Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Devil Survivor 2 The Animation
Hibiki Kuze and his best friend Daichi Shijima are just having a typical Sunday. They're one their way home when Daichi shows Hibiki a cool new app that's been gaining popularity – Nicaea, a “dead face” delivery service. The boys think it's just a lark until they both get messages as they're waiting for the train – images of them both dying as the train derails. When it does come to pass, they and classmate Io Nitta suddenly find themselves with a new application on their cell phones, one which asks them if they want to live. When they answer yes, they are able to summon demons with their phones to fight against the mysterious menace that has been unleashed upon Japan. Now they must choose who they will work with in the fight against the Septentrions that will spend seven days trying to wipe out humanity. Who their allies are could contribute to their success...or to humanity's ultimate failure to survive.
First things first – there is no “Devil Survivor: The Animation.” Therefore, this show is not a sequel. It is based on a game that is the second in a series, however, which is where the “2” comes in, and while those who have played the games might get something additional out of the show, strictly speaking, Devil Survivor 2 stands on its own quite well.
The story revolves around a mysterious catastrophe that befalls Japan. One Sunday the whole world just seems to go crazy as giant monsters appear from the sky and begin annihilating people. They are called Septentrions, and over the course of a week they will do their level best to wipe Japan (and possibly all of humankind, off the map. Luckily humans are not strictly helpless – some people have been granted the ability to become “summoners” through a special app that downloaded itself to their phones. These summoners can call up “demons,” spirits who run the mythological gamut from Japanese myths to Hindu deities to made up fantasy creatures. Depending on the strength of the creature, it may take anywhere between one and a battalion of people to take down a septentrion. The people we follow are three teens named Hibiki, Daichi, and Io, who all “died” during a train accident at the advent of the disaster. All three are now summoners of varying strengths, and they find themselves caught up in the battle, forced not only to fight, but also to decide whether they should join JPS, the semi-legit government battle force, or the rebels, who scorn JPS' ways. Plenty of political machinations ensue and form a backbone of the story that is at times too heavy and convoluted, though it all does come clear in the end.
One of the most noticeable things about this show is how dark it is. This is not just in terms of the storyline, but also in the color choices used throughout the series. Even when it is daylight, the sun appears to be filtered through smoggy clouds, giving a very apocalyptic feel to every scene. Even rooms have a shabby air to them, reminding us that the world of the show is like ours gone wrong, and all of this is very good at creating the atmosphere required to fully appreciate the other darkness here – that of the plot. In its thirteen episodes, Devil Survivor 2 racks up a truly impressive body count and pulls off the even more astounding feat of making nearly every death his the viewer personally. Naturally as more episodes pass and we get more time to get to know the characters, the carnage has more impact, but even early deaths can pack a punch. In part this is helped by the ending animation, so even if you normally skip such things, in this show you should try to make an exception. (It helps that the song, “Be” by Song Riders, is catchy in a beautiful, melancholy way.) Oddly enough, the theme songs are not used consistently, as if there was enough content for a longer show but the producers were forced to put it into thirteen episodes and so grabbed a couple of extra minutes where they could. It never feels rushed, but it can be a little cramped.
Music, voices, and plot all take the lead in this show, with animation falling a bit by the wayside. There are a fair amount of CG monsters and moments, and a lot of battles consist of a few monster vs monster scenes padded out by people standing with their phones in the air, clothes and hair blowing in the breeze. Fortunately the character designs of both people and demons are interesting – did you know Satan had six big breasts? - and Hibiki's blue eyes and the blue trim on his hoodie stand out to good effect. The one not-quite-sour note in the visuals is really Alcor's eyelashes – somehow luxuriant 70s shoujo lashes become terrifying when painted white.
Devil Survivor 2 is a difficult show to sum up. It is equal parts of depressing, exciting, horrifying, and confusing, and yet it somehow manages to come together to form an interesting series with some real emotional impact. While it never feels like you need to have played the game to get the show – nor does it feel nearly as much like watching someone else play the game like Persona4 did – there's still this vague feeling that knowing the source material might somehow help. All in all, however, this is a fairly solid bit of entertainment. If you like your stories dark with a glimmer of hope, this one should fit the bill.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Great use of ending animation to highlight emotional impact, interesting designs for humans and demons. Atmospheric. Definitely holds your attention.
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