WWE Slam Crate September 2018 Unboxing / Review

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Alrighty folks! It’s once again time to take a trip down to the mailbox and get all that wrestling goodness that I get each quarter! Today, we’ll be looking at yet another edition of WWE Slam Crate, and this one was largely on time after The last few Loot Crate boxes have not been so lucky. After ranting a bit last time, I’ll keep this short and sweet and jumped to the point.

If you’d like to see more reviews of the various subscription boxes I get, please head right on over HERE and check out the spoilers.

The theme this time was:

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They’re big, they’re bad, and they don’t mind letting you know it. Bow down to the supreme Superstars who think they are BETTER THAN YOU! Celebrate the big egos of the WWE Universe with items featuring Alexa Bliss, Elias, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and The Miz!


Spoiler Card / Alexa Bliss Interview

This time the large pull-out includes your standard spoiler card and a large magazine style article with multi-time WWE Women’s Champ Alex Bliss.


Elias T shirt

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Elias has one of those characters that really doesn’t have to do much to infuriate the crowd, this undoubtedly always cracks me up a lot so this shirt will be a proud addition to my shirt rotation despite it being a “wrestler’s face on a shirt” styled shirt that I don’t like as much as simpler ones.


WWE Slam Stars Alexa Bliss Figure

I always talk about how much I enjoy exclusive merch like these Slam Star figures, and I’m really glad that you really can’t get these anywhere else.


Miz Embroidered Patch

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I have a vest that I wear to metal concerts, but have amassed a decent amount of wrestling patches to a degree that I might have to make a “wrestling vest” one of these days. Maybe I’ll start a new trend at wrestling shows, who knows.


Bret Hart Vs Shawn Michaels Pillow

To commemorate one of the most notorious feuds in all of wrestling history, Slam Crate tossed a small decorative pillow in this box. I’ll hand it to Loot Crate, they always keep me guessing as to what goodies come in here, and it’s usually a pretty diverse assortment from month to month.


WWE Women’s Championship Pin

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My biggest gripe with this is that there are apparently two randomly inserted pins this month. I know that this will eventually mean they will both be available on Loot Vault, Loot Crate’s online store, at some point. I just wish they weren’t at the point of going for a cash-grab on these for people like myself that try to collect stuff like this. Hopefully, this isn’t a new normal for this. Otherwse solid pin, and a great addition to the collection.

 


 

The Verdict:

This crate is hard to review as it’s pretty diverse from other crates, as mentioned earlier, but doesn’t really have a great stand-out item. To be honest, The previous crate was a bit better. That doesn’t mean this was bad, and believe me, I’ve had some bad crates from this company in the past – most notably from the anime line that I briefly dabbled in. It was just sort of there. I guess if I’d have to choose, I’d say I like the Elias shirt the most.


For Next time: A spoiler –

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Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (2015) OVA Ep 3

cyborg009 vs devilman

If you missed my recap/review of ep 1 – check here

If you missed my recap/review of ep 2 – check here

So here we go, the finale episode and crushing climax of Cyborg 009 vs Devilman, and what a finale it is! For the most part this episode is very battle-filled including a battle bewteen 009 and Lilith, The good cyborg team vs the bad cyborg team, Devilman Vs Atun, and more – it’s like Dragonball Z levels of battling here.

I mentioned Atun, which is basically the “final boss” of this show. Created by the nefarious Dr. Adams – a Black Ghost scientist, Atun is the ultimate in demon creation – taking the power of a cybernetic body and infusing it with a demon possession – basically combining the powers of both Devilman and 009 all in one convenient package.

cyborg 009 vs devilman atun

In the demon’s past, Atun knew of, and was a contemorary of the demon Amon (Devilman’s demon side). However, never able to prove himself stronger, Atun bore a grudge against Amon. Many years after the demons reappeared on Earth, Atun came into contact with Dr. Adams who was trying to create more and more powerful cyborgs after the failure of the Mythos line of cyborgs. With the Cyborg Daemon project, Atun could grow more powerful than before, hopefully being able to best his rival and perhaps gain even more power.

so of course Atun gets his comeuppance and all is right in the world leaving the characters to once again part ways. Looking back on the interactions between characters, I really wish they worked together a bit more since they sort of acted independently until the absolute end of the series, but there’s always hope for another season at some point, especially seeing that we are graced with not one, but two stingers for a continued story.

cyborg 009 vs devilman lilith

I haven’t really mentioned at all here the quality of the English dub, which is pretty good. considering this was a Netflix exclusive they got the likes of Johnny Yong Bosch as 009, Wendee Lee as Lilith and Spike Spencer as 002. The rest of the cast is pretty familiar, but it’s been a while since I’ve kept up with anime dub studio stuff, so some of the names are ones I’m not super familiar with. As many of you know I actually don’t mind subs or dubs in many situations, but prefer dubs if I have a choice since I sometimes like to multitask while I watch movies and TV. This isn’t like the best of the best or anything, but it’s good and sounds good.

  • Akira Fudo/Devilman: Bryce Papenbrook
  • Joe Shimamura/009: Johnny Yong Bosch
  • Ivan Whisky/001: Christine Marie Cabanos
  • Jet Link/002: Spike Spencer
  • Francoise Arnoul/003: Stephanie Sheh
  • Albert Heinrich/004: Michael Sinterniklaas
  • Geronimo Junior/005: Keith Silverstein
  • Chang Changku/006: Joe Ochman
  • Great