Himitsu no Akuma-chan (ひみつの悪魔ちゃん, The Secret Devil-chan) is a manga by Emu (ゑむ), and I have a certain fondness for her little manga here. Let’s get this out of the way: this is a gender bender ecchi trap/otokonoko (男の娘, “boy-girl”) romance manga. What does that mean? It means that devil up there, cute as they may seem, is actually a boy.
“Trap”: a term for a crossdressing boy or girl who does their job so well they trap you into thinking you’re dealing with the sex they seem to be. It is an affectionate term, but once upon a time I looked upon traps with scorn and confusion. What’s the point of this? He looks like a girl but he’s actually a boy? That’s stupid. That doesn’t even make sense.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the Internet and my tastes have gotten wider as a result. This day, I see the appeal of traps, and six years ago when this manga came about I think it was a major turning point for me. One of the biggest issues I had with the standard “trap” was that it was unrealistic in either case, where the physique of the trap inexplicably matched the opposite sex, thus making the only true difference the fact that something surprising was between their legs. Himitsu no Akuma-chan addressed this (along with another series that came out around then, Prunus Girl (which I actually don’t have a certain fondness for — you can ask me about it if you really care)) and a change occurred within me.
But hey, enough about fetishes: what are my simple thoughts on this manga before we get in deep? Well, it’s a series with a strong start, a kind of weak middle bit, and a pretty alright ending for what it’s worth. I find it interesting that it even has such motions given it’s over within 3 volumes and 16 chapters. It also has a supplemental series, Motto! Himitsu no Akuma-chan (もっと！ひみつの悪魔ちゃん, More! The Secret Devil-chan) which is just plain neat considering while it ran, this series took a long time between chapters. Finally, it’s a rather perverted comedy that, if you’re not into traps, might end up changing your mind. It’s dangerous!
Premise: class pervert Kurosaki Sou summoned a demon to get rid of his virginity, because his best friend keeps teasing him about the fact that he hasn’t gotten laid. The demon he summoned is Kogure, the titular “Devil-chan”. The preamble is short, and Sou quickly gets right to it to fulfill the devil’s pact.
I don’t know how else to say it, but this first chapter is just a riot. Page for page, it establishes that it’s unique, funny, and surprisingly lewd. The protagonist immediately separates himself from like 90% of protagonists of anime or manga by saying he actually wants to have sex, acting on it, and with black magic that will likely damn his eternal soul in order to do so. Kogure hasn’t quite yet established what makes him great in this chapter (give it a few pages), but at the least his character design is just excellent. I’ll get more into that later, but in short it’s incredibly distinctive and not just “generic devil”-ish. There are many jokes hitting over and over and years later reading it for review it still had me laughing. I remembered Himitsu no Akuma-chan having a strong start and my memory was not incorrect.
I’ll just about stop the summary of chapter 1 here. Kogure shows that although he seems like a succubus (male), he’s an incubus for sure. That is to say, he is dominant, not submissive. For various reasons this is pretty cool, but to bring up just one: I find this cool since main, uh…”heroines” are not usually dominant, or at the least they might seem to be until the protagonist mans up and makes them weak in the knees or something. Having an aggressive romantic lead is always refreshing.
Anyway, Sou manages to escape losing his purity to a boy (which he really does not want) and in the morning arrives home to find Kogure there and his parents brainwashed into thinking the little demon is Sou’s cousin. We get the basic gist of what the series will be about: Kogure will be trying to fulfill his pact until the end.
After this, predictably Kogure transfers into Sou’s class at school and shenanigans ensue. There are two other characters I can mention: Sou’s best friend (who I already mentioned) who is perverted but actually successful in his relationships with girls, and Seira, another childhood friend who is, surprisingly enough, a Christian.
Seira’s pretty alright. I won’t really discuss her, but as a “technically a rival in love” character she’s very decent. I usually can hate those characters in series that are not harem series (such as this one), but Seira did not bother me at all. She’s a nice girl.
Sou is also not really worth talking about beyond what I’ve already said. Aside from his perversions, he’s really pretty much standard enough and develops exactly how you’d expect. Let’s spend this review on, in my opinion, the best crossdressing character I’ve seen in anime/manga.
The title character, the primary love interest, and the obvious draw of the series: Kogure literally never stops being good in this series, first to last. Let me explain why, since this is a strong selling point in a series that sadly begins to wear before its relatively quick conclusion.
Kogure is a demon who is sexual in nature. Common enough, even outside of pornography, but a habit I’ve seen many authors take to is having these categorically wicked beings not actually fit how they really should be. Say, they aren’t actually violent, or they’re not that perverted, or they’re shy or something. It’s made really quickly clear in several ways by only chapter 2 that Kogure is not human, not “good”, and very obviously something straight out of Hell that is overtaken with lust and brimming with sin.
One: Kogure is self-serving. He’ll not hesitate to use his powers as a devil to get what he wants. Out the gate, although this character certainly looks rather cute, he’s not innocent.
Two: Kogure is actually pretty terrifying when pushed, and any threats he makes are not idle. Although he’s often playful, cheerful, and adorable, he is not-so-secretly incredibly violent.
And finally, most importantly, three: similar to Tsugumomo‘s Kiriha, Kogure has what I call “unmasked sexual desire”. He’s a demon who does what he wants, takes what he wants, and mostly wants sex. There’s no subversion explaining how this demon is nice and friendly, nothing saying Kogure isn’t actually dangerous — it’s weird, but basically Kogure is low tier “evil” and I love it. He’s a demon played straight, a hedonistic being that, sure, you could maybe feel friendly with or fond of but misstep and shit could go real bad real fast. Arguably, summoning him in the first place was a bad idea.
