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*
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.
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.
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
…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.
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”.
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.
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.