A mysterious infestation is slowly working its way through the human population. Devils have been inhabiting human bodies and have started to attack. Drugs, parties, and sexual immorality have been suspected as the cause and Ryu, a university researcher, and his lifelong friend Akira have decided to investigate. With little known about the issue or themselves, they follow a path predetermined to change humanity.
Akira is weak, a crybaby even. He is truly an Empath, as far as we can see, and lives with his friend Miki. Where she is an excellent athlete, Akria does not come across as particularly good at anything. Girls are not interested in him, he is not a fast runner, and he is not accelerated at his studies. Akira is just a human. And that is critical to the story, largely because he does not stay this way. Through his relationship with Ryu, he undergoes a sudden transformation that starts the domino effect of his entire life falling apart. His new form falls much more in line with the desires of the people around him, mirroring a world of earthly desires and desire for power.
Ryu looks like an angel. He wears white at all times, his pale skin glows, and his blond hair sticks out like the bat symbol on a dark night in Gotham. Yet, he lacks angelic qualities. He is vengeful, cold, and quick to use others. There were many callbacks to the scene where he tried to get Akira to give up on a dying baby bird, but the scene would have stuck out regardless. It feels like the defining moment of his character. One where the weak are not useful to him, and thus, are cast aside to struggle alone. All except for Akira, for reasons that continue to be a mystery throughout the show.
Miki lives more righteously than any character I’ve seen before. Those who hate her receive no hate. Those who wish to take advantage of her receive no rebuke. She simply does what is most loving and moves on from there. A character like that can be unsettling if you are someone who reflects on yourself often because she makes it seem so easy. It’s part of her everyday life to let anything except love and acceptance slide right off of her. Even elements of the show don’t affect her. Where other characters develop dark skin throughout the movie she remains pale, a symbol of her purity. The sexualization that takes place of almost every character in the show never finds a proper place around her, try as it might. She felt almost separate from the rest of the cast yet was so critical to the story that it feels impossible to make that claim.
It seems clear to me that many of the characters are developed more for what they mean symbolically than what they are as a character itself. There is nothing wrong with this approach when your messaging is so clear later in the show, but it does not make for overwhelming characters.
By this point, I hope that you know that I like shows that make me feel super warm and fuzzy. Some of my favorite shows lately have been super light shows like Komi Can’t Communicate, My Dress Up Darling, and Science Fell in Love so I tried to Prove It. However, you would also see that I love shows that turn anime on its head. Devilman Crybaby is that show, but not in a way that made me as excited as some other shows. Largely because you feel off balance during the whole show. The cinematography and the surreal nature of the show make even the lulls in the show seem important enough that your full attention is demanded. Devilman Crybaby demands this level of attention because it becomes explicit immediately. If this was an HBO show or something else known for more mature content, it might not be as shocking, but the more innocent nature of anime lulled me into a place that Devilman did not want to live in. But once the show drags you into its home, it doesn’t let you leave. This feels both good and bad. It will sound really dumb but I had to watch the show in a couple sittings because I truely was not able to sit and be comfortable with what I was watching for a long period of time. It felt like I needed to decompress, to think about what I had seen, and clear my head a bit before I kept going. The realization that the show was a retelling of the story of Revelations had huge emotional payoffs, despite me not being able to realize why, and that solidified my emotional positivity, but never shook the unease. Emotionally, a very ‘proceed with caution’ anime.
When the Bible talks about Satan, they call him The Great Deceiver. When we talk about devils, I think about the little elements of life that lead us down a path of deception. Devilman Crybaby spends a lot of time exploring and deciding what the characters think devils are. Characters toe the line between divine and human through their actions and happenstance, but the largest part of the argument comes when there is hardly a distinguishing factor between devil and human. The show inadvertently drills down to the core of what it means to be human by stripping away the physical elements. We cannot simply say humans are such because they look like humans. There are more things that define us, both good and bad, that set us apart. Is the exploration of what makes us human new or unique? It’s impossible to say so, but with one of the most essential questions of our existence in a state of impossible solution, it always is an interesting revisit.