Still, he is the main love interest and he does show off some interesting character development despite the short run of the series. At first, he’s trying to get Sou’s virginity for purely practical reasons and through some rather forward means simply so the pact can be fulfilled and he can leave. Those practical reasons are that 1) if he doesn’t get Sou’s “energy” he’ll suffer the longer he stays outside of Hell and 2) it’d feel really good. He does soon see some benefit of being on Earth rather than in Hell, however, and in an interesting change from most anime/manga romances Sou’s perverted nature is a strong draw for the even more perverted Kogure. You can actually understand why over time, real love could bloom between these two.
Now, the last thing I want to go over is this: Kogure’s physique. I’ll try not to dwell on this and tell you what I’m getting at all in all soon enough.
So yeah, that’s a boy up there.
I said at the start of this article that my biggest issue with traps used to be that, essentially, the typical crossdressing girl or boy completely shattered my suspension of disbelief. Before anything else, that’s what really bothered me. It’s something that bothers me inherently with many things, really, such as most harem series (since I can’t see why a bunch of girls would be interested in a weak, normal, nice boy). Not so at all with Himitsu no Akuma-chan. That’s a goddamn boy.
It would be all too easy to give Kogure an hourglass figure, less set shoulders, and a feminine rather than masculine chest, but Emu decided instead to make the dressing part of crossdressing the strongest aspect of Kogure’s “disguise” as it were (he actually considers gender/sex a meaningless concept as a demon, and only started being aware of such things for real after encountering his new master). This is pretty much a total double-edged sword. For one thing, Kogure becomes “believable” in my eyes like this — I could conceivably imagine a person like this being convincing as a female when dressed in girl’s clothes. On the other hand, oh my goodness, it’s a trap.
This is what I meant when I said this is dangerous! Kogure really borders, and the limits of what you might find acceptable to be attracted to are really pushed with a bridge-like character like this. Kogure is attractive, like really attractive. Emu did a splendid job designing a devil used for and interested in satisfying lust. He’s feminine, yes, but he’s also masculine. Truly androgynous. Uh oh! This is questionable territory!
If this wasn’t a fanservice series that’d be one thing, and you could pretty much ignore anything about this, but since this series is actually meant to arouse you, do tread lightly. It also very much makes it a point, like many gender bending series, to explain how love does not need to be held back so long as you are mutually attracted and all that. It doesn’t help any that Kogure’s looks are atypical to anime or manga at large anyway. He has an almost old-fashioned style to him with his use of large bows and his outfits being frilly and all. Putting it simply, he’s a standout — sticks in your mind, and now I can get to what I really want to say about this series, and why I do quite like it.
This series was pretty goddamn subversive.
It didn’t last long, and like I’ve said in this article it’s not perfect — there are weak aspects as it goes on, where it’s not as funny or feels like things are being held back in a bit of a contrived way, but it did a lot of things pretty different for the time it came around and really just in general. The spin-off/supplement Motto! Himitsu no Akuma-chan is also just damn great all the way through, introducing a cute extra character and having more antics that are pure fun.
Himitsu no Akuma-chan was a series with different sorts of characters and an almost unendingly light heart, often having a plain old good sense of humor that revealed it knew exactly what made this manga zany and fun. Despite that, it was level-headed enough to take same sex relationships seriously, and Kogure’s masculinity is a testament to that (if he just looked like a girl, it wouldn’t mean as much for Sou to slowly actually fall for him). It was special. Not the best among manga, no, but there isn’t quite much else like it. Prunus Girl, which I previously mentioned, seems almost like it at first…but boy does that series have an awful lot of problems and some weird issues that I…really shouldn’t get into, since this isn’t a review of Prunus Girl. Anyway, I liked it. I liked it a lot. Still liked it when I read it again, and think if you’re willing to go into it with an open mind, Himitsu no Akuma-chan is like to leave you smiling. It’s too bad, I don’t think the author, Emu, has serialized anything else since then. That’s a shame.
Pardon those of you who actually keep an eye on when I release these little manga essays, because this review is damn late. There ain’t no excuse! I was just crazy tired for some reason. Thank you for reading all the same! Alright then, see ya next time.
Emu’s twitter: @aa_mou_aa
Himitsu no Akuma-chan
Bookwalker (guide): Volume 1
ebookjapan: Volume 1
honto (guide): Volume 1
CDJapan: Volume 3
amazon: Volume 1 (SE, used), Volume 2, (SE, used) Volume 3 (used, 1 new left)
You’ll probably want to look at the full used list for volume 1 with amazon, because buying a used manga for 1 yen (the rough equivalent of 1 cent) is dubious as fuck. Furthermore, shipping options from amazon are quite limited so I generally don’t recommend importing from them, but…yeah.
Only volume 1 can be purchased from Bookwalker, honto, or ebookjapan. Volume 3 is all you can get from CDJapan. Motto! Himitsu no Akuma-chan was never actually bound into a volume and sold, however I am somewhat certain the chapters came in other volumes of the series (possibly just volume 3). Overall, it’s a depressing situation if you want to be legit. If anyone knows a reliable means of getting all this, do tell me.
Last, Digital Manga Inc. announced that they’d licensed the series as The Secret Devil-chan under their PeCChi imprint and intend to begin publishing it with volume 1 in September of 2016. This may be your last hope!