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Devilman: Crybaby – 01

「I Need You」

There’s plenty to talk about with the first episode (and that’s all I’m covering in this post) of Devilman: Crybaby, believe me. But the situation here is weird enough that the accessory stuff does demand a bit of discussion. In the first place it’s fitting that this episode hit on the same day Amazon decided to end their “Strike” channel – for although Devilman is a Netflix production, both mega-corporations are hugely important both to anime’s present and future. While the double paywall of Amazon Strike was always a terrible idea and its failure probably inevitable, any serious anime fan should hope this move doesn’t signal that Amazon is getting out of the anime production business. Any look at 2017 reveals that it would have been a much poorer anime year without the series they bankrolled.

As for Devilman, Netflix – for a change – released it in the United States on the same day that it premiered in Japan. This is good – perhaps an acknowledgement of their biggest mistake in anime distribution (though they’re not abandoning the notion of releasing series in America three months late). But it kind of sucks for me as a blogger, because (and ReLIFE was really the only other show where it came up) it places me in a conundrum about how to cover Devilman: Crybaby. I’m not a huge fan of binge releases generally, and it’s not like I have time to binge watch this show, never mind bingeblog it. I suppose I’ll watch it as fast as time and mood permits – and ask your indulgence to follow along, if you so desire (and please – avoid spoilers in the comments section).

That’s a long preamble, especially with a series as notable as Devilman: Crybaby. Any time you get a Yuasa Masaaki-directed TV anime you’ve got an event, and when you pair that with the fact that it’s based on a manga by the legendary Nagai Go the hype factor is off the charts. Yuasa-sensei has been extremely busy of late through his new studio, Science Saru, and he seems like a natural fit to partner with Netflix on a series pitched to an international audience. Is he a natural fit with Nagai-sensei? That, perhaps, is a more difficult question – and one I’m not prepared to answer based on one episode.

Nagai is not to everyone’s tastes, that’s for sure – his stuff is wildly misogynistic and often shockingly violent (this premiere is both). To be honest Yuasa isn’t always to my tastes either, though I freely acknowledge that he’s a genius – sometimes his surrealistic St. Vitus’ Dance can overwhelm the material. I don’t think that’s a risk with Devilman, which (like everything Nagai writes) is way larger than life – these two idiosyncratic sensibilities actually seem to mesh together pretty well. And the premiere is fantastically produced, a genuine work of art. I’m just not sure yet if it works as a story (though I’m also not sure how much that matters).

I don’t know a whole lot about the Devilman franchise, which has been several manga and was a TV anime way back in the 70′s, and was also a live-action movie.  This “Crybaby” update centers around two teenagers, the timid Akira (Uchiyama Kouki) and the batshit crazy Ryou (Murase Ayumu), who’ve been friends since they were small boys.  Ryou is, somehow, a “professor in America”, while Akira attends high school with track star and idol Miko (Koshimizu Ami), and Miki (Han Megumi), who acts as his protector.

One day Ryou shows up at their school (nearby it, to be more precise) and whisks Akira away – ostensibly to help him prove that devils exist, he being of the opinion that devils are possessing people left and right across the world and it’s being covered up by the government. What follows is one of the more disgusting scenes in anime for a while, the “sabbath” party where a bunch of sybarites get high on ‘Devidevi” and engage in a bacchanal of sex acts before Ryou goes crazy with a broken bottle and starts stabbing everyone. Why? Why, because in order for this to be a real devil-summoning there needs to be blood, and what Ryou wants is for Akira to be possessed by a devil. And not just any devil, but Amon – the strongest of the lot. With friends like that…

There’s not a lot of explanation here, but that’s fine – that’s Nagai and Yuasa at work, really. As a sensory experience Devilman: Crybaby is certainly powerful, and it’s clear that this is as far from standard-issue modern anime as you get. I’m not convinced there’s a point to it beyond that, but maybe there doesn’t have to be – I guess we’ll find out. The character stuff isn’t bad – it’s kind of interesting to see Uchiyama and Murase cast as they were, because it would have been much easier for their roles to be reversed – but it kind of works the way it is, somehow. Devilman: Crybaby is a virtuosic, graphic and unsettling head trip – there’s a ton of brilliance on display here, but that was almost a given. Whether it has the chops to hold together as a story is something I’ll discover over the next nine episodes, however long that takes…

 

January 6, 2018 at 5:08 pm
16 comments »
  • January 6, 2018 at 5:29 pmTheVoid

    I must say Yuasas take on Ryou is very different from the manga. Especially later on.. Show Spoiler ▼

  • January 6, 2018 at 6:57 pmLitho

    Watched it all over the last 48hrs or so. That I managed to not drop it already speaks volumes, considering how I tend to drop 90% of most anime series I try a third of the way through. Still, I didn’t quite feel this one. It’s lacking the tactility (for lack of better term) you’d get from his other works like Kemonozume or Kaiba. A lot of stuff, particular the graphic bit, seem to happen simply for the sake of it. Maybe it’s a Go Nagai thing – dunno because I could never get into the Devilman mangas. It’s been a decent year for Yuasa though, and I hope he’ll give us a Yuasa original (written and directed) series soon.

