Manga: Superior

The past: Exa, a little boy with no desire to fight, comes home to find his entire town destroyed by the armies of the demon queen. As he sobs over the corpse of his mother, the queen herself finds him and explains her philosophy: so long as humans kill demons, demons will kill humans, and neither will stop until one is wiped out. Having finished, she tries to kill him, but through luck (and the intervention of a retired hero), she's forced to retreat. In the flame and smoke, neither clearly saw the other's face.

The present: Hunting for the demon queen, Exa finds a mysterious demoness being attacked by a dragon. He rescues her from it, but refuses to kill the dragon—or indeed, any of the other monsters or demons that attack them. As he tells her, every life has value, and for a human to kill a demon would be just as bad as for a demon to kill a human. Intrigued, the the demoness introduces herself as Sheila, and decides to tag along with him for a while—she even agrees to nonviolence, though she doesn't quite buy the concept.

The future: Exa has sworn never to kill, but as a hero, it's his duty to find and slay the demon queen. Sheila tells herself over and over that she'll kill Exa eventually, but she can never quite muster up the will to do so. Each comes to doubt the truth of their philosophy, but neither can accept what the other believes. Even as the two grow closer and closer, Sheila is certain this can't end with anything other than blood.

For you see, Sheila is the demon queen.

Superior and its sequel, Superior Cross, are High Fantasy manga by Ichtys.

