Netflix Review 2: Devilman Crybaby

Like any good thing, not all anime is worth a watch. For me, there are just a handful of titles that have left a lasting impression. FLCL, Samurai Champloo, and Cowboy Bebop are a few I remember and revisit. This has made me very picky when it comes to picking up new shows. To give you an example, I watched the first season of Attack on Titan in 2013, discovered Drifters in 2016 thanks to a friend, and suffered through the new Berserk (yeah, I’m not linking you to that shit). I also watched Kill la Kill four years late. You can boil this down to personal taste, but when picking up a new show, I need to actually have an interest in sitting down and watching it first. With Devilman Crybaby, I saw a short review on YouTube and thought I would check it out. Did it grab me like a lollicon nightmare or does it belong in the garbage with Naruto?

After being reunited with an old friend, Akira goes through a radical change that opens his eyes to a hidden world of evil. Endowed with the powers of a demon, he takes it upon himself to protect humanity.

Devilman attempts to examine the nature of man by pondering the notion of a devil with the heart of a human. Akira starts off as a rather Beta teenager before he is possessed by the demon Amon. Akira takes control of Amon and adopts his extraordinary powers. He gains superhuman speed, strength, and the ability to transform into a winged demon form at will. The only drawback is his hunger for sex and violence. Devilman explores this idea by pitting Akira against other demons and his personal life. He treasures his friends and family and struggles to control his urges on a daily basis. At any moment he could literally fuck his friend Miki to death and eat her corpse. However, by embracing the demonic side as a part of his being, he keeps himself in check.

This stays in line with the show’s theme of human nature. Devilman is up front about Man being ignorant and depraved. It does not shy away from showing intense, graphic acts of sex and violence in each episode to let you know what it is trying to say. It is the villains that remain totally demonic and the humans totally human, whereas Akira is both. How can you function if you do not understand the evil you are capable of? By knowing his capacity for violence, Akira can choose to be good. Everyone else is either one or the other and remains black or white on the moral spectrum. All of this comes to head in the second half of the show where there is a radical tonal shift in how far Devilman goes to make its point.

Without spoiling it the final three pivotal episodes, imagine the eclipse from Berserk if it were 90 minutes long.

It was beyond refreshing to see a hand-drawn anime again. After the new Berserk and that trash Blame! movie it blew my mind to see animations that people put real effort into making. The movements are fluid, clean, and extensive in some places, while also exaggerated when appropriate. In one part, a character is rapping for what seems like three minutes straight. His whole body moves and none of the animations repeat. Granted, the rap was okay, but it was a treat for my eyes after years CG.

The style of Devilman is almost meant to be hand-drawn. Characters and props are sparse when it comes to complex elements like shading and basic details. It is very similar to the show’s manga origins from 1972, where the art style had a lot in common with Astro Boy. Rather than lean into the blown-out, exaggerated designs, Devilman takes on qualities of the classic and contemporary. Everything looks like it belongs in a modern anime, but there is a distinct anachronistic feel with high color contrast and lack of detail. I have never seen a style like this before and if it helps usher in a new era of hand-drawn anime, I do not have a problem with that.

This is a matter of personal taste, but the soundtrack was pretty great. It is a mix of techno, monastic chanting, and standard melodramatic J-pop during the more emotional moments. It is not for everyone, but I was so captivated that I had to mention it. After a certain sequence in the last episode, the track Night Hawk became a part of my personal playlist.

It is not everyday you find an anime that will stick with you for years to come. In the flood of moè torture porn and endless shonen that has taken over the medium, there comes along a title that transcends the norm. It is the kind of anime that harkens back to a time when the medium was about artistic achievement instead of profit. I probably did not emphasize this enough, but Devilman Crybaby will test your tolerance for intensity. It grabs you by the balls and does not let go until the end. I recommend it to not just anime fans, but viewers that would otherwise ignore the medium. It is a perfect example of what happens when anime is pushed to its full potential as this generation’s Cowboy Bebop.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

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