2018 was a big year for Devilman, if not The Year of Devilman, propelled by the success of adaptation Devilman Crybaby from the mind of Masaaki Yuasa. More people discussed my once-obscure (in the United States) favorite series than I can count, and I couldn’t get enough. Whether new to Devilman or an expert, favorable or scathing, I agreed or not, I had to know what people thought.
One of my New Years resolutions for 2019 is to leave direct comment more on articles and other online media I enjoy. Unfortunately I didn’t always comment on the posts about Devilman I read, so for now I’d like to show my appreciation by sharing some studies of Devilman (mostly Crybaby) that have stuck with me over the year.
Not a Hero’s Journey: Queer vs Normative Storytelling in Devilman by Iain Macnab-Stark on Women Write About Comics
Especially as the manga enters its later stages and the ever-increasing number of Devilmen are forced to hide that which makes them different or else retreat from ‘polite society’ altogether (a society which cannot tell them apart from the true monsters). For some this latter option isn’t so bad. I’m sure there are points in many of our childhoods when we wished we had an Akira Fudou to rock up in sleeveless leather and say: “You’re not a monster. You’re something amazing, and you’re not alone either. Come run wild with the demons.” Even as things get grimmer and grimmer, the sense of “camaraderie, at last!” among them is electrifying.
Technically not from this year, as it was posted on December 31st of 2017, but it sets the stage for the year of Devilman. Macnab-Stark picks up on the same themes as Yuasa did for Crybaby: dehumanization, oppression, queerness, solidarity. Demonization by society has always been part of this story about literal demons, and this article eloquently explains why it speaks to so many readers.
Symbolism and imagery don’t have to be obtuse. The previous shot is a very straightforward way of saying that this show is Yuasa’s attempt to cut to the heart of Devilman. In fact the show’s logo pops up just as we’re visually entering Devilman’s heart.
As these recommendations move into Crybaby, what better place to start than a breakdown of the opening sequence? Richmond Lee uses Crybaby as an example of how Yuasa foreshadows his shows within the opening, in this case with erotic, Christian, and emotional symbolism.
Snapdragons and Flower Language in Devilman Crybaby by Atelier Emily on For Me, In Full Bloom
In the moments where Miko loses herself the most, the snapdragons also transform to small skulls on stalks. Devilman Crybaby is not subtle, and uses snapdragons to express Miko’s dueling emotions — which can then be applied to humanity as a whole within the series. It’s important that Miko ultimately swallows her pride and confesses to Miki. After all of her focused obsession, self-hatred, and jealousy, Miko still finds it in her heart to express love.
Atelier Emily often analyzes floral imagery in anime, including Devilman Crybaby. This article looks at the dual nature of devilmen like Miki Kuroda and demons, symbolized by snapdragons and other flowers.
There’s no comfort to be found in the ideology of violence, in the hyper-masculinity that Devilman seems to display. It only breeds anger and distrust. War ruins us, and in many ways makes us into demons, but peace is always a possibility. It failed here, but that doesn’t mean it has to fail everywhere. It’s that opportunity for compassion which separates us from the demons. In the real world, we can easily fall into the depravity of Crybaby, but we can also stop before its too late.
In this video essay, Zeria offers an alternative interpretation to those who were crushed by the supposed nihilism of Crybaby‘s ending. She explores every avenue of good and evil in the story, in humans or not, to exhibit the complex picture of humankind painted by Yuasa.
Devilman Crybaby is All About Love, Baby by Lowart
In that vein of looking at Crybaby as an uplifting story, Lowart examines the theme of love this video essay. Crybaby is Ryo’s story according to Yuasa, so Lowart contrasts Ryo’s possessive and reluctant love of Akira with Miki’s open and empathetic love.
Tonight we’re breaking down the final shot of #DevilmanCrybaby by @Richmond_Lee
The moon has an inherently tragic romantic appeal to it. It is literally pieces of the earth that broke off during a traumatic clash. They drifted into space, but couldn’t quite break free and instead hang suspended, doomed to circle but never touch the earth.
Another Twitter thread by Richmond Lee, this time looking at how Crybaby uses the moon as a symbol. The moon represents Ryo’s suffering, from the moon taking shaping by God destroying the Earth he called home to how Akira will only orbit around him and his love. If my memory serves, Yuasa himself retweeted this thread on his personal account.
Anime is Lit: Ep 07 – DEVILMAN Crybaby by K and Danny on Anime is Lit
The Anime is Lit podcast takes a deep dive into Crybaby, from hosts refreshingly not as familiar with other versions of Devilman. The two-hour episode covers Crybaby as a Greek tragedy, similarities to Neon Genesis Evangelion, gender and sexuality, depiction of Christianity, and more.
DEVILMAN crybaby, legacies of queerness, and diversifying remakes by Vrai Kaiser on Anime Feminist
Crybaby takes care to show that the paranoia against its characters is a manufactured one, born of a terror that non-normative young people might topple society. And meanwhile Ryo himself has become the system, the old guard crushing down rebels just as God threw him out of heaven.
The Ryo of DEVILMAN crybaby is a monster because of his lack of compassion rather than his queerness. But even he is offered hope, as the realization that he loved Akira all along becomes a catalyst for change and rebirth.
In this article, Vrai details how Crybaby transforms its source material for modern day in ways other Go Nagai adaptations like Cutie Honey Universe or other queer-themed vintage manga like Banana Fish this year have not, from additional gay characters to characterization of Ryo.
Passing the Baton: An Exploration of Ryo in Devilman Crybaby by Grant on Yatta Tachi
He would do anything for Akira, and in the end, it is this very same obsession that kills Akira. Ryo cannot escape the cycle of samsara until he separates himself from desiring Akira over all things and instead embraces a unifying love of Akira and all things. Ryo has created walls, separated himself, and become engrossed with Akira alone; there is no chance to accept the wider joy of community and connectivity because of the intensity of his love of Akira.
Grant offers an excellent analysis of Ryo, one of if not the most divisive elements of Crybaby as an adaptation or standalone work. On top of that, rather than the Christian imagery used in the show, the article looks at how Buddhist cycles inform his character and the story at large.
Same-Gender Love and Xenophobia in Netflix’s Devilman Crybaby by Hibari Mizuno
This article from trans blogger Hibari Mizuno is in Japanese, but worth sharing. For an English summary of the article, see here. It covers devilmen as a metaphor for the oppressed, love symbolized in the baton pass, and ambiguity of gender. This article was also retweeted by Yuasa on Twitter.
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And lastly, if you missed it…
The Faustian Love Story of Devilman by Karleen on Coherent Cats
Akira must use the power granted to him through Ryo’s love as a weapon, but his deal with the Devil has its limits. Their armies perish, including Akira by Ryo’s hand. The tragedy lies not in that either of them fell in love with the wrong person or that their love caused the world to end (enough with the untrue “caused the apocalypse by being gay” jokes), but that war and prejudice pull apart the closest of bonds. Ryo asks Akira to forgive his foolishness, only to realize his death. Unlike with Faust, the Devil does not have the last laugh: only Ryo survives, finally realizing his mistake of resenting humans at the cost of the person he sought to protect. Lucifer, another name for the planet Venus (named after the Roman goddess of love), fittingly becomes a character defined by love.
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