Anime Review: Devilman Crybaby

Anime Review: Devilman Crybaby

War, pollution, crime, climate change, general immorality–it sure seems like the world is going to Hell these days.  According to Ryo Asuka, a teen genius professor, it might be because an increasing number of humans are becoming possessed by demons.  He’s come up with a plan, though.  Ryo theorizes that by allowing oneself to be voluntarily possessed, a human of sufficient will can retain their human mind while gaining demonic powers.  And he has just the candidate in mind, his best friend, the wimpy but truly good-hearted Akira Fudo.

Devilman Crybaby

The plan involves infiltrating a “Sabbat”, a wild party where people engage in mind altering drugs, illicit sex and blasphemous dancing.  With a violent push by Ryo, the balance is tipped and demons begin possessing the partiers.  Akira is able to merge with the particularly powerful demon Amon, but retain his humanity.  He distinguishes himself from those fully taken over as not a demon, but a “Devilman.”  Now Ryo and his foster family the Makimuras (particularly his lovely foster sister Miki) become the target of demons bent on returning Amon to the fold or killing him.

This new Netflix animated series is based on the 1972 manga Devilman by Go Nagai.   Unlike the 1970s anime adaptation, which was considerably toned down for television (but still gave small children screaming nightmares), this horror show mostly follows the plot progression of the manga, including its legendarily apocalyptic ending.  It also takes advantage of not being for broadcast to go for a Mature Viewers audience, with nudity, sex, rape, gore aplenty, cruelty to animals and general nastiness.

It also does a good job of updating the setting for the current day.  A gang of delinquents in the Seventies style is replaced by rapper fans (at least one of whom is a skilled rapper himself), and social media plays a large part in certain events.  A weird touch is that some version of the Seventies cartoon exists in the backstory, causing people to dismiss reports of Devilman as other people watching too much anime.

The title refers to another change–in this version, Akira is empathetic to the point that he can sense other people’s sorrow, and cries in sympathy with them, even retaining this trait in his Devilman identity.  This makes it clearer that despite some personality changes, he’s still the same person.

Go Nagai intended the manga as a metaphor for how war destroys everything and twists human hearts.  And indeed, in many cases, the humans live down to the worst demons.  But there are exceptions, and even some characters who are initially unsympathetic show redeeming moments.

The art style and animation work very well for the type of story that’s being told, and there’s some stirring music.

Highly recommended for adults with strong stomachs and an interest in horror.

And here’s the trailer!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ww06yGPM7Kc

Book Review: Herblock at Large

Book Review: Herblock at Large by Herbert Block.

Herbert “Herblock” Block (1909-2001) was a multiple-Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist.  He’s most famous for his coverage of McCarthyism and Watergate, but kept working until just before his death.  This 1987 collection covers the early years of the Reagan administration.

Herblock at Large

As might be expected, these cartoons aren’t very kind to that administration.  From an Attorney General who was more concerned with “proving” pornography caused violence than with tracking down illegal arms shipments to America’s enemies, to the heavy influence of the Religious Right on the government, to the dubious Supreme Court nominations (the Senate finally balked at Robert Bork), there were a lot of things to criticize.

Iran-Contra gets a lot of play here, as does the fact that under Reagan’s “fiscally responsible” administration, the national deficit and debt both skyrocketed.  (A feat that would be repeated by his fiscally responsible Republican successors, while the fiscally irresponsible Democrats brought down those numbers.)  The rise of televangelists also came in for several cartoons, contrasting the prosperous preachers with the poverty-stricken viewers who donated to them.

Now, of course, we know that Ronald Reagan really was having memory problems at the time, early symptoms of his Alzheimer’s.  The cartoons about terrorists hijacking airplanes also take on a new connotation since that subject came to a head.

There are also text pieces by Herblock introducing the themed chapters, clarifying his views if the cartoons weren’t pointed enough.  One bit of information is helpful for those who did not live through those times–Mr. Block often drew the Secretary of Defense with a $640 toilet seat around his neck as that was one of the ludicrously expensive trivialities the military was spending tax money on instead of servicemembers’ salaries.

Copyright Herblock 1987
Copyright Herblock 1987

One subject where we have seen improvement is South Africa; back then apartheid and anti-equality violence were still the order of the day, with Reagan refusing to do anything that might make the white minority government feel the U.S. was unfriendly to them (what with them being anti-Communist and all, which was why we were allies with a lot of nasty regimes back then.)

This is perhaps not Herblock’s best work, but it’s still very good political cartooning, and a window into the issues facing America in the early 1980s.  Recommended for those who lived through the era and need a reminder, and those that want to know about the time before cell phones.

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