Anime Review: Devilman Crybaby — End of the F***ing World, Man

Shed those flash-animated tears whilst burning your enemies alive.

Well it’s the start of the Winter anime season again, and this time we’re beginning things with an already-completed bang thanks to this new entity that is the completely original Netflix anime. As in a Netflix anime that wasn’t on Japanese broadcast TV a few months back but created exclusively for the platform, meaning we can binge-watch the entire thing with few complaints and if we’re mad, have one completed anime under our belt before the broadcast shows even premiere. And it’s not just anybody who created this anime. It’s elitist fan-favorite Masaaki Yuasa teaming up with trainwreck writer Ichiro Okouchi to bring to life an old Go Nagai property that most of today’s fandom aren’t aware of, but it’s Go Nagai so it’s going to involve superheroes and something raunchy. Oh happy day. Anime is saved. Bladeebladeeblah.

All joking aside, I’ve been avoiding most of the hype for Devilman Crybaby (if there is any besides from the loud Yuasa fanbase I mean) because quite frankly, I didn’t know what to expect from it. I’ve only watched one Devilman thing in my life and that was so long ago I might as well not have, so I didn’t know a thing about the property at all. The trailer looked visually impressive, but Yuasa has been doing his schtick for so long that he doesn’t score points anymore for what he can accomplish with flash animation. And every time I bothered to look at the pre-excitement my colleagues had for the anime, it was always “more Yuasa is a good thing”.

Apparently this girl is supposed to be mixed-race, but I couldn’t tell from this animation style at all.

Here’s a fun fact for my readers: you never want to describe something as “more please” when it comes to praise, because “more please” implies you’ve settled into a comfort zone, which basically gives the creator free reign to hand us diminishing returns and as long as he meets expectations, we’ll never set him on fire. In other words, it’s a fast train to mediocrity combined with a sense of audience smugness that has even plagued genius auteurs like Suda51, and it’d be a shame for Yuasa to go down that road right after the creation of his new anime studio. Don’t get me wrong, I like his works and he’s one of the few anime directors I’ve seen to make four personal favorites of mine. But I also know the phrase “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”, and I already saw those warning signs when I watched his newest movies, Lu Over the Wall and Night is Short, Walk on Girl, at that anime con with the rabbid Yuri on Ice fans. In case you guys forgot my opinion of those films, let me say this: I haven’t thought about them once after writing those reviews aside from the latter getting a little worse in my mind overtime due to how much it rehashed The Tatami Galaxy.

So is Devilman Crybaby going to suffer the same fate as those movies? Or will it be another memorable hit in Yuasa’s line-up? Well here’s another sign that a director’s output is getting more lackluster over time: when it gets easier to summarize what the product is about. Mind Game was about a loser adult learning how to reclaim his life through a high-speed car chase followed by a psychedelic trip into Monstro’s belly (and even that’s not a very good summary). Kaiba was about an amnesiac being searching for his lost memories and discovering just how fucked up the new memory technology actually is whilst being at the center of a massive rebellion. Lu Over the Wall was about fish people cheering up a dude who has underdeveloped angst. You want to know my brief summary for Devilman Crybaby is? Superhero show about a devil who wants to be human, only for some really spoilerific things to happen in the second half of the show that challenge his viewpoints. So not quite Kaiba, but I guess it’s a bit too soon to count Yuasa out at the moment.

Devilman Crybaby is centered on a young plain teenager named Akira Fudo who is tricked by an old friend of his named Ryo Asuka into accompanying him to a very sexual party where it’s revealed to him that demons exist, and Akira ends up absorbing a powerful being named Amon into him during a violent scuffle, transforming him into the titular Devilman. As Devilman, Akira becomes an instant bad boy who eats lots of food and can have sex with a hundred girls at once, but he still has a human heart to the point that he cries whenever he sees something bad happen to somebody, hence the name of this show. As such, he resolves to kill the demons that threaten to eat the human race, whilst Ryo has other plans for him that will either make you hate his guts or fangirl over him so hard that the Yuri on Ice boys will get a little jealous.

But the show isn’t just about whether these two boys can make fujoshis cream their panties. We’ve also got a few side stories involving some of the supporting cast from the childhood female friend and star track runner that the lead fawns over named Miki, another track runner who’s also named Miki but is called Miko to avoid confusion with the much more talented person of the same name which causes intense jealousy, a rap gang who’d probably fit at home in the Tokyo Tribe universe, and a few more that I’ll let you guys see for yourselves. There’s also a really hard shift the story takes around the halfway point that I won’t spoil (although the Netflix summaries sure will), but let’s just say that the hatred Japan has for Logan Paul doesn’t even compare to how big the country’s fury gets in this show.

