First Look: Devilman Crybaby

Manga adaptation by Science SARU
Streaming on Netflix

Premise

Akira Fudo is a sensitive young man with a good heart, but lacks the bravery or ambition to do much with his life. When his best friend Ryo Asuka shows up and reveals to him the existence of demons that have returned from their age long slumber to conquer the Earth, Akira must merge with the devil Amon and become Devilman, the one who can combine the raw destructive power of a devil with the good soul of a human being.

Editor’s note: Due to the nature of Netflix’s publishing structure, you’re free to watch the whole thing right now, but we’re restricting this First Look post to just the first episode.

Gee’s verdict: The Devil You Know and Twice as Pretty

Devilman Crybaby is a terrifyingly powerful combination of two famously stylish creators in the form of Go Nagai and Masaaki Yuasa. Yuasa’s portrayal of the iconic Go Nagai work is both a modern reinterpretation of the original story but also a bizarrely faithful adaptation of its thematic delivery and presentation. The original manga is a surreal fever dream of events, fueled by a neverending symphony of violence and human failings, and in many ways, Yuasa’s unique directing style perfectly captures that essence. We don’t need a mountain of backstory or exposition to set up the basic premise here. Just as Ryo spontaneously shows up out of nowhere and drags Akira into his machinations, we too are thrown into a world we’re barely equipped to deal with. It’s violent, crass, but above all else, unbelievably stylish. Yuasa’s not the first name I’d ever put on a list of people to adapt Go Nagai, but after seeing the premier of Devilman Crybaby, I’m inclined to believe they couldn’t have picked anyone better.

Marlin’s verdict: SEX and VIOLENCE with MACHSPEED

This is not a show for the meek. It has the highest level of viewer discretion advised in any anime I’ve ever watched. I honestly can’t in good faith endorse this show even if I dearly love Masaaki Yuasa’s brilliant directing. Taken at face value, the characters are odd even for a Yuasa work. Akira seems like this bumbling, awkward weirdo who is hilariously trusting of people. All it takes is for Ryo to show up shooting a machine gun and saying he needs him for Akira to jump in his car and be unwittingly made the guinea pig in a demon summoning experiment. And yet, he never seems to think Ryo did something completely messed up by doing this. Still, this part is almost charmingly goofy and doesn’t ruin the overall experience. What makes this show really disagreeable is that the violence is stylistic but grotesque in a disturbing way, and the sexuality is explicit in a way that would make most episodes of Game of Thrones blush. I have always been told that Go Nagai is the crazy perv uncle of Japanese media, and this reinterpretation of his original work does not pull any punches in bringing that shocking vision to life.

One thought on “First Look: Devilman Crybaby

  1. I finished watching this show over the weekend and I have to say it left me ice cold. In my personal opinion, Go Nagai is interesting only from the standpoint of how he has been able to repeatedly take stupid and shallow ideas, coat them in sex and violence, and make a career out of it. I suppose it’s not surprising that a creator has been able to do that, but I think it’s certainly rarer in anime/manga than, say, in Hollywood.

    All of which is to say, Yuasa’s arty direction aside, I think this show is straight-up exploitative trash. In fact, that may be giving it more credit than it’s due, since it’s so remarkably dumb.

    To me, there’s been only one director who has been able to turn a Nagai work into something worthwhile, and that was Hideaki Anno with the Re: Cutey Honey OVA from 2004. Anno was able to wring some real humor, poignancy and emotion from the Cutey Honey franchise. All Yuasa has done is to make Devilman pretty to look at it.

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