Dead Cells horror anime podcast – Devilman

Hi there, today on Dead Cells we will be talking about Devilman. Based on the 1972 manga, and nearly concurrent anime series that ran at the time, this is the first anime i’m covering that was spawned before I was. In a way. Instead of the original run, I’m going to talk about Devilman: The Birth, Devilman: Demon Bird and Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman. The three popular hour long animated films that made rounds during my first stint in college and were certainly many kids first introduction to violent anime. It wasn’t until 2006 that I watched the three OVAs that I’ll be talking about tonight. I’ve never watched the original run, and may someday, although given the choice, I’d rather check out the upcoming fourth installation or the original manga.

First some anime news, There is a new ‘Vampire Hunter D: Bloodust’ anime on the way from Discotek Media. We have been treated the past few weeks to some of the principal photography from the upcoming Corpse Party live action film, and right on queue, a new 3DS Corpse Party game trailer was released. The next installment of Tokyo Ghoul entitled Tokyo Ghoul: Jack has some stills online and I’m still lukewarm on that series – save of course the first season, which blew my tiny weird little mind. A new “Death Note” TV Drama will be hitting the airwaves overseas, while we get all excited for the live-action remake on this side of the big blue pond. Some of the titles I have seen popping up of interest this summer are ‘Ajin: Demi-Human’ which looks deliciously evil and ‘Ushio and Tora’, equally evil with an opening theme by ‘Kinniku Shojo Tai’ which is a band close enough to my wish that Maximum the Hormone compose all anime themes. Please and thank you.  So, Devilman. This one was suggested to me by Chris, the host of Bind Torture Kast, as Devilman: The Birth, the first of the three, was one of the stand out titles he’d come across likely around the same time I was neglecting to watch it. He’d recently subjected himself to Death Note so if you want to hear a little bit on that and whole lot on underground, indie and extreme horror, go find BTK on facebook, itunes and Stitcher.

DevilmanOriginally airing in 1987, this 51 minute anime condenses a portion of the original series. Produced by Go Nagai the manga creators studio Dynamic Productions,  which is responsible for hundreds of anime as Nagai is the man behind hundreds of manga.

The synopsis from MyAnimeList reads: “Akira is just another normal kid in modern-day Tokyo, until an old friend of his, Ryo, shows up and turns his world upside down. Akira learns that there is an upcoming war of demons on humanity and he has just been enlisted for a major tour of duty. But the only way to fight a demon is with their power, so Akira and Ryo risk a dangerous ceremony in an attempt to create humanity’s only hope: the powerful Devilman.” Thank you, internet.

Oh, Akira, what have you done. Before he was our not-so-secret weapon against awakened demonkind, he was an orphan who had a crush on his adopted sister who also had a crush on him. He took care of bunnies in his spare time, but was for some reason bullied by local thugs. Then Ryou, (rYO) whisks him away. Akira soon learns his friend’s father had gone a little insane, killed his dog, then committed suicide in the most terrible way. Ryoh thinks it has something to do with the massive ancient Devil mask in his father’s office. Could it be? Would it be?

Once it is placed on Akira’s head, he has visions of the demon world. Instead of the vast nothing of fire and brimstone I’m used to, we are greeted by sandworms, pterodactyl and naked fairies. Of course there are vagina plants, sword armed land sharks, tentacled tree nymphs, all sorts of insane creatures and of course they are all at one another’s throats. The demon realm is one weird, wild party. Kinda reminds me of a Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell. A very fitting and fairly graphic beginning that only leads to escalating violence.

It turns out the demons have been encased in ice, and since they were planning to invade us eventually, their rumblings help to wake these sleeping beasts. Ryoh blames a little of this on Dante’s Inferno and global warming, but just when I’m not buying it, they are attacked by some angry denizens of the underworld.

They fight back as best they can and escape, but it is made clear by Ryohs dead dad that the only way to fight back is to become one with the demons, and for that, they need someone pure of heart. Akira fits the bill. Ryoh had planned ahead and packed an underground club full of ravers to revel in illogical debauchery making it easier for the demons to take over their bodies. I guess all Akira is really armed with is a supposedly pure heart and the knowledge that he will be transformed. As the music blares, Ryoh starts cutting people up and starting a brawl to to generate blood and negative energy to attract demons, which it certainly does. transformations begin, and just like in the demons we have seen earlier there are so many types and just as many imaginative ways they attack.

