How are we humans swayed? What makes us humans? What defines us as just, fair and mainly, whats differences us from demons? That is the premise and final message captured within Devilman Crybaby. A truly faithful reimagining of the 1970’s manga. With its tragic story, gorgeous (and gory) animation, this series serves as a social and human representation, a reflection on how humanity may be both the most beautiful and most disastrous creation ever made.
Some Spoilers ahead
The story goes as such, Akira Fudo is a crybaby, in the literal meaning of the word. A typical high school boy that is in the track team, although not being very good at it, and cries everytime he feels or senses that the other person is sad or wants to cry as well, he is seen as a wuss and sort of disliked by people other than Mika, his childhood friend and tether. He is also friends with his polar opposite, a blonde, blue-eyed boy without feelings who, upon seeing his mentor being transformed into a demon in Peru goes back to Japan to meet Akira and convince him to become a demi-demon and expose demons to the world in order rid it from them. As such Ryo takes Akira to a party orgy and starts killing people in order to draw demons close and make one of them possess Akira who, due to his pureness of heart, does not fully convert into a demon but rather a Devilman (hence the title). But that part was (mostly) in the summary made by Netflix and/or any other site that focuses only on said party and state that Devilman “is back with more sex and gore“, sure that’s true but that isn’t all what makes it so great, as with most anime’s there’s much more depth to what happens in just the first episode.
As Akira keeps meeting with different demons he starts seeing different aspects of them, which in turn becomes the whole metaphor for this masterpiece. Akira demonstrates to be super-powerful, and due Ryo’s influence on saying that they are, Akira believes demons to be purely evil, far from humane things that only lust for blood and death, which in turn makes him think that the only appropriate thing to do is, well become demonic and kill them. This all changes after his encounter with a powerful demon Silene. Though very powerful, it is not enough to beat Devilman. On the verge of death, one of her assistants tells her to fuse with him, she responds that even if she did that they would both die due to her injuries, to which he says that he only wishes to give her the satisfaction of beating Devilman and that even with those injuries she is truly beautiful, almost immediately he removes his heart (head?) for her to fuse with him and (almost) emerge victorious before dying with a big smile on her face. Akira watched all this and later asked Ryo if demons were capable of love to which Ryo simply laughs and states as impossible.
Here’s the turning point and pinnacle of the series. After all of this happened, there comes a point in which demons are exposed to humanity and all hell brakes lose (literally). As more and more demons show up in the surface, humans start a demon hunt, killing any and all demons that appear in front of them utlizing any and all weapons available, causing conflict between nations stating that demons were created by another government to incite war and such. Yet the tragic part comes when Ryo decides to show the world that not only pure demons exist, but also people like Akira, who are demi-demons and that because of itthey should be hunted and killed as well. I will stop telling any more of the series cause I don’t really wanna write what you should see. Safe to say though, Devilman Crybaby is as far away from your typical happy cartoon, its not Sakura Card Captors or Inuyasha, or Sailor Moon (if you don’t know any of those then… its not what shows up on cartoon network or maybe Naruto, yeah you probably have heard of Naruto if not I’m sorry I’m out of ideas) nor does it have a happy ending (or does it?).
Spoilers end here
Demons have been a part of human culture since the beginning of reason. We have pinned down and put the blame to our humanistic nature towards resolving things with violence to demons, Satan (creator of demons) was the one that cause Adam and Eve to fall from paradise, they are the ones that “convince us to do bad things” and the such. Yet something that we see during the development of Devilman Crybaby is that the worst actions committed are not because of demons but rather caused due to human’s violent nature and way of trating the unknown. When demons are shown to be infiltrated in the government, military and such passing information indicating that “anybody could be a demon, as such kill them whenever you see any change whatsoever in X person” (paraphrase), no one tries to stop it, rather they foment it and jump on the bandwagon to kill. This, is my belief, becomes parallel with how humans have treated what was new or viewed as different. When they met black people they made them their slaves or killed them, Indigenous people, both from the US and Latin America during the conquest? Killed and/or maintained for labor if black slaves weren’t available. Caste systems are still in place in certain parts of the world and racism has, somehow, resurfaced. Immigrants, LGBTQ people, and other minorities are still viewed as a danger (?) or a menace (?) to soceity and people , despite activism, laws, advocacy and the such still react in a violent way. A lesbian couple and two children were killed, throat-slashed a day after christmas in New York and just yesterday another couple was raped murdered and burnt in South Africa, Black people are nine times more likely to be killed by the police than any other race (in the US) and , as a cherry on top LGBT are more targeted than any other minority in hate crimes while war in the middle has has “celebrated” its 25th anniversary just last year,with no prospect of it ending. Yet, as of now we haven’t seen humans been transformed into foul beasts with huge mouths and strange shapes or superhuman abilities, simply, humans.
There is a huge parallelism with what I’m saying and the anime, the Black Sabbath (the party where Devilman was “born”) starts in a drug-fueled, sex-crazed orgy party where gays, lesbians and other minorities are shown; throughout the series a friend, and major character, of the series is targeted for being foreign; one whole episode is dedicated to kids rapping on the state of the city, of where they live (clearly of a lower social status); a father having to decide whether or not to shoot his son after becoming a demon (LGBTQ, or whatever you wanna call it), and finally devilmen become the minority of the show in a war against the world that, due to pure-blooded demons, has decided to hunt them just as any other evil demon. Mind you, the original manga was, as stated before, in the 70’s where the sexual revolution and emergence of these types of minorities was in baby steps and still, after 40 years of struggling and battling just to gain equal rights and, in many cases, simply to live.
Devilman Crybaby has been tagged as not for the faint of heart and an insane visual roller coaster and I totally agree but probably not for the same reasons. The focus on these reviews, except the one on Forbes that goes a bit deeper, is on the visual aspect. Director Masaaki Yuasa is known for his use of color, angle, body dismorphias and exagerated expressions throughout his animations (most famously MindGame and Genius party which, if you haven’t go see them, they’re awesome) and in this case the sex, nudity, blood, gore, and body mangling that may come as upfront and sort of uncomfortable at first but later one becomes numb to it (probably intended to be that way as a parallel to what we see and listen in the news and journals, heck there’s even a scene in which a kid sees all the destruction and killing the demons do only to show him with sparkly eyes “Cooool”) as such, saying that its the visuals that make us cringe or that alone suffices to be worthy of not being for the weak-hearted wouldn’t make it justice. What truly makes us feel pain in our hearts is the reality of it all, despite how fantastic, cartoony it resonates completely with how society functions, how we humans function the rest, as they say is pure decoration.
Devilman Crybaby makes us reflect upon humanity as a whole. Through beatiful images of gore, sex as well as some more lighthearted and even comical ones, a quite tragic story the series makes us remember how flawed we are as individuals, as a society and ultimately as the whole of mankind. It creeps up on us and lingers in our mind, wondering if such chaos is utterly possible or even if we are living in it already. Through exageration and polarization it makes us see how we are treating each other and how hate (without any base whatsoever) can lead us to become nothing more than, well Demons and that only love and understanding can help us reform that…… or can it? Anyway, watch it, the ending will definitely leave you with your mouth open and totally dumbfounded and probably as a crybaby while you watch the credits.
Here’s the trailer yet it doesn’t do it justice. Trust me, you’ll like it