Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Devilman Crybaby ★★★★☆

If there was a higher age rating than 18 then Netflix’s newest anime ‘Devilman Crybaby’ would certainly come under it – it is drugs, it is sex, and it is graphic violence. The show, directed by Masaaki Yuasa, is based on the 1970s manga ‘Devilman’, but with some modern-day additions to keep it relevant.

Akira Fudo is a complete cry baby – a high-schooler who just can’t help but cry when he knows others are upset. He’s best friends with Ryo Asuka, a professor who is the exact opposite, with a somewhat sociopathic personality and a lack of understanding when it comes to Akira’s own highly charged empathy. The two of them make an unlikely pair but from what we’re shown at the start it’s obvious that they’ve been friends for a very long time, and perhaps due to some odd circumstances.
 In the very first episode Ryo takes Akira along to a Sabbath event, a drug-fuelled, hedonistic party somewhat reminiscent of the neon, blurry raves of ‘Human Traffic’ (except much more naked and NSFW), after explaining to him that he’s found proof of demons. Akira, not fully understanding what is going on, agrees to be merged with the all-powerful demon Amon, turning him into a strong and attractive Devilman still retaining his original sensitivity. This makes him a useful tool for Ryo, whose plan is to use Akira to help uncover the demons and obliterate them from Earth before they take over.

This initial scene is a good way to gauge whether this is the right anime for you, with plenty of shocking elements displayed in just a few minutes. I learnt very early on that ‘Devilman Crybaby’ isn’t for the squeamish or easily grossed out – the sex is graphic and in your face, and the violence is brutal and sickening at points. Often the two combine but it’s not just for the shock factor – these sorts of scenes serve an important purpose, showing the primitive and sometimes disgusting side of humans, which makes an interesting comparison to the demons trying to take them over.

Aside from the horror and gore, what also pulled me in was the art style, which is different to your usual anime. It felt less stereotypically Japanese in a way and more a blend of the Japanese and Western styles of cartoon – bodies are more in proportion, and high contrast and blinding colours are used to highlight and aid scenes, giving them a certain edge. There’s a lot of movement and fast pace within each episode (which are only around 25 minutes long each including intro and credits) so despite its graphic nature, it’s a surprisingly easy watch, and one that I enjoyed binging on over a few days. I also felt the voice acting was very well done, in particular, both Akira and Ryo, whose voices really suit the characters they portray.

The show’s message is a good one – in between the good vs. evil plot it focuses on self-discovery, emotions, and how important it is to stay true to yourself. As well as the obvious battle between humans and demons we have several other subplots that reinforce these – Akira’s lack of family identity through rarely seeing his own parents, the relationship between his friends Miki and Miko and how stained it has become from jealousy, and of course what the relationship between Akira and Ryo actually is. Some might be put off by the anime’s explicit nature but if you reckon you can stomach then it’s well worth a watch.

Hannah Read

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