This leads to Akira becoming possessed by Amon, a very powerful demon. Not moments from when the meek and reluctant Akira is heard saying “I hate violence and I despise blood!” his first transformation into Devilman takes hold. He believes that he has wrangled the heart and body of a demon, so starts a blood soaked rampage of destruction. Blood spatter, decapitations and demons torn limb from limb mark one of the earliest examples I can think of that spawned modern splatter anime. Every bit as much gore are you would find in Deadman Wonderland, Tokyo Ghoul, or that first scene in Elfen Lied, but borne of more feral hatred instead of revenge or survival instinct. It works very well as an origin story, and leaves open the possibility of delving deeper into the past of Akira and Amon respectively.

This is a vast and dark universe. Between the manga, the series, the spin off series Devilman Lady and the future installment, I figured I’d carry on with the just OVA series today. So, Next we have Devilman: Devil Bird’ from 1990 but I haven’t much to say on this installment as it is kind of all over the place. Each time I watch this one, I lose interest for some reason. By the time the final fight with Sirene, a bird like demon that is angered by the loss of Amon as her demonic gentleman friend, I’m just bored. Some of the deaths, specifically family members of Akira, are nice and gruesome, and they really feed the motivation for the next part of the series.

Which is finally, my pick of the bunch, ‘Amon: The Dark Side of Devilman’ or alternately ‘Amon: Apocalypse of Devilman’ from the year 2000. Ten years after the last installment came out, we get absolute brutality from the start. Devilman and demons are at war on the street and the terrorized populace of earth are are fighting back against demons that have been destroying them and Devilman alike. Right away we are greeted to subtle sexual violence and one of the most heartless and brutal attacks on a female devilman they had shown yet. There are new clips from the fight scene where Devilman was born in Devilman: The Birth, reminding us just how far he has come. It also serves to illustrate that if anything has changed in the years since the first one, it’s far more effective pacing. All the blood and insanity were there before, to be sure. But the storytelling in this one is exemplary.

Akira endures a bit of a crisis before facing Selos, leader of the Devil Army, in a glorious battle. The vast pools of red would make a vampire thirsty. I won’t describe it beyond beautiful red water so you can all revel in the artistry of these scenes as i did. Eventually, we get to see the demon that has been hiding inside our hero in all his underworldly glory. Amon himself is every bit the demon we want. cloven hooves, whip tailed, enormous and terrifying, he is the Satan of our nightmares, where in this anime, Satan when we see him, is actually pretty dreamy. Compared to the first one, you could say the violence and visceral insanity of this third part is over the top, but of course, in the progression of the story, it would only make sense that things have gotten just this bad.

Even the art is darker – while much cleaner and modern style, the palette is a lot less colourful than even Demon Bird. The score and incidental music is perfect as well. Dark, puncturing and atmospheric synth is a far cry from the orchestral jazzy stuff from the first one or the near hair metal rock themes of Demon Bird. While each of these are produced by the Go Nagai’s company, they are all co-produced with different studios, which explains the very different styles.  All in all, the differences in the style and production of each OVA reflect the progression of Akira from youth onward, from good to evil, and from weak to indestructible.

One of my favourite things in anime is the aftermath of destruction. planes and busses straight through buildings. The Amon and Selos fight starts out with some of the most striking ‘right through a building’ shot of it’s time. Where we have had Akiras humanity stripped away in previous episodes, this one really reminds us how human he still is. in fact they hide his transformation for the first half before we get a glimpse of the Devilman we know.

The end is everything I could have hoped, and is actually quite beautiful considering the amazing amount of violence we get to see directly beforehand. some of the imagery at the end should have the most devout Christian up in arms but hey, what did you expect from a series called Devilman? It seems that by description, the end here strikes a balance between the original manga, which is entirely devastating and nihilistic, and the original anime series which is much happier and ends in union of demon and human to a certain extent. This, however, leaves much to the imagination. If i were pressed to choose the most favourable and theatrical ending out of my research, this one seems to be the one I’d prefer.

Devilman: A Demon Awakens, will be coming 2015! There are versions of the Devilman OVAs on Youtube at the moment, but these staple entries into the library of horror anime should be readily available from better comic book shops and anywhere online you prefer to buy or stream.

Next, I’ll be taking a class with Highschool of the Dead, since I like the violence and haven’t hit a zombie anime yet. Be sure to check out the Fatherland to my kindercast, Dead Air podcast on splatterpictures.net. If you have something you want me to watch, let me know at nightface.ca or typicallydia on twitter, tumbler, and wherever you hang out online.