Manga-ka: Hiro Madarame
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: May 2010
Synopsis: “Tohru Akiyoshi is comfortable in life with his top grades and student council responsibilities. Only problem is he’s got a complex about his effeminate looks. And to make matters worse, the prettiest boy in school, Fuuta Naruse, not only comes onto him… he downright jumps him! Behind that mask of innocent beauty, Fuuta’s got a savage streak, and he’ll stop at nothing to make Akiyoshi his!”
For those who have read their share of boys’ love stories, there are a number of things you’ve come to assume they’ll provide: schoolboys, guys prettier than nature generally allows and forceful love justified by genre – to name a few. Cute Devil does what it can to fulfil a number of these expectations – whether or not it succeeds much past that is debatable.
The lead character, Tohru Akiyoshi, steps into the role of the stoic glasses-wearing archetype, but he doesn’t fit as neatly into the mold as you may expect from his appearance. Tohru has had his share of issues being an intelligent pretty-boy yet the attention he garners is nothing compared to the flocks of admirers and well-wishers that surround the school’s most notorious cherub: Fuuta Naruse. Short, slight, and adorable beyond measure in context of the story, Fuuta is considered by almost everyone to be the most beautiful young man alive, and possibly the most smart and talented as well.
But could such a teenage boy really exist? Tohru may be forced to believe what he sees with his own two eyes but refuses to fall for the hype. It’s easy to see he’s just sealed his fate with that decision. Tohru suddenly finds himself the target of Fuuta’s lusty affections and we’re not talking the innocent-wanton kind that begs to be taken either. Seems there’s a side to Fuuta that he keeps hidden from the rest of the world, and unfortunately for Tohru, it’s the sadistic, controlling, sex-craving side. Now Tohru’s become Fuuta’s plaything whenever the little angel wants it, a pawn to each moment that shiny-eyed pout transforms into a mischievously sinister grin.
Those looking for romance will likely be disappointed by Cute Devil which offers a bit of everything but, save for a few short moments at the end that could be construed as something semi-similar by boys’ love standards (ie: I’m jealous and possessive, thus I care). Tohru is unable to fight back against Fuuta’s advances and he’s quickly caught up in dwelling on what happened – and more to the benefit of his alone time in the shower than damage to his psyche, naturally. In the beginning it feels like the creator may be toying with more poignant issues such as self-esteem and fitting in at school but they definitely fall flat before they even start.
Just watching the little cute guy flip personalities and harass Tohru does have its appeal though – honestly, it’s pretty outright entertaining. Tohru freaks out, Fuuta’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he takes what he wants anyway, rinse and repeat. Granted even with a few moments of tension tossed in by secondary-character interference, the quirk does fall flat a little quick. Soon enough the artist catches onto the fact and this leads to her switching things up a tad later on. By the end of the book there’s even a faint semblance of potential affection forming between the two and Tohru tries to step up with some well-intended reciprocation (tries being the important word).
Hiro Madarame’s has a nice art style but the eye-candy it provides doesn’t always translate to being the most coherent. If I can’t tell where hands are touching during a sex scene, then there’s an issue. Text bubbles are also thrown about haphazardly so there’s a lot of potential for trip-up following who’s saying what on occasion. The line work itself is very loose, almost sketch-like. While at times it looks like it lacks polish, it does often make up for this with naturally drawn characters with animated expressions. It also takes an interesting approach towards chibis that, though maybe a little off-putting at first with their bobble-head style, are good for deliberate laughs. The characters themselves are rendered in a way that compliments their descriptions – pretty and lithe when intended and, in Fuuta’s case, terrifying when required.
BLU’s work on the book is standard – nothing especially remarkable but no room for real complaint either. The adaptation flows pretty well, the text is tidy and easy to read and the book comes with a double-sided full colour illustration at the beginning. Still, acceptable quality and bonus-colours or not, there doesn’t seem to be much here that warrants the high price mark – $18.99 Canadian for those of us up North. Ouch.
Those looking for fluff or flutter may as well pass by Cute Devil, which opts for a comedic edge over the often-expected melodrama and lust. Neatly contained as a one-shot story however (it’s sequel series yet to be licensed for English release), Cute Devil proves a decent enough dose of its own oddities to maintain being quirky while falling just short of being obnoxious. If you’re not put-off by the boys’ love tropes of forced-fancies and shallow situations, you may find enough worth chuckling at with this one.