DEVIL'S LINE Vol. 1 by Ryo Hanada
Concept
Plot
Art
Characterization
Summary
DEVIL'S LINE is a story that brings in elements of action, fantasy, and romance. But while Volume 1 introduces the main characters and several possible plots, the direction of the series in general is woefully unclear. In trying to do a lot in one volume, it falls short in several key areas.
50 %
Some potential

Just a few sentences of the DEVILS’ LINE synopsis excited me for the manga. It implied a world of devils committing crimes in Tokyo and the police who track them down. Anyone who has read the manga likely realized this blurb ends up being somewhat of a false flag. While the concept and world of DEVILS’ LINE are intriguing, the manga itself does a very poor job of fleshing it out or giving it substance. On top of that, the story follows a rather dull romance more than anything else. The action only punctuates what ends up feeling like a pointless love story. As a result, the reader ends up turning each page hoping for the start of a plot that really never comes.

DEVILS’ LINE follows half-human, half-devil Yuuki Anzai and university student Tsukasa Taira as they navigate a quick romance in a strange world. In DEVILS’ LINE, devils are more than just a scary myth. Devils make up only .01% of the population and generally are indistinguishable from those around them. However, they have incredible blood-lust and will transform into monstrous beings. While they seem mythical, they aren’t completely hidden from common life. The existence of devils is known to the Japanese, but not for good reason. They’re frequently the perpetrators of violent crimes, especially sexual assault against women. While many find ways to manage their dangerous sides, some succumb to their thirst and attack humans. Anzai uses his enhanced physical devil abilities to stop these crimes.

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Some Overused Clichés

While this certainly isn’t the first I’ve seen of a monster-hidden-among-humans-type manga, I appreciate this concept. Having a police force of devils fighting devils checks all the boxes for a fantasy-action anime. With the addition of investigative responsibilities, one would expect DEVILS’ LINE to focus on some kind of supernatural criminal enterprise. The manga opens with Anzai tracking down and hunting a devil, making procedural police work seem like the type of thing the manga would delve deeper into.

Anzai confronts a vampire hanging out with Tsukasa in DEVILS' LINE.
Anzai taunts a devil as he apprehends him | Image: Vertical Comics

Unfortunately, DEVILS’ LINE instantly brings together two things that I consider to be some of the worst tropes of manga and anime. The first, commonly referred to as insta-love, is essentially when two protagonists quickly fall for each other for unclear reasons. Despite the fact that a devil nearly killed Tsukasa just pages earlier, there’s heavy sexual tension between her and Anzai. They’re violently making out before we know anything about them and Anzai is literally licking blood from her split lip. It’s not uncommon for manga to sexualize the drinking of blood, but it’s initially confusing why someone so opposed to devils drinking human blood would…instantly drink human blood. Tsukasa, for her part, isn’t bothered by a stranger licking her face and immediately kissing her. At all.

Lackluster Romance

This feeds into some heavy White Knight syndrome (the second trope) for Anzai, who has an inexplicable urge to protect and save Tsukasa. While she has an interesting personality and seems at least emotionally strong, she’s constantly putting herself in danger. While it doesn’t seem intentionally done by her character, it does feel like a cheap way to create conflicts for Anzai to intervene in. Even then, the brief action of the first chapter switches to Anzai visiting Tsukasa more and more over the next few weeks. From their flirting and romantic thoughts about each other, the pair appears to be growing more and more in love. Anzai more or less just naps under Tsukasa’s kotatsu and they occasionally share a meal.

Anzai and Tsukasa catch a glimpse of one another in DEVILS' LINE Vol. 1.
One look and the irrational romance begins. | Image: Vertical Comics

There isn’t any issue with manga centering around supernatural themes bringing in romance. For that romance to be at all compelling, however, there needs to be an understandable route that makes two people fall in love. The rather traditional scene of male protagonist helping female protagonist, apart from being cliché, is rather limited. This sort of scene can easily justify two characters becoming interested in one another, but it certainly wouldn’t cause love. Their falling for each other feels extremely separated from devil plot.

Sexual activity and adrenaline can cause devils to transform, so Anzai getting excited is the only time I even remember he’s a devil while he’s intimate with Tsukasa. Putting their relationship to the test of being seen in public more would give it substance. This at least would build more struggle into their romance and make it work better. Insta-love is lazy at best and doesn’t work too well in DEVILS’ LINE.

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Unfortunate Erasure

Tsukasa, in all of this, ends up becoming a formless non-character. The perceptive, intelligent parts of her personality that I wanted to develop simply sit untouched. Don’t get me wrong, Tsukasa’s concern for Anzai or her penchant for making sure he gets enough sleep can be cute at times. The issue is that the manga never lets her progress anywhere beyond that. Her personality seems somewhat flat whenever she isn’t around Anzai. Even her thoughts are all about him whenever they’re apart. Despite the fact that she’s a college student with her own life away from him, that portion of the story is mostly ignored. Because of this, there isn’t even any additional setting for us to learn more about Tsukasa in.

Tsukasa looks out of her window as Anzai in DEVILS' LINE Vol. 1.
Many of Tsukasa’s moments alone are just her reaction to Anzai leaving | Image: Vertical Comics

Late-Game Action

It isn’t until the last third of the volume that any real action begins. A woman working with a mysterious organization is beginning to target devils and murder them. She uses a sniper rifle and some advanced technology to track devils via their naturally lower body temperatures. This, combined with her accurate shooting, makes it easy to kill devils mixed into human crowds. Ironically, this completely random antagonist is probably the most developed character of the entire volume. She personally suffered abuse at the hands of a devil that caused her mother’s death. Her goal is in part revenge and in part a desire to rid the world of an existence she sees as a threat to humanity. While we learn little about the organization itself this early in the series, her actions are at least compelling.

It’s extremely odd for an early-series antagonist to feel like a more substantive character than the protagonists. I was losing interest in the manga until she appeared. There’s plenty of build up as she tracks and targets Anzai and Tsukasa. But unfortunately, the volume wraps up quickly after she attacks Anzai. There is certainly the potential for a great arc as Anzai and the other devil detectives have to fight against an assassin, but it felt like a blip compared to the main romance.

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The Potential of DEVILS’ LINE

DEVILS’ LINE is certainly not a new concept, but the blend of devils, romance, and procedural detective work is unique. While this first volume has a lot of issues, there certainly is plenty that can be salvaged from it. It wouldn’t make much sense for Anzai and Tsukasa’s romance to dissipate at this point. But that’s no reason to ignore the rest of the world of DEVILS’ LINE. The manga can still show more about life as a devil. We don’t even know all that much about Anzai’s fellow detectives. Plenty of them are also devils and have varying perspectives on devil-human relationships. Their involvement has the potential to create a rich swath of side characters. Finally, this organization that comes into play at the end of volume 1 can obviously cause a lot of interesting action.

If you’re looking for a romance for the sake of a romance, none of this is a deal breaker. While the art can be inconsistent and awkward, there are plenty of heartwarming scenes. In terms of plot, however, the series is lacking in the beginning. I will likely be reading the next few volumes to give it a chance, though. This is a manga that appears to be on an upward trajectory. But there’s a lot of work to be done before its characters become more than just hollow shells.

DEVILS’ LINE is available now. Get your copy hereFeatured image courtesy of Vertical Comics.

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