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

devilman1a

Devilman Crybaby Overview:

In Devilmana Crybaby, 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).

Devilman Crybaby Review – some spoilers:

There’s been a lot said about Devilman Crybaby 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.

Devilman3

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 in Devilman Crybaby 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.

Devilman2

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 Devilman Crybaby hammers you with this point 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 Devilman Crybaby 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.

Devilman4

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.

Devilman5

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 naïve 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.


Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James


Inuyashiki Series Review: Welcome to the Land of the Lost Opportunities

inuyashiki1

Overview:

Inuyashiki is in his fifties but looks older, is overlooked at work and by his family, has been diagnosed with cancer, and one night while on a walk with his dog gets killed by an alien space craft and has his body rebuilt as a machine. While he is coming to terms with whether he is still human or not, he realises he isn’t alone as someone else was on the hill that night in the park and they have a very different view of how to use their new power.

Review – Some spoilers:

I really enjoyed watching Inuyashiki. Partly this was because a friend of mine agreed to watch it with me so we could discuss at the end of each episode what we thought and we watched it over a couple of nights so there wasn’t a long wait to find out where it was going. And partly that’s because the show is just kind of a ride. That isn’t necessarily the best description, but emotionally that is kind of how it feels.

You get on board at episode 1 and then you take that first sharp drop or corner as Inuyashiki is killed before you go through a series of dips and turns building up more tension and excitement before they pull out all the stops and throw an asteroid at the planet. This anime is very much focused on keeping you looking forward at what is coming next and it never allows too much dwelling on what has happened before and while that makes for a great popcorn viewing experience, what it misses out on is a chance to explore any of the underlying themes in this story.

Inuyashiki2

Both Inuyashiki and Shishigami are struggling with the idea of whether or not they are still human. They struggle in different ways and draw different conclusions about how to ‘feel’ human but the fact remains that the same event triggers both characters. Yet rather than explore this idea and their reactions, the anime pits them against each other in a good vs evil (hero vs villain) show down without any real dialogue ever being exchanged between the two. For the audience, this means we see how the change directly contributed to their future actions but little about their internal struggle or the nuances of their view points.

Inuyashiki3

The generational gap between these two characters is exploited through technological know-how and superficially through their values, but again, this idea could have gone much further and instead remains surface level. There are a number of other digs at the younger generations such as scenes where characters continue to carry their smart phones because they would ‘die without their phone’ or they throw their support behind a serial killer because he looks good. And while these could have been explored as interesting social commentary, the story uses them simply to paint a picture of a society that is breaking down from within and then does nothing with that idea.

Ando, as a supporting cast member, also has any chance for real exploration taken from him as he cuts Shishigami out of his life saying he can’t be friends with a killer but we never see him actually try to reason with Shishigami or try to change his mind. It is like Ando just assumes that Shishigami is a lost cause and he seeks out someone else to ‘stop’ him. Again, not to reason with him or try to change his mind, but to stop him.

Inuyashiki4

Though, perhaps the character who is the most wasted here is Mari, Inuyashiki’s daughter. She was in the same class as Shishigami, lives behind Ando and is Inuyashiki’s daughter so she’s literally the one character connected to all the major players and for the first half of the series she’s too wrapped up in herself to notice or care what is going on. Once she finally does notice, the show looks at her ambitions to become a manga author, a brief show of affection for her father, and makes her play the damsel in distress. Though at least she isn’t as hopelessly underdeveloped as Inuyashiki’s son who I don’t think plays even one meaningful role in the narrative.

Inuyashiki6

Outside of the characters, the visuals are a bit hit and miss. Some scenes look truly spectacular but other scenes are a little cringe-worthy. Fights between Shishigami and Inuyashiki end up being a laser show affair with little variation. And an someone please tell me what is with every single character leaking fluid from everywhere every single time they cry (and there’s a lot of crying over the course of the show). Whoever was responsible for the fluid animation in this really went over board.

Inuyashiki7

Likewise, the music is hit and miss. Some scenes it nails the tone whereas others, particularly the scene with the planes (those of you who have seen it will know which one). The music there just didn’t match what was happening at all and then we see Shishigami conducting the affair (very reminiscent of V in V for Vendetta) but without a score impressive enough to back up the visuals.