    • January 7, 2018 at 10:27 pmDevoid

      (No plot spoilers here.) Watched the first 3 episodes, kinda got bored, but watched the last 2 to make sure I didn’t misjudge. Overall, this is very literally a “style over substance” anime. It’s not that there isn’t any substance, but the problem is that the stylish flair and at times breakneck speed make the whole thing into a detached spectacle where you (I) never really get a chance to form emotional ties to any of the characters. So even though the story turns way epic by the end and there’s this supposed catharsis of a major character, you (I) don’t feel it emotionally, just register it as a fact. So if you want a cool and outrageous show, this is definitely it – but don’t expect an emotional reward, other than perhaps a feeling of shock in case your mental constitution is more easily shaken.

      Since I generally prefer shows that cater to my emotions as well, I consider Devilman Lady anime (the only other Devilman installment I’ve experienced in any media) superior to Crybaby, regardless of all the creator genius on display here (I do acknowledge it’s there, it’s just that its result is not very useful for my purposes).

  • January 6, 2018 at 7:05 pmphatmlrd

    After binge watching this, I’ve realized just how important discussion boards are to my enjoyment of anime. Being able to discuss what happened in the last episode and seeing others opinions helps me to process and enjoyed what I’ve watched, and pick up on little things I may have missed.

    There’s so much going on in this anime, and that’s not a bad thing. But it’s too much for one sitting.

  • January 6, 2018 at 7:12 pmbluekoi

    While the animation took a bit to get used to, I enjoyed the adaptation. Well, maybe “enjoyed” isn’t the right word…I thought it was well done. I was not very familiar with Devilman before watching this, either, so I can’t compare it to the manga. But I was aware of Go Nagai and his work, so I had some idea of what to expect. I do wish I hadn’t binged through the series right before going to sleep, though…Show Spoiler ▼

    • January 7, 2018 at 1:40 amsonicsenryaku

      yea…I haven’t felt empty, nihilistic despair like this in a while

      • January 7, 2018 at 8:28 amOby

        Your first Devilman experience, huh? If so, savor it, just like when I read the manga long ago.

  • January 6, 2018 at 10:28 pmyoloalchemist

    I must say, Murase Ayumu is quite the English speaker in here. I’m serious, he may be better than me.

    And as for this show, it is one anime that shouldn’t be underestimated in the least when it comes to gut punches. This was made to be binged, and I’m glad I did just that.

  • January 7, 2018 at 1:46 amWorldwidedepp

    Nope, alone how he need blood to summon.. Perhaps Ryou is more evil then them

    • January 7, 2018 at 1:46 amWorldwidedepp

      feels like as some “mortal” want to kill and succeed the King of Demons

      • January 7, 2018 at 1:49 amWorldwidedepp

        Also seems like he or the anime here do not respect some… argh, why playing around? seems like the anime do not like Jews

    • January 7, 2018 at 10:59 ameamonx

      lol.
      All I’ll say is that Ryo is an extremely important character.

  • January 7, 2018 at 4:28 amboingman

    Watched the first five episodes and was a bit bothered by the art style that fits for the demons, but not always so much for the humans. And I’m not sure if that was always a stylistic choice.
    As for the show itself, never watched/read anything Go Nagai either (except Cutey Honey Flash if that counts), but although I knew what to expect, this feels very raw unlike what you usually see in TV anime.

  • January 7, 2018 at 8:48 amSherrisLok

    The only thing I regret not seeing in this episode are the ‘my father is dead’ and the demon mask scenes (the latter one provides an explanation to Akira’s willingness to merge with a demon).
    I’m still impressed how they translated the story into a modern setting. The carnage at the party was amazing. The feel of a frenzied drug trip is just what I wanted in a Devilman adaptation.

  • January 7, 2018 at 9:39 amAngelus

    Much as I like the modern, clean anime style, it’s good occasionally to be reminded of what you can do with animation if you stop trying to be too realistic. Back in my younger days I used to consider myself a bit of an animation purist, and would complain bitterly when I saw things like simulated lens flare and focus pulls on the grounds that the only lens in animation should be the “lens of the mind”. And boy does Yuasa know how to use that lens.

    I’m not saying that I could take something like this every day now, but once in a while it’s remarkable to see what Yuasa can do with images. Given his work on Kemonozume I suppose he was a natural for Devilman, what with its ultra-violence and physically-impossible transformations, and so far he’s shown himself to ideally suited for the task. I’ve only watched the one episode so far, but its relentless pace seemed to make it fly by and so I’ll definitely be watching the others over the next week or so.

  • January 7, 2018 at 6:58 pmTMP

    Binged watched it over the weekend. It’s refreshing to see such a raw, nihilistic, depressing anime in a sea of moe and shounen series. It also doesn’t give off that “tries too hard to be edgy” vibe that a lot of “darker” series have these days.

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