Watching the people in Devilman Crybaby lose faith in each other was eerily similar to how people have started to react during Covid. Ultimately, our society works well because we have a core belief that a majority of the people inside of it are following the rules and will not harm us. Both in the show and then during our time in public during Covid, we saw that the universal trust already cracking during the election, fractured in a way that has really hurt the unity of our country. We see the same in Devilman Crybaby, because once humans cannot determine who the threat is, we change in a way that turns our humanity on its head. The whiffs of how people have treated each other during Covid are all over this show and it’s unnerving that a very plausible fate is so well predicted in this show.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum are the people who refuse to lose faith in the resiliency of humanity. It felt like all too much of the conversation during the pandemic, including now, is a blame game. Throughout the whole time I strived to have the most faith possible in the people around me that they have everyone’s best interest in mind. Some did not. Some did. Some thought they were making the best decision for themselves. What I found was that by having faith in others, the frustration that I saw in so many of my friends, both on the front lines of the pandemic and not, did not exist in me. It feels easy to call this blissful ignorance, but when you look at it through the lens of Akira, humanity is lost when the faith in humanity is given up. When he, and others, had no reason to believe in their fellow man, they still put themselves on the line for each other. They still believed in each other. It feels like such a difficult thing to do given the danger to his life, but it feels like a better death to have faith and die wrong than live alone knowing you were right. If I die because others deceived me, my life can end knowing that it was at the hands of others that fell for the great deception, and not me believing a lie.
Ten episodes is starting to become the norm for these hybrid movie-show events that are so popular on Netflix. Walking in, I assumed I would get the anime standard of a 13 episode season, but was pleasantly surprised by the shorter show given the amount of mental energy that the surreal nature of the show demands. Devilman Crybaby wastes no time setting up the characters, their setting, and promptly knocking all the pieces off the board. A lull in the second quarter of the show felt slow but I always question if this was tension building or if my attention span is just too small. What I do know is that it took me about half the show to realize that Devilman is just a retelling of a classic story. Why did it take so long? Because when the characters don’t know who they are, they have to learn just as we do. I can’t say this was done perfectly, but a lot of predictions and connections became more clear of revelations once the story became clear.
Unsettling, sexual, and surreal. Part of what attracts me to anime is the beauty of the animation. The colors are always bright, the characters have a unique and cute style, and the mannerisms are comforting. It was clear that the goal of the show was to do something very different. The first shock was how sexual the animation is. Not suggestive, just outright sexual. Where no male parts were waved around (maybe censor law?) they certainly showed off a lot of women. A while ago Randy and Sarah talked about watching the first episode. Sarah noted the first episode was immediately not for her and Randy confirmed that the show does not deviate from this path, shutting down the show for Sarah. At the risk of being accused of being a little weird, I found it intriguing. The show had a way of combining its sexual urges, the unsettling way that they presented the world and the characters, and the surreal nature of the entire story that made it impossible to not think about.
With devils attempting to take over the human population, surely someone has noticed, right? Where normally these events would be isolated to Japan, Devilman Crybaby shows us that the rest of the world is falling apart because of this too. We see countries take their unique approaches. The United States immediately arms their military, Japan tries to keep the population from panicking, and other countries fall apart in their own special ways. Devilman Crybaby shows the world in a way that feels so small and isolated to our characters and their struggles, but also shows you that despite Japan being the epicenter, people are struggling everywhere. The awareness is a nice breath of fresh air in comparison to what we would normally get, say from Parasyte, which almost completely ignores how the rest of the world handles aliens taking over people’s bodies.
Devilman Crybaby is not a show for the feign of heart. At first I thought the uncomfortable animation style or the rampant sexualization was the reason that the show was so unnerving, but once I started listening to the soundtrack I realized it was the music. It really didn’t matter what kind of music was in the soundtrack, something was off about it in a good way. The whole soundtrack opens with gospel-esque music that sounds like the causal walking music in a medieval horror game and then shifts immediately into techno-synthetic bangers that feel like you couldn’t comfortably dance to but would create all kinds of tension in a European nightclub. It makes you want to move, twist, or walk with the swagger only Toby Maguire in the third Spider Man movie could do without feeling like they never wanted to be seen ever again could. The beats hit hard and the melodies haunt the tracks, weaving between beats like something dark weaving through trees as it stalks you in the night. Then just when you think you get it, Miki gets music that is cheerful, happy, and accentuated with some kind of xylophone related instrument that takes your arm and skips with you slowly through a well kept garden. But this is a show of extremes. Murder, sex, violoence, purity, chastisty, and forgiveness all mix in ways that we rarely see in our daily lives, with the music to reflect it.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||3||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||4||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||6||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||3||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||2||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||3||3|
Devilman Crybaby is not your normal venture into anime. If you are looking for something that pushes your comfort levels regarding the kind of animation and enjoy Christian based story telling you will enjoy the show, but the lack of character driven telling tetters the story on the line of almost mundane when looked at from a thousand foot view. While I enjoyed it, I could easily see this being immediately disliked after the first episode, which provides a great litmus test for the rest of the show.