However, it is the final turn in the narrative that kind of left me feeling that this was a real lost opportunity. The meteorite threat to the earth that even has a character in the show ask whether or not we’re watching ‘Deep Impact’. It was such an unnecessary complication. There were so many other ideas and conflicts to explore that we didn’t really need a natural disaster thrown in for the final arc of the story. And while the threat was dealt with in a way that will probably leave you on the fence about whether that was satisfying or not, it is the lack of impact on the world that really got to me. We see the characters’ lives and the city after the events and really it is as though nothing changed. And again, this could be great social commentary, but the show has never spent enough time on this aspect for it to make an impact.

Inuyashiki5

All and all, as long as you don’t mind a bit of blood and violence, Inuyashiki is kind of a fun watch without too much down time in the story. While certain aspects leave you wanting more, what you get works for the most part even if it is a little superficial.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts on the series, so please feel free to leave a comment below.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

avatar

If you enjoyed this post and would like to see Patreon2more great content on this blog, consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month.

Thoughts on Anime.jpg

Another way you can support the content here is by buying a copy of ‘Thoughts on Anime 2017‘ as an ebook. It contains a selection of reviews, features and top 5 lists from 2017 and while the content is available free on the site, this is a great way to give a one off show of support for the blog. It is available for $3.99.

Finally, you can use the affiliate link to shop at Play-Asia.com ifPlay-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more you are interested in anime, soundtracks, figures or games. Should you use the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

 

Gilgamesh Series Review: When You Want Something Creepy and Unsettling

gilgamesh1

With Halloween just passing I really wanted to think of the perfect series to review this week that would fit the theme that I hadn’t already reviewed. Lots of possibilities presented themselves and then I remembered Gilgamesh. It was very odd how I came to find this series. I’d just started watching anime as an adult and had watched a few things on YouTube (downloaded a couple given streaming wasn’t a thing at the time) and I was really trying to branch out beyond the Sailor Moon and Pokemon titles that were kind of the only easily available anime at the time. Then the local video shop had this just sitting on the shelf to rent. I’d never heard of it, had no idea what it was about, but I rented it. When I went back to the shop I noticed they had the box set for sale and I bought it. Admittedly, if I had as much anime available to be me then as I do now, I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at this series, so as I revisited it for this year’s Halloween, I wondered how it had held up after all that time.

Overview:

I actually have no idea how to describe the story here. There was a terrorist attack on an archeological dig and somehow that caused the ‘shimmering sky’ to appear and that somehow stopped technology from working (making this a post apocalyptic story as we pick our characters up many years after this incident in a broken and rapidly falling apart world). Kiyoko and Tatsuya are siblings on the run from debt collectors when they are bought by a woman known as the Countess. She’s using children with special powers to fight some monsters and Tatsuya has the ability she’s looking for.  But you know that’s just kind of the set up and there’s a lot of other stuff going on.

Review:

First and foremost it needs to be said that this series is too ambitious for its own good. It really wants to be an epic tragedy, on par with the legend of Gilgamesh, which it references ad nauseum (seriously, please don’t tell me the story again). The problem is, this story isn’t epic. What it contains are plenty of very small stories and moments that are interwoven, but at no point can any of these stories be seen as anything but petty. Which thematically makes sense because part of the overall message here is that people are petty and a lot of what happens is pointless, but it kind of steals some of the thunder of the grandiose narrative it feels like they were trying to weave together. Gilgamesh however does get the tragedy part as right as you can get it.

Gilgamesh4

This is not an anime for those who are squeamish about anything. Human experimentation, human trafficking, rape, child molesting, blood and gore, excessive use of military force… pretty much anything you can think of that would be horrible and depressing at the same time finds its way into this story. Which is fine for building a truly horrific atmosphere, and early on the show does an excellent job of setting the scene. The issue is that once the scene is established and we’re kind of waiting for something to develop from all this misery, all we get is a continuation of the same as all the characters are kind of emotionally in a holding pattern before the curtain literally falls on the story and the world. Other than a celebration of everything pointless and miserable about the world and living, there’s really nothing more to this story. Any turning points or small rays of hope are quickly shut down and we find ourselves locked into inevitable tragedy. It becomes hard to take overly seriously by the end of the middle act and as the story reaches its climax, while you are strapped in for the ride you realise that a lot of the earlier tension has evaporated. There’s very little more you could do to any of these characters that would make you feel worse for them so you kind of become numb to the horror of their lives.

