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Manga / Superior

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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:

  • Action Girl: Sheila, obviously, though she's more of a Dark Action Girl instead, especially in the beginning. Angelica and Rossi are also good examples.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Sheila calls Exa "Yushie." A play on his title, Yuusha (Hero).
  • All-Loving Hero: Exa, in part because of his Thou Shalt Not Kill philosophy, always tries to find alternate solutions than violence to conflicts. He's willing to help anyone in need, even those trying to kill him. The only being that he makes a deliberate exception to this is the demon lord... who, unknown to him, is one of his companions.
  • The Atoner: Downplayed, as her main motivation is coming round to Exa's way of thinking rather than making up for all the murders she committed, but Sheila gradually grows into one.
  • 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.
  • Beary Friendly: Umberto, a bear monster that Exa's group meets early on in Superior Cross. By extension, Angelica would also qualify due to being his granddaughter.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Played with. Though all the main cast are attractive, 'beauty' is talked about mostly as an internal quality, related to goodness and valuing life. At one point, Sheila breaks down in tears and asks Copy (who physically looks almost identical to her) and Shadow why they are so ugly after their callous slaughter of a village- while also remembering how she used to be the same way.
    • The original Demon Lord, on the other hand, seems to believe that beauty is in fact related to purity... though his idea of 'pure' is far, far removed from valuing life.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Sheila falls in love with Exa because of his kindness, she even laments 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 Bad Friend: If you see Exa as the protagonist.
  • Big Eater: Sheila to Exa's chagrin.
  • Bishōnen Line: Equal-opportunity for once—Sheila and Rossi look far more human than the weaker monsters.
  • Blatant Lies: Sheila is able to locate the demon lord's castle, find a secret passage inside, and knows the exact layout and the position of every trap. She insists this is a "coincidence".
  • 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.
  • Body Horror: Shadow, Copy's attempt at a clone, turns into a pretty nightmarish monstrosity after slaughtering an entire village.
  • Body Snatcher: Kagami's power is to take over the bodies of others. He uses it to great effect to manipulate Rene's brother Christopher.
  • Break the Cutie: Sheila develops into enough of one in time to get broken by talking by the original demon lord in the climax.
  • 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.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Anyone that tries to attack Shiela is in for a bad time.
    • Very early on in the story, there's a literal (and heartbreaking) example: a dragon Sheila used to be close to is blocking a road, waiting for her eggs to hatch. A group of soliders arrive, intending to kill her. They don't get to... but what they did was much crueller; knowing that she wouldn't move until her eggs hatched, they smashed the eggs. Unlike most examples of this trope, it doesn't backfire on them beyond Shiela and Lakshri beating them up to stop them killing her, because the dragon was so heartbroken by her eggs being broken that she wanted to die with them rather than retaliating against the humans.
  • 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."
    • Gender Flipped with Umberto: his true form is that of a white bear, but he has the power to take on the shape of a handsome man except for his ears and tail, which explains how he was able to conceive a child with a human woman.
  • 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.
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget: Copy tells Shadow this when Shadow's friend is killed, saying that killing humans will fill the void. She tries it, but all it does is make her suffer even more, leading her to conclude that she needs to kill even more, until Sheila stops her.
  • 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.)
  • Does Not Like Shoes: While acting as the Demon Queen, Sheila is shown through flashbacks to usually be barefoot. It changes once she starts travelling with Exa.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Sheila's evil in the beginning, but still cares about Exa. It's also revealed that instead of simply being an underling, Kagami also functioned as this, having raised her.
  • Evil Knockoff: Zigzagged. Early on in the story, Sheila creates a clone named Copy to cover for her while she travels with Exa. Sheila ends up undergoing a gradual Heel–Face Turn and Copy turns out to be even more evil than Sheila used to be. Then Copy makes their own clone named Shadow, who also undergoes a Heel–Face Turn. Then it turns out that Sheila herself was a clone of the original Demon Lord, who is more Ax-Crazy than the other three put together, making the full pattern evil -> good -> evil -> good.
  • 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.)
  • Family Theme Naming: Angelica and her son Gabriel.
  • 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.
  • Fish out of Water: Shiela early on, since being the Demon Queen means knowledge of human customs is largely superfluous. For example, the only thing she cares to learn about wallets is that you can’t eat them.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Exa and Sheila met once when they were younger. Unfortuanately for their budding romance, this was right after Sheila had singlehandedly slaughtered Exa's home village (neither of them saw the other's face due to the smoke from the burning buildings). This event is what made Exa swear that he would kill the demon king despite otherwise adhering to a strict Thou Shalt Not Kill policy.
  • Give Him a Normal Life: Sheila erased Shadow'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.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Sheila in the early days, probably because as the Demon Queen she wasn't used to people defying her. Exa usually has to hold her back and remind her not to kill.
  • 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.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: A common theme with half demons, who are ostracised and mistrusted for their heritage.