The manga contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Sheila calls Exa "Yushie." A play on his title, Yuusha (Hero).
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Sheila in the past, though with character development in the story she eventually becomes an evil-in-name-only Noble Demon.
    • Copy even moreso.
    • The original Demon Lord makes Copy's worst days look sane.
  • Babies Ever After: Angelica and Lakshri.
  • Baleful Polymorph: While being taught healing magic, Sheila ends up turning herself into a dog, which can only say meow.
  • Battle Couple: Exa and Sheila eventually become this.
  • Big Bad Friend: If you see Exa as the protagonist.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Sheila falls in love with Exa because of his kindness, she even lements that her life might have been different if she had met him sooner.
  • Becoming the Mask: Sheila keeps telling herself she's going to kill Exa, but it's more and more obvious she can't do it. In fact, she goes berserk when anyone else tries to hurt him (which she rationalizes as being The Only One Allowed to Defeat You.)
  • Big Eater: Sheila to Exa's chagrin.
  • Bishonen Line: Equal-opportunity for once—Sheila and Rossi look far more human than the weaker monsters.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: To most humans, it's not just okay for Exa to kill monsters, it's his duty, and his refusal to kill is immoral.
    • Sheila argues that Might Makes Right, and seeks to prove that demons are mightier than humans. She doesn't think there's anything particularly immoral about humans winning the extermination war, but she'd rather it only happen through their proving their might.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: constantly.
  • Broken Hero: Nearly everyone, especially Exa.
  • Broken Pedestal: The prince's pedestal towards Exa breaks twice over. First, he refuses to accept Exa as a true hero, since he doesn't kill demons. Then, after being convinced of nonviolence, he becomes infuriated when Exa briefly loses the will to stand up for that ideal.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Lakshri, loosely speaking. (He goes a little farther than is typical for this trope, but he's always soundly punished with a fist to the face.)
  • Clone Degeneration: Sheila's attempt at a clone spell goes badly. The copy's attempt at a clone spell goes significantly worse.
  • Cute Bruiser: Angelica.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Sheila, 1/4 of Angelica, and (much to everyone else's surprise) Rossi, the "perfected monster."
  • Cycle of Revenge: Shown again and again in the story. One sin begets another begets another and so forth.
    Revenge will silently call for even more revenge. There is no distinct answer to this problem, but the killing must stop. -Exa
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Angelica's grandfather left because the townspeople agreed to leave his family alone if he did.
  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: Copy has the looks down, but not her personality.
  • Deal with the Devil: Valentin made one so he could survive a particularly gruesome death. Then subverted when the only condition to coming back turned out to simply be striving for happiness.
  • Defeat Means Friendship
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Sheila seems to have an affinity with earth magic. Even her clothing is made out of enchanted dirt. (Lakshri is disappointed to be told that this does not mean that, should she lose her powers, her clothing would disappear.)
  • Dramatic Irony: Readers will know from the start of Sheila's true identity, whereas Exa and almost all human characters don't.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: During Copy's attack on their village, a man tells his childhood friend that he's always loved her before they run off in opposite directions (to increase the chances that one of them survive). He doesn't make it and she later shows up heartbroken at the king's castle.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Graham, Rossi's father, works with the demons to turn humans into monstrous, mindless warriors. His initially stated motivation is that he's "contrary"—he doesn't care a whit for human life. (Eventually, we instead find out that he gave up on humanity after failing to save his wife's life.)
  • Fantastic Racism: The driving point of the human-monster conflict. Both humans and monsters view each other as savage, selfish, and violent. It's so bad that most monsters and humans view the other side as nothing more then vicious beasts. Then there's the poor half-demons stuck in the middle.
  • Final Boss, New Dimension: As expected for any JRPG homage.
  • First Girl Wins: A particularly twisted example of this this trope. Exa and Sheila met back when they were both relatively young. Unfortunately, this was right after Sheila got done slaughtering everyone in Exa's home town. Neither saw the other clearly enough to recognize them when they meet again years later.
  • Give Her A Normal Life: Sheila erased Third's memories and left her with Shion. During the final battle, her memories return.
  • The Glomp: Sheila uses this on Exa pretty often. The reasons range from greeting to "I want a piggy back ride."
  • Good Feels Good
  • Guinea Pig Family: Graham's experiments on his daughter, Rossi, turned her into a "perfected monster" with poisonous blood, superhuman strength, and white hair.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: They're consistently depicted as human-like with demon eyes. (Angelica, who's 1/4 demon, has one demon eye.)
  • Harmful Healing: Dr. Reynolds can save almost anyone's life, but he deliberately makes sure it hurts as much as possible. Lakshri calls him a Tsundere.
  • Healing Hands: Exa's most-used spell.
  • Homage: Exa pretty much is an '80s JRPG hero, and Sheila is an '80s JRPG final boss.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Firmly believed by most monsters and not without reason.
  • Identity Amnesia: Sheila, briefly.
  • Interspecies Romance
