Netflix continues to bet on the production of original anime with a new version of the classic seventies Devilman.
The casual anime viewer, the one who knew how to watch Dragon Ball or Naruto but isn’t soaked in the rich and vast tradition of Japanese animation, might be surprised at how aggressively violent, and strange Devilman Crybaby. But certainly this was what Netflix imagined by commissioning the direction of a new animated version of the classic Devilman manga by Go Nagai to the always experimental Masaaki Yuasa. Emboldened by the success of Castlevania. Netflix redoubled the bet.
Mostly known in the West as the creator of Mazinger Z (and hence the wick, or giant robot piloted by a human), Go Nagai is equally recognized in Japan as the father of Cutie Honey and Devilman. His rough drawing style is classic of the shonen of the time, and it will be familiar to anyone who has read the original Saint Seiya manga. His ideas and concepts, however, seem time-proof, being reinvented again and again at the request of the Japanese public.
In Devilman’s case, the story involves demons, lost Latin American civilizations and much but much violence. Akira Fudo was a shy teenager who lived in the care of his friend Miki Makimura’s family, while his parents toured the world as humanitarian doctors. One day, Akira’s best childhood friend, Ryo Asuka, returns to Japan to ask for his help. His research has revealed the existence of hidden demons among humans, which feed on our fear and flesh. The only way to face the demons is with the power of a demon, so Ryo convinces Akira, the person with the purest heart he knows, to merge with the demon Amon. Akira’s goodness is such that he survives the experiment with his human heart intact and becomes Devilman.
Devilman Crybaby follows the story of the manga quite faithfully, originally published between 1972 and 1973, and compiled in five volumes. All graphic violence was on paper, as well as sex. In fact, Nagai is famous for the widespread use of sex in his work (and for a macho tufillo), and is credited with having invented with the manga Harenchi Gakuen, the erotic and picaresque school comedy (Is, Ichigo 100%, Love Hina ) that today is repeated so much in the current anime today so well known.
Also in the pages of Nagai was that imagination and twisted design that jumps from the screen every time the demons begin to make their own (who remember the violent OVAs of Shutendoji that Locomotion passed, these were based on a Nagai manga) . There is no limit to the horrors that demons inflict on men and we see on the screen, as well as the violence that humans themselves impart on their brothers once fear and ignorance have taken hold between them. By this I mean that Devilman Crybaby is not for the impressionable. I also don’t recommend seeing him with your old men in the living room near the TV.
But if the original material is already unconventional, the hiring of Maasaki Yuasa will only move the anime further from the mainstream. One of the most recognized Japanese authors today, Yuasa is recognized for his experimental and idiosyncratic style. He often collaborates with collective projects such as Mind Game, Genius Party or Space Dandy and even directed an episode of Adventure Time. He has directed anime series like Kaiba, The Tatami Galaxy and Ping Pong.
While in Devilman Crybaby Yuasa’s design style and direction does not reach the end of Ping Pong, it is certainly much more plastic than the shonen by which Japanese animation is known. The character design retains the retro spirit but is modernized, reminiscent of the style of Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Jumps in Time, The Wolf Children, The Child and the Beast) in their use of colored lines to give personality
The languid characters twist and stretch with a vertigo that accelerates the action, and the colors explode as if we were looking through a kaleidoscope. The animation of Yuasa’s study, Science SARU, is fluid and professional, but without losing its artisanal soul. The combination of retro spirit and experimental animation reminds of other recent anime like Kill La Kill or the spin off of Lupine III, The Woman called Fujiko Mine. The anime as an art form seems to be reaching a level of maturity where it feels safe returning to its past and reinterpreting itself, recovering above all a more psychedelic tradition of the seventies that was left out.
Also very commendable is the work of Kensuke Ushio, who produces incidental music that predominantly mixes synthesizers and rhythms of danceable electronic music with other elements of classical music, which appear strongly towards the epic conclusion.
Seeing the series it is clear how the Devilman of Nagai influenced the next generations of seinen. Seeing the Netflix series I found myself thinking in particular about Berserk and Evangelion. The way in which the screenwriter Ichirō Ōkouchi (Code Geass, Berserk: Golden Age Arc) portrays the relationship of Akira and Ryo, the parallels between Guts and Griffith, and Shinji and Kaworu are the order of the day.
The most interesting is as Devilman Crybaby relies on these later works by creating a virtuous circle of animation. broad “evangelicanas” Yuasa aspirations and Okouchi appear clear in the meditations on the human species and its apocalyptic outcome. Although it never ends reaching the complexity and finesse that Hideaki Anno’s work, and the series loses power for it.
Ultimately, anime Devilman Crybaby is an impeccable technical bill, your label adult earn more by having violent content so complex ideas, but aspire to reach second unfinished. What is certain is that if investing in Japanese animation anime Netflix always produce so bold, experimental and ambitious, then it is worth continuing to pay the subscription.