Anime Review: Devilman: Crybaby

By Albert Lichi 27.01.2018

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Devilman: Crybaby (UK Rating: 18)

Go Nagai is a bit of a legend of manga and anime entertainment. He pushed the envelope creatively and was a trendsetter for establishing many classic anime tropes and characteristics that can still be seen today. Concepts like combining mecha, magical transforming girls and, most notably, extreme violence and intense sexuality. Nagai's influence on anime and manga bled through to game developers, filmmakers, and at the core was Devilman. This was a story about a hero with demonic powers who fights other demons; a progenitor of the 'dark hero' concept seen in things like The Guyver, Berserk and Dante from the Devil May Cry series. In 2018, Netflix released a new and original take on Nagai's creation with Devilman: Crybaby. Is it tears of joy or tears of sorrow? A new generation is about to be exposed to one of the original ultra-violent anime anti-heroes and Cubed3 is here to find out if it's worth crying over.

Devilman: Crybaby makes a very strong first impression with its beginning episode, which perfectly sets the stage for things to come. The utterly insane violence and sexuality is undoubtedly the candy in a concept like Devilman and it is doled out liberally like a deranged Santa Claus during Halloween. Crybaby's depictions of a dark mass is best described as a drug-fuelled frenzy of debauchery of both sexes. Incidental characters casually spurt out some hilariously over the top dialogue and things are typically shown without any restraint. Crybaby never holds back in its agonisingly short 10-episode run. Characters get torn apart in very gnarly ways, sexuality is depicted in a very frank manner with no censorship at all and, most importantly, all of this is in service to the plot and themes of the story.

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The modern take on the characters of Akira and Ryo feel very natural and their voice acting elevates the otherwise subpar script. Akira is a traditional run of the mill, timid high schooler, and one fateful night he gets endowed with a demonic spirit known as Amon. A part man and part demon hybrid, known as a "Devilman," he retains his human soul and finds that it is his humanity that is what gives him an edge over the demonic forces.

Ryo is somehow Akira's best friend from childhood and their relationship is where the Crybaby begins to fall apart. Ryo is a cruel sociopath and Akira is a good hearted soul... there is no dimension where their relationship should work. Realistically, these two should have nothing to do with each other since, even when they were babies, Ryo exhibited some very sick behaviour and Akira unwillingly goes along with it. Akira seems like a character who would want to stop associating with a person like Ryo. It seems really inconsistent with how this modernised version of Akira is written and doesn't make much sense. The only reason why these two characters are friends at all is because that is how they were originally written in the original material.

The inconsistency of the relationship between Akira and Ryo also extends to Crybaby's core themes of humanity. This anime wants to have its cake and eat it, too, by claiming that humanity is what gives Akira his advantage over other demons, yet in the same breath also establishes that humanity is weak, psychotically cruel, and prone to paranoia. This is the real issue of Crybaby that will most likely take viewers out of the narrative. This show is outrageously misanthropic and depicts the masses of people in a cartoonish two-dimensional manner. This is during a time when humanity has become paranoid of devilmen among them and it could not have been handled worse. Suddenly, the IQ of every person in the world drops to negative digits and everyone becomes bloodthirsty sociopaths. All logic and reason flies out the window for every human on the planet. This is so distracting that getting invested in everything else in Crybaby becomes impossible since it feels like the director had little regard for the intellect of the audience.


 
Art-wise, Crybaby is a mixed bag of some moments of inspiration, many instances of laughable anatomy, and cheap animation. There are some sequences and animation vignettes where it is debatable if the artists ever drew a human before in their life. Some art can look really cheap and like rushed garbage that resembles a child's first demon design. The sloppy art is contrasted with some legitimately good animation where things are much more fluid and the drawings have more attention put into them. The style lacks shadows of any kind, though, so everything has a very flat look to it. Since this is directed by Masaaki Yuasa, expect his signature lurid colour direction. Crybaby has a very distinct style that some people may appreciate; it does have some moments where scenes are strongly directed with visuals and have some real heart to it, but the frequent moments of poor art and sloppy animation stick out too much.

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Devilman: Crybaby is pretty rough in the sense that it has some intense scenes to it and that it is sloppily made. Maybe Netflix did not give Yuasa and his team enough time and money to hone the animation. Even if this had more polished art, that won't change the fact that the script is wishy-washy and lacks the guts to commit to a theme. There is a satisfying conclusion when the climax happens and the voice actors really sell the premise exceptionally, but when the core themes are so inconsistent and ham-fisted, it becomes hard to care about anything in Crybaby. Stick to the old OVAs and manga.

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