This Week in Anime - Just How Insane is Devilman Crybaby?

by Nicholas Dupree and Steve Jones,

DEVILMAN crybaby has finally arrived on Netflix, and it's as NSFW as anyone could have dreamed. This week in anime, Nick and Steve try to discuss the show's wild and stunning vision without burying the world in censor bars.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.


@Lossthief

@Liuwdere

@ANNJakeH

@vestenet


You can read our preview guide impressions of Devilman Crybaby here!

Steve
Nick, thanks to the Netflix model of dropping all episodes at once, I stayed up past 5 am binge-watching the entirety of DEVILMAN crybaby.

Attached is an artist's rendition of how I felt afterwards.


I literally stayed up 28 hours so I could mainline the whole thing the second it dropped on Netflix. Which in hindsight was probably a bad idea but goddammit I've been waiting for Masaaki Yuasa's Devilman for what feels like years.

Unfortunately I had to wait until the night after it dropped, but it was all I thought about that Friday. Yuasa is one of my favorite anime directors of all time, and after hearing him talk at AnimeFest about making this show, I couldn't have been more hyped about the prospect of a Yuasa Devilman.

AND BOY DID HE DELIVER

Before we get into the show itself I wanted to ask, do you have any previous experience with Go Nagai material?

Conveniently enough, my primary experience with Go Nagai is the original Devilman manga. I've read/watched several of his other works, but it was always Devilman that stuck with me the most.

I'm in a similar boat. I've read a few of his original manga, your Devilmens and Cutie Honeys and whatnot, but weirdly I don't think I can ever say I've been a fan of his stuff. As a creator, I find him fascinating both for his influence on the industry and culture of anime, and learning about his history as a writer is really interesting, but I hesitate to call anything he made himself "good" in the traditional sense.

Yeah, I think the more common position on Go Nagai in the present day is that it's easier to appreciate his place in anime/manga history and the staggering degree to which he influenced the industry, rather than to appreciate his works in isolation. That said I do kinda love the original Devilman manga, with all of its weirdness and blemishes and unsavory aspects. And apparently so does Yuasa! Who decided to turn all those knobs up to 11.

And god bless him for it. If there's anybody I trusted to bring Devilman to the modern era, it's the director of Kemonozume and Mind Game!

It's true! I was so glad to see this side of Yuasa again. He's made a name for himself adapting more family-friendly (relatively speaking) and high-brow material in the past decade, but he was never one to shy away from animating a boob, and boy howdy, are there some animated boobs to be seen across these 10 episodes.

Yeah, before we get to the show proper we should probably mention that this will easily be the most NSFW show we'll probably ever cover on TWIA.

But don't worry, we've taken it upon ourselves to keep our screenshots PG here.

On a serious note, DEVILMAN crybaby, like the manga it's based on, is full of sex and violence. The show frankly deals with gratuitous gore, sexual assault, dismemberment, animal cruelty, drug use, weird genitalia monsters, and other off-putting stuff. It's absolutely not for everybody, and if you're averse to any of those things, watch with caution.

With the disclaimers out of the way I guess we should also lay out the basic premise. Akira Fudo, the world's softest boy, is just your average high school guy who cries at the drop of a hat.

Hence the "crybaby" half of the title.

One day his childhood friend Ryo pulls up in a sports car and tells him "get in loser, we're going demon hunting."


Ryo is...shall we say eccentric.

he's a fun guy.

Anyway, turns out some demons from primordial times have awakened and want to destroy humanity to reclaim earth, and the only people who can stop them are Ryo and the pure-hearted Akira, who is such a ball of empathy that he could potentially fuse with a demon to gain its powers without losing his human heart.

The ritual for this involves going to a rave and, well, did I say Ryo was eccentric?

To be fair, he only stabs a couple dozen people.

All that blood turns the rave into a hyperviolent bacchanalia filled with demons, and Akira's only recourse to save his best friend is to become...DEVILMAN (hence the "Devilman" half of the title).

And from there many, many bloody hijinks ensue as Akira tries to balance being an otherworldly assassin monster with being a high school kid who's suddenly a foot taller, as strong as a bodybuilder, and hornier than Zeus.

He handles it well, all things considered.


Adolescence is a bitch...well, hyperviolence and hypersexuality aside, all this initially plays out like a fairly typical superhero origin story, as Akira uses his powers to defeat evil devils and save the lives of those he holds dear. It's more or less what you'd expect a story called "Devilman" to be like. Except there's a turning point about halfway through the series, and it shifts from superhero fantasy into a horrific parable about humanity's fear of The Other. To put it bluntly, everything goes to hell.

