By Dustin Cabeal
When you see the word “Crybaby” it's hard to take anything seriously. We all know what a crybaby is and so adding that to the title characters name gives a connotation that most would shy away from. With a lot of anime though, if you watch based on the name or judge by the name, you’ll be surprised or disappointed. I say that because the name is actually brilliant, but you’ll have to watch the show to truly understand why.
Without a doubt, Devilman Crybaby is one of the best anime I have ever watched. On the Super S – Anime Podcast we went through our top five shows, and I would have to re-evaluate my picks and re-order them entirely after watching this show. It’s that amazing. I also say that as someone who has never and I mean never, watched, read or experienced anything Devilman related. I know it’s a long-running franchise and that’s about it. I don’t buy into the “it’s been around forever so it must be good” philosophy that haunts most mediums. Devilman Crybaby though, it’s a fantastic piece of storytelling and something that should be experienced and hopefully appreciated.
The first episode is confusing, intentionally confusing, but done so in a way that makes you curious as to what will happen next. We meet two little boys, Akira and Ryo. They argue over a dying cat and during heavy rain the cat dies, and Akira cries his eyes out. Ryo questions why he’s crying when he knew it would happen. Akira tells Ryo that he’s crying too, but it’s evident that he’s not. Akira continues to tell him that he’s crying too. Once we meet Akira as a teenager, we learn that he’s the crybaby, but he only cries when others should be crying. For instance, he sees a stoic teen on the TV that’s recently lost his teammate. The teen isn’t crying, but Akira starts crying stating that the boy is really sad.
Eventually, Ryo shows back up, after years of being separated. Ryo explains to Akira that demons are real and that they’re going to get proof to reveal them to the world. They head to a part that can only be described as a massive orgy with bad techno music. Something about all the sex, music and particular drugs, make demons come out and possess people. As you may have guessed, Akira gets possessed, but because of his heart, he retains control of his body.
The next time we see Akira, he looks vastly different than the first episode. He’s also really into porn and eating. There is a strong sexual theme throughout the series, and it’s very graphic, like, does Netflix not care about graphic sexual content? The violence is something we’ve all been desensitized to, but you do notice it more because so much of it is paired up with sex.
Usually I would dive more into the story, but instead, let’s just talk about the themes. Obviously, with demons present, there are strong religious themes. Unlike a lot of anime, it’s not looking to add its own twist to the Bible and angels and demons. It’s a pretty straightforward interpretation which I appreciated because it gave it a greater sense of realism. Personally, I dislike when anime attempts to make angels and demons cool at the same time, like, “hey they aren’t so bad.” It’s like, pick a bad guy already and don’t just flip it because you like drawing demons more.
Another strong theme throughout the story is family. Not just the typical family relationship either, but the many different cuts and styles of family. The last theme I’ll touch on is friendship and romance because it does a beautiful job of showing how this line is blurred at times and that some parties can be on one side of the divide. It’s complicated, which imitates life perfectly. It truly is a touching story and one that will stay with me for quite some time.
The art style is terrific. It looks a little like Trigger’s style at first glance, but when you see who directed it you’ll be like, oh shit… that guy is awesome. The movement and look is what’s so incredible. The use of negative space and shadows all within the same episode. There is just so much that’s incredible about it that I lack the words or organization to cover it all. Track and field is a theme that runs (pun intended) throughout the story, and the way it’s illustrated is so realistic; then when you see how Akira and the other demons run it’s so animalistic and off-putting. Also, if you love nudity, you’re going to like this show. Nothing below the equator technically, but there’s a lot of hip thrusting… a lot… and masturbation. Don’t watch this show with your children, even if they’re old enough to handle the story.
There is a lot more I want to say, but I’ll save it for Super S – Anime Podcast. That and you should take the time to watch all ten episodes yourself. Since it’s on Netflix, it binges rather quickly because if you skip the intro once and select next episode when it comes up, it’ll take you right to the story. I watched seven episodes in one day, and it never felt like a chore because of how smooth the transitions were. I don’t say this lightly that this is one of the best anime I’ve ever watched. It’s one of those stories that you want more of (like many of Masaaki Yuasa’s other works), but at the same time, you don’t want anyone to touch the story again. It puts the Devilman franchise in a strange place as it’s instantly popular again but could easily ruin that with milking the story for more. I can’t wait to see what Science Saru does next and will likely sit down to watch this touching story again. By the end, I was the Crybaby, which is one of the reasons the title is brilliant.
Director: Masaaki Yuasa
Producer: Eunyoung Choi
Writer: Ichirō Ōkouchi
Music: Kensuke Ushio
Studio: Science Saru
Available exclusively on Netflix