Devilman Crybaby is one of those things a lot of people like.
I should like it, too, because it’s for grown-ups. I mean, it’s explicit in its explicitness, in its themes, in its text and its subtext. This is a show for grown-ups.
Now, I didn’t LIKE it. This is one of those places where words like “like” are inadequately one-dimensional. I’ve seen it and it’s not something I want to see again, even though I thought it was a powerful statement.
I’m old enough to remember the original Dangerous Liaisons, the one with Glenn Close and John Malkovich. Long story short, it was a brilliant movie about horrible people. I was glad to have seen it and never want to see it again. That’s how I felt about Devilman Crybaby.
The plot is pure tragedy, with everything and everyone you like swirling around and down like they are being flushed down a giant toilet. When you-know-who dies at the end of the next-to-last episode (don’t want to spoil it), I lost all interest, even though you could see it coming a mile away. That person was the last likable character; with them gone and the inevitable tragic end in sight, it felt like there was no point in watching.
The most interesting thing about Devilman Crybaby is that the Devilman Crybaby his own self, young Akira Fudo, leads us back to the old Ghost in the Shell question again, an exploration of where the line between humanity and inhumanity lies. The difference between Akira and characters like Alita and Mokoto Kusanagi, though, is that their inhumanity lies in the area of robotics, machine life instead of organic life. Instead of a robot Akira becomes a demon, but a demon with a human heart.
Akira Fuda his own self
It’s important to notice that while Akira is the main character, he’s not the protagonist. The protagonist drives the plot to completion. In that sense, the protagonist is our old buddy Satan. Satan is the one who sets up everything that happens and Satan who sets into motion what amounts to Earth’s final days. It’s not a nice story and there is no happy ending there.
Akira, with the powers of a demon or not, exerts no more than minimal influence on the death of humanity. He cannot save the people he loves. He cannot stop the headlong rush to extermination. He is powerful in himself, with those great muscles and physical ability, but powerless against the flow of history.
That’s why it’s important that, deep down inside, there is a human ghost in his demonic shell. He has more power than any human, but even with the power of a demon he struggles in vain. So what can he do?
He can cry.
He can cry because he has a human heart, and that makes him human so far as the creators are concerned. It means that, demon or not, he has human emotions like sorrow and despair, and as he watches the inevitable death of humanity, he feels sorrow and despair, and he shows them by the tears on his face.
Akira is a statement by the creators. He says, “I can see where we are heading, and it is sad.” He is helpless to stop it, and so he cries.
I don’t think he’s as profound a question as some of the other Ghost in the Shell archetypes. Rei Ayanami is deeeeeep. Mokoto is scary. I think only Alita functions at the same level, but her story is a happy one, The Quest to find out who she really is, as opposed to pure Tragedy. One would expect Akira to have a tension between good and evil to him, but any sense of evil in him is overwhelmed by the humanity in him. He’s sort of a simple answer to the Ghost in the Shell question: Of course it’s the ghost and not the shell.
But profound, or no, that’s where he belongs.
The Ghost in the Shell question – Where does humanity begin and end? – reminds me of an old quotation from Mark Twain: “Lies are more powerful than truth. Take one percent truth and ninety-nine percent lie, and you have a lie. Take ninety-nine percent truth and one percent lie and you still have a lie.” Except that when we’re looking at humanity/inhumanity, it seems to be backwards: Take ninety-nine percent robot or demon and one percent human, and we have a human being.
And when Akira looks at how the world of Devilman Crybaby is going, swirling around and around and down, because he is human he cries.
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.