Devilman Crybaby is a relatively faithfully adaption of a long-running manga series by Go Nagai. The series has seen many entries, adaptations and spins offs since starting in the 1970s. This one is a Netflix Original, as part of Netflix’s mission to pump more funding into original anime content. The series revolves around Akira Fudo. Initially, he is a hyper-sensitive weakling who frequently cries in empathy at others’ pain and suffering.
Akira’s old friend, the cold and calculating Ryo, returns with a plan to expose the underworld of devils and demons that are committing otherwise unexplained murders. However, Akira then becomes fused with such a creature. Instead of being taken over by the demon, he retains his human heart and thus becomes the Devilman Crybaby. He is now capable of strength and power but also still able to empathise.
This is an ‘adult’ anime that is unlikely to find many adult fans. The demonic mutations and battles result in plenty of ripping and tearing of flesh. Gore fills the screen for large amounts of time. The sexual content is high with most episodes lavished in the naked female form. Basically, it's just debauchery, perversion, and no-real-reason-for-it-right-now-but-here-they-are-anyway-boobs. The ‘adult’ audience here is more likely to be a male adolescent one so don’t watch on the bus as I did, is all I’m saying!
Anime series often revel in long complex plots, character relationship soap operas, or a combination of them both. What Devilman Crybaby lacks is an element to endear itself to you. There is occasional humour but it is brief. Akira’s ‘empathy’ leads to some nice moments and when the series dials it back a bit there are glimmers of warmth in his relationship with other characters. But these moments are all too brief before we resume the hacking / slashing / breasts again.
The ‘crybaby’ part of the title seemed to promise a counter to the violence, with a touch of tongue-in-cheek overblown emotion, but no. Devilman Crybaby takes itself very seriously and goes full out biblical at points to rustle up some pathos.
The show definitely has difficulty with pacing. At first, Akira is tasked by Ryo to battle evil demons. But it soon becomes clear that Ryo is operating on a different morality though. So when he exposes the existence of demons to the general public the tone of the show shifts from battles with the deformed monster of the week to a quasi-exploration of mob mentality. This does cause a mid-point slump where we circle around the same old content waiting for the dramatic reveals that come later.
By the endgame, things have become suitably epic. Although commendably the show takes a bit of time to give dramatic and emotional weight to the final plight of its characters. It’s too late though, of course.
Unless you are of the target demographic, Devilman Crybaby isn’t worth digging through all the nipples and blood in order to find the good story buried underneath.
Words by Michael Record