Literally. Like if you ever wanted an anime that portrays The Book of Revelation, Crybaby's got you covered.

It might strike you as kind of trite to see yet another story ask whether it's humans that are the real monsters, but again, Devilman came out in 1972, and a lot of what it did was novel for the time. Yuasa is also a master of bringing out pathos, and while he sticks to the main plot beats, he constructs the Devilman story in his own way, adding and subtracting characters and subplots to the ultimate effect of crafting a genuinely heartwrenching series of episodes.

Yeah, while the plot beats are mostly the same as the original Devilman, Crybaby makes pretty massive changes to the execution. From totally restructuring the middle of the story to straight up creating new characters for the anime, this is very much its own beast, and honestly I'm grateful for it. To be frank, I find the original Devilman kind of empty on its own. It's in many ways still shocking in just how graphic and nihilistic its final chapters get, but it's also got a lot of ideas that have been done better by people it later inspired. Crybaby seems aware of this and decides to completely reinvent many of Devilman's themes to try and mine something - anything - new from the material. And I think it ends up succeeding.

Exactly! If you go back to the original Devilman now, it's pretty skeletal. But I guarantee you that at least one of your favorite anime/manga wouldn't exist if not for Devilman.

One of my favorite additions to Crybaby is Miko's story.

Oh how did I know you'd like the problematic lesbian.

Who would've thought~

Granted, putting "problematic" in front of anything in Devilman is redundant. But yes, Miko's story is an interesting addition. In the original, there really aren't characters besides Akira and Ryo. Everyone else is there for plot points or to give Akira something to protect. But with Miko and some other characters, we get a different perspective on the demonic transformations at the center of the show.

Miki's arguably the third main character, and Crybaby does kind of sand down the rough edges she had in the manga (she doesn't try to stab anybody this time). But in turn, we get her rival Miko, who's allowed to embody these messy, selfish desires that cause her to fuse with a devil. But she isn't demonized for it (hurr hurr), and ultimately she becomes a hero of her own making.

Also she becomes Miki's giant spider girlfriend, which is good.

For the record I am still adamantly anti-monster girl.

Don't mind Nick, he's on the losing side.

But yeah, Miko's a really great change that helps give Crybaby its own identity and makes this story work on its own. I also love that they replaced the cartoony banchou thugs with a group of soundcloud rappers.

It's the perfect update, and they have some genuinely great flow, even when they're rapping an anti-drug PSA.

Helps that they got actual Japanese rappers to voice them! Now I'll be disappointed if Cutie Honey Universe doesn't feature a rapping Greek chorus for its story too.

Yuasa also injects his distinctive flavor of absurdist and meta humor throughout the show, including the fact that the 1970s Devilman anime exists in-universe and is popular with the kids in the present day.

don't think about it too hard, just focus on how cute Devilcat is

But the biggest change to the original manga is right there in the title: Crybaby. Turns out, even with all his demonic super powers and blood lust and projectile sexual frustration, the one thing that doesn't change in Akira is his empathy. After he becomes a literal killer, he still has the ability to feel sadness for others - including the demons he fights - and the show insists that this is what makes him a hero.


Right! as the show progresses, Akira (and the audience) are forced to constantly reevaluate what demons and Devilman himself are. A recent show that did this spectacularly was Shiki, but the seeds of this premise all come from Devilman.

It's a surprisingly sincere ode to emotional vulnerability in a show that's packed with sleaze and brutality that I honestly was not expecting. Like, if anything was going to embody brainless machismo, you'd think it would be a hyperviolent blood orgy from the '70s, but here the show insists that the power of empathetic tears is what could save the world.

And I think that's why Yuasa was such a perfect fit for adapting this story. He's got a wildly unique creative voice, and he can assemble an all-star team to animate the hell out of a freaky-looking demon blood orgy. But he's also one of the most sensitive storytellers working today, and the emotional core has been the most prominent and important component in all of his works. DEVILMAN crybaby is no exception. Leading up to the show's release, he described Devilman as fundamentally a romance, and that above all else convinced me that he understood what makes Devilman work.

It's also basically the one thing that saves the finale for me, if I'm being honest. Going into Crybaby I had one question, and that was how in the hell were they going to handle that ending. Like, the Devilman manga's ending is such an infamous, unflinching downer of a conclusion that it's literally never been adapted by any of the series' anime or spinoffs before.

