OP: 「Take Your Way」 by livetune adding Fukase from Sekai no Owari
「1ST DAY – 憂鬱の日曜日」 (Yuutsu no nichiyobi)
“1ST DAY – Melancholy Sunday”
Despite the troubled production and its mixed critical response, there’s absolutely no question that Persona 4 The Animation was a resounding commercial success, which practically sealed the deal for more adaptations from the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. It’s been over a year since then, and finally Devil Survivor 2 The Animation‘s (What a ridiculously long name to type out) here to bring in the dough once again.
But let’s put the P4A comparisions aside for now (I’ll still get to those in a bit.) and get the boring details out of the way first. DeSu2A, as it shall henceforth be christened for my typing sanity, is a separate spinoff series of the SMT franchise and has zero connections to the former show. Likewise, the storyline is its own individual beast; new watchers need not fear having zero exposure to the first Devil Survivor game or anything else of the franchise. And a disclaimer: I have played the game beforehand to completion, but rest assured I’ll keep my posts objective, spoiler-free and related to the episode itself.
If you simply haven’t played the game before or even read our spring preview (you evil, evil person) here’s a basic summary: Devil Survivor 2 is a modern fantasy story about the world facing its judgement day. It begins with the mysterious website Nicaea foretelling the characters’ deaths, and when disaster actually does strike, it offers friends Kuzu Hibiki, Shijimi Dachi and Nitta Io a chance of survival by forming a pact to give them the “demon summoning app”. As a disaster-struck Japan suddenly finds itself besieged by mysterious invaders, the characters are forced to use Nicaea and their newfound summoning powers to reverse their doomed fates and survive Japan’s annihilation. Peaceful days have died. Let’s Survive.
Even back when I first started on the game, there’s a lot to immediately like about DeSu2A’s premise. The combination of demon summoning phones, secret societies, and a world tethering on the brink of the apocalypse is as odd as they come, but made for a very unique premise to explore, its fantastical nature lending very well both to the gameplay and the themes explored. As this first episode goes on to show, it’s a combination that translate pretty well to anime form as well; Nothing screams judgement day more than when demons start walking this earth.
The comparisions to P4A are of course apt; Shin Megami Tensei certainly doesn’t stray away from its key pillars of demons, spirituality, and of the supernatural, more often than not explored in a contemporary context. But only just watch the first episode to know that Persona, this ain’t. Out goes the social linking and the exploration of the human psyche; here, a different set of themes and rules hold sway, with far grimmer prospects for the world and characters.
Nothing is particularly explained in this premiere, and there’s a definite sense of disorientation as the characters are thrust from one situation to another, making it seems as if director Seji Kishi intended for this first episode to overwhelm with its pacing; pull them in fast, and pull them in hard, with a bombastic action sequence to top it all off. As the battle with the first invader comes to a close and the characters are apprehended by the Japanese Meteorological Society (JP’s) organisation we’re left with a whole boatload of questions: who these people are, how the demons came to this world, the mystery of Nicaea and the summoning app, and why there’s a mysterious Kaworu-lookalike boy in the middle of all this. (Oh trust me, I’ve also got a lot to say about the inspirations DeSu2A draw from a certain mecha anime, but I’ll leave it for a more suitable time.)
While the pacing itself might’ve been on the fast side, I’ll refrain from commenting on it until we’re a couple more episodes in. For one, there’s no doubt they wanted to include a major battle so as to draw the viewers in, and rushed somewhat to get to that point; but with the reception I’ve been seeing so far I can’t say it hasn’t worked out for them.
In comparing DeSu2A as the spiritual successor to P4A, here’s the one change I’m really positive about, and I’ll start by addressing the protagonist of P4A. As experiments go Yu Narukami of P4A was a very interesting one, a literal adaptation of the faceless avatar which gamers would project themselves into. It was a risky decision of Kishi’s to go ahead with a character almost completely void of personality, in which he seemed to have wanted watchers to project themselves into and grow alongside as the story progressed. But the delivery never quite worked out as intended. You can imagine the relief that set in when I saw Kuze Hibiki (Kamiya Hiroshi) who’s also another faceless avatar in the game, having a proper personality to himself to carry the story along, albeit not a particularly deep or memorable one at the moment beyond the fact that he’s voiced by Kamiya. Still, good change!
There’s not much to go on about Shijima Daichi (Okamoto Nobuhiko) and Nitta Io (Uchida Aya) in this introduction either, since events transpired so quickly that there’s hardly time for the characters to settle. But I’m looking forward to seeing what Kishi can do with the development of the characters; he’s got quite the huge cast to work with here, the first of which we’ve seen in Sako Makoto. (Sawashiro Miyuki – of course, it just couldn’t be anyone else) If anything, DeSu2A’s already showing it is willing to go down some grim and pretty dark paths with its story; hopefully, this will extend to the characters as well.
As it stands, I’m in two minds about the cinematography in the show. Bridge fantastically nailed the apocalyptic atmosphere of the world down, and this really was my favourite part coming out of the adaptation, the one thing I was looking to the show to play strongly on. With the location details accurate almost to a fault and the brilliant touches of destruction on a very familiar landscape, DeSu2A’s ruined Tokyo becomes eerily reminiscent of the scenes from the disastrous Japan earthquake some two years ago, with crowds of people huddling and trying to contact loved ones, civil workers trying to restore order, impromptu rest points and ridiculous lines to convenience stores. It’s almost mortifying to see the significant damage and destruction done to Tokyo, and these scenes very effectively punctuate that general sense of helplessness in the wake of a disaster.
That Bridge has never been particularly noteworthy about its production is the sticking point, and the general quality here really brings home the fact that they’re a mid-tier studio. The production quality is serviceable, but there’s nothing particularly spectacular about it. That’s not to say DeSu2A doesn’t have its moments; the cybernetic visual effects of the demon summoning are downright gorgeous, as was the action sequence of invader’s attack, and I’m definitely looking forward to their take on the invaders coming our way. And they certainly did justice to the amazing illustrations of character designer Suzuhito Yasuda. (Durarara!!, Yozakura Quartet)
As premieres go, you could certainly do worst. DeSu2A’s might’ve sacrificed sharing its characters and plot (which will no doubt come in the next few episodes) in order to draw viewers with bombastic action sequences, but does a great job in introducing its very intriguing premise with this introductory episode while presenting the fantastic apocalyptic setting of its story. I’m definitely liking what I’m seeing so far, speaking as both a fan of the series and an anime blogger, and I’m keen to see if Kishi can deliver with this adaptation in the way he couldn’t with Persona.
-No doubt there’s a fair number of you who’ve already played the game beforehand, and I ask that you consider about what you comment on. Please refrain from talking about events that have not been shown, even if they’ve supposedly occurred in the game’s story; this is an adaption after all, and events don’t necessarily progress in the same order. I won’t outright stop anyone, but be considerate and put ample warnings/spoiler tags or you’ll find your comments removed. Likewise, try to keep discussion of the game itself to a minimal as talk should instead be focused on the adaptation; again, I won’t stop anyone, but be considerate to the other commenters.
-6/4/13-Forgot to add a simple premise in the intro bit! It’s up there now.
-To anyone that ask, no, you don’t have to know anything about the first game, about SMT, or anything at all. DeSu2 is its own story with no ties to anything, so there’s no need to fear missing anything. I’m putting this here because I’m still seeing comments asking about this.
ED: 「BE」by Song Riders