It’s rare that I read manga. Even when I was much more into anime I just never read manga. Usually this was because I was often introduced to various stories through the anime which made me less likely to read the manga, because I would get bored already knowing what was going to happen. Plus, manga are expensive and when I was younger I didn’t know about sites that allowed me to read manga online. Add to this the fact that a few manga I did buy were suddenly discontinued by their authors and you can see why I grew really weary of manga.
So for me to read a manga something about it had to catch my eye, and then I would usually sit and read the manga for a bit. If it didn’t immediately grip me in those first couple pages, I didn’t buy. My pickiness paid off when I found Diabolo.
Diabolo was my first horror manga. It’s the type of manga that sinks its claws into and refuses to let go. The series was completed in only three short volumes, but it stays with you even after you’ve finished reading.
Trigger warnings for rape/sexual assault, abuse, murder, and gore.
These trigger warnings are a little less for this review and more for the trilogy in general; please beware before you read this series: this is a gory psychological horror series that doesn’t pull any punches.
I’ll admit I first picked this manga up because the two main characters look like Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Once I started reading, though, I couldn’t put it down, and this manga is far cry from the much more optimistic Harry Potter books.
The story focuses on Ren and Rai, two friends. They tried to help Ren’s cousin, a little girl named Mio, but in trying to help Mio something goes horribly wrong and Mio dies. Though her body was never found, Ren and Rai, at only seven years old, are suspected of murder. It’s later revealed that the boys unknowingly sold their souls to the Diabolo. Diabolo is meant to be the devil, but the closest this word comes to is Diablo, which is Spanish for devil. According to Wikipedia, Diabolo is actually a juggling prop. So… maybe the author just misspelled it. Or maybe it was done intentionally. Who knows? The manga is hardly accurate to any sort of mythology about the devil so it really doesn’t matter.
In exchange Rai gained the powers of ultimate defense and Ren the powers of ultimate offense, but the price they paid was high. Not only did they lose Mio, but they now will suffer the same fate as all those who sell their souls: at age seventeen they will begin to go mad, and at eighteen they will no longer be human.
Ren and Rai begin approaching the age where they will lose their humanity, but they now believe Mio is alive and begin to look for her and a way to stop the Diabolo and all its demons before it’s too late for them.
As stated earlier this manga isn’t for the faint of heart. To give you a small taste within the first couple of pages a baby is thrown down a stairway. So it’s pretty gruesome. This gruesomeness only serves to heighten the manga’s less than optimistic view on society. Even the people that haven’t sold their souls are awful. Random passersby ignore people being in pain or being attacked, brutal verbal and physical harassment is a constant, and even acts of rape and murder are committed by average people. Diabolo is very quick to point out that these acts are very human and not the work of the devil. This is emphasized by the fact that half of the teenagers who are tricked into selling their souls (or even knowingly sell their souls) do so to escape the violent, uncaring, and very human world they live in.
There are also themes that specifically relate to being a teenager. Because teens are turning into monsters, the general populace starts treating all teens as less than human. This reflects how society already tends to look down on teens and see them only as a problem. The manga also shows the terrible, life-threatening, and lasting effects bullying can have on someone’s life.
My favorite character in this manga is not Ren or Rai. Rather, it’s Hiromi, a young girl who just wanted to be beautiful so she could be friends with another beautiful popular girl named Arisa. Hiromi’s story shows how hard it is for young girls to deal with the standards of beauty that society puts on them. Hiromi doesn’t even want to be beautiful because she thinks she is ugly. She just so admires Arisa. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say that Ren and Rai “save” Hiromi to some extent and she begins to help them in their fight. Now disgusted with her beauty, she closes herself off from the world and surfs the net for any demonic activity. She even manages to kill one of the most powerful demons in the end, but I can’t say any more about that without spoiling too much.
Not all the writing in Diabolo is good, however. The very first manga has the tried and trite mystical pregnancy trope, which anyone who has read any of my posts know I absolutely hate. The mystical pregnancy in the first manga doesn’t even mean anything to the overall plot. Its only purpose is really to show the reader how especially creepy the manga is supposed to be, but other than that it serves no purpose.
Ren and Rai’s characters are excellent; they are close friends (occasionally the manga implies they are more) and act as perfect foils for each other. The manga spends a good amount of time building their friendship and showing how much they mean to each other and… well, this is a horror manga. I won’t spoil it but you can probably guess that things go bad.
Don’t go to this manga if you are looking for a happy ending. The most this manga can reach is bittersweet and even then, only if you interpret it a certain way. But if you are looking for a a complex, creepy manga, with great male characters, and even better female characters, look no further than Diabolo.