In short, Devilman Crybaby is a superhero story where the powers are demonic and the sexual content is incredibly high. And believe me, there’s a lot of sexual content in this show. This is a hard R-rated anime in every sense of the word to the point that I think this beats out Kemonozume for Yuasa’s most raunchy cartoon, which is saying a lot considering how much sex was going on there.

Devilman Crybaby’s first few episodes kind of sell the show short. Get past the visual noise, floaty tits, and gay sex, and you’re just watching another superhero show about a loser dude gaining powers and suddenly becoming a badass through them. Even the demonic twist to the powers has been done before by shows like Parasyte, Inuyashiki, and Tokyo Ghoul, and unfortunately Devilman Crybaby seemed to forget the characterization that its predecessors had, because Akira’s only personality seems to be “I’m badass, but I care about humans”. Doesn’t seem to have a reason for it either. That’s just how his character works in the same vein that his friend, Ryo, has a pessimistic view towards humans because the writers said so – although to Ryo’s credit, that does get clarified eventually.

I couldn’t help but feel like this new Devilman was going through the motions a lot of the times to the point that I was forgetting scenes as soon as they happened. A friend of mine informed me of how a scene involving a ceiling spooked him out in the middle of the show, but I couldn’t recall what he was talking about for the life of me. Was too busy thinking “oh no, that bland female childhood friend has been kidnapped and now he has to rescue her” or “oh no, that mother we barely see got assimilated” or “wait a minute, isn’t this just Sakamichi no Apollon except with all the jazz metaphors and realistic grounding replaced with generic superhero antics and flash animation?” A lot of the conflicts just came off as arbitrary with the characters only having one quirk to call a personality, and sometimes they don’t have a quirk. They just have a role that could barely fill a sentence on Wikipedia.

The show does make a point regarding how demons will never be accepted by humans early on, but that’s just common knowledge, especially when the non-Devilman monsters are about as sympathetic as the maggots from my trash can, and the humans who are killed off to keep the secret aren’t much better. That was one thing something like Tokyo Ghoul had over something like Parasyte: you saw the sentient monsters trying their best to fit into a world where their very nature is challenged. If neither side makes a good point regarding compromise, then how am I supposed to take one, let alone find the conflict interesting? Maybe the ideas the creators had for Devilman Crybaby sounded a lot better in their head than it did on-screen, but that doesn’t really excuse the lack of momentum and unique character in the show, now does it?

Admittedly, the way Amon’s old lover is handled in the first half is kinda inspired.

After pushing through the first six episodes of standard demonic shenanigans, teenage angst, and sexy times, ready to dismiss this anime as just another superhero show except with Yuasa visuals, a certain event occurs that changes the entire status quo and guess what? It turns out all the important climactic stuff was contained within the second half of the series, NiER:Automata/Steins;Gate-style. Also technically Kado: The Right Answer-style too, but I think a lot of you guys have already forgotten that anime by now, so let’s move on.

Dear lord does Devilman Crybaby get bleak as it goes on. And it’s the good kind of bleak too for the most part. Have you guys ever played those Devil Survivor games or saw that rather horrible anime adaptation from years back? The series about demons invading Tokyo, causing it to get locked down and inducing widespread panic along with the breakdown of humanity? That’s what Devilman Crybaby when it gets good reminds me of, and there’s a reason why I think the show’s quality increases at that particular point. Because it actually calls the protagonist’s “technical pacifistic” views into question around then, and it doesn’t cop out with the answers either even though it could have eased up on the bleakness a bit.

The last two episodes in particular managed to make me sad even though I completely saw them coming and they mostly involved characters who I didn’t particularly care for outside the context of the story. I’m actually not really sure why they made me sad looking back on it because by the time the anime finished, none of the characters ever got proper development. Yeah you threw the nice shallow childhood friend into a bonfire and had her run away from all the hoses, but she’s still just the nice shallow childhood friend. Akira, Ryo, and that Miko girl I referenced earlier are probably the closest who come to growing throughout the course of the show in my opinion, but not enough to the point that I’d cry when the people they love are affected by their actions. Of course, I was binge-watching the anime and I tend to get more attached to characters when I spend so much time with them, so maybe that’s why when Akira shed the cries to end all cries, I felt for him as well.

Booty booty butt glurgggghhhh…!

