The anime community is wide, varied, and growing all the time. Every couple of years a significant tentpole anime comes out that brings in a whole new crop of fans to the medium, whether simply to visit or make a more permanent stay within its bizarre and inviting lodgings.
And yet for as diverse as anime’s following may be as, you know, a medium, people are quick to resort to mob mentality and pretend as if the community can be divided evenly into two halves, or worse, that the “other” is so minuscule as to not even really be worth mentioning.
But if that were all that was needed to be said, I wouldn’t just be oversimplifying anime discourse. In all likelihood, I’d be oversimplifying humanity. No, anime is no stranger to controversy. Just as frequently as a new tentpole anime comes out to bring in new people, some shows kick all kinds of hornet nests.
[TRIGGER WARNING: The following post contains analysis of sexual assaults and other topics related to sexual violence depicted or hinted at in the shows that will be discussed.]
Before we begin, YES, Penguin Highway, directed by Hiroyasu Ishida, was released in Japan in 2018. However, seeing as how it was released in the US in 2019, I consider it a worthy candidate befitting of the accolade emblazoned on the title of this review. Plus I’ll use any excuse to talk about this lovely film.
Some of the most acclaimed and beloved anime films from Japan have had an inherent focus on youth and growing up. Most of the studio Ghibli films center around young boys and girls going on harrowing fantastical adventures that mature them, whether they be children or teens.
Often times the films of this nature are enveloped in that fantasy fully, never questioning the logic (and really, what’s the need?). But what happens when you set a similar type of story in a setting that is rather grounded yet slowly descends into fantasy? Furthermore, what happens when the protagonist explores said fantasy through the sheer power of science?
Not only do you get one of the most unique stories of its genre, but you also get the best-animated film of 2019
Devilman Crybaby wasn’t my favorite show. In fact, about a year after its release, I was surprised to find that I gave it a 6/10 on MyAnimeList.net. I must have been somewhat underwhelmed upon finishing it. After all, I wouldn’t call it a show with an incredibly satisfying ending. But it was an ending appropriate of the source material it was adapting.
Go Nagai’s Devilman taps into the darkest reaches of the human condition and juxtaposes it with the horrors of demonic monstrosities. The story tells of the end of days; the brutal end to an imperfect race consumed by sin, depravity, and hatred. Masaaki Yuasa’s vision of the story modernized the doom and gloom, creating a unique series with far more of an international appeal than many anime.
It had issues, to be sure. The abundance of Engrish lessened the impact of big narrative moments and certain characterizations paled in comparison to previous adaptations. The animation – while lively – could be laughable at times, teamed with some inconsistent artwork that I could take or leave. Despite all that though, I think I was too harsh on this series. I came to that conclusion when I reflected on one scene which has stuck with me to this day.