Online streaming powerhouse Netflix broke in the new year with a couple of landmark pieces. Most complementary to this community was the revival piece, Devilman Crybaby. The adaptation of Go Nagai’s 1972-73 anime was initially announced as one of a dozen unique pieces coming from Netflix. For those that missed the announcement late last year, Netflix expressed its dedication to the genre with 12 new series and an animated Godzilla film all coming between 2017 and 2018. The list includes:
• Cannon Busters
• Devilman Crybaby
• B: The Beginning
• Sword Gai: the Animation
• A.I.C.O. Incarnation
• Lost Song
• Rilakkuma Series
• Knights of the Zodiac: SAINT SEIYA
• Children of the Whales
Original pieces have become the backbone of Netflix’s streaming options. Options like Amazon Prime and Hulu have taken the value away from simply offering a wide range of others’ content. Self-promotion has been a point of contention for the cynical viewers. Home screens have become riddled with thumbnails hosting the Netflix in the upper corner. Though the connotation is less than stellar, California’s own has produced countless star productions.
Expectations are high for 2018 as expenditures continue to climb. It was rumored that Netflix would increase their spending for original content from a cool $6 billion to an even higher $8 billion. There are obvious concerns with the debt-heavy financial plans of recent years, but the near $12 billion in revenues from 2017 suggests the approach is paying off.
Netflix announced its initial plans for Devilman Crybaby last March, turning around remarkable quick production with the 10-episode premiere season launching on January 5th, 2018. The anime serves as a modern interpretation of Nagai’s version over four decades ago. Nagai began the idea of the Devilman manga as an adaptation of his own Demon Lord Dante series. Netflix took the opportunity and ran with it. Handing over control to director Masaaki Yuasa and writer Ichiro Okouchi, the series has been met with severely mixed reviews.
The show on its surface bodes well for an audience not heavily intertwined within the anime community. Simple artwork simplified in comparison to some recent releases helps ease the understanding of the story. Carried more so by language and plot than artistry allows the series to play back to the original manga more accurately. Okouchi took certain liberties that needed to be made for the new age of entertainment, but it is the artistry that was met with disdain by critics. Extreme violence and a litony of sexual scenes entrench some scenes into an overbearing aura for viewers. That said, the show offers an atmosphere that is nearly impossible to turn away from – for better or for worse.
It is important to note, though, that the seemingly indulgent mindset is not made in empty action. It is not oversight from a director uninvolved from the storyline. Pushing the audience to understand the furthest reaches of human nature and indulgences is vital to an understanding of leading roles Akira Fudo and Ryo Asuka. Many modern adaptations fail to capture the essence of the original manga, something Devilman Crybaby does very well (less the required changes).
Devilman Crybaby is hardly the first Netflix manga-interpretation to be met with mixed criticism in recent months. Death Note was among the most anticipated films in the Netflix selection after it was announced Warner Bros. had essentially handed over the rights. However, initial casting choices led audiences to call the live action project a “whitewashing” of a remarkably successful manga series. Some had tabled their frustrations long enough to actually see the movie but were again let down. Many felt the one-off production was a disservice to all characters’ development. Further Hollywood clichés and a misjudged relationship derailed a plot that was picked up elsewhere in Twinkletown.
What helps the newest series is that it offers a greater scope for its work. The polarizing tone set in imagery and language is more accepted when it is consistent across a season as opposed to a single film. Ten iterations of the message become simplified and more understandable even if the viewer feels it is out of their usual realm. Characters become more familiar with the increased exposure, and their flaws become more appreciated.
Anime fans should feel confident about Netflix’s future in the genre. The Americanization of Death Note and the intentional outlandishness of Devilman Crybaby serve as tools to reach a wider audience. Netflix picked up more of the Japanese art style as a counter to Disney’s buying out of Marvel and the Star Wars franchises. Netflix and Disney currently hold agreements for several films, but the Disney vault and a developing streaming platform mean that contract will not be in place long-term. While entertainment’s most recognizable name buys up the most prominent names, Netflix is building its foundation on successful stories needing a facelift or new platform for exposure. Yuasa discussed Netflix as a vehicle for future anime in an interview:
“It is easy to use, and I think it gets many people to watch it. So I expect that it will expand further…that is on a massive scale, to show something like Devilman Crybaby where many people will enjoy seeing at once. But for smaller works that might appeal to a smaller audience, this format may not work that well.”
His viewpoint is a widely accepted one. Death Note garnered a lot of anticipation because of its prior success and because Netflix spent a lot of money on its production. Devilman Crybaby worked in a similar function. Should the platform take on riskier bets at the moment, they likely would not see the returns they need. However, further development the anime genre on the streaming service will grow an excitable audience desiring those unfamiliar names.