- Episodes : 10
- Genre : Action, Supernatural, Horror
- Airing Date : January 2018
- Studios : Science SARU
Devilman Crybaby Introduction and Story
Asuka Ryou never understood people as a child. He didn’t (and still doesn’t) get why they bother caring for one another, or why they fight so needlessly against death. That’s okay, though, because at least Fudou Akira accepted him. However, time eventually drove the two apart, with Ryou going overseas to a prestigious university and Akira remaining in Japan with his other childhood friend, Makimura Miki, and the rest of her family. While out in the jungle on an expedition for his university, however, Ryou’s professor gets over taken by a strange creature. A demon, in fact. The professor kills himself before he gets totally corrupted, and this gives Ryou a strange idea; come home to Japan and get Akira possessed.
Ryou returns home just in time to save Akira and Miki from some potentially violent gangbangers, only to take him to “Sabbath”, a nightclub where people are allowed to completely lose themselves. Guests there take drugs and have wild sex right out in the open without a care in the world. Ryou interrupts this atmosphere by beginning to kill people, which apparently is all that’s needed to summon demons. Just before Ryou is killed by a group of demons himself, Akira is overtaken by the champion of the demons, Amon, but manages to maintain his own individuality.
Akira and Ryou spend some time gathering footage and killing other demons that have been springing up around the city. Eventually, Miki gives into a sleazy photographer who’s been hounding her for sexy photos for a while and agrees to a photo session. What she doesn’t know is that this photographer has been possessed by a demon as well, and Akira and Ryou rush to save her. Miki ends up getting possessed by this demon as well, but Akira manages to rid it from her body before it takes complete control. Ryou wants to kill Miki just in case she figured out that Akira’s identity, but eventually agrees to let her go after Akira pleads him with.
After this horrific night, Akira gets a call from his mother, who he hasn’t heard from in years. She and his father are coming to Japan for the first time in quite some time. Just before they arrive though, Akira’s father gets overtaken by a demon and kills his wife. Akira is forced to kill his father, completely lost to the monster that’s possessed him.
Unbeknownst to all of them is that Miki’s best friend Miko is feeling overshadowed by Miki. Miko grows frustrated that she’s the star of the track team and gets all this attention from magazines. Kukun, a member of the gang that was harassing Miki at the beginning of the show, has had a crush on Miko for some time and reaches out to her. The two go to Sabbath for an evening of fun, but it gets attacked by demons again, killing Kukun and possessing Miko.
However, a demon named Silene has been tracking Akira all the while, crazy in love with Amon. She makes her move by posing as a courtesan in the red light district while Akira is struggling to keep his sexual urges in control. When Akira refuses to acknowledge Amon, Silene tries to kill him but is eventually defeated. In her last moments, she fuses with another demon who has been in love with her and overpowers Akira briefly. Before Silene can finish him off though, she dies from her wounds.
Akira doesn’t have time to reflect on this though, as the day of the big track exhibition has arrived. He, Miki, Miko, and one other student are selected to race against the rising track star Koda. Ryou, however, figures out that Koda is actually a demon himself and uses him to further his agenda. He manages to drug him so that he briefly cannot control his demonic instincts and provides a trigger so that transforms at his command, setting him off right in the middle of the track meet. Koda goes wild and kills dozens of people on national television, sending society into a frenzy. Ryou then goes on TV to explain that literally anyone could be a demon, adding to the collective paranoia.
Society rapidly descends into madness. Martial law takes over and people outright murder one another in the streets out of fear of who they might be. Miki’s family is torn apart when her little brother Taro gets possessed, eats their mother, and gets his father killed when he tries to protect him. Miki tries to bring some sanity back to the world by going on social media and giving her support to Akira, who’s been exposed as a demon himself at this point. This only manages to get her and all her remaining friends killed.
As humanity has all but collapsed, Ryou reveals to Akira he is actually Satan and this was his plan to place demons as the dominant species. Akira gathers up all the remaining human/demon hybrids into an army and sets out to stop Ryou. It’s all for naught, as Ryou is too powerful and kills Akira. Just before God resets the planet, Ryou cries out in regret over killing his one friend.
What We Liked About Devilman Crybaby
In spite of essentially being a grand narrative about a demon that tears other demons limb from limb and the subsequent apocalypse that follows, Devilman Crybaby is at its core a very human story about man’s arrogance in the face of their own emotional limitations. The scale of the irony is worthy of a classic Greek tragedy; Ryou can’t understand the pain humans feel of loss until he’s wiped out all of humanity. Heck, he loves Akira for his purity and innocence, but can’t make that mental connection that it’s also the very reason why Akira ends up fighting against him. The realization of Ryou’s folly is so powerful that it’ll stay with you for some time after finishing the show.
All of this, of course, was present in Go Nagai’s classic manga from 1972. However, Masaaki’s Yuuta’s adaption of the story brings Devilman to the modern age with much-needed updates to the story. Miki, for example, is not simply there as a cute love interest for Akira whose only purpose is to get brutally murdered at the end. She receives her own character arc and set of friends that get you to understand and feel for her as her own character, making Miki’s fate all the more cruel at the end. Even random gang members that you think are just there to showcase Akira’s weakness at the beginning get their own development as being the children of poverty, adding an extra layer of context for the level of suffering people are going through before the apocalypse.
