#1 A fun premise at the center
It doesn’t take much effort to come up with a stupid concept, but it takes a whole lot of effort to refine that concept into the premise for a story that has actual merit beyond maybe a one-shot or short series. The Devil is a Part-Timer! by Satoshi Wagahara is an example of this done right, as it takes us to a world where a powerful demon lord named Satan is reduced to working in a fast food joint.
After a long war in the fantasy world of Ente Isla turned sour for Satan and his general Alciel, the two of them fled the final battle through a gate leading to earth. Once there, the duo finds themselves in Human bodies and low on magical reserves, possessing only the minimum they need to procure themselves fake identities and a one-room apartment. From there, Alciel (going by “Ashina”) takes on the role of housewife while Satan (now “Sadao”) becomes a part-time employee at a McDonald’s stand-in.
The real kicker comes when Sadao actually takes a liking to his work and finds pride in it, going so far as to set his sights on full-time employment. However, his new life is complicated when the hero destined to slay him also appears on Earth, now going by Emi Yusa as she works at a call center. Will they fight once more as Sadao regains his powers or will they settle their differences and start anew?
#2 Good handling of the fantasy world
Stories about fantasy characters winding up in our modern day world are not entirely uncommon and, as such, you can of course expect a lot of hijinks as these characters struggle with technologies and attempt to understand concepts that are entirely normal to us. It’s to the show’s credit that it largely skips over the duo’s initial experiences with our world to instead get to the interesting part where the Devil has become a part-timer.
This leaves the question of how much the fantasy world these characters originate from should actually matter and the answer we are given is an interesting one. Ente Isla only matters in ways that directly influence the characters or which have a direct benefit to the audience’s enjoyment of the show. The building blocks of the world itself are kept straightforward, with a basic ensemble of monsters and fantasy kingdoms to populate it, and geography that is simple to understand. Its deeper elements like political intrigue are mostly implied and only explored when it’s important for a character’s backstory or emotional development.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fantasy language, which is the biggest example of the fantasy world coming into play for the sheer purpose of being a fun inclusion. Both the Japanese and English audio tracks have their own, unique vocabularies that both end up sounding great, even if the characters eventually all adopt regular Japanese (or English). It manages to solve the question of how characters from alternate worlds all happen to just speak Earthly languages by implying they are highly-intellectual people that just pick it up very fast, while at the same time making those initial encounters feel special due to the actors so confidently taking on the made-up Ente Islan tongue.
#3 The dynamic between Satan and the Hero
Just like how The Devil is a Part-Timer! rushes to the part where Sadao is employed, it also wastes no time introducing Emi Yusa, formerly known as the half-angel hero Emilia Justina. Though Satan retreated from Ente Isla, she refused to leave the battle unfinished and gave chase, only to wind up facing similar problems (and poverty) as she took up work as a customer service representative on earth.
When the two finally clash again, the battle is underwhelming and broken up by the cops, as neither participant can stand to waste what little magic they have. Adding further insult to injury, Emi finds that Sadao just doesn’t seem to want to fight anymore. Content with his new life, Sadao just wishes to be left alone and I enjoy that aspect of his personality. Emi is constantly reminded of his atrocities, including the death of her own father at Satan’s hands, but Satan is now Sadao and distances himself from this previous life. I kind of wish the show did more with this, as I find it compelling that Sadao doesn’t feel any remorse for his warfaring past.
One of the overarching questions is whether Emi is right to suspect that Sadao might return to Ente Isla or turn evil on Earth, or if she will grow to accept that he may have changed. Regrettably, this remains technically unresolved by the end of the final episode, with both the light novel and manga being ongoing.
#4 The best of angry
The character design behind the show is already very appealing, with each of the main characters having a very distinctive look to them. In particular, I really enjoyed the handsome design behind Alciel/Ashina. However, regardless of the characters, one thing The Devil is a Part-Timer! does particularly well is handle anger.
All the characters are very expressive, but the expressions for when characters are angry are unlike anything I have seen in other shows. And with the frustrating situations caused by the oddballs who make up the main cast, often that anger is very much justified. It’s a very specific thing to do well, but it helps set the show apart and was good for more than a few laughs.
#5 Implied romance
Remarkably for a story that involves angels, demons, fantasy monsters, and fast food, one of the more interesting people involved in all of it is 16-year-old Human girl Chiho Sasaki.
She is one of Sadao’s coworkers and quickly grows to admire him for his worth ethic and personality. As the two work together and have breaks around the same time, she becomes ever more infatuated with him to the point of getting frustrated when other girls are around him. Sadao, for his part, appears to be aware of her feelings, yet doesn’t actively reciprocate or deny them, leaving it open whether he is being a jerk, partly oblivious, or something else is going on there.
Like with his rivalry with Yusa, however, the anime itself does leave this interesting storyline partly unresolved. The development that is included in the show I found enjoyable, particularly because Chiho still manages to play a big role even when dramatic storylines involving the fantasy world are playing out. In fact, she is pretty much integral to the finale. It’s just that those looking for closure will have to look into the light novels (for now) to find it.