Devilman Crybaby Series Review: It’s Making A Splash But Does It Have Substance?

Overview:

Ryou, a teenage professor, tells Akira, his childhood friend, that demons are going to take over the world. They go to find evidence and Akira ends up fusing with Amon, a powerful demon, becoming a Devilman (demon with the heart of a human).

Review – some spoilers:

There’s been a lot said about this series already, but just in case you missed all the other blogs that have written about it, this is a Netflix anime that is not for the faint of heart. Whether it is the gratuitous violence and gore or the sex and body horror, this is definitely not for those who are squeamish about anything. Even my fairly high tolerance for fictional violence was pushed while watching this and it didn’t help that some of the imagery (the sex and body horror elements) ended up being a little  disturbing. But if that doesn’t put you off, let’s discuss whether or not this show is living up to the hype surrounding it.

While I might be in the minority, I really didn’t enjoy watching Devilman Crybaby. From the start, the visuals just didn’t sit well with me as I didn’t particularly like the style. There are some really striking scenes where they do some wonderful contrasts with colour and the like, but it just didn’t appeal visually. Then again, possibly the ugly and overly simplistic art style fit with the nature of the story but it certainly wasn’t a selling point for me.

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Then the characters came along and my issue is each one is very much one thing with potentially one twist up their sleeve. From the beginning Ryou is portrayed as lacking in human emotions so by the time the reveal as to why comes along you’ve mostly figured it out anyway and it isn’t in the slightest bit surprising. In fact, it makes some of his earlier actions a lot easier to swallow because it makes sense that no sensible person would suddenly start slashing random strangers with a broken bottle in order to collect proof of demons.

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Akira, on the other hand, apparently has a very warm human heart. Let every character tell you about it, over and over again. Oh, Akira’s a crybaby? He cries for others? Oh, how empathetic. Over and over again this point gets hammered and the real issue is Akira has no other personality trait other than his apparent abundance of empathy for others. Even his anger and rage later in the show is produced because of his empathy.

The side characters are all much the same, with Miko maybe being the exception. They are introduced as one thing, if they are a more important character there might be a later reveal but the show isn’t spending a great deal of time on fleshing these characters out. They are stand-ins and place-holders for the rest of society.

Because this anime very much wants to make a POINT. It is a deep metaphor, a reflection of society and the social disharmony and disconnect of youth culture… And it wants to make sure you never forget it. Not for a single instant. Like Akira’s empathy and heart, let the anime tell you again and again about characters with broken dreams, feeling disillusioned, lost, unsatisfied, and how society doesn’t value those who work hard or genuinely feel for others.

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Now, there is nothing wrong with being an allegory and filled with metaphorical characters and imagery, what takes the enjoyment away from Devilman Crybaby is while it wants to have that deeper message, it also wants to shock and titillate its audience. And it does this with as much subtlety as it constructs metaphor so large chunks of early episodes are given to the sabbath, to sex, and to violence between demons played out on scenes nearly too dark at times to really catch the detail of what is going on but with a plethora of squishy and unsettling sound-effects.

The balance is lacking and by the time the show switches into full allegorical mode none of the characters or ideas have really had a chance to be developed or to sit well with the audience because so much time has been given to extended sequences of sex and violence. So the show falls back on imagery we are familiar with from other stories and myths and to replaying ‘critical’ segments over and over again to once again hammer a point home that could have been made more easily with a bit more legwork in the earlier episodes.

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Miki’s appeal on social media particularly bothered me. It felt so much like the writers wanted to directly state their message and simply put the moral into Miki’s typed messages. Miki’s subsequent death for sending out messages of peace and love lacked impact as it was mostly lost in a sea of other deaths and she hadn’t been built up enough for the audience to care. Therefore, Akira’s rage when he sees the result is understandable but not something the audience can share with him. We’re kept at arm’s length and in honestly her appeal was naive at best giving me little reason to sympathise with the result.

The sudden gathering of an army of devilmen is also kind of convenient and simply allows for an overblown final battle which visually is a mess of colours, attacks, and spinning. There’s very little detail to that final fight, though one scene definitely gave me Evangelion vibes which was kind of weird.

Thematically, Devilman Crybaby is solid but for me the execution failed to engage. It was watchable, and had some dramatic moments, but without ever really getting an emotional response other than occasionally flinching at the visuals in earlier episodes. I get some people will have fun with this but it just didn’t work for me and I probably won’t do a rewatch at any point. Actually, if you just watch for the over-the-top violence and a story that pushes forward (even if it doesn’t get into much depth) this would kind of be the perfect watch, however I just found myself wanting more from it.

As always, I’d love to know what you thought of the show so please leave me a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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26 thoughts on “Devilman Crybaby Series Review: It’s Making A Splash But Does It Have Substance?

