Monday, July 16, 2012

The Selfish Demon King (e-book) written by Kyoko Wakatsuki, illustrated by Naduki Koujima

The English translation of The Selfish Demon King is published by Digital Manga, Inc., which lists its genres as Fantasy, Romance, and Yaoi. To make this as clear as possible: it is a novel, not manga. Although there are a few illustrations, the bulk of the book is text. Also, this book is not suitable for younger readers - it contains several explicit sex scenes (the text is more explicit than the images).

According to All Romance Ebooks, The Selfish Demon King is 28,000 words, which came out to 68 pages on my Nook. The book has been released in paper form, but it looks like it's out of print.

Synopsis:

Shizuku, a cute 17-year-old, is shocked when he comes home one day to find a handsome stranger in his house. The stranger, Duga, immediately declares himself in love with Shizuku and whisks him away to his palace, ignoring the protests of Shizuku and Shizuku's father and brothers.

Shizuku had grown up thinking he was an ordinary human, but in actuality he is an incubus. His father and brothers are all demons and kept Shizuku's true nature from him in order to protect him from Duga. You see, Duga is the selfish and arrogant Demon King. Every 100 years, before his mating season, he must find an incubus to take as his companion. Many incubi have tried to capture his interest, but the only one Duga wants is Shizuku.

Shizuku doesn't know what to think. Duga is extremely jealous and threatens to kill anyone, even Shizuku's family members, who dares touch Shizuku. However, Duga is kinder to Shizuku than to anyone else, even going so far as to compromise and allow Shizuku to see his family for an hour a day. Then there's the sex, which Shizuku enjoys more than he cares to admit. However, he can't help but wonder: why him? What is it about him that interests Duga? And what if Duga tires of him? Yui, another incubus, seems convinced that it's only a matter of time before Duga chooses a different companion, and Shizuku, seeing Yui's beauty, finds it hard to disagree.

Review:

I've seen several positive reviews for The Selfish Demon King, which just goes to show you how subjective reviews can be. Personally, I thought this book was pretty bad. The best thing I can say about it is that it was a quick, light read. Also, I have (unfortunately) read worse.

It's hard to know where to begin, but I think I'll start with the worst stuff (Duga is a rape-y alphole – consider yourself warned) and work from there. It'll be like ripping off a band-aid – do it nice and quick and get it over with.

Shizuku and Duga's entire “relationship” is unhealthy. Shizuku's father and brothers find Shizuku shortly after Duga kidnaps him. Shizuku starts to run to them, but Duga threatens to kill them if Shizuku chooses them over him. After Shizuku promises to stay with Duga in order to keep his family safe, Duga proceeds to passionately kiss him, right in front of his family. Shizuku is embarrassed and bewildered. Thankfully, Duga and Shizuku's first sex scene doesn't start until after Shizuku's family has left.

That first sex scene essentially involves rape. Duga has informed Shizuku that he can and will kill his family if he leaves. Shizuku has nowhere to go, and Duga is not the sort of guy who takes “no” for an answer. Shizuku protests a little, but Duga gets down to business quickly, and it's not long before teenage hormones and/or awakened incubus needs drown out the last of his resistance. In the world of this book, since Shizuku enjoys the sex, it's not rape. In fact, the word “rape” never even comes up. However, I'd still argue that that's the proper word for what happened.

The other thing that had my jaw dropping: At one point, Shizuku is thinking about how he grew up and decides he is relieved that his father raised him in the human world. Had he been raised in the demon world, he suspects Duga would have had sex with him (i.e. raped him) at a much earlier age than 17. As it turns out, Shizuku is probably correct. During a particularly WTF-filled passage later on in the book, Duga provides a little more information about what his “mating season” entails, explains that incubi “enjoy sex at a younger age” (pg. 46), and confirms that, had Shizuku been younger than 17 when the mating season happened, he (Duga) would have had sex with him. While I was relieved that Shizuku, at least, found all of this to be horrifying, my mind was boggled at the idea that the author probably still expected readers to find Duga appealing.

The primary thing Duga had going for him was his good looks. Also, he was supposedly a very gentle and excellent lover. Whatever. Other than those things, he was pretty awful. Like I said, the first time he and Shizuku have sex, it's technically rape. Duga then keeps Shizuku trapped in the palace – he is not allowed to leave, not even to visit his family. Shizuku's family members are only allow to visit for an hour a day, and Shizuku isn't permitted to touch any of them. In fact, he can't touch anyone, because Duga might kill them out of jealousy.

Doesn't Duga sound awesome?

I spent a good chunk of the book wondering how Wakatsuki planned to redeem him. Surely it would  dawn on him that his behavior was appalling and that he needed to make up for what he'd done and do better in the future? Surely he'd then have a “Beauty and the Beast” moment and realize he needed to set Shizuku free and trust that he would come back?

