Devil Survivor Volume 1

What should have been a simple day out with friends turns into a mysterious disaster when powerful demonic beasts appear. Kazuya and Atsuro were supposed to meet Naoya, their enigmatic friend, but he doesn’t show up and instead sends another friend, Yuzu to meet them and give them specially modded game devices. It becomes apparent that Naoya has given them much more than they bargained for when demons spawn from these devices! These demons seem to be intent on killing humans, but could they actually be allies?! Kazuya and his friends must figure out what the devil is going on as the world around them inexplicably begins to fall apart!

Devil Survivor Volume 1
Devil Survivor 1By Satoru Matsuba
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Horror/Game
Price: $10.99

Devil Survivor is the adaptation of the video game of the same name. It is part of the Shin Megami Tensei series that first began back in 1987 and spawned the just as successful Persona series. Devil Survivor was set up as a jumping on point for new players of the series, so the characters and story are already designed to appeal to newcomers, making for a well-written first volume.

The story starts by introducing the three protagonists Kazuya, Atsuro and Yuzu, three high school friends enjoying their summer break. Kazuya is the main protagonist. He is the cousin of Naoya, the person who gets them involved in the strange happenings. Kazuya is calm and cool, and is the first to figure out how to ally with demons and use them to fight other demons, and how to use skills. Atsuro is a computer programmer in training, and considers himself a disciple of Naoya. He hacks the COMPs and starts the demon summoning program on them. Yuzu is the most normal of the three. She is scared, both for herself and her friends, and just wants them all to go home. She soon comes to realize that in order to go home, she must fight with Kazuya and Atsuro.

It doesn’t take long to get them into battle. By the end of the first chapter, their COMPs summon demons that they must defeat. Kazuya is the first to defeat his demon, allying with him and then using him to defeat the others. But there is still a lot he doesn’t understand, and he still needs some things explained, which Naoya provides through the COMP. The story balances the action with these slower moments of exposition, but never spending too much time on either so they don’t feel excessive. Knowing this came from a video game, it was apparent to  me that these moments were like first level trainers, but they don’t feel obvious, so some one picking this up for the first time wouldn’t notice.

The demons are varied, coming from different cultures and mythologies. An Ogre from Northern Europe, a Wendigo from North America, and a Waira from the mountains of Japan are a few of the demons who are both enemies and allies. The designs are distinctive, while also making the threat from them feel real.

Matsuba’s art in design and tone has a very anime feel to it. Some panels almost look like they came out of an anime. The backgrounds are detailed, and the character designs have a nice variety. While Yuzu is very male-gazey, Kazuya is bishonen enough to appeal to a female gaze, and I love his headphones that make him look like he has cat ears.

This first volume of Devil Survivor does an excellent job of setting up the world and pulling readers in. The mysteries presented are intriguing and the characters are relatable and appealing enough to keep the reader invested. The video game elements are present, but not overbearing, making the story a compelling read. I strongly recommend Devil Survivor to fans of video games and supernatural actions titles.

Rating: ★★★★½

Review copy provided by publisher.

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