After leading a bloodthirsty war against humankind for so long, the demon king Anoth has grown weary of it all and wishes to make peace, but the only thing that will achieve that is his death. While inviting the human hero Kanon to come to his castle to kill him, Anoth formulates a plan to separate humans and demons for a thousand years, while scattering his descendants so that he may reincarnate into hopefully a more peaceful world.
After being slain by Kanon, Anoth awakes 2000 years later as the child of a human couple, Isabella and Gusta, where everything seems to have gone as planned – there’s no signs of war, and humans and demons freely intermingle in everyday life. However, underneath the surface not everything is as nice as it seems, as demon society is wracked by class discrimination, with pureblood demons being viewed as better than those with mixed human and demon parentage; while Anoth’s great deeds of conquest have been muddled with time, with even his own name being long forgotten.
Anoth is plunged into the heart of this weakened and petty demon society when he receives an invitation to join Demon King Academy, a school that trains aspiring young demon lords in order to find the reincarnated demon king. Despite his insane magical power and, you know, being the actual demon king, he somehow ends up at the bottom of his class, surrounded by demons all wanting to claim his title. If Anoth is going to reclaim his throne he’s going to have to rise through the ranks and show them all who’s boss!
This first volume of The Misfit of Demon King Academy serves as a basic introduction to the world and characters, setting up a power fantasy story where a lot of the drama and humour is driven by the gap in Anoth’s power and the abilities of his new classmates.
It quickly demonstrates the difference by putting him in a conflict with the Indu brothers, Zepes and Leorg, in the academy’s entrance exam where you have to have defeated five other demons in a full-on tournament before you can even get into class. Throwing in a tournament arc at the very beginning of the story sure seems like overkill, and while it does cut things down to showing just two battles, it could have been framed better as a single demonstration of power. It feels like they wanted the entrance exam to showcase that Anoth is on another level and his magic is unlike everyone else’s, and maybe they initially got carried away with that thought before wisely reigning it in.
It also uses the entrance exam to show Anoth’s darker side, which I’m not sure was a wise move right off the bat, as it does set him up to be a very unlikable protagonist. He’s arrogant and cruel with a clear sadistic side to him, and while his opponents are idiots themselves, it’s easier to feel sympathy for them due to the way Anoth treats them as dirt.
While it’s often difficult to get invested in a story with such a jerk protagonist, it’s actually not too bad here, as despite the rocky start, Anoth does warm up as things move on, mainly thanks to his interactions with Misha, the cute and shy demon girl he meets before the entrance exam and becomes quick friends with, and his parents. Misha is clearly being set up as the love interest and the thought of such a development throws Gusta and Isabella into overdrive. These two are the best characters in the manga so far as they are not only very charming and endearing, but it’s hilarious to see them fawn over both Anoth and Misha and try to provide opportunities for them to get together. Misha herself seems sweet enough, and like a lot of the female characters introduced in this volume is very pretty, but also seems to be deceptively strong and is certainly comfortable enough with Anoth to bite back at him. There’s also some sort of dark past involving her elder sister, Sasha, as it starts to present the class discrimination between demons as the main thing it wants to explore.
This is probably where it’s going to get most of its mileage in the long-run as the world building is one of its greatest initial strengths. It’s easy to see where we have come from and how things have ended up like this, and by showing Anoth’s disappointment in what the world has become works to humanise him and justify his character somewhat. While there is a clear class divide in demon society, he at least can treat everyone as equals because I guess if you’re that powerful, everyone looks like ants.
The manga adapts the light novel, written by Shu, and the story comes across well apart from some flaws with the said framing of the entrance exam, and the effects of some of the magic spells not being clear or being retconned a couple of pages after the fact. While offering the first three chapters of the manga, this volume also contains a bonus short story, which is a nice inclusion as it doubles down on Anoth’s parents being darling idiots and that’s something I couldn’t get enough of.
The artwork, by Kayaharuka, is pleasant and clean to look at; although some of the characters’ feet look occasionally too big in proportion to their body. The character designs, by Yoshinori Shizuma, are also quite strong, although the female characters do stand out more than the guys.
The English translation by Leighann Harvey for Square Enix is generally clear and easy to read, while letterer Phil Christie has chosen appropriate fonts for speech and spells. My only gripe here was that fitting the spell names and what they mean together in the speech bubbles can make the words feel like they are a bit crammed in, yet it’s probably more an issue with the original Japanese work as I’m not sure where else they would go.
Overall, volume one of The Misfit of Demon King Academy is very much an introduction, setting up the characters and the world around them. There’s nothing particularly special or gripping about it so far, but the class divide between the demons is clearly the main hook of the story and gives it something to differentiate it from other similar works or from it just being a power fantasy. It definitely needs more time to stew and flesh out some of its other elements which makes it hard to recommend as a single volume; yet if it continues down its current path the series could make for an interesting read further down the line.
Read a free preview at the Square Enix website here