Fearfully, I saw the last screen adaptation of Go Nagai's Masterpiece...


8 July 2018

Before knowing my opinion on Devilman Crybaby, please answer to this question: have you read the original manga? If the answer is no, I immediately tell you that there’s no tv or cinema adaptation that does justice to Go Nagai’s masterpiece and reading the manga is actually essential and recommended to fully immerse yourself in the dark world of Devilman. After this necessary premise, let’s see what convinced me about DCB and what didn’t. From a narrative point of view I’m able to promote it: the story is largely aligned with Go Nagai one, it was adapted for the new millennium including digressions that do not clash at all, but rather offer some emotions more.

We are no longer in the 70s and the classic settings of the manga left space to social networks, to the compulsive use of smartphones, to GPS, to fake news and to the virtual world in which, loving it or not, we “live” today. For those who know the story it’s easy to see how this temporal update influences the social aspects of the story: discrimination, racism, rejection of who’s different, central themes of Go Nagai’s work are not only perfectly current in DCB, but proliferate and they are amplified in this new virtual dimension too.

A very good script’s adaptation in the end, but some reservations on the characters’ backround. Regarding this, the series starts and closes very well (Episodes 1-3 / 8-10), but loses something during the central part when demons as Silen, Jinmen, Agwel, Ghelmer, Kaim and Xenon are not fully presented and remain on a second floor, penalized by a sudden narrative acceleration. Maybe a couple of more episodes at this point would have done justice to such important characters and allowed to better explore the relationship between demons and men with their respective senses of justice and social affirmation: a small universe introduced, but not fully showed.

Same problem is present with on the time dedicated to science and ethics which in the manga represented a very important theme of the story, here all about that is too sacrificed with evident screenplay gaps whenever the story takes distance from the main characters and their stories.

That’s not good at all due, on the contrary, characters of Akira and Ryo are very well defined and some narrative space is finally given to the Makimura family and to Miki in particular who turns out to be a character completely rewritten, a bridge between “old” and “new” and an important connection point of story events. The new characters Miko and Koda are good too, absent in the manga, but here well inserted in the context, a choice that refreshes the opera a little and offers new narrative variations, even to those who already know the manga at every detail.

Passing over the central part, last episodes regain rhythm and tone, re-aligning with manga’s ones and remaining faithful to it as never did before: yes, because the first two (good) OAVs made between the 80s and 90s (“Devilman, Genesis” and “Devilman, Silen the Harpy“) did not lead us to the conclusion of the events and if we omit the unsuccessful “Amon, Dark Side of Devilman” which deviated (badly) on a (questionable) narrative line of its own, we did not have still seen on screen the last chapters of the work in their bloody brutality.

Luckily DCB has no cuts: all the manga punches in the stomach are there. Those who have criticized the excessive brevity of the events narrated in the end probably never read the original work, which as we know, is an absolute and very fast descent into hell.

Stylistically, DCB is light years away from the hand of Go Nagai. Not knowing Masaaki Yuasa, I approached the series in a unbiased manner and prepared to a tribute rather than a accurate transposition on screen and the tribute is there, visually successful and coherent (with itself) even it appears limited in action scenes and inadequate in the representation of demons, never really scary or disturbing.

Personally, I would preferred to find something closer to “Violence Jack: Evil Town” with a beautiful metal soundtrack, but DCB offers none of this and gives us more colorful, almost psychedelic visual emotions than the horror and visceral ones of the original manga. I can’t say that the new art direction has convinced me, but considering the excellent editing as a positive point you can pass over it.

We cannot forget the soundtrack too: well written and contextualized, it embraces different subgenres from electronics to symphony and emphasizes the nature of emotions without ever being too invasive. Three themes in particular leave their mark, sorrowful and epic at the same time.

At the end respectful adaptations like this are able to bring new generations closer to the masterpieces of the past because, despite the fact that almost 50 years have passed since the release of the manga, the opera is shocking actual: it’s incredible to see how Go Nagai and Japan were ahead in 1972.

My advice to discover (again) this timeless masterpiece is to immerse yourself in reading the original manga, to avoid the 70s TV series and to recover the first two OAVs “Devilman, Genesis” and “Devilman, Silen the Harpy”, keeping you away from the third bad episode “Amon, Dark Side of Devilman”. Once done, breathe deeply, dry your tears, take a break from the visual style of Master Nagai and give a chance to the new adaptation of Masaaki Yuasa because, despite all its flaws, it absolutely deserves.

SCORE 80/100