[Anime Horrors] The Madness of Manipulation in 'Devilman Crybaby' - Bloody Disgusting
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[Anime Horrors] The Madness of Manipulation in ‘Devilman Crybaby’

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Spoilers ahead.

One of the goals for Anime Horrors is to highlight anime shows and movies that bring out the best in horror through their themes, characters, and story.

Released last year exclusively to Netflix, Devilman Crybaby is directed by Masaaki Yuasa and written by Ichirō Ōkouchi. For those unaware, Devilman Crybaby is an adaptation based on the 1972 manga of Devilman. In this version of the show we follow Akira Fudo; one day his friend Ryo shows up, telling him that demons are trying to take over humankind. While attending a rave (where Ryo stabs a bunch of people and lots of demons show up), Akira becomes possessed by a demon and inherits its powers. Due to the nature of Akira’s heart being human, while now inhabiting the body of a demon, Akira considers himself a “Devilman.”

Upon its release, Devilman Crybaby received much praise; in particular, many critics pointed out the remarkable animation style. Whether through fight scenes or just watching how characters run, Devilman Crybaby’s visuals are fascinating. The artistic flare does a superb job bringing out the show’s vibrant and chaotic nature. Episode one alone (for all its violent and sexual imagery), is just a small taste of what’s to come.

In the first few episodes, Devilman Crybaby follows Akira as he fights demons; Ryo accompanies him, filming him during several confrontations. We also get to meet Akira’s friends; in particular, there’s a lot of attention towards Miki Makimura (who Akira happens to be living with). We get to see some moments of life between fights, and how different people interact with one another.

But it’s in episode six where Devilman Crybaby begins its descent into madness, beginning with media manipulation and ending in human extinction.

Pushing the story towards chaos is Ryo; in episode one, when Ryo and Akira are at the rave, the former takes out a video camera as the demons begin appearing. Ryo later tells Akira that he wants to collect proof of the demons, so humanity will know they exist. At first, however, Ryo goes to some hardcore lengths to make sure that proof of demon existence is hidden. At one point he confronts a person who happens to grab a video of Akira in his Devilman form; once Ryo confirms where all the copies of the video are, he kills the guy and even blows up his home (while the guy’s mom is still in there).

At the beginning of the show, we are made aware of Moyuru Koda, a high school track star who is extraordinarily fast; Ryo learns that the student is part demon and intends on revealing his true nature. Ryo plans on sharing his proof through a broadcast show he owns.

In episode six, at a triathlon in which Koda and Akira will be participating in, Ryo orders Akira to give Koda a drink that will trigger his demonic transformation; after confronting Koda, Akira ends up not giving him the drink. Later on, while Ryo is interviewing Koda for the former’s show, Ryo gives Koda the drink.

During the triathlon, Ryo wires the stadium footage to begin showing videos of demons attacking humans; this triggers Koda into transforming into a demon, running about the stadium and killing people. Koda is still somewhat aware of his actions at first, crying as he runs around. Akira tells Ryo to cut the footage, now that Koda’s secret identity has been revealed; however, moving forward, Ryo’s intentions begin to twist. Through Ryo’s manipulation, the horror of Devilman Crybaby begins to blossom.

The world enters a state of global panic now that the existence of demons is out; driving through the city, Akira takes in the widespread hysteria and violence as people are gunned down and act barbaric towards one another. When Akira sees Ryo on TV, the latter pushes for drastic action to take place. When the two of them speak in private, Ryo shares his disgust towards humanity, commenting on their violent nature towards one another and how they will destroy themselves.

As global conflict continues to arise (with America believing that the demons are bioweapons from Russia), Ryo presents the final push to send humanity into the deep end. On an emergency network channel, Ryo lies to the public, stating that demons originate out of anyone who is not happy with social norms; continuing, he also says that it is better to kill a human who is dissatisfied with the status quo before they could turn into a demon. Ryo then shares footage from the rave in episode one where he is attacking people, except his face has been edited to show Akira’s face instead. The video then shows Akira transforming into a Devilman; from there, the world enters a state of global genocide. In the last episode, we learn that Ryo is Satan and that subconsciously he was working on a plan for the demons to rise and destroy humanity.

In all his trickery, Ryo turns humanity against one another. Ryo plays into the people’s fears, establishing panic and twisting facts to influence others into thinking and acting how he wants them to. And while Ryo’s plan is grim, what makes Devilman Crybaby such a difficult show at times is the evil exhibited by regular human beings.

One of the more difficult episodes is when the public learns of Miki’s relation to Akira, and how she still cares for him; because of her affection, she is killed by a mob and chopped up into pieces. Watching as people dance with her body parts, it becomes painfully difficult to try and comprehend why people would want to hurt her for something so innocent as trying to be understanding.

While the full-blown fights of demons are fun to watch, it’s these elements of manipulation and savagery that allow the show to become heart-wrenching. Devilman Crybaby is one of those works of art where its violence cuts on an intimate level, leaving you with tears. While Ryo’s plan may be a key component to the narrative, the real horror is how his words stir the public into a frenzy of violence and nastiness. As the show comes to its conclusion, a sadness washes over the viewer; a dead Akira lies in the arms of Ryo, the latter weeping due to his friend’s death and a sense of loneliness.

For as amazing as Devilman Crybaby is, it’s also overwhelming; in all its existential and emotional elements, viewers will be in for one hell of a ride. If you somehow haven’t seen the show yet, I extremely encourage it. In the show’s depiction of barbaric cruelty, Devilman Crybaby ends up portraying horrific moments of heartache and madness.

Michael Pementel is a pop culture critic at Bloody Disgusting, primarily covering video games and anime. He writes about music for other publications, and is the creator of Bloody Disgusting's "Anime Horrors" column.


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