Devilman Crybaby: Final Impressions

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Devilman is a manga series written and illustrated by Go Nagai from 1972 to 1973, which originally started as an adaptation of Nagai’s previous work, Demon Lord Dante.

Devilman Crybaby is the most recent adaptation of the original manga and is directed by acclaimed anime director Masaaki Yuasa and written by Ichiro Okouchi, best known for writing Code Geass.

In the series, Akira Fudo is informed by his best friend, Ryo Asuka, that an ancient race of demons has returned to take back the world from humans. Believing that the only way to defeat the demons is to incorporate their powers, Ryo suggests to Akira that he unite with a demon. Succeeding in doing so, Akira transforms into Devilman, possessing the powers of a demon but retaining the soul of a human. 

Because it’s been a handful of weeks since I finished watching Devilman Crybaby, I considered it too late to even draft a blog post on my final thoughts. My emotions left in a wreck after the final two episodes contributed to my initial procrastination, but then as the weeks passed and everything settled, my final evaluation/impressions of the show changed. I went from rating the show a 7/10 to perhaps a 5 or 6/10 at the most. And that’s worth writing about right? I wouldn’t want to go another 11 months without posting on this blog after all.

And if it wasn’t already obvious, *spoilers ahead*

ART DIRECTION

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To start this post off on a positive note, I think it’s best to open with what I enjoyed most about the show. It goes without saying that director Masaaki Yuasa’s reputation precedes him. His eclectic unconventional approach to art direction and animation has made him a force in the industry; it’s also the main reason I, and I’m sure many others who hadn’t experienced the older material, were compelled to give Devilman Crybaby a shot.

The rough lines and neon-drenched visuals compliment the electro/techno infused soundtrack and effectively portray the more hedonistic scenes that we see, for example, during the first Sabbath club scene. The muted colour palette that is present throughout, even adjacent to the more vibrant colourful tones, is highlighted more during the final episodes as the world plunges into chaos and the plot develops into something more bleak.

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Aside from Tekkonkinkreet, I haven’t experienced much of Yuasa’s work, but the impression Devilman Crybaby left on me has convinced me to check my MAL account and move Ping Pong and The Tatami Galaxy further up my to-watch list.

MUSIC

True to the blog’s name, this post would be incomplete if I didn’t talk about the music that accompanied this show. I could sum up all my thoughts with: Ken the 390 <3. But that would be the easy way out.

As mentioned in the previous section, the techno soundtrack present in the earlier episodes effectively portrays the mood and compliments the visuals, but as the plot progresses different styles are introduced. The appearance of the acapella rap group seemed out of place to me at first, but I was able to appreciate the choice to narrate the story so far at the beginning of some episodes through rap; I felt it was another way the show succeeded in bringing the story of Devilman into the modern day. The casting of Ken the 390 and Young Dais as Wamu and Kokun, who also happened to be two of my favourite side-characters, was an excellent decision. This also spurred my decision to plunge headfirst back into the world of J-rap and Hip-Hop.

Ken the 390’s skills in action

PLOT

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…Or to be more specific, the pacing of the story, was the biggest letdown of the show for me. Perhaps the story needed more episodes to be portrayed properly but compared to the first half of the show, the latter half appeared to move at breakneck speed. The apocalypse and explanation of Ryo’s origins and mission are just barely crammed into the final two episodes. Perhaps it’s the Shin Megami Tensei fan in me speaking, but the brief biblical and religious themes were a welcome addition, but could have been better served to be explored earlier on in the show, as opposed to in the few minutes of Ryo’s speech in the finale. It all felt rushed to the point where I experienced what could only be described as emotional whiplash. As soon as it was over, despite how much I enjoyed it, I felt compelled to read the original manga just to see if the anime did Go Nagai’s original story justice. Or if the pacing was just as poorly handled by Nagai as well.

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In terms of how the characters were written, it seemed the show uses many of the characters as vessels for emotions or even as symbols and representations of ideas rather than strictly giving them much depth. Akira himself seemed completely lacking in personality prior to being possessed by Amon, and even after the fact his “crybaby” persona and the fact that he was a demon who cared for humans, was about as profound as his character ever got. We don’t know anything about Ryo’s origins or motivations until it’s too late, and even then it isn’t handled too well. While I was sad and angry about what became of Miki and her family, I felt that the impact of the deaths could have hit so much harder if even just her character had been fleshed out further than “good-girl-childhood-love interest”.

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The only exception to this was Miko, and to a lesser extent, Koda who kills his boyfriend while under the influence of a demon and is thrown into emotional turmoil afterwards. He initially expresses that he doesn’t care whether the demons or humans win the war, only to later betray Akira and side with the demons. Koda’s stance, even as a supporting character, provided an interesting perspective, but it was Miko who was by far the most interesting character. She, along with Koda and the rappers were brand new characters created just for the show, which makes me wonder if I’ll be more or less harsh on the characterisation after reading the manga. It was easier to empathise with Miko than Akira personally, as she gained demonic powers to surpass her rival and good friend Miki. However her powers came at the cost of her sacrificing her humanity and ended up as a target of humanity’s hatred once Ryo’s plans start to enter full swing. She was by far my favourite character due to how she actually had human flaws and made mistakes that she later paid for.

