Image Source: 『DEVILMAN crybaby』公式 on Twitter

How to describe Netflix’s upcoming anime Devilman: Crybaby? It’s kinda like if Tex Avery made a cartoon full of nudity and ultraviolence.

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Devilman: Crybaby is a reimagining of the 1972 manga series Devilman—rather than the anime that aired over the same period. (While both are similar in general plot—i.e., the hero “Devilman” fights against demonic hordes—the manga follows a boy who merges with a devil and gains his powers while the anime is about a devil who takes the place of a dead human boy.)

Crybaby is centered around the friendship of Akira, our protagonist, and his childhood best friend, Ryo. Akira is just your normal high school kid. He has friends, is in a club at school, and has a tightly knit family—even if they are his foster family. What sets him apart, however, is that he’s a highly empathetic kid. Watching the news or even overhearing real world tragedies is enough to bring him to tears (hence the title of the anime). Yet, this doesn’t mean he shies away from this pain. Instead he is always willing to put himself in harm’s way for others—especially Ryo or his foster sister, Miki.

Image Source: 『DEVILMAN crybaby』公式 on Twitter

Ryo, on the other hand, is pretty much a sociopath. He cares nothing for anyone outside of himself and Akira—this includes even the lives of others. Indeed, Ryo has no issues with maiming or killing anyone interfering with him or his research.

The anime begins with Ryo returning from a trip abroad where he discovered the existence of devils. He then enlists Akira’s aid in an experiment to draw out and potentially “capture” a devil at a drug-filled underground night club.

In the world of Devilman, devils are able to merge with humans and takeover their physical bodies so as to hide in plain sight. However, if a Devil tries to merge with a person of pure heart—like, say, Akira—the Devil is instead taken over by the pure person instead.

The mixture of a Devil and man (i.e., “Devilman”) has all the superhuman strengths of the Devil but the soul of a human—though, that doesn’t mean everything’s the same mentally. The Devil’s personality partially merges with that of the human to create a much more hedonistic sort of identity. However, the goodness of the person still shines through at the Devilman’s core.

Image Source: 『DEVILMAN crybaby』公式 on Twitter

Plot-wise, much of the first three episodes deal with setting up this world of devils and exploring the changes that Akira undergoes as he becomes Devilman. However, thematically, it’s all about jealousy.

Ryo is clearly jealous of the growing relationship between Miki and Akira—especially when Akira becomes more assertive after his transformation into a Devilman. In Ryo’s mind, Akira is his and his alone. Anyone who could even possibly interfere with their relationship is an annoyance that should be dealt with. Likewise, it’s clear that Miki, after having years of Akira to herself, is jealous of the random boy she’s never heard of who Akira seems willing to do anything for.

Then there is Miki’s best friend, a fellow track team star who has been overshadowed by Miki as of late. She also is interested in Akira and is likewise jealous that Miki is clearly number one (possibly number two if you include Ryo) in his heart.

So at the middle of all this stands Akira who is interested in only two things: 1) stopping the Devils from killing innocents and 2) keeping his friends and family safe while he does this.

So as Devils begin killing humans in larger and larger numbers, Akira must somehow battle the various characters’ jealousy alongside the literal Devils out for his blood.

Now while the plot is equally parts intriguing and complex, what people will be talking about when watching Crybaby is the visuals. The anime is directed by Masaaki Yuasa whose distinct artistic style has made anime like The Tatami Galaxy, Ping Pong, and Lu Over the Wall truly stand out among the vast majority of anime being released.

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Yuasa is known for making anime that has the classic, overexaggerated feel of early Tex Avery Looney Toon animation—especially when it comes to the more surreal elements of his anime. In Crybaby, these “cartoony” aspects are put front and center in scenes of graphic sexual and over-the-top ultraviolence.

Image Source: 『DEVILMAN crybaby』公式 on Twitter

In the nightclub scene where Akira becomes Devilman, for example, explicit sex and nudity are front and center as Akira trips on drugs among the flashing lights. This then turns to ultraviolence as several of the clubgoers merge with Devils and transform into eldritch horrors and feast on the rest.

Literally at one point, you watch a woman’s bare breasts stretch and warp as the nipples become enormous and erect before turning into mouths with razor sharp teeth that begin eating the screaming people around her.

Scenes like this create an odd juxtaposition of the classic “cartoony” art style against the incredibly adult imagery. If nothing else, it’s certainly unforgettable and makes Devilman: Crybaby look unlike anything else out there.

All in all, Devilman: Crybaby‘s first three episodes are simply great. It has layered characters, interesting thematic exploration, amazing action, and a visual style that makes it impossible to turn away from. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of Devilman or have read every manga and seen every anime adaptation that has come before. When Devilman: Crybaby hits Netflix next year, watch it.  

Image Source: 『DEVILMAN crybaby』公式 on Twitter

Devilman: Crybaby will air worldwide on Netflix in spring 2018.

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