…Nope. I think Wakatsuki considered proving Duga's love for Shizuku to be more important than redeeming him. Either that, or it didn't occur to her that Duga needed to redeem himself. At any rate, Shizuku becomes more and more worried that Duga doesn't really love him and also wonders whether what he feels for Duga is love. Duga proves his love by protecting Shizuku, saying “I love you,” and swearing to kill himself if he ever falls in love with anyone else (wait, doesn't Duga need to find a new incubus before each mating season?). Shizuku's answer about his own feelings boils down to this: He enjoys sex with Duga, doesn't like the idea of sex with someone else, and likes that Duga is kind to him, so therefore he must be in love with Duga. Yes, really.

It feels almost like overkill to discuss any of the book's other problems, but I feel I should mention them anyway. The writing isn't very good. When dealing with translated novels, it's not always clear whether the issue is bad writing or a bad translation, but in this case I'm inclined to think bad writing. Two pages in, and Shizuku has already met Duga, at which time readers are slammed with expository dialogue. Wakatsuki barely bothers with characterization, much less character development, so all of the characters, including Shizuku, Duga, and Yui, are little more than cardboard. The world-building can, at best, be described as weak. And ellipses are incredibly overused.

One final problem before I wrap this review up: The book doesn't really have a proper ending. It just stops. The story doesn't even make it as far as the mating season that Duga made such a big deal of. In her afterword, Wakatsuki says that she hopes to write a story about Duga's mating season next, but, as far as I can tell, that volume was never written. Even if it was, it wasn't published in English.

If you haven't figured it out already, this is not a book I'd recommend. However, there are aspects of it that I can see as being potentially attractive to readers, and my read-alikes/watch-alikes list is based upon those aspects.

Other comments:

I was worried that the illustrations would create problems with reading this book on my Nook 1st Edition, but everything displayed fine. Because of the small “page” size, I wouldn't want to try reading manga on my Nook, but these were just images without text (except for the first image), so it wasn't a big deal.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Black Bird (manga) by Kanoko Sakurakoji - If you'd like another romance with a similarly protective and forceful hero, you might try this. It's m/f rather than m/m, and, at least in the volumes I've read, there is no explicit sex. However, I'd describe this series as pretty racy - the hero, who's a tengu (a kind of supernatural creature), can heal the heroine with his saliva. She, of course, gets hurt a lot. I've written a tiny bit about the first volume of this series, but no full posts.
  • Family Complex (manga) by Mikiyo Tsuda - No demons or fantasy elements, but Shizuku sometimes reminded me of a couple members of the family featured in this manga. Akira Sakamoto sometimes thinks he doesn't fit in with his family, and Akira's older brother and sister both have problems with classmates fawning over them and falling in love with them. I've written about this manga.
  • Winter Demon (OEL manga) story by Yamila Abraham, art by various artists - This is a 4-volume series. Like The Selfish Demon King, it features a m/m relationship that begins with rape, but, in this case, the characters recognize it as rape. Hakuin, a monk, and Fuyu, the snow demon who raped him, end up traveling together for reasons I can't remember at the moment, and affection, attraction, and love develop between them, but that rape that started everything off is definitely something they have to deal with. The series contains fantasy elements, humor, and explicit on-page sex.
  • Demon Diary (manhwa) by Lee-Hyung Lee (script, vol. 2+), Lee Chi Hyong (story), and Kara (art) - Like Shizuku, Raenef gets a bit of a shock when he learns that he's a Demon Lord. He's not a very good one - he's too gentle, and he's a bit of a ditz. Those who'd like another series featuring demons might want to try this. Unlike The Selfish Demon King, there's no sex, but, depending on your interpretation, there's a little bit of romance involving Raenef and his gorgeous demon tutor, Eclipse.
  • Kyou Kara Maoh! (anime TV series) - Another story involving a main character who learns that he's a demon. Several of the series' gorgeous male characters are very protective of and/or affectionate with the main character. Unfortunately for him, he ends up accidentally engaged to the (male) character who dislikes him the most.
  • Knight of a Trillion Stars (book) by Dara Joy - The moment when Shizuku looks in the mirror and is captivated by his own sudden attractiveness reminded me of this futuristic romance novel, which has a similar moment. Like Duga, this book's hero is also arrogant and protective. I don't remember him reaching alphole levels, but I could be wrong.
  • Black Butler (anime TV series) - I added this series to the list mostly because of the second season of the anime - every time Yui entered the picture, I was reminded of Alois. Alois is cruel, screwed up, greedy, and tragic - somehow, he managed to make me both hate him and feel sympathy for him during the course of the season. I've written about several volumes of the manga and both seasons of the anime.
  • Tail of the Moon (manga) by Rinko Ueda - Shizuku and Yui reminded me of this shoujo series. Like Shizuku, Usagi is cute and not always very bright. She has a romantic rival who, like Yui, is more attractive and seems more likely to capture the hero's interest. I've written about the first two volumes of the manga.

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