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Devilman Crybaby

Entry updated 31 May 2021. Tagged: Film, TV.

Japanese animated webseries (2018). Based on the Manga Devilman by Go Nagai. Science Saru. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa. Written by Ichirō Ōkouchi. Voice cast includes Ayumu Murase and Kouki Uchiyama. Ten 25-minute episodes. Colour.

Two boys grow up together: one, Ryo Asuka (Murase) is a compassionless Social Darwinist; the other, Akira Fudo (Uchiyama), is deeply sentimental, a crybaby. Years later, Ryo reveals he has discovered that demons live among humanity, possessing them: however, he believes a big-hearted person may control their demon and use its powers. The unsuspecting Akira is his test subject: he becomes Devilman, fighter of demons.

But Ryo broadcasts an edited film of Akira's transformation to prove demons exist: the public do not respond well, massacring everyone they suspect to be demons. The situation worsens when, with the support of the Japanese Government, Ryo announces the only way to defeat demons is to kill them before they transform: they can be identified as people dissatisfied with society or who seem different (see Satire). Akira, who has found others who can control their demons, is heartbroken by the worldwide bloodshed. Initially we appear to be reaching a sentimental, feel-good ending as some people show they are able to conquer their metaphorical (as opposed to the literal) demons – but the majority carry on killing. Characters the viewer has grown to care for – and all those whom Akira loves – die horribly.

Ryo, who has been partially Amnesiac for most of the story, announces to Akira he is literally Satan, transforming into a six-winged angelic figure. Akira and his allies now battle Ryo and the demons, until only Ryo survives, weeping over Akira's dead body, as God's angels arrive. After the end credits, it appears God has reset and restarted the Earth and, going by episode one's opening, not for the first time (see Time Loop).

The nature of Ryo (as Satan) and God is equivocal: they are presented as being the biblical entities (see Religion), but Ryo says that, after challenging "the icy cold God", he "wandered the dark universe", eventually arriving on a pre-human Earth "dominated by demons [who] gained the characteristics of other organisms by merging with them": when demons later joined with humans it gave rise to our myths of Supernatural Creatures. Thus, Demons are Earth animals (see Monsters) shaped by Evolution; it seems to be implied Heaven exists within our Universe (Earth might be considered Hell).

The demons are animated in an enthralling bad-trip psychedelic style, with frequent explicit violence and Sex (the former using much body Horror, the latter sometimes wandering into Fan Service). The show reflects on masculinity, empathy and the human race's tendency to blame and persecute minorities when under stress; though some people are shown as capable of breaking from this mindset, the lure of the mob keeps its hold on the majority (see Optimism and Pessimism). For most of the series Akira seems to be the main character, but at the end it is Ryo who is centre stage, a tragic figure discovering he loved his friend.

Though not without flaws, this is a disturbing and impressive Anime, based on the influential 1972/73 manga by Go Nagai, the story being heavily revised to make it more contemporary. Aside from other manga and novels, there were previous animated versions: Devilman (39 episodes, 1972-1973), a child-friendly tv series released parallel to the original manga, different in tone and story; four OVAs – Devilman: The Birth (1987); Devilman: Demon Bird Sirène (1990); Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman (2000) and the three-episode Cyborg 009 vs Devilman (2015), the latter having Devilman fight the titular Cyborg character from the manga Cyborg 009 (1964-1981) created by Shotaro Ishinomori (see Cyborg 009). An animated film, Mazinger Z vs. Devilman (1973) had Devilman battling the super-Robot from Nagai's manga Mazinger Z (1972-1974). A live-action film, Devilman (2004), was unloved. [SP]


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