The ending confused me when I first watched it, but after discussing it with some friends, I realized what the show was going for and I think it largely succeeded even though I thought Akira’s final fate could have been changed a tad without damaging the credibility. Basically, the show wants you to side with Devilman, but just remember that doing so hurts ALOT. Like a whole lot. You’ll probably shorten your lifespan into the negatives if you follow his ways, regardless of whether you have superpowers or not. But hey, convincing God to change his mind is no easy task, right?

And that’s what Devilman Crybaby at its best does. It handles prejudice and calls into question what it means to be human in a decently insightful, if not original, way. And as long as you’re not turned off by exploitation altogether (which apparently is a lot of people. Come on guys, have you never watched an exploitation film before?), there’s nothing that’s really bad about the show other than starting off a bit too plain in terms of substance. Although given how this anime was made exclusively for Netflix, the model that encouraged the whole binge-watching trend, maybe that’s the point.

Devilman Crybaby ended up having impact on me in the end, but it’s worth noting that I’ve never been a fan of that “it gets better later” excuse, and while the first six episodes aren’t bad persay, I was close to writing this show off as a less inspired Tokyo Ghoul before then. My advice to the writers would have been to integrate the demon discrimination into Akira’s early characterization at the start or have Akira be more than just a technical pacifist (and he didn’t even gain that character until after he transformed). Also it would have been nice to have better characters in general, because the more I look back on them, the more I realize how underdeveloped they all were. I remember Miko and her jealousy issues more than I remember Mika and her…being setup for a very obvious fall.

Basically, this anime fits right in with most other series on Netflix at its core. Generally good quality well-made. Nothing that I’d rewatch by choice. Could have stood to have better pacing. Yep, this is the new era of TV that we’re living in.

  • I know it’s been said already, but fuck yeah to the death of Anime Strike!
  • Yes I’m aware that the anime about the girls going to space or whatever actually got subbed before this did.
  • End of the F*****g World is also a nice watch on Netflix in case you were wondering.

26 responses to “Anime Review: Devilman Crybaby — End of the F***ing World, Man

  1. I wish I can get a tenth of the enjoyment some people have for this one. Easily my biggest disappointment for years. I agreed with Bobduh & Scamp: Go Nagai might be influential, but his writing is just awful. Poor characterization, clumsy pacing, heavy-handed themes, violence and sex for the sake of it….

    Another thing: age of the work and its influence are NOT good excuses. I can’t believe how many people try to argue from that angle. Stuff from Ishinomori, Tezuka, Tomino, Isao Takahata…. are still excellent. Go Nagai’s stuff are badly written from the start.

    Still, I’m glad that Yuasa found a new generous sponsor. I just hope Yuasa will adapt something from Tezuka or other competent mangaka next, lots of famous manga never have any proper adaptation.

    • I’m not really sure how much of this anime was influenced by Go Nagai’s original manga and how much of it was just the creators’ own take personally. That said, I do think anyone who really praises this anime is too in love with Yuasa for their own good. The violence and sex for the sake of it I didn’t mind too much because there are worse distractions in anime, but I made it very clear in this review that the characterization and pacing weren’t even B-material. And you could just watch Tokyo Ghoul if you wanted to see this take on demonic superheroes done decently. It’s still relevant with that live-action film and the new series and all.

      I did come out of this with a more positive response than his recent movies, but that’s only because I liked what it was trying to do at the end more than what it actually did. So while I didn’t necessarily dislike this show, I wouldn’t call it good. Could have been worse. Could have been a lot better.

    • Hey fuck you mate but there’s literally nothing wrong with the manga. Yuasa FUCKED UP. I fucking love the manga, like seriously, and even if Nagai has done trashy stuff in the past, Devilman is his master work and probably one of the few 70s manga I’d actually recommend.

      But Yuasa’s changes are unacceptable. It’s easy to blame Nagai because durr hurr he does sex and violence, but literally everything wrong with Crybaby was because of what Yuasa did to it. He skipped important events all for his “original characters (rappers)”.

      Just one fucking scene, the sabbath. It took its time for build up in the manga, you know, so that it’s actually believable. In Crybaby? SWING. They cut out everything about learning about demons and went straight to the action within 20 minutes. My favourite demon villain? Completely rewritten for the worse.

      Miki is now a half jap half foreigner mary sue instead of just being a normal japanese teenage girl. They updated the setting to the internet age and that was cringe as fuck. The original had the vietnam war as a backdrop, here we have goddamn blogging.

      Maybe people who like Yuasa will fap to it and try to twist the narrative, durr hurr Yuasa made Nagai good!!, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. He made it worse in considerable ways.

