Devilman: Crybaby Poster
Every once in a while, there will appear a show that dares to break the mold of the usual, decently animated, but mostly mundane new anime. Then there’s Devilman: Crybaby. This show not only broke the mold; it mixed the mold into its cereal with nails and battery acid, ate about half of it, then used the rest to sculpt a surprisingly realistic effigy of Lucifer, all to the tune of a expertly curated (if not LSD-influenced) soundtrack. To quote College Sophomore Brian Damerau, “It’s like if anime went DIY punk.” It’s a damn good show.
Devilman: Crybaby is a reboot of the original Devilman manga and 39-episode anime series created and written by Go Nagai. Following the same premise of the original, which debuted in 1972, Crybaby spins the tale of Akira Fudo and the transformation he undergoes as a result of being dragged to an underground dance party/orgy/drug den by his childhood best friend Ryo Asuka. Ryo kicks off the very first episode by knifing a couple of naked partiers with a broken liquor bottle; this sudden violence, in turn, summons demons that immediately begin to murder and devour the surrounding humans, many of them mid-coitus. Amon, the apparent biggest and baddest demon, then possesses Akira and proceeds to murder everyone around him, with Ryo filming the entire time, for posterity, of course. This show is the definition of “escalating quickly.”
Now, for the particularly squeamish, I won’t lie; Crybaby is definitely a hard watch. I saw more nudity and gore in the first episode than in most mainstream 50+ episode anime series. However, in between the outlandish blood splatters were poignant and startling glimpses into the lives of both Akira and the secondary characters surrounding him. Some of my favorite side characters are a group of freestylers present in nearly every episode; they frequently rap about the neglect and filth seen in the abandoned parts of the city they have made their home, and how they attempt to see the beauty in it all. Their quick verses play over the sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange and off-putting animation style present throughout the series and often serve as a grounding point in between the blood and mayhem. One of the most striking scenes in the series is when a member of their group, Kukon, starts off with a confession of his own insecurities to high school track athlete Miko Kuroda, who has a ton of her own, that transitions so seamlessly from an ordinary conversation into a particularly impressive freestyle that I was compelled to watch it twice.
There are very few things to complain about when it comes to Crybaby, the main issue being that the series is so short. On further research, it turns out that Crybaby spans the entirety of the manga series, which was originally told in those 39 episodes, in only ten. The fact that so much is packed into so little time can sometimes leave watchers confused, and more than a little frustrated that there was not more character development. It honestly took me three watches to fully grasp and understand the series—as much as one can hope to understand Devilman: Crybaby, anyway—because there were just so many little details and quick scenes that I didn’t get enough time to focus on due to the rapid plot progression. I’ve also heard a few others express general uneasiness with just how graphic the show can be, both in terms of bloodshed and sexual content. In the show’s defense, it is about demons. And demons are nothing if not hedonistic and violent.
All that to say, Devilman: Crybaby is easily one of the best anime I’ve ever seen. It expertly folds in an amazing soundtrack, sublime animation, characters that you both want to cheer for and strangle at the same time, and dark, dark humor into what ultimately cumulates into a finale that will leave you in shock, awe, despair, and questioning what it really means to be human. 9/10 Pentagrams.
PC: MD. Aminul Haque / Flickr