By Makoto Hoshino / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer“Devilman,” a manga by Go Nagai, ran from 1972 through 1973, with an anime adaptation running almost simultaneously. This legendary work has now been given a contemporary twist and is currently streaming on Netflix.
“Devilman Crybaby” is directed by Masaaki Yuasa, an up-and-coming anime creator who has won international acclaim. He said there is meaning behind the revival of this classic work.
“The world was a bit dangerous when the original manga was made, which I think inspired Nagai-san to create the story,” the director said. “I think there’s a similar feeling today, maybe more so than before. I believe that’s why this work deserves another look.”
In “Devilman,” demons with the ability to inhabit human bodies have awakened in an attempt to regain supremacy over the world. A high school student named Akira Fudo has merged with a demon, albeit with his soul intact, and fights for humanity.
Both the manga and original anime share the same basic setting, but the anime revolved around a transforming superhero to cater to child viewers. The manga was a serious sci-fi horror with an epic and dystopian view of the world, where even the main characters are assigned cruel fates.
Yuasa was a high school student when his curiosity for horror led him to read the manga. He was shocked by the work.
In directing the new adaptation, “I’m trying to make something with a similar feeling,” he said.
Yuasa has used a contemporary setting while trying to retain the essence of the original. For example, the old-school gang of bad boys from the manga is now a band of hip-hop-loving youngsters. Social media takes on a major role as the world is gripped with paranoia about devils lurking among humans.
Yuasa’s reinterpretations are bold in each episode.
“Manga readers are willing to complement the manga [with their own imaginations],” the director said. On the other hand, there are differences with animation, because the images are constantly moving. “We have to complement the story through our own extra input,” he added.
When reading the original as a high school student, Yuasa found it difficult to understand the story’s meaning. “I’ve made the [latest anime] easier to understand for those who might be confused otherwise, like I was,” the director said.
Regarding the final scene, to which he is particularly attached, Yuasa said, “To make the story clear, I had it progress upward step by step.”
The new anime begins with a prologue by Ryo Asuka, the other protagonist alongside Akira. The director meticulously crafted this part with the ending in mind.
Visually, the characters look contemporary and stylish, but there are scenes of explicit violence and sex.
“Nagai-san went that far in his manga, which was carried in a manga magazine for boys,” Yuasa said. “I’m sure he would have wanted to do things in greater variety if he was drawing for a different medium.”
Yuasa decided to be bold in his production, as streaming services permit greater freedom of expression compared to conventional television channels that anyone can watch. Netflix has designated the anime an adult work, enabling parents to prevent children from watching it by changing the Netflix settings.
In 2017, Yuasa won best feature-length animation film awards at two international events. One was for “Yoake Tsugeru Lu no Uta” (Lu Over the Wall), at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France, and the other was for “Yoru wa Mijikashi Arukeyo Otome” (The Night is Short, Walk on Girl), at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in Canada.
“Devilman Crybaby” is his first work in 2018.