You're the Dark Liege, ruler of the underworld. You have a subordinate who is a loudmouth, know-it-all blowhard. What to do? Send him among mortals to become a familiar to a human! Oh, and interfere a lot!
Writer/Artist: Kazunari Kakei
Translation: Nori Minami
Adaptation: Park Cooper
What They Say:
Nora, an unruly demon, has defied his Dark Liege one too many times. For the sake of his "education," Nora is sent to live among mortals and enters a bond of servitude with cool-as-ice star student Kazuma Makkari. Kazuma is about to learn the ways of the underworld.. and Nora will learn more from the "real world" than he ever thought possible!
A Match Made in Hell - When the seal for Nora's form is released he becomes Cerberus, the vicious dog of disaster. But Nora can only use magic when Kazuma grants him permission...and Kazuma doesn't grant permission easily. The Dark Liege wants the two to team up and crack down on renegade demon factions in the human world, but how can they do that if they can't even get along?
The eye-catching cover says it all. A snarling Nora is center stage fronting a scarlet background, so suitable for a tale of adolescent demon rage, hellfire and fighting demons. Less prominent and placed above Nora is the cool, analytical, Kazuma Magari, Nora's master and controller.
Kazunari Kakei's artwork is suitable to the shounen task at hand. The guys are appropriately manly, well-mostly, regardless of whether demon or human. There are few females other than Kazuma's classmate, Hirasaka, and they tend to be well-endowed with fan-service as part of a running joke. Kakei shines in his depiction of the fighting form of the demons. These are remarkably detailed and the minimal use of these forms make them stand out all the more when they are used. Fight scenes are to the point and well-executed.
Sfx are translated and replace the original. These are well integrated into the drawings and panels, and the artwork does not suffer for it. The text reads well with almost no hesitation or clumsiness. There are a few passages where the wrong word garbles the intention, more of a proofreading issue rather than translation. The language is snappy with enough snark where it should be. Attitudes really come through in the distinctive voice of the characters.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Kazuma Magari is a no-nonsense task master. As president of the student council of the Tenryo Academy Middle School, he allows none of his fellow council members to "remain corrupt" - mostly out of concern for how it reflects on him, and insists on tutoring them in an effort to uphold the image of the student council. After a head-bashing teaching session in the Student Council Room, Kazuma answers the call of a cell phone that has mysteriously appeared in the hallway. It's the Dark Liege with a proposition for Kazuma!
The Dark Liege has a problem. The demon world is making an effort to become more civilized without contact with the mortal world. However, outlaw demons determined to feed on human energy (and humans themselves!) and a faction opposing the Dark Liege called the Resistance are roaming the human world. The Dark Liege army is short-handed and the Dark Liege would like to contract Kazuma to take on his truculent and intractable servant, Nora, as master of Nora's powers, in pursuit of the demons who would do ill to both the mortal and demon worlds.
The Dark Liege certainly knows Kazuma. "Legendary student council president! Certified genius! Champion athlete! All-around man's man!" This is how the Dark Liege describes Kazuma and makes an appeal to his feelings of boredom and dissatisfaction to get him take on Nora and the task of expunging wayward demons. While not quite setting aside his cost/benefit view of self-determination, Kazuma agrees because it could be interesting. With this agreement, Nora's powers have been transferred to Kazuma and only Kazuma can grant permission to Nora to use them.
Anticipating an uneasy relationship, the Dark Liege has given Kazuma an additional control - a collar that will immobilize Nora at Kazuma's command. Yes, let's just get this over right now. It's a similar concept to that in Inu-Yasha. But it's not misplaced, The dog jokes are thick and fast in this series. Kazuma treats Nora like a misbehaving puppy, feeds him like one, and even Nora's name is a dog reference ("nora-inu", stray dog).
The dog references become clear when the Kazuma and Nora are confronted by demons out for the bounty or glory of destroying Nora. Nora's unsealed demon form is none other the legendary demon dog of Hades, Cerberus. The first few demons confronting the duo are pretty much chumps and easily dispatched once Nora becomes Cerberus. As the volume closes, a more sophisticated foe comes on the scene, one who is not only intrigued by Kazuma, but lets him know the cost of being the keeper of Nora's power.
Can Kazuma and Nora ever cooperate? Can Kazuma make this puppy sit?
The first volume of Nora: The Last Chronicle of Devildom doesn't lay any new groundowrk for shounen series, but what it does is solid. Nora is a character right out of the shounen mold - the swaggering, full-of-himself youth given to large bouts of braggdocio. Believe it! No surprises here. As a foil for Nora, Kazuma Magari is a character whose conduct is a combination of bushido and cost accountancy. Right now Kazuma seems to have the upper hand with the "lazy, violent and stupid" Nora, so the respect and sense of comradeship that are so part of the shounen genre could be a while coming.
Nora: The Last Chronicle of Devildom is a lot of fun. The series doesn't take itself too seriously as the numerous dog jokes and references attest. There's the Dark Liege cell phone that always seems to appear when the Dark Liege needs Kazuma or Nora, and the interruptions by the Dark Liege in the form of the Dark Liege Primer ("Listen to Teacher") that break the fourth wall to provide updates are funny and informative.
Although rated as Older Teen for boob revealing clothing and some gore, this nine volume series could be be a good title for some readers in the 13+ age group.