      To even call this Devilman is actually pretty insulting to Nagai. When the whole message about Devilman was that of anti-war and the rejection of darwinist ideology (not the science, but the literal interpretation of the strong ruling the weak), here in Crybaby, it all becomes about Asuka feeling cheesy shit like love and empathy.

      Fucking hell. I raged so hard at this adaptation that it near gave me a stroke.

      • To be fair, I doubt a direct translation of the manga would work in this day and age. That thing has got to be more than forty years old by now. Storytelling has evolved a lot in that time and transitioning from manga to anime is hard enough as is.

        Also, no one would care that this wasn’t really Devilman as we knew him if the show was good. Most fans of Who Framed Roger Rabbit wouldn’t bring up how it doesn’t follow the original novel, and that’s a really good movie. Which is why I try to never look up who makes an anime or look at the original source material before watching.

      • I really like Devilman, both the original manga and the various anime adaptations included, but claiming the original work is perfectly flawless and there is “nothing wrong” with it is…very narrow-minded to put it lightly.

        I do think the first episode of the anime cut some details from the manga that it would have been nice, yet not obligatory, to leave in. However, the main points of the introductory arc, so to speak, still come across so nothing was lost in that part of the story.

        The demons aren’t exactly super complex in character in the manga either.

        Silene and Kami actually got more screentime and a bit of extra characterization in Crybaby than in the first Devilman manga (no use in counting what happens to them in other Devilman-related manga that didn’t exist at the time).

        Xenon/Zenon gets a bigger role in terms of action and being a threat during the manga yet his basic personality is nothing more than: I am the Nth strongest demon. Which is also the case here, in effect.

        I might give you a partial point about the Jinmen episode, because some nice dialogue was cut, yet even in the manga we’re supposed to believe Akira would feel very sad for a random girl he barely even knew. At least here you could easily accept that he’d feel sad for his own parents.

        I disagree that Miki in the manga was a “normal Japanese girl” or that the Miki in this version was a “Mary Sue”.

        Updating the setting made tons of sense. I even liked the rap, despite not caring for the genre most of the time.

        I am barely even a “fan” of Yuasa so that’s not why I liked Devilman Crybaby. Nagai himself isn’t even a quarter as negative as you are towards this and neither are other fans of the manga.

        In fact, the anti-war message is still present even with the emotional layer added.

      • I never said Miki was a Mary Sue. I said she was the very simplistic female childhood friend who only existed as a tool for other people’s development without anything unique about her.

  2. Also, you call Nagai’s writing shit, but then you have the audacity to say Tomino is better? Ishinomori? Tezuka? I get it, these guys are legends, but Tomino?

    MSG was good, sure, but only because it’s the first real robot, and as a real robot, it introduces some new concepts to the mecha genre at the time, but Tomino is NOT a good writer. But everything else? Zeta? He shat the bed with more nonsensical characters that you can find at a drugged party. ZZ? L-Gaim? Dunbine? Fricking Garzey’s wing? Zambot 3? (Zambot 3 was only good near the end but really shitty during everything else)

    And did we forget G Reco? What the hell was he on when he directed that? Good lord.

    • Dude, don’t pull that “I hate that thing you like, so therefore your hatred of the thing I like is stupid” card here (or anywhere for that matter). That’s like the #3 thing you’re not supposed to say on the Internet regarding opinions. It’s basically like this:

  3. I’m sorry man, I got emotional, but the modernisation didn’t work. Like, why was Crybaby so rushed? Why didn’t we get the time for Akira to mourn Miki’s death? it’s not really about the problem in transition from manga to anime, it’s just a lot of scenes didn’t feel nearly as emotional because they were rushed. That’s all.

    And Yuasa should have made the time for them, but of course he couldn’t because he spent the rest of his time on his own original Miko character which had nothing to do with the original manga version.

    Also, the sex was too much. The manga didn’t. have. one. single. sex scene.

    And people are saying that Nagai’s the depraved misogynist here? They should get real. All of it was added in by Yuasa. I guess having Akira splurt his load all over the ceiling made for a funny moment, but it was gross even by Nagai’s own standards.

    • I’m pretty sure Akira trying to beat up Ryo was his form of mourning. Also, I think Crybaby was too slow for the most part. Like I said in the review, it wasn’t until the demons were outed that I got interested and it was only when Akira lost everyone he cared about (though I didn’t care for the victims personally) that I got emotional. And unfortunately that’s quite a ways into the show.

      • Then it’s weird, because plenty of complalnts about Crybaby is that they’re rushing the key scenes. Probably from other manga readers like myself.

