We’re back with another Anime Pocket Reviews! It’s amazing how much more TV you watch when in lockdown…
In this episode, we have a Netflix original special! Later on, we look at one of the platform’s first-ever anime series. Before that, though, we take a look at a series by one of the most respected anime creators going:
(2018, S1, 10x25mins) Action, Horror
Based on the 1970’s manga Devilman, the story follows the kind-hearted student Akira (right) and Ryou (left), his estranged childhood friend and now a successful professor. Ryou has been cataloguing the increasingly common phenomenon of demons, who control the bodies of sinful humans, turning them into grotesque monsters. He enlists Akira’s help, believing that with his strong moral compass, he may be able to control the power of demons and use it to fight back against the growing enemy. Ryou is successful, merging Akira with the demon Amon. However, demons continue to swarm, and the fire in Akira’s heart starts to come into conflict with the cold-hearted approach of his childhood friend to a crisis that threatens to destroy the world.
Basically Plot: Under the guidance of friend and demon professor Ryou, well-mannered high-schooler Akira is merged with a demon, giving him immense power and a huge internal conflict.
This is another excellent series produced by the incredibly successful Science Saru, who also made the Tatami Galaxy movie Walk On Girl and, more recently, the incredibly successful Eizouken. While these shows and the studio’s monkey mascot evoke feelings of happiness and the joys of youth, Devilman almost perfectly mirrors that ethos. This is perhaps the hidden majesty that makes Devilman one of the most complete 12-episode series we’ve ever seen.
Devilman Crybaby keeps the iconic animation style seen in director Yuasa’s The Tatami Galaxy; there’s a lack of physical depth to the characters and a paleness to their skin that allows this world to beautifully tread between reality and psychedelic fantasy. The animation gives birth to a story that is as much told through the expressionist visuals as it is through words or plot.
“When it needs to, this show doesn’t pull it’s punches!”
However, it’s one thing producing the tools to make a great fantasy story and another actually using them to bring it to life. Devilman’s story is incredibly well told, dancing with subtleties for much of the series, letting the strength of the visuals deliver necessary impacts. This is a show that, for the most part, never sinks too deep into the world of horror.
However, it also never gives the impression that this is going to be a happy story. As the stakes are raised, the mood slowly slides before concluding episodes that will stay forever in the memory of anyone who watches. When it needs to, this show doesn’t pull its punches!
There are some points in the middle of the series where the show does begin to lag, but in most cases, the quality of the animation is enough to pull it through. Knowing that these are the same people that produced shows like Eizouken and Tatami makes this extra sweet but regardless, the is a show with stunningly-creative animation, strong characters and a killer storyline.
As we said at the start, it’s pretty much the complete package – there are few 10-episode series that give as strong a sense of satisfaction as Devilman Crybaby.
ANIME RANKING: #23 – A great score for such a short series, placing it alongside Tokyo Ghoul and just behind The Tatami Galaxy!
If you liked this, you’ll love: Tokyo Ghoul (#24) – While not as complete a series as Devilman Crybaby, TG is another dark fantasy series that sees its main character stuck between two worlds. While it doesn’t deliver the same fluid animation quality, the visuals in TG are still satisfying while its world is much more fleshed-out than the plot-driven story seen in Devilman.
The Seven Deadly Sins
(2014, S1, 24x24mins) Fantasy, Action
Set in the mythical middle ages, the story takes place in the region of Brittania, where Holy Knights wield magic powers to protect warring kingdoms. In the Liones Kingdom, an infamous group of Holy Knights known as the Seven Deadly Sins are said to have attempted to overthrow the kingdom and now live as criminals in exile. However, a growing threat from inside the kingdom motivates young Princess Elizabeth (centre-left) to flee the kingdom in search of these famously-powerful Knights. When she encounters trouble on her journey, the group’s former leader, Meliodas (centre-front), comes to her rescue. With the Seven Deadly Sins now disbanded, Meliodas agrees to help her find the others and save the Kingdom from the outside.
Basically Plot: When growing unrest threatens to overthrow the Liones Kingdom, a young princess sets off in search of a legendary group of rebellious Knights known as the Seven Deadly Sins.
One of the first-ever Netflix original anime when it was released way back in 2014, The Seven Deadly Sins remains a fantastic example of the fantasy anime. From the first moment, the full power and colour of this world brimming with magic is presented with a remarkable scale that is seldom seen outside of Japanese animation. As the story develops, it begins to tease the existence of political drama wider than is being shown, but for the most part, the story remains linear and easy to get behind, while also allowing room for character development.
As a whole package, the story in The Seven Deadly Sins is fantastic, a textbook example of how to keep an audience engaged with a blend of comedy, action and drama. The story is then brought to life with incredibly-energetic animation and colours that pop off the screen with a vividness that I can’t remember being matched. The childish nature of some of this show’s visuals does take away from the story at times but adds much more to the show purely in terms of how it breathes life into the vast world.
“The question of female sexuality in Japanese animation is a deep one…”
As an action-adventure, The Seven Deadly Sins is almost the perfect product. However, it does have a pretty substantial and somewhat surprising flaw. The character designs in this show are just as bright and eccentric as the visuals. However, many of the characters do feel one-dimensional. Furthermore, there is a constant undercurrent of sexism that is hard to look past. The two main female characters are most recognisable for their revealing clothing and ditzy behaviour when around the main male character, who sexually gropes the princess without repercussions almost every episode.
The question of female sexuality in Japanese animation is a deep one that would take too long to go into here. In most cases, it’s something infrequent that you manage to shrug off as a difference in cultures or as a fantastical emphasis on an otherwise ordinary point. However, there’s something about its unashamed nature in this anime that leaves a bad taste.
As a whole package, The Seven Deadly Sins is a bright fantasy adventurer with a strong story and characters that keeps your interest from beginning to end. Its sexualisation is an issue that shouldn’t simply be overlooked, but at the same time, there is a great world here that deserves immense credit.
ANIME RANKING: #29 – Another good score for a series that does the basics exceptionally well! It sits in our ranking alongside series such as Dr. Stone and Darling in the Franxx.
If you liked this, you’ll love: Akame Ga Kill (#15) – Two fantasy action series almost cut from the same cloth! Equally bright and character-full, Akame stars a seemingly powerless boy who becomes part of a rebel group of assassins aiming to overthrow a corrupt kingdom. With a slightly more mature edge, Akame doesn’t have the sharp visuals seen here, but does deliver an exciting adventure full of exciting powers and political intrigue.
Subscribe to The Culture Cove for regular anime reviews and recommendations! Keep an eye out for episode 69, including fantasy classic Madoka Magica!