  1. I didn’t read this the other day because I hadn’t started to watch it then but now I have seen 4 episodes and I feel, idk, like I am missing something. The gore and sex doesn’t bother me. The visuals doesn’t either. I am not that picky when it comes to visuals. But, I feel that there is something off. I can’t put my finger on it but I feel uneasy. I normally bingewatch an anime and I am happy whenever Netflix put up a new series (of anything, be it anime or regular tv) but this one, I can hardly even see one episode at a time. I have never had that problem before. 🙄 Your review sheds a little light on it, but not all. I’m just gonna drop it I think. It doesn’t seem like it’s worth the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. While watching I wasn’t having much fun because I just kept feeling like something was missing (or I was missing something). Ultimately I decided it was that nothing is given depth and everything is very in your face, but it was an inescapable feeling while watching that there was something not quite there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a shame. I feel like it could have so much potential. Even with all that violence and sex there is ways to make it into something better. Now it’s just like they only want the chock value and completely forget about the rest. Well, it’s off my list, that’s sure now that I have read your review. Before I had some sort of hope that maybe it get be better but. Ah well, there are other things. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that it felt inbalance. It felt like two separate stories and neither story is complete. They needed an episode in the middle to make the show more cohesive. Or make it two seasons to fully flesh out the characters and the story arcs. The second half of the series is a bit irritating because it is so pretentious. I liked the ugly animation. It was kind of an ugly world, so the ugly animation made sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The animation did fit thematically with everything but I still found it lacked any kind of appeal (though that is a personal view). Two arcs would have been nice because one could have actually been spent with Akira and his family and friends coming to terms with the change in him and him making the decision to really embrace being a Devilman and fight demons and the second half could have been about the end of the world and both could have been told with a bit more depth.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I tried watching the first couple of episodes, but honestly, the art style wasn’t for me either (not my biggest issue though). I can see why people thought so highly of it. Given the grotesque nature of the series and the standard in animation, it was something really different than the norm. Aside from that, I didn’t care for the unnecessary violence, and after hearing about the rape scenes, I knew it would be a definite pass. It’s just not my kind of thing, or my cup of chai I should say.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As a fan of character driven stories, I didn’t fall in love with this series. But, at the same time, I think that this isn’t a story that would benefit from characters with more complex thoughts and motivations. To me, this is not a story that cared about what a character ‘would do’, but instead, what would a character ‘have to do’ to cause the worst outcome possible. It is surrealist even in its world view, and the artstyle reflects that.
    It really amazes me, in a good way, that such a weird show seems to be so popular.
    It’s like watching an episode of Black Mirror, the characters and society may be a little unbelievable at times… but these shows have their place, you know? They help people to think about society from a different perspective, and function like a modern Aesop…
    Or at least… that’s just my interpretation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My issue is it doesn’t go far enough to explore those ideas. It presents them and there is a conclusion but there isn’t enough depth to really present a clear perspective.
      That said, it is good that so many people have found an anime they enjoy and it has been nice seeing that people who don’t normally watch anime have fond it enjoyable as more anime fans can only be a good thing.

      Like

        1. That’s true. The intention seems very much the shock factor rather than an exploration. That is probably why I didn’t really have that much fun with it. While I wouldn’t mind the shock, I would have preferred a bit more to the story and characters to go with it.

          Like

  5. I liked your review! I did actually enjoy this anime, but still found things to agree about with your post. I also thought it is a very disturbing anime. I was fine with the gore, not so much the other scenes. 😅 And there were subplots that didn’t connect until the very end. But I did enjoy the dramatic flare towards the last episodes, and during that one moment in episode 4. Still, a very great review! It’s not an anime for everyone and I see lots of controversy about it, but I’m glad you gave it a try. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked the review.
      Yes, I can see some viewers really enjoying this, but I just didn’t connect with it or rather I wanted more from the characters than I was really getting. The end is definitely nice and dramatic and at least it clearly concludes its story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There were some parts I couldn’t quite connect to either, but overall I did end up enjoying it. 🙂 And also it’s good that it ended stronger; it ended in the same spot as the original manga which was a nice touch for those who’ve read and seen the older versions.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. No idea if I am going to be watching this one. I was planning on it in March when I have my anime month, but after reading this I’m not too sure about it anymore. While I am certainly not squeamish as you know, this sounds way over the top. And looking at the screenshots you provided, I don’t really like the visual aspects of it either. Great post, and I should really say, thanks for the heads upi😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This one just kind of missed the mark for me and I very much wanted to like it. There are some interesting ideas but the execution isn’t all that appealing, unless you really like seeing people get torn apart in which case this will be great fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ahhh.. I’ve seen this title for a while on Netflix but I always skipped in in favour of Phryne Fisher. I’ve been wondering if I should give this a try. I think I have my answer now.. thanks for reviewing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also don’t like the visual, but I was hook with the first few minutes of the anime. Then it lost me. Mob Psycho 100 look ugly. I had to force myself to look past the ugliness to appreciate the anime.

      Liked by 2 people

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