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Valentin killing Herman and a random citizen of Water Town seems to be a thorough Kick the Dog moment, even though Herman had been shown to do some very horrible things in the past. But when it's revealed what both his victims did in the past, it wouldn't be surprising to think Valentin was too lenient on them.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Ultimately, this is what Kagami really is. Having raised Sheila ever since the death of her parents, he can't stand to see her fall in love with a human.
  • Lonely at the Top: Part of what kicks off the events of the plot is Sheila's boredom and Friendless Background.
  • Love Hurts: When Sheila realizes she has fallen for Exa, she looks nearly ready to collapse due to all the conflicting emotions.
  • Magnetic Hero: Exa, much to his confusion.
  • Mascot Mook: Okina, an aged Waddling Head with 5 HP and almost no combat abilities whatsoever. At one point, the author jokingly describes him as the story's real protagonist.
  • Monster Lord: Sheila. Borders on a Deconstruction. She eventually realizes none of her people really respected her and merely listened because she was the most powerful.
  • Mood Whiplash: The mood can, and will, change at a moments notice.
  • More Than Mind Control: One demoness claims to have the ability to remove anyone's strongest trait. It turns out she's actually just emphasizing existing traits that contradict the ones she wants to get rid of. (Lakshri is secretly terrified of women, Exa feels stifled by his code of honor, Angelica wants to kill and destroy, and Sheila respects Exa and would enjoy following his orders.)
    • Incidentally, the demoness did not use any magic on Sheila. Sheila just assumed she had, and therefore went along with an impulse to follow Exa's orders.
  • Morph Weapon: Mirage, a famous sword wielded first by Dr. Reynolds, then by Exa. (The latter normally keeps it dull to avoid hurting anyone.)
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Crow is determined to keep Lakshri away from Rossi.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Exa turns scary when he finds out Sheila is the demon queen. Not only does he single-mindedly attack her, he attacks his friends for trying to stop him, and he openly states that he'll kill them all if he needs to in order to get to her. Thankfully, they talk him down.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Sheila has already killed off half of humanity before the story even begins.
    • Exa as well when he stops holding back.
  • Piggyback Cute: Exa and Sheila all the time. Sometimes she even glomps him when she just doesn't feel like walking any more.
  • Poisonous Person: One dose of Rossi's blood is a universal antidote. However, anyone who's already been exposed to it once will sicken or die if it's used on them again.
  • Power Crystal: Most humans use crystals to strengthen their magic. Angelica, due to her demonic heritage, needs to use one to weaken herself.
  • Retired Badass: Dr Reynolds was the legendary warrior who originally owned Exa's sword.
  • RPG Mechanics Verse: Downplayed. The setting apparently has HP and MP, the latter of which depletes at consistent rates according to what spells are cast, but HP depletes according to the strength of a hit, and there's never any mention of levels or other stats.
  • Sanity Slippage: Copy was never exactly stable, but as of Superior Cross volume 3 she got even worse.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Exa actually guesses Sheila's identity as the Demon Queen several times, (the first time was shortly after meeting her in fact) but always convinces himself it isn't possible.
  • Shapeshifting Squick: A shapeshifting villain, convinced of his default form's beauty, spends much of one chapter walking around naked. When the other characters tell him this is indecent, he shapeshifts his genitals into the shape of Exa's head. (This prompts a fourth-wall break, stating that Superior is rapidly becoming a "low-class manga.")
  • Shotgun Wedding: Lakshri and Angelica get married after she has his child. Lakshri tries to run away, but Angelica's grandfather drags him back.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The translations for the names are all over the place. (Sheila versus Shira, Lakshri versus Lakashi, Rossi versus Rocci, etc.)
  • Surrogate Soliloquy: Exa talks about his feelings for Sheila with a dog he found, who is actually Sheila after a failed attempt at healing magic.
  • That Man Is Dead: Sheila casts down the title of demon queen.
  • The Fettered: Exa, as contrasted with Sheila
  • The Power of Friendship / The Power of Love
  • Third-Person Person: Angelica.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Heavily enforced. At no point after allying with Exa does any hero or heroine successfully kill a human or a demon below queen rank (though not for lack of trying, in Rossi's case.)
  • Token Evil Teammate: Initially, Sheila is the character who advocates violence but never gets to carry it out. Later, Rossi takes on this role, describing her "merciless" actions as necessary to defeat stronger foes.
    • In addition, Lakshri is significantly less honorable than Exa and Angelica. (For instance, he'll pick up money that other people have dropped.)
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Sheila is not the original Demon Lord but a resurrected copy that Kanagi created.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The transforming demons from book 4. Saying you don't want to fight anymore to a crazier version of a demon that is already known for killing her own men is generally not a good move.
  • Tsundere: Sheila is a Type A.
  • Uneven Hybrid: Angelica is 1/4 demon and 3/4 human.
  • Verbal Tic: Sheila does it deliberately, nyaaa!
  • We Can Rebuild Him: The "demon" Valentin turns out to be a human in a life-support suit, revived by Dr. Reynolds.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: Addressed. Exa promises to teach Sheila healing magic in the first volume of Superior. It's not until the second volume of Superior Cross (a full 9 volumes later) that he ever get's around to it or even mentions it again. Sheila points this out.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Exa's biggest gripe against his fellow man is that he feels they're way too eager to kill monsters.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The automatic reaction of said fellow man when they find out he won't kill.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Sheila
    • Copy could be this.