 

CONCLUSION

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Everything being said, Devilman Crybaby was a great way to start off the winter anime season and was a breath of fresh air. Which is a lot coming from someone like me that struggles to give newer series a chance past the 3rd episode if I’m not impressed.

The pacing and story left a lot to be desired, but the visuals and soundtrack still make it an enjoyable watch. Devilman Crybaby didn’t blow me away, and I’ve already forgotten several episodes, but the hype and attention it gained makes me optimistic about the anime content that could be coming to Netflix in the future.

 

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VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

– Time to mix drinks and change lives –

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VA-11 HALL-A (PC [reviewed], Mac)
Developer: Sukeban Games
Publisher: Ysbryd Games
Released: 
June 21, 2016 (PC), “2016” (PS Vita, iOS)
Price: £10.99 (PC)

Billed as a “waifu bartending” game, I was expecting elements of a dating sim to be more prevalent in VA-11 HALL-A. Then, after playing for a while longer I became immersed in this neon-drenched cyberpunk world, and witnessed some kind of coup taking place in Glitch City. I thought perhaps I was in for a more action-packed adventure instead. In the end, I got neither.

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PLOT

In VA-11 HALL-A you play as Jill, a bartender at the aforementioned bar, guiding the story in a thematically appropriate way: mixing drinks for different customers, all with their own interesting stories and relationships. Certain drinks allow you to add as much or as little alcohol as you like, meaning you can get certain patrons very drunk and uncover extra dialogue – great for replays! Jill is also an easy character to empathise with; between her shifts at the bar, she sits in her tiny apartment, under a kotatsu, spending her time online, slowly filling up her tiny apartment with various memorabilia and posters of the idol *Kira* Miki. You’ll also find that Jill spends entire shifts distracted if she doesn’t buy a thing she wants, affecting your ability to get orders right and how much you get paid. Gamers and anime fans can relate.

Given what cyberpunk as a genre usually implies, and the ominous chords that play on the title screen, you couldn’t be blamed for assuming you were in for a dramatic or dark gaming experience. Instead, VA-11 HALL-A is a slice-of-life simply using a cyberpunk environment as a backdrop to tell the stories of the curious and interesting characters you’d expect to inhabit a dystopian cyberpunk city.

DIALOGUE

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Given that VA-11 HALL-A is a visual novel, you’ll be doing a lot of clicking and a lot of reading. This might seem a tad tedious to gamers who don’t usually indulge in this genre, but the dialogue in VA-11 HALL-A really is a treat. You can tell this game was a labour of love for the creators at Sukeban Games, and thanks to the fantastic storytelling VA-11 HALL-A is a highly engaging experience. The dialogue a joy to read and immerse yourself in; it’s crass, humorous and charming. It brings to the forefront themes that any regular user of the internet in this day and age would find familiar and relate to. Also, I love how fellow bartender Gillian is frequently referred to as a “fuckboy”.

 

SOUND

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My preferred playlist for mixing drinks ~

This review wouldn’t be complete without talking about one of my favourite parts of playing this game: the music. The neon-drenched, 80s/electronic, J-pop inspired score bridged the difference in making VA-11 HALL-A a good game and a great game. The requirement of having to fill the jukebox with tracks from the OST at the start of each shift was a great touch I really appreciated. I’d go as far as telling you to play the game based off of the soundtrack alone; Michael “Garoad” Kelly has done a fantastic job in creating a score that caters to not only the somber atmosphere of the bar, but also an eclectic range of tracks that cover the more upbeat scenes and emotionally charged exchanges between characters. But even without playing the game I’d recommend listening to the soundtrack on Soundcloud or Spotify. You can also purchase the soundtrack on Kelly’s bandcamp, either for free or a donated amount to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

REPLAYABILITY

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On my first go, playing through VA-11 HALL-A took me just under 10 hours, on my current playthrough I’m on a mission to get as many customers drunk as possible. The option to get customers more inebriated than required opens up new conversation options and plot paths. On the flipside, if you get an order wrong you’ll end up with a displeased customer who may simply choose not to pay and you lose some of your wages. If this happens enough times you’ll find that Jill is short on cash when rent is due and facing eviction from her apartment. Both instances open up new possible endings and achievements. A huge plus of starting a NG+ is that it allows you to keep all your money so you can fill up Jill’s apartment with as much crap as you can afford and you also get hints for each ending at the start.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ll make this simple, if you like:

  • Vibrant pixelated anime aesthetics
  • An atmospheric soundtrack
  • Interesting, unique characters
  • Raw, funny and thought-provoking dialogue

…then play VA-11 HALL-A.

