Masaaki Yuasa Responds to Critic's Poor Review of Devilman Crybaby (Update)
posted on by Jennifer Sherman
Artist, art critic, and anime critic Yōhei Kurose is not a fan of the DEVILMAN crybaby anime, which premiered earlier this month. He explained some of his criticisms of the series on Twitter. The severity of his critique caused the anime's director Masaaki Yuasa to issue a follow-up response on Twitter.
After criticizing Pop Team Epic on Twitter, Kurose described DEVILMAN crybaby as "an even more serious problem" than Pop Team Epic. He said that people praising Yuasa's series tend to base their reviews around views that the show is an "international-level anime" or "anime that can compete globally." In Kurose's opinion, which he went on to clarify, this kind of thinking boils down to "otaku anime = Japanese" and "stylish subculture = popular worldwide."
Kurose explained that he thinks this distinction is incorrect, but he thinks that Yuasa was appointed for the project because people believe that "subculture anime" has a greater chance of succeeding internationally than "otaku anime." As a result, Kurose said the series has unfortunately become a mere "stylish subculture anime." To this, Yuasa replied, "Wrong."
The word "subculture" or "subcul" in Japanese can have the same meaning as in English, but it also has specific connotations in Japan. The concept of "otaku vs. subculture" has been a topic of discussion in Japan since at least the 1990s. The conflict between the two terms resulted in part from attempts to distinguish "otaku culture" from more a mainstream "subculture" that did not represent "otaku culture." However, some people now believe the "otaku vs. subculture" conflict is contrived or outdated.
Summarizing his views, Kurose said that assessing DEVILMAN crybaby as an "international-level anime" is a "domestic disease." Also, he said that the show fails to utilize Japanese anime culture. He described the story, script, and direction as "quite awful" and said that some late-night anime are of much higher quality.
In response to Kurose's Tweets, Yuasa then said:
You're free to say whatever opinion you like. I don't intend to find fault with the opinions of regular people. But be that as it may, if it's someone close to my own acquaintances, I'll object. Since they have no cause to needlessly insult people who I think are doing a good job, I have no reason to be silent.
Finally, Kurose responded that he appreciates Yuasa's response, but he stands by his opinions. In addition, he noted that people criticized his mention of the "otaku vs. subculture" conflict. He explained that he intended those comments to demonstrate how Japan's domestic "abundant culture" can inadvertently become overshadowed due to concerns about the "outside."
DEVILMAN crybaby premiered on Netflix worldwide on January 5. Netflix describes the anime's story:
The protagonist Akira Fudo (Kouki Uchiyama) learns from his best friend, Ryo Asuka (Ayumu Murase), that an ancient race of demons has returned to take back the world from humans. Ryo tells Akira that the only way to defeat the demons is to incorporate their supernatural powers, and suggests that he unite with a demon himself. Akira succeeds in transforming into Devilman, who possesses both the powers of a demon and the soul of a human. The battle of Devilman and Akira Fudo begins.
Update: Additional comments by Kurose added, translation of Yuasa's response corrected. Thanks, Selipse.
Update 2: Explanation of "otaku vs. subculture" conflict added.
Update 3: Kurose tweeted an apology on Thursday for his manner of speaking and for disrespecting the creators of the anime. He apologized for creating an "unproductive confrontation" and said he is reflecting on the situation.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history