  • Identical Grandson: Angelica and her grandmother. The fact that Umberto has pictures of his wife that look just like her is what clues her in to her relationship to him.
  • Identity Amnesia:
  • In Love with the Mark: Sheila begins travelling with Exa under the pretence of waiting for the right opportunity to kill him, and often notes that she will have to kill him someday before he can find out she's the Demon Queen, but can never quite bring herself to do it.
    • Exa is also an unwitting example of this, as he falls in love with Sheila without knowing that she is the Demon Queen- the one he is on a quest to defeat, and the one being he is willing to kill.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Exa and Sheila fall in love early on, though both of them deny it until near the end of Superior Cross. This is something of a problem, considering that Sheila is the demon lord that Exa has sworn to kill.
    • Angelica's paternal grandparents are another example, with her grandfather being a bear demon who could take the form of a Bishōnen with animal ears. Sadly, they ended up being Star-Crossed Lovers when he abandoned her to spare their unborn child from being subjected to Half-Breed Discrimination due to a deal he made with the townspeople (though the end of his introductory chapter makes it clear that they will be Together in Death when he dies).
  • Insufferable Genius: Rene, though it's more because he's an ruthless taskmaster than it is about him being obnoxious about his intelligence.
  • Jerkass Realization: King Arechia has one just before he dies.
  • 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.
  • Likes Clark Kent, Hates Superman: Exa is in love with Sheila, but hates the Demon Queen.
  • 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.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Umberto is Angelica's grandfather. Both of them figure it out independently of one another.
  • 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.
  • Maou the Demon King: Sheila, who masquerades as a weak demon and follows the hero because she's bored of her position. 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.)
  • Ms. Fanservice: All of Sheila's outfits show a lot of skin, usually her belly and legs.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Crow is determined to keep Lakshri away from Rossi.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Shiela pretends to be a weak monster in order to stay close to Exa, and often plays up simply being a bubbly, infatuated Cute Monster Girl, but she's one of the most dangerous beings in the entire series.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The original demon lord doesn't care about making the world a good place for monsters, or even wiping out humanity- he wants to destroy everything.
  • One-Winged Angel: Wouldn't be a JRPG homage without at least one example. The original Demon Lord starts reverting to his as he has his Villainous Breakdown, though we never see it in full.
  • 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.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: As it turned out, Sheila is one of these from the original demon lord, having been created by Kagami from traces of his blood.
  • 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.
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: Sheila mixes a bratty, childish attitude with a callous disregard for human life. But post Character Development she ultimately loses the "Psychopathic" part.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: They're a telltale sign of a half demon hybrid... except those hybrids usually have no intention of hurting anyone.
    • Sheila is also depicted with red eyes in color pages, but they seem to be a different shade from that of hybrids as it's usually her ears that get her identified as a demon instead.
  • Retired Badass: Dr Reynolds was the legendary warrior who originally owned Exa's sword.
  • Revenge Before Reason: King Arechia used to be a kind and just king, but the death of his queen led him to adopt this, to the extent that Exa refusing to kill monsters earns him imprisonment and a death sentence. Deconstructed, as his obsession with revenge escalated the conflict between humans and monsters, and even resulted in the emergence of the demon lord.
  • 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.)
  • Together in Death: Defied. Umberto abandoned his wife when she was pregnant due to a deal he made with the townspeople to protect their unborn child from Half-Breed Discrimination. Decades later, he meets his granddaughter, Angelica, and learns that his wife had died several years ago. At the end of the chapter, he's talking to a painting of his wife and mentions that he'll be with her soon, but finds that he actually wants to keep on living (with her spirit then showing up and telling him that she's fine waiting for him). He's still alive four years later at his granddaughter's wedding.
  • 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.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: "Sheila" isn't exactly the most intimidating name for a demon queen.
  • 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.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Basically Shiela's character development in a nutshell, as spending more time around Exa and having actual True Companions turns her from an Ax-Crazy Demon Queen to a Noble Demon that truly values lives for their own sake, rather than simply not killing because Exa won't allow her.
  • True Companions: A good part of Sheila's Character Development is her realising that Exa and the others are this to her and actually care about her, rather than all the others in the past that simply feared her power.
  • Tsundere: Sheila is a Type A.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Inverted in Superior Cross once Rossi joins the party, making it two boys to a team and three girls.
  • Uneven Hybrid: Angelica is 1/4 bear demon and 3/4 human. Her son Gabriel is 1/8 demon.
  • Verbal Tic: Sheila does it deliberately, nyaaa!
  • Villainous Breakdown: The original Demon Lord has one when Exa and Sheila foil his plans and he starts getting sucked into the Territory.
    • It can be argued that Sheila has a mild one whenever she gets especially conflicted about her feelings for Exa, particularly when they first met, due to Love Hurts.
  • Villainous Crush / Villainesses Want Heroes: Pretty much the main premise of the manga.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Superior Cross