        Another scene they completey skipped is the witch hunt where everyone goes paranoid about everyone else. I guess it was there, but very subdued. I don’t know if you checked the manga, but the people in it directly call for the extermination of minorities like jews, blacks, migrants, native americans etc you name it, because the majority thinks they can turn into demons at any moment due to their hatred for their oppressors. Powerful stuff that drives the point home. You mean Yuasa can add all the sex and violence he wants, but he couldn’t get political like the manga if only it was for a very brief moment?

    • Honestly, I think the writer shares more of the blame in regards to shying away from the substance. He’s mostly known for anime that get by on camp rather than anime that try to explore deeper meanings.

      • I think Yuasa had a very different idea of the specific substance he wanted to highlight here, which is more emotional than rational, so he worked with the writer to suit his own goals, which were not the same as Nagai’s.

        But even so, the Devilman manga wasn’t exactly the most subtle and sophisticated work either. Camp and Devilman are not very far away, conceptually speaking, especially if you read the first few volumes. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a message, in both versions, but having a lot of campiness isn’t some great crime against Go Nagai’s work.

    • I’d say Akira’s reactions in both episodes 9 and 10 are enough mourning. We even see him bury Miki’s remains too.

      The original manga was supposed to have a sex scene, fun fact, the one where Devilman rapes Silene, yet it was removed due to the editors. Nagai himself wanted it to be there and, not surprisingly, Devilman Lady is full of rape. I don’t think of him as depraved myself, the man was a hugely influential creative type after all, but let’s not hide the forest behind the trees.

  4. One final point, sorry for spamming your blog with comments, you can remove them after you read em.

    You say that it’s hard to transition a 40 year old manga into a modern anime. Then how did other directors who worked on equally as old nagai manga do it then?

    I’m talking about stuff like Shin Mazinger. That show had no right to be as good as it was, given the Mazinger Z manga was as old as Devilman, and given the poor budget they gave the director to work on. This show pretty much adapted the manga, ENHANCED the key scenes, and had a storytelling style that was really fresh and not dated at all.

    Same with Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera adapting the 70s Nagai manga. the director did a fucking wonderful job of bringing the manga to modern age, made changes and additions where necessary, and kept the 70s comedy, the series most charming aspect intact.

    Or even recently we had Cyborg 009 vs Devilman. That scene with the turtle demon was the perfect rendition of manga to anime and was by far superior to what we got in Crybaby, which felt half assed, half hearted and barely emotional at all.

    • I didn’t say it was impossible. I said it was hard. Just because those directors did it years ago doesn’t mean others can do it now. Also, I very much doubt you could make Shin Mazinger Z in today’s world given how mecha is all but dead as a genre these days.

  5. I’ve always preferred the devilman character designs (Amon, Lucifer, and Sirene in particular) to the characters and story themselves.

      • I like them both, albeit for different reasons… I like Go Nagai’s take on the “winged humanoid”, but I really appreciate Kazuma Kaneko’s ability to stay true to a demon’s mythological origins while still making the design unique

  6. I only sensed Yuasa in this series when his usual quirks appeared. I was like, Oh, The Tatami Galaxy – only in dystopia. I am going to watch the show on a weekly basis to see how it fares against all other Winter 2018 offerings.

    BUT SERIOUSLY, this season is bonkers. Ugh.

  7. Apt. I have to agree with the entire review. Well written, well stated – I felt like something was off when I took to the internet after finishing the series to validate how i felt and… no one had anything to say but positives.

    I felt the hallow thud of the final 2 episodes in my chest, that sinking feeling when you know you’ve experienced horrible shit happen to people who do not deserve it – but because of the lack of good character, there was no emotional pay-out in the end over it.

    To go from the beginning – slog through several episodes that were NOT very engaging or well written, to get to episode 6-10, try to grasp was was happening, see these weird plots come out of nowhere and GO nowhere, then have it all fall apart anyway – it didn’t leave me feeling like I wanted to cry. It made me feel like I had been tricked into watching something for the sake of the ultra-violence.

    Akira had some redeemable qualities and Miki, Miki (Miko), and the hooligans brought some flavor to the last several episodes but… for almost nothing. There was no pay off or purpose to their stories other than to appear BAD.

    Had the characters been built up an given more life, had the anime taken more time to show us who they really were and how Akira felt about them, had Akira’s snap at the end – when he finally tossed aside everything he believed for vengeance – mattered more to the STORY to the CONCLUSION, then I think this anime would have been what everyone kept telling me it was.

    • I’ll be honest, I wish I could rewrite this review with my new format I’m currently using. Not that I’d change my stance on Crybaby, but I definitely would have articulated more why it’s not as refreshing as people say it is.

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