Before, when I said that the Devilman manga was what stuck with me the most out of Nagai's oeuvre, what I meant more precisely was the ending of the Devilman manga.

So after the world has thoroughly gone to hell in a handbasket, we find out that not only are Devils real, so is God! And he's pissed. Like, turn half a continent into pillars of salt pissed.

And also, not only is God real, Satan is too! And you'll never guess who he's been hiding inside!

I KNEW WE COULDN'T TRUST THE CAT.

jk it's obviously Ryo

Machine-gun-toting, huge-fur-coat-in-summer-wearing, and all-around Extra-with-a-capital-E Ryo is Satan. And as someone who took an entire college course on Milton's Paradise Lost, it is my expert opinion that this characterization of Satan as "The Messiest Bitch in the Universe" is totally in line with the literary canon.

And the bombshells somehow only ramp up after Literally Lucifer, because by god does this armageddon story commit. Absolutely everyone dies - Miki, Miko, their family and friends, EVERYONE ends up dead at the hands of paranoid mobs or government-sanctioned demon-eradication soldiers who would rather pull a trigger than wait for any sort of understanding. It's a pretty damn demoralizing penultimate episode that's as moving as it is absolutely brutal, and if the show had gone out like the manga, I'd honestly have felt rather ticked off by it all.

Episode 9 is brutal, beautiful, and one of Yuasa's best.

This all leads up to the final confrontation between Akira and Ryo, both leading their own armies of demons in a bid for who gets to rule over the scraps of habitable earth still remaining, and this is where we find out why Ryo did all this to begin with. Turns out, he'd originally planned to destroy humanity more or less the same way, but in his time living as a human with Akira, even Satan himself ended up finding just a bit of a human heart. So he ended up concocting a plan to fuse Akira with a demon so that he'd be strong enough to survive among the new order and they could be together. But Akira ends up refusing, choosing to side with his own definition of humanity and fight it out against him.

It's a classic tragic love story—it just happens to be about Satan. But this thread runs throughout the show. The first moments we see are Satan's exile from heaven and God's rejection of his outstretched hands. But out of that darkness comes Akira's pure and heartfelt concern for an absolute stranger. And it's Akira's empathy that gets through to Satan, making him fall in love. And it's Satan's conflicted love of both demons and this human that tears the world apart.



That final scene was something I never really thought could be properly adapted for a new audience.

It was the part i was most nervous about seeing, and having seen it, I'm so glad Yuasa nailed it.

It's literal, actual, factual, Morning Star Satan McLucifer, carrying on a conversation with the bisected corpse of his love, right before God rains down holy destruction upon the entire planet. It's as bleak an ending as I've ever seen, and I genuinely thought that it would only ever be notable for how bonkers it is as an ending. But then, at the very end, Satan Himself weeps over Akira. The embodiment of destruction cries because he's known love and now knows sorrow, just before the world itself ceases to be.

It's as bizarrely poetic a conclusion as you can get, and it's what ultimately clinched that I love DEVILMAN crybaby.

Taken at face value, it's absurd, campy, and melodramatic, just like the rest of the show. But it works! And it's heartbreaking! It's all thanks to the core thematic and visual language that had been built up throughout the show. I absolutely love DEVILMAN crybaby, and I absolutely expect it to be polarizing as heck.

It's a series that's likely to get a strong reaction - positive or negative - out of anyone who sees it. I love it too, but I also 100% understand why somebody would loathe it. Either way though, it's one of the most interesting new series to come out in years, the work of a genius director playing with prime material, and it's absolutely worth checking out if you can stomach all the sex, blood, and rock n roll.

It is wild to me that it got picked up and partially produced by Netflix. I can only imagine the faces of unsuspecting audiences who find themselves at the end of the first episode. A lot are probably gonna turn it off in disgust before they even reach that point, and that's fine! But I can imagine there will be many weirdos who will be both completely disoriented by what they saw and hungry for more. And I wish them the best.

So yeah, DEVILMAN crybaby is a wild ride of a show and probably the most exciting thing you'll watch all season. Definitely check it out!

Just...don't watch it in public. Don't be like Akira.

PS: quick shoutout to MY WIFE. Sorry, I'm shocked that I didn't bring up Silene this entire column.



discuss this in the forum (47 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

Column homepage / archives

Loading next article...