The story of "love, magic, and battles" revolves around Akuto Sai, a boy who aims to become part of his country's highest order of magicians and contribute to society as one of its clergy. On the day he is admitted into the Constan Magical Academy, his aptitude test predicts the following: "Future Occupation...Devil King." Thus begins his difficult school life in which he is resented by his studious female class head, desired by a girl with mysterious powers, and guarded by a beautiful female android.
Due to a lack of reviews for this light novel I thought that I'd give my thoughts on Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou in an attempt to make future readers understand a little bit about the series. Before I begin the review I'll say that the anime adaption went from volumes 1-6 and if you feel like skipping the parts that you already know about then i recommend starting from Volume 7. In saying that, it's probably a far better option to begin from the beginning like I did.
Story - 8/10 : The premise for this light novel series is one that you'll often see.
Sai Akuto is a demon king who has transferred into a magical academy and from there his wonderful adventures begin. This story is built on the foundations of the Ecchi/Harem genre but by the end of the story I felt that the novel managed to surpass its own foundations even if it did retain its unnecesary fan service. The story starts out fairly weakly and for the most part stays like that as the basic school premise restricts any form of creativity and prevents the story from escaping its cliche bonds. The story however, does begin to pick up pace considerably after Volume 6 as the novel turns its attention from a school to a global issue and the theme of a "story" or "fake world". This is where the novel begins to shine and I felt that the writing turned up a notch with the story becoming more complex in the face of more universal themes and ideas. We have an especially metaphorical ending with Volume 13 reaching completely different grounds to the rest of the story in its attempt to convey its ideas and themes to the reader. The story becomes muddled in this section and instead turns towards a view of the world from a god's perspective. It's enjoyable storytelling for the most part and represented a huge change in pace for the series. For the most part this novel sticks to its foundations and only begins to escape its own shackles in the latter half of the series so it can be a fairly lenghty wait.
Art - 8/10 : I've never and will never expect art in a light novel to be anything special. It is not a necessary part of the story and is really only useful in putting a face to a character or creating an image of a scene. Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou however, has some great even for a novel. The characters look great and some of the drawings are plain hilarious with many a comedic scene being converted into art. The art was helpful and pleasing to look upon and therefore gets a good score from me.
Characters - 7/10 : Once again shackled by its own genre, this light novel series failed to create characters that were three dimensional and instead opted to continue along the given path of a harem series and gave us some typical characters with a few twists. Sai Akuto was probably my favourite because he was by far, the most fleshed out character and had a unique way of looking down upon the world. I quite enjoyed having Akuto's view upon the world evolve as the series progresses and his mentally slightly shift in the wake of a far more serious problem that occurs in the latter half of the series. It's his evolution and retention of his former characteristics that make him so unique at the end of the story that he transcends the characters below him to become a truly three dimensional character albeit with some cliche elements inside him. I wish i could say the same of the other characters. Many of them felt muddled and were either one or two dimensional and I lacked the connection with them that I had with Akuto. That isn't to say that I didn't sympathise with them or didn't sympathise with them. I'm trying to say that their cliche characteristics really threw me off from completely liking them. Yes, they are great characters and I enjoyed reading about them but their lack of dimensions meant that they were sub-par at best even at the end of the story.
Enjoyment - 8/10 : Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou was a great read for me. You will hear talks about light and heavy stories in the series and if you've read it you'd understand that for a good part of the series (probably volumes 1-11) the story was extremely light until Volume 12 where the story became extremely heavy in its attempt to convey a message. I think the author mentioned a bout of depression and panic disorder which clearly showed in his writing. This is by no means a bad thing and in fact I throughly enjoyed the latter half of the series. I felt that the sudden shift in pace was oddly jarring and threw me off for a bit before drawing me back in. Overall though, the series really drew me in and held me tight until its final moments where a satisfying yet saddening ending ensued leaving me, like usual, feeling a sense of emptiness at finishing another series.
Overall - 7/10 - Simply put, Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou, presents a great theme and presents par if not good characters in a fictional world (pun intended (you'd need to finish the series to understand that one) ) full of magic. It falls flat however in the blindingly obvious shackles of the Ecchi/Harem genre that prevents the story from ever davancing beyond its light theme. That is, until Volume 12. You will find yourself jarred by the odd change in pace but I found it delightfully pleasing reading something that didn't advanced far but sent across such a deep message (volume 13).