Gilgamesh6

This loss of emotional connection could still be fine except that that narrative doesn’t hold up without the weight of those emotions. While there are plenty of explainers tossed around in the latter half of the series ultimately little of what happens makes sense from a logical point of view. Also, it kind of seems like nothing any of the characters were doing was ever going to stop the concluding act, most of them didn’t even know it was coming, so essentially we just sat and watched a whole bunch of factions fight it out for control of a world that was coming to an end regardless of the outcome of anything they did. While it might seem cool to kill off your cast of characters, when not handled emotionally well or for a strong narrative purpose mostly it just feels like you didn’t really know how to draw your story to a close. The afterward with Kiyoko and the final act of violence lends some narrative purpose at least to the resolution but it isn’t quite enough to make it seem like it was worth it.

Gilgamesh2

Before I get into characters I want to discuss the visuals of this show (I’m avoiding discussing the music because the opening theme is just wrong for the show and it is better if I don’t speak much about it). The character designs are ugly. Horrendously, distractingly ugly. Yet… Somehow they work for the story being told here. Everything about this world and the people is ugly so somehow having the designs reflect that is kind of an interesting choice. As is the cool beauty of the ‘monsters’ the children are fighting. In a hideous world having a monster that is charmingly alluring is a creepily good choice. The shimmering sky is also beautifully depicted though I note that go out of their way not to show you the sky except when the characters directly refer to it. A lot of scenes the camera angle is directed downward which certainly shows the powerless nature of the characters and also avoids needing to fill in the detail of what the sky should look like. However, visually this story manages to be pretty consistent in creating the atmosphere they seemed to be aiming for early on and the visuals serve their narrative purpose well (albeit with some incredibly obvious symbolism along the way). They just aren’t particularly pretty.

Gilgamesh5

Finally though I need to address the characters. Much like the story, the presentation of the characters is overly ambitious. They seem to want these characters to be multi-dimensional and layered human beings and they want to build a sense of mystery around these characters that all essentially keep their true self locked down inside. What that means is most of the characters come off as either pretentious or complete jerks. More importantly, as more of the ‘layers’ are revealed to the audience, what we mostly realise is that every character is pretty much the same. Self-centred drama-Queen who thinks the world should be all about what they want. It is possibly a statement that the show was going for but it makes it very hard to like or care for any of these characters.

Kiyoko at times seems like she’s going to be an interesting character as the older sister who is pretty much dismissed as excess baggage because she doesn’t have the power her brother does (she was born before the terrorist attack destroyed the world as everyone knew it). While part of Kiyoko wants to protect her brother, part of her is just sick of having to look after him and be the responsible older sister. She can’t stand the countess, for good reason, she’s got real issues with her parents, and deep down inside she just wants to escape and live her dream. Only even when she does get away from the countess she finds only failure and rejection. Her choice to help one of the monsters might have been an interesting turning point but the reason for her decision is never explored beyond her innate loneliness and sense of isolation so while this still makes her one of the more interesting characters, there’s still a lot missing that would make her seem just a little more real.

Gilgamesh3

And Kiyoko being the character who gets the most development just makes Tatsuya’s lack of character even more apparent. He’s good at baffled younger brother who after getting a taste of power becomes a little bit arrogant over baffled younger brother. But he’s not clever enough or interesting enough to pull off anything more than this and when things start falling apart, his initial personality reasserts itself and he ends up more or less hiding under Kiyoko under the guise of protecting her.

So having rewatched this through for the first time in a number of years, how did it hold up? Well, it was more or less exactly as I remembered it. It is fascinating and the first third does a beautiful job setting up what feels like it should be an amazingly dark and twisted tale. What follows on from that isn’t a failure but it never quite delivers on what it has promised early on. All and all, one for people looking for something a little bit different, but there’s a lot that could have been improved.


Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this post and like the blog, consider becoming a patron to support further growth and future content.

Patreon2

Thanks,

Karandi James.

avatar