I was initially intrigued by Netflix’s flood of anime shows this month and one show that grabbed my attention was Devilman: Crybaby. The show sounded familiar because it was based on a character created in Japan in the 1970’s – way before I was born. I didn’t think twice about watching it because it was a quick binge with only 10 25-minute episodes.
Synopsis: Akira is a below average teen in Japan who lives with his parent’s friends’ family. One day, his childhood friend Ryo, who, despite being a teenager, is already an accomplished professor, arrives to take him to a bar where he is possessed by the demon Amon. Ryo explains to Akira that he needs his help to expose the existence of demons to the public and he agrees to the plan. Akira then tries to use his new strength to battle other demons at the same time retaining his humanity.
For the first two episodes, I watched Devilman in its default English audio setting and felt like there was something missing. I did appreciate though, the contrast in the personalities between Ryo and Akira, and the first episodes got me invested in the mystery of what Ryo was up to.
As I switched to Japanese audio in the third episode, it was when I truly appreciated the characters for what they were. I felt the English dub did not sufficiently convey the proper emotions being felt by the characters and took away from their essence but since it was a Japanese anime, its native audio was able to provide that.
Speaking of the characters, I loved the loyalty between Akira and Ryo and how their backgrounds were fleshed out. I loved the humanity that Akira displayed and how his transformation was executed. While there were times towards the end that his scenes and dialogues were a bit drawn out, it was still understandable as part of his character.
Towards the middle episodes, viewers will really feel confused as to what the end game would be because Ryo’s agenda was unclear. As he and Akira begin to butt heads (sometimes literally), fans begin to wonder about the point of the bloodshed and the chaos that made up roughly 80 percent of the series.
For me, the final two episodes were completely heartbreaking. As one would expect a character to embrace his humanity, he chooses practicality and while another devilman seems to be groomed to become bad, she ends up making a huge sacrifice to underscore the extent of evil in the souls of man. And while Ryo’s true form is revealed, he too realizes the meaning of tragedy when the one he holds most precious is torn away from him, never to return.
All in all, Devilman was filled with terror, violence nudity and everything that kids should not watch in an anime. It was extremely graphic but it was also very poignant in its message. It explores the extent of human cruelty and intolerance. There may be times that humanity forgets how to be human but at the end of the day, they will come to terms with the goodness in their hearts.