possible turn of events, resulting in a series that frustratingly abandons its most interesting qualities in favor of distinctly middle-of-the-road tropes. By episode three, the series’ emphasis on the workplace is all but completely abandoned, bringing to mind inspid garbage like Working!! (which I originally praised but have since regretted ever spending a single minute ever watching). A rash of supporting characters are introduced over the course of the 13-episode series. None are memorable or interesting. The series’ chief protagonist even takes a backseat to a busty moeblob who’s neither original, intelligent, or particularly charming in any way… unless that kind of character archetype is your thing, in which case, maybe this series is right up your wheelhouse. Hopefully you’re not bothered by the casual, often-gleeful misogyny that the female characters are so hilariously and repeatedly subjected to.
I’d recommend The Devil is a Part-Timer! to any fan of this kind of humor but otherwise this was a letdown. It’s enjoyable in its own way but could have been so much better if had any aspirations beyond fitting in to the most predictable expectations of typcial “slice of life” and high school anime series. I don’t like to give scores or grades to series, but if I did, this one would earn a C+.