From the creator of Boys over Flowers, a girl must work for a demon to stay alive -- but it's not the end of her world.
Title: Crown of Thorns
Publisher: Shueisha (JP) Viz Media (U.S)
Creators: Yoko Kamio
Serialization: Bessatsu Margaret
Translation: Casey Loe
Release Date: December 8, 2015
Review copy provided by Viz
Going by the premise and the cover I was immediately reminded of another Shojo Beat imprint title, The Devil and Her Love Song which involved a sharp-tongued high school girl. Unlike that story however, and despite the fact that this story has no mention of supernatural beings in its title, this is a story about a demon, an unwanted pact, and a girl whose words are not as sharp as everyone says.
With its almost stereotypically shoujo introduction, our lead Nobara is cornered near the shoe lockers at school as other girls feign interest in her life in an attempt to bully her. They utterly fail however, as Nobara instead scares them with her half-true stories about the supernatural events she’s always been able to see. It’s perfectly understandable if the reader expects this to turn into a generic shoujo school romance but just a few pages in it turns out to be anything but. The story does not dawdle over introducing classmates who could become friends or potential romantic interests, instead the story is almost laser focused on Nobara and her demon Lucio who provides the impetus for the story.
Truthfully it’s more that Nobara is Lucio’s human than the other way around; unbeknownst to her she’s been in a pact with him for many years (she has nerves of steel from putting up with his creepy, disembodied voice for so long) and surprisingly he does not want sexual or humiliating favors from her in exchange for prolonging her life. Nobara has an unusual talent to absorb and crystalize bad energy and this energy is what makes demons unnaturally beautiful and powerful. Lucio wants her to make as many as she can in a day so he can rise in the demonic hierarchy and has faith in her abilities since, Nobara’s comments aside, there is no evil in her. The reader does not even need to get into Nobara’s head to see that her “mean” comments aren’t meant meanly. Creator Yoko Kamio does an excellent job at portraying Nobara as a girl who often means well and also doesn’t care how other’s take her comments while her classmates are portrayed as being overly-touchy high school students who should really be more gracious with getting advice they asked for. Neither Nobara nor the people she runs into are meant to be redeemed; this is a story of Nobara surviving based on who she already is and what she can do.
Lucio is also not as frustrating of a lead as he could be and I’d be surprised if there was no romance involving him in the second volume, but this first volume is completely devoid of romance surrounding either of them. The story does seem to think that Lucio is a bit more sympathetic than I think he is, hinting that there might be something more going on with this pact he made to extend Nobara’s life, but it is also quick to show his flaws ranging from vanity to outright maliciousness.
The story’s clear, undeviating focus is also reflected in it’s unflouncy artwork. Despite being void of frills and creative framing it’s still very easy to follow and the characters are both distinctive from each other and emote easily. It’s a strong story from start to finish and it’s a shame that currently it’s a digital only release from Viz Media. It is available across all of their usual platforms however and I heartily recommend it to all shoujo fans, especially those who are a bit tired of the usual high school stories and want something a little different.