DEVILMAN: CRYBABY gets 7/10 The Devil Inside

Directed by Masaaki Yuasa
Starring: Kōki Uchiyama, Ayumu Murase, Megumi Han
English voice cast: Griffin Burns, Kyle McCarley, Cristina Valenzuela

7/10

Devilman: Crybaby is probably the most explicit thing available on Netflix at the moment, and like one of the show’s crazed demon-people, I swallowed the entire series up in a ravenous gulp. Director Masaaki Yuasa has recently gained momentum in the animation world, and you might be familiar with his work on Adventure Time – he directed the well-known Food Chain episode – and Space Dandy, in which he directed the episode, Slow and Steady Wins the Race. In Devilman: Crybaby, he stretches his wings and shows what he’s capable of with an ambitious adaptation of the original Devilman manga, and boy, is his vision hectic.

The show follows young man Akira Fudo (Kōki Uchiyama) as his rather ordinary teenage life is interrupted by transformation into a ‘devilman’, after his suspiciously Aryan childhood friend Ryo Asuka (Ayumu Murase) charges back into his life. Demons are popping up all over the place in what seems to be a gruesome attack on humanity, possessing human bodies to attain a physical form when humans’ souls are most vulnerable, like when we’re partying or heartbroken or betraying our friends or generally corrupting ourselves with sin.

But Akira’s heart is so strong that his demon can’t fully take him over, and so although he transforms into a devil he also maintains a human conscience. This sets him apart from those totally lost to their demonic parasites, and enables him to fight and defend what seems right. What that is, however, is tested time and again.

Things get very weird very quickly, and you’ll know from the first episode’s gruesomely psychedelic club scene – where Akira finds himself in a depraved rave orgy cum blood-soaked fever dream – whether your stomach is steel enough for the rest. I’m super picky about illustration styles in animation, so I had hesitations about the basic Flash-esque design of this show, but by the end of the first episode I was reassured of its beauty. Just because the artwork seems to be made on a budget doesn’t mean the animators haven’t used the style’s simplicity to their advantage. There’s no hand-painted Miyazaki backdrops, sure, but the vast array of monster designs are incredibly creative (let alone the various violent ways in which they burst forth from human bodies), and each shot is executed simply and elegantly.

Yet, the show surpasses pure exploitation, so whether or not hypersexual anime gore is a real drawcard for you, the sensitivity with which the flawed characters are evoked will win you over. Viewers are given space to breath between the horrific devil transformations and sexually-charged fight scenes, with understated, insightful and sentimental moments of humanity to remind us what is at stake in a world-wide demon takeover. Ultimately, Devilman: Crybaby concerns the folly – and fragility – of man, not devil, and Akira’s fate is synonymous with the real-world experience of puberty, performed masculinity, queerness, and the corruption of innocence on the whole.

JESS COCKERILL

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