The classic horror manga series from 1972 is re-imagined for modern times from Space Dandy Director Masaaki Yuasa, and the first of Netflix’s Original Anime series for 2018.
Devilman Crybaby Series Review
Based on the manga series by Go Nagai
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Script: Ichiro Okouchi
Animation & Production:
Air Date: Jan 5, 2018
SubVersion Available: Yes
Dub Version Available: Yes
What You Need To Know:
Akira Toriyama. Masashi Kishimoto. Hayao Miyazaki. You probably know who these people are as they are the men behind the anime and manga we all know today. What you may not know is before they made their names known to the anime and manga world, back in 1970’s, one man did make a stamp in that world and he was second only to the God of Manga himself, Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka.
That man is Go Nagai. Back in the 70’s, Nagai was one of the most famous people in the industry thanks to his many works. He is most well known as the creator of the series Mazinger Z – the very first Super Robot manga and anime series that featured a human being piloting a giant robot. This defined the mecha genre as we know today, with well-known entries like the Gundam franchise, Gurren Lagann, Voltron, and even American works like Sym-Bionic Titan, Megas XLR, and Pacific Rim.
But I’m not talking about Mazinger Z here. What I’ll be talking about is Nagai’s OTHER famous work, which he personally considers as his masterpiece. That’s because the latest adaptation of Nagai’s “Devilman” series is now available on Netflix under the title “Devilman Crybaby”. This anime has created a lot of buzz among critics and anime fans, and even famous Youtuber PewDiePie sounded off on Devilman Crybaby that he really liked it.
What You’ll Find Out:
The story in Devilman is about Akira Fudo, a naive, wimpy teenager who gets picked on a lot due to his pure-hearted nature. Only his classmate and friend Miki Makimura comes to defend him, as he also happens to be living with her and her family.
One fateful day, Akira is reunited with his childhood friend Ryo Asuka, who comes out of the blue as the two have not seen each other in years. Ryo has discovered that the demons of hell are popping up on Earth, masquerading as humans and are on a killing spree. Ryo asks Akira for his help in defeating these demons, to which Akira unwittingly agrees.
Turns out that to defeat a demon, a human needs to become one as well. But not just any human, one with a pure-heart – just like Akira’s. Possessed by the demon Amon, one of the most powerful and ruthless among its kind, Akira becomes the titular Devilman, a fusion of Amon’s demonic powers and Akira’s own humanity.
What Just Happened:
Devilman has a bizarre love-hate relationship among critics and viewers. This is because Devilman is, and dare I say it, THE most violent, shocking, vile, disturbing, unsettling work in any anime or manga. While there have been a lot of other works that contain the same kind of graphic content, like Attack on Titan, Berserk, Elfen Lied, Tokyo Ghoul, you name it. Devilman, by comparison, is in an entirely different level. Either you love what you see in Devilman, or you hate it with such conviction not seen or heard in other anime or manga.
What I believe as the reason for this bizarre relationship is that the narrative and the graphic depictions in Devilman serve a very specific purpose. Nagai was born just one month after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki near the end of World War II. Like many Japanese at that time, Nagai has witnessed the horrors of war even at a young age. As anime and manga can be used to show one’s expressions through art, Nagai expressed himself through Devilman as a cautionary tale of Armageddon happening not by the divine or a prophecy or whatever. But by the human race killing each other to extinction because they refuse to settle their differences. It’s a message that, if you do see it in Devilman, is extremely powerful and does hit the viewer pretty hard.
When you think about it, the current atmosphere we are experiencing today is heavily reflected upon in Devilman cranked up to beyond extremes. You get these strong emotional feels after watching works like Your Name, Spirited Away, Your Lie in April, and others. But to get that same kind of feeling in Devilman, a HORROR series of all things is not only unique and extremely rare but what makes Devilman, for good or ill, one of the greatest anime and manga classics of all time.
When Netflix decided to adapt the Devilman manga for their streaming service, Director Masaaki Yuasa was hired for the job. Yuasa is well known for his visual style of animation in Tatami Galaxy in 2010, and the Kickstarter short Kick-Heart in 2013. Westerners, in particular, recognize Yuasa’s work from the Adventure Time episode “Food Chain” or the anime Space Dandy that aired on Adult Swim – both released in 2014. Some were skeptical about how Yuasa’s style will blend with the horror themes of Devilman Crybaby, but the end result turned up way better than expected.
When horror is to be visualized, almost always it is done to shock the viewer. I’m not an art critic, but with the way Yuasa did with Devilman Crybaby, imagine if Van Gogh or Picasso do a horror painting in their own style. It may or may not be disturbing to you, and you may like it or hate it. But it’s still a Van Gogh or Picasso painting, so it’s still a win for the artist. The same case with Yuasa’s Devilman. It’s his style all right, and the graphic content is there. Yet it draws out the emotions out of you positively or negatively. Yuasa hits that mark really, really good.
I have seen numerous adaptations of Devilman, and yet even though I know what was going to happen in Devilman Crybaby, it still hits me deeply when it did happen. Never can I recall any fictional work where I know the spoilers ahead of time, and yet didn’t ruin my experience at all. It’s one of the many testaments to Devilman’s legacy. I also enjoy how Yuasa tweaks the story a bit to set in the present day to suit today’s audience. And for longtime fans of Devilman, there’s even reference to the first animated series in the 70s by Toei (the same company behind Dragon Ball) where Devilman is depicted as a superhero of sorts.
Whether you love it or hate it, Devilman Crybaby is by far the closest and best adaptation of Go Nagai’s original manga. Even if you probably know the entire plot from previous releases, it’s presentation in this version still blows you away, making it a contender for this year’s Anime of The Year, and also an instant classic. Director Yuasa does justice to the series and shows what makes Devilman a highly regarded horror series that others pale in comparison. Just remember that this is NOT something kids or those with weak constitutions should watch.
All episodes of Devilman Crybaby are available for viewing on Netflix.
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