Director Masaaki Yuasa understands, however, that a proper modern adaptation is more than just adding character arcs and a cell phone here and there. A lot of what drove the original Devilman was the shock value of including violence and sexuality in comics in such a matter of fact manner. However, seeing bare breasts and arms getting ripped off are pretty par for the course nowadays, and the more shocking moments (like Miki’s head on a pike) are well-known twists. So to elicit the same reaction, Yuasa had to go a step further and really drive home the primitive brutality and sexuality of the story. We don’t just see boobs; we see wild, raucous, passionate sex right out in the open. People don’t just get stabbed and bleed out, but we watch them get ripped apart and turned into piles of flesh. It’s disturbing and horrifying, but it also serves as a haunting reminder of the fine line that divides life and death.
Devilman Crybaby is such an evocative and powerful show that we almost feel guilty recommending it so strongly. The subject matter is incredibly upsetting, but that’s also in a way what makes it so beautiful. It captures the essence of pain and loss in a way that very few shows manage to do, using its gore as a driving force for the mood of the show rather than as gross spectacle. This, in conjunction with Ryou’s final realization of the mistake he made at the end, is what keeps Devilman’s message from feeling hollow. These deaths are awful because they should feel awful. Humans can be better if they try, but they can also be very, very horrible if not diligent in their behavior.
1. Dramatic build-up
It starts with small stakes; character motivations are relatable and immediately recognizable. Miko struggles to balance her love for her best friend Miki and her envy over the attention she gets, Akira wants to protect his friends but is a total weakling and can’t do squat for them, Miki is so understanding that she gets wrapped up with a perverted photographer who is doing everything he can to take advantage of her kindness, and so forth.
But events begin to escalate. Akira is forced to kill his own parents. Ryou causes chaos by causing a massive demon attack during a public event. Akira even gets beaten by Silene after fusing with another demon. You still have hope though because, in spite of these events, you are still given glimpses of humanity in these situations. At least Akira had the chance to talk with his parents one more time before they died, and even if he survived the battle with Silene, you see how demons have their own moral and emotional core through that battle. Society is on the hinge of collapsing, but Akira and Ryou’s relationship isn’t destroyed yet. Maybe they can still work together to figure something out.
You’re there, hoping right alongside Akira that things are going to turn out alright, even when they’re visibly getting worse and worse. Even when Taro eats his mother and gets his father killed, you think that there can still be a happy ending for someone in this show. Once Miki and her friends get chopped up, get their body parts paraded around on spikes while her house gets burned in effigy, that there’s no shred of decency left in anyone. Miki and Akira only ever set out to do right. Miko may have lost her way briefly but she finally accepted love over hate. Akira even managed to bring some people from the brink of insanity, only to have his efforts crushed. And it hurts so bad.
One of Masaaki Yuusa’s greatest strengths as a director is his emphasis on capturing motion over staying consistent with character models. Yes, it looks silly when Akira goes into a full forward lean while running, his arms elongated to the height of his own body, but you buy it because Devilman Crybaby takes a moment to slow down the scene so can absorb each motion of Akira’s arm muscles folding and bending. It doesn’t matter that it’s technically an anatomical nightmare because it moves how you would expect it to.
It’s this adherence to the consistency of motion that allows you to absorb the more intense sequences. Demon flesh rips from their bodies, each tendon snapping in quick succession. Breasts don’t just sit there naked, they bounce and sway around in rhythm to the movements of their owner. It’s this consistency that builds our expectations for the world. Even with the stylization of the art and characters, it never breaks our illusion that this is something that is happening right in front of our faces. Even if it’s just watching the subtle motions of Kukun rapping to Miko, you’re entranced by his head bobs and how his hair moves along with it, caught up in the moment and how the camera refuses to break away from him. It’s somehow more real than live action because you know that someone had to consciously animate it.
This isn’t really a complaint about the series so much as it is a warning. Devilman Crybaby is not for the faint of heart. The violence and sexuality are never gratuitous because it is always there to service the plot and the atmosphere of the show in order to better get you into the mindset of the characters. However, that doesn’t mean that that the imagery itself is quite disturbing, with major characters who get brutally dismembered or treated as lumps of meat. It can be incredibly upsetting watching Taro with tears in his little demon eyes, eating his mother head first, completely helpless to his basic instincts. And that’s just one example amongst countless others. If you’re not the type of person who can handle that level of extreme violence, then stay far, far away from Devilman Crybaby.
Episode 4 ends with Miko and Kukun at Sabbath, preparing to dance before getting interrupted by a demon attack, with an ominous cutaway to a demon attacking Miko. The following episode begins with Koda, a character we have never seen before who has the exact same hairstyle as Kukun but doesn’t wear shades, clearly possessed by a demon. We eventually cut away to Miko in the middle of running in the same “leaning forward” style of run that Akira used when he gained his demon powers. Our natural assumption is that both Miko and Kukun were both possessed by demons, only Kukun’s friends to meet up with Koda and realize that he’s not the same character.
ith only 10 episodes to tell its story, we realize that there probably wasn’t a lot of time to fit Koda into the plot before he was about to become relevant. However, this is still a bit distracting because we have to use a lot of very quick visual cues, such as Miko now wearing Kukun’s shades and having a few of his things in her room, to figure out Kukun’s cruel fate. We appreciate that Devilman Crybaby trusts its animation and art to tell the story without explanation, but sometimes when it moves so fast that it can be distracting to figure what’s going on when you really should really be focusing more on the ambiance and character interactions over the nuts and bolts of the plot.
Devilman Crybaby is a powerful story, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fun one. We give it our highest recommendation possible because of how well made and thought out of a production it is, but keep in mind that it is not a series for everyone. It’s definitely not a pick-me-up show. If you’re okay with that, then do not hesitate to check out Devilman Crybaby. You might not always understand what’s going on, but that’s okay. It’s absolutely worth your time
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