The dialogue is a core element of the game and you won’t find an action-packed adventure here. Having said that, I would still recommend VA-11 HALL-A to a gamer unaccustomed to visual novels, as I believe there’s a game in every genre for everyone. If what I’ve written here has piqued your interest enough, definitely don’t hesitate to try it out for yourself.

 

 

Mob Psycho 100: Final Impressions

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Mob Psycho 100 left a strong impression for 12 weeks in a row and the season finale did not disappoint.


There were a number of moments in Mob Psycho where my expectations were completely subverted, but the finale had to have the most notable example yet. As badly as I wanted (and expected) Mob to explode again and wipe out the remaining Claws, having Reigen being the star of the final battle was even more satisfying.

This final reflection of the show wouldn’t feel complete without talking about who turned out to be my favourite character.
I didn’t want to like Reigen at all in the beginning, but with each episode and as we got to see more facets of his character, he earned more of my respect. At first, like many others, I assumed he was just a scam artist; taking advantage of Mob’s gentle heart and esper abilities. But he takes his role as Mob’s mentor seriously and he implores Mob to never use his powers to harm others, for his own good.

It starts to be apparent that there was something more touching to Mob and Reigen’s relationship around episode 3, but the finale is where this is shown most acutely.
Mob forms numerous friendships over the course of the show, but Reigen is the only person to tell Mob that his powers don’t make him special. And despite his tremendous abilities, he must never use them to harm anyone, in fact, it’s his responsibility not to.

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When his friends are losing the fight against the remaining Claw members and Mob is about to give into his emotions to save them, Reigen steps in and pulls him back from his murderous rage. After Mob channels his energy into his mentor, Reigen proceeds to overwhelm the Claws in what is one of my favourite scenes of the show.

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As he bats away Ishiguro’s gravity balls like they’re soap bubbles, snaps Sakurai’s sword, and mocks Muraki’s shoulder pads, Reigen shatters their delusions and “drags them back to reality”. Perhaps it’s because he’s a conman himself that Reigen has such a good eye for BS; after stripping each Claw of their dignity, he makes it clear that they’re just kids who never grew up and that there powers aren’t a big deal: “You’re so addicted to your powers, you’ve developed tunnel vision”.

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Irony; thy name is Reigen.

Mob Psycho’s action scenes were visually stunning throughout, but the finale really pulled out all the stops. Yuzuru Tachikawa storyboarded and directed the episode and constantly bombarded us with striking shots. Miyo Sato’s paint-on-glass depiction of the transfer of Mob’s power to Reigen was more charming, and engaging than a mere info dump would’ve been.

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I wasn’t sure of what to expect from Mob Psycho 100 going into it  (especially after the wackiness and satire of OnePunch-Man), but what I got was a surprisingly deep and often symbolic story of an ordinary boy with extraordinary powers, and a genius interpretation of ONE’S creation. Well-written source material, paired with Tachikawa’s storytelling and directing made every episode loads of fun to watch at a time when new-season anime don’t tend to grab my attention for long.

Getting caught up on the manga is an absolute must now, but hopefully we’ll be getting a season 2 announcement soon!

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Spotify | Gaming

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I’m an OST fanatic.

Many of my favourite games (Earthbound, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Majora’s Mask, for example) are on that list largely due to the emotional connection I have to their soundtracks. I’ll always appreciate a great OST and have played great games that I wish had paid more attention to their sonical value (ahem, Bravely Default. The same boss theme for every boss. Really?)

So it was to my obvious delight that earlier this month, Spotify launched a new Gaming category! There, you’ll find various gaming playlists created by the Spotify community, such as Dark Souls III, Assassins Creed and Guitar Hero Live. Spotify has also created its own selection of gaming playlists, such mixes include Electronic Gaming, Hip Hop Gaming and Retro Gaming.

The highlight of this new Gaming category for me, however, are the original soundtracks; located at the bottom of the section on the mobile app, or the middle tab on the Spotify Gaming site.

I had previously made a Video Game OST playlist using the normal search, but it currently only contains Sonic Adventure 2 and Jet Set Radio’s soundtracks. By using the Spotify Gaming search, I could sort the music alphabetically ad have a proper trawl through the tracks to see what else I could add to my playlist.

Here are a few of my favourite finds on Spotify Gaming so far:

Welcome!

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In the Tofu Cute stand at Hyper Japan this past July

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my new blog, The Fangirl Mixtape!

I want to use this digital space to share the things I love and bits and pieces of my life. This blog will showcase anime and manga, video games, music, books and basically whatever I’m fangirling over currently (hence the blog name!).

Plus, I spend a lot of my time online anyway, so it’d be good to do something productive 😜

I hope you enjoy your stay!

 

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