8 Works by Masaaki Yuasa & Where to Find Them
by Lynzee Loveridge,
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last week, you've probably seen something of Masaaki Yuasa's DEVILMAN crybaby on Netflix, whether you marathoned it on day one or have just seen the many screenshots floating around. As the kids say, it's "all the rage" right now, but its specific brand ultraviolence and sex isn't going to be for everyone. If you have seen the art and thought "I like this, it looks different" but saw boob demons and immediately closed your browser, Masaaki Yuasa has other anime titles on a range of subjects. Since his body of work as a director is still relatively compact, you can find most of it legally streaming right now! This week I'll be briefly breaking down Yuasa's different series and films and letting you know where you can find them.
Mind Game Mind Game is one of Studio 4c and Masaki Yuasa's earlier artistic exercises, one of my top choices for movies that needed licensing back in 2016. Since the Anime Gods apparently listen to my requests, Mind Game is no longer lost in limbo. The heart of the film is rather simple: a group of young people encounter an old man living a simple life and thus re-evaluate their priorities. Never mind that the old man is living inside a whale and the group ended up there after a high-speed car chase with yakuza. And hey, maybe everyone's actually dead? The film's meaning is up for interpretation and has a lot of meat to chew on underneath its wacky window dressing. GKIDS picked up mind game late last year and are currently streaming it on VRV Select before opening it in limited theaters next month.
Ping Pong the Animation Taiyo Matsumoto's art style and Yuasa's aesthetic are a match made in heaven. This dynamically animated sports drama follows Peco and Smile (it's a nickname), two kids entering the world of competitive table tennis. Peco is a natural and he knows it, while Smile is initially satisfied just playing in his shadow. When their beloved pastime becomes increasingly competitive, Peco finds he's no longer a shoe-in ace and Smile isn't even sure he's worthy to play anymore. The art style is not typical for an anime series, but if you're up for some truly amazing shots of sports animation, you'll want to check this one out. Ping Pong the Animation is streaming on Crunchyroll.
Kick-Heart This short film clocks in at 13 minutes and follows the alter-egos of two lucha libre wrestlers. You could make a decent argument that Yuasa's Kick-Heart film paved the way for future crowd-funded anime series after a successful campaign, film festival runs, and airing on Toonami. The short focuses on stylish wrestling sequences with some overt S&M themes. It's a quick watch to get a taste for Yuasa's style, and if you have Amazon Prime it's free to stream or you can rent or purchase it digitally on Vimeo for US$1.99-2.99.
The Tatami Galaxy The Tatami Galaxy was one of Yuasa's first works to start making waves in the West, although it never quite rose above being a cult favorite. He teamed up with illustrator Yūsuke Nakamura for the series' character designs, which are very stark and color-blocked, a style Yuasa would continue to employ for later works. The anime follows a nameless protagonist as he tries to make the best of his college years, namely wooing the level-headed Akashi. His plight is being stuck in an endlessly repeating two years, as he continually falls victim to black humor scenarios that prevent him from moving his relationship with Akashi forward. The anime is streaming on Crunchyroll and the first two episodes are on YouTube via Funimation.
Kaiba Here's where Yuasa's work starts to get a little harder to acquire. Kaiba is available legally in the U.S., but it is not currently streaming. The series vaguely resembles The Little Prince, where the titular character travels from planet to planet, looking for something. In this case, Kaiba has no recollection of who he is, and the world he's surrounded by has even fewer answers and more hostility. Each new planet reveals more about a part of Kaiba he forgot, the world he came from, and the girl in the locket around his neck. Kaiba is currently available on home video through Discotek.
Happy Machine (Genius Party) Genius Party is an anthology of short films helmed by acclaimed directors like Shōji Kawamori and Shinichiro Watanabe. Yuasa is included in this bunch with his short "Happy Machine." The haunting short film focuses on an infant whose mother seems to fall into tragedy, leaving the baby to seek out nourishment on its own. Yuasa uses his experimental style to reframe the world as one without any of the fears or context usually applied by logical adults. U.S. readers are out of luck as the film collection has never been brought stateside, but it is available on home video in both the U.K. and Australia.
Kemonozume If there was any show that could have indicated how Yuasa would treat Devilman, it's his 2006 original series, Kemonozume. The show's monsters and subsequent gore are lovingly detailed, while human faces are ever-moving wheels of expression. The story is very Romeo and Juliet, except the Capulets are monsters disguised as humans and the Montagues are the hunters assigned with killing them. Kemonozume is not available in English anywhere, but I'm holding out hope that the hype over DEVILMAN crybaby might change that, so it's worth at least bringing up for now.
Night is Short, Walk On Girl & Lu over the wall Somehow Yuasa managed to direct two separate anime films last year about wildly different things. The Night is Short Walk On, Girl reunites Yuasa with Yūsuke Nakamura for a revisit of some Tatami Galaxy themes. Once again, a man chases the object of his heart's desire through increasingly existential backdrops and musical breaks. Lu over the wall is an attempt at more mainstream fare in a stylistic mermaid story. Both films are licensed by GKIDS and heading to theaters in North America this year. Lu over the wall will premiere first this spring, followed by The Night is Short Walk On, Girl this fall.
The new poll: Twenty year anniversaries! These series are turning the big 2-0, so which one of them is your favorite?
The old poll: Last week, Jake asked you what your favorite anime is that's set in the Type-Moon universe. Many lives were lost retrieving these results.
- Fate/Zero (37.9%)
- The Garden of Sinners (15.7%)
- F/SN Unlimited Blade Works [2014 series] (11.1%)
- Carnival Phantasm (7.4%)
- Fate/stay night  (6.1%)
- Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya [all series+movie] (5.1%)
- Tsukihime (3.8%)
- Fate/Apocrypha (3.2%)
- CANAAN (1.8%)
- F/SN Heaven's Feel part one [movie] (1.4%)
- Fate/Grand Order: First Order- (0.8%)
- F/SN Unlimited Blade Works [2010 movie] (0.8%)
When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.
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