Alternate Titles: Neon Fallout Pokémon, Not-Persona
Video Game Adaptation by Bridge
Simulcast on Crunchyroll
Premise: Generic hero guy Hibiki Kuze (Hiroshi Kamiya) learns of a mysterious viral phone app named Nicaea from his best friend Daichi Shijima (Nobuhiko Okamoto). Daichi tells him Nicaea allows you to see videos of how your friends will die, yet as soon as the two are involved in a subway accident that they saw on film only a few minutes ago, they soon figure out that the app is more than just a gimmick. Alongside the only other survivor, a meek girl named Io Nitta (Aya Uchida), the two soon find out the accident that nearly killed them was in fact part of a nation-wide disaster that has reduced all of Japan to ashes. Even worse, hideous demons and mysterious creatures oddly reminiscent of the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion are roaming the streets. Luckily, Hibiki and his friends soon find a way to fight back.
Aqua‘s Verdict: Pointless
Poor Seiji Kishi. The job of anime director is usually a very ungrateful one, with only a handful of professionals actually enjoying a certain amount of fame. Kishi is lucky enough to be one of the few names in anime production people might actually recognize, but in an ironic twist, he might be in the very unique position of being the only anime director who has a reputation because he sucks. Kishi’s main flaw is that he cannot pick a vibe to save his own life. His shows tend to hop from loud comedy over tense action to overwrought drama as quickly as you can get your ass kicked in the video games he has been adapting lately. His anime incarnation of the much beloved Persona 4 was almost universally derided for this aforementioned utter lack of control and pacing, alongside its extremely unsuccessful attempts to integrate actual game mechanics and hideous animation. Aside from the latter, all of these issues are ever the more present in his take on another recent game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Devil Survivor 2. Who would have thought?
I expected that to happen, though, which is why I had not a modicum of interest in this anime. Sadly enough, I am the only writer here who has actually played the game, which is odd because I am the only one who lives in an area where said game never came out. Anyways, in stead of distancing itself from the gameplay and focusing on the personal and societal repercussions of a demonic apocalypse, the Devil Survivor 2 anime drops a lot of characterization and mystery in favour of unsubtly lifting entire menus, dialogue boxes and even tutorials from the game and unceremoniously dumping them into the narrative wherever possible. All of this while the gameplay and story are very often segregated in JRPG’s, which would give more competent and daring directors the chance to get rid of everything gameplay related altogether. Devil Survivor 2 is not like Persona 4, where the gameplay is the story. A Devil Survivor 2 anime could easily do without all the menus and demon battling, so it can focus more on what living in a demon-infested world does to people. What I watched here was not an adaptation of a video game, it was a better animated version of watching someone else play said video game. I want to see the story of the game and the characters I love being spun out in a serialized adventure, that uses the unique characteristics of animated television shows that handheld video games do not have to its advantage, not just the game with everything that makes a game a game being taken out.
In other words, Devil Survivor 2: The Animation seems to be cannonballing itself headfirst into the very same pitfalls its yellow predecessor is still rotting in, but at least this one is not eye-cancerous to look at. Heck, even the pacing manages to hold itself together remarkably well. The problem is just that this is an adaptation so creatively bankrupt, so unoffensive, so uninspired and so half-assed I cannot help but to nitpick at everything it throws at me. From the cheaply-made opening and ending sequences that unsubtly try to stuff all the characters down your throat because the show knows it will never be able to churn in all the character development they get in the game to actually make you like them, over the ridiculous scene with Daichi crashing a car into a giant ice cream cone from space to plucky, quirky fan favourite Io being reduced to a useless, blubbering mess, everything in this adaptation just makes me want to walk away and play the game instead. Only in my case that means “wallop in self-pity about being incapable of beating the game because it is really damn hard.” For an Atlus game, being hard is not a surprise. For a Seiji Kishi anime, being mediocre is not a surprise. Not a surprise. That might indeed be the best way to describe Devil Survivor 2: The Animation.
Lifesong‘s Verdict: Survived Episode One
I have absolutely no faith in Shin Megami Tensei anime adaptations. I’ve watched a few episodes of each one and honestly believe them to be some of the worst anime ever made. I am pleasantly surprised to note that this first episode wasn’t awful. The game menu shows up a few times and I dislike how meta that makes the anime, but the demons are digital creatures so some of that is to be expected. The story seems straightforward enough, save the world with demons. The voice acting is good and even the protagonist feels like a character. I am not expecting much, but this might be a fun watch if the excitement in episode one is not just a tease.
Iro’s Verdict: Surviving… for now
This was mostly inoffensive. I rolled my eyes whenever the game menu popped up directly onscreen, but overall the pacing was decent and there was a good amount of action in the first episode. Considering what the Persona 4 anime went through, however, I have little interest in this. Maybe it won’t suck?
Marlin’s Verdict: Potential, both good and bad.
I feel like this show could go either way really easily. I do agree with Aqua in some parts, in order to be a successful Shin Megami Tensei adaptation you really need to harness its greatest strength, its writing. I feel like one episode is too short to judge it too harshly. It’s a good strategy to keep people engaged by showing flashy battles. I assume they have plenty of time to talk about the ramifications of living in this new demonic world, and I’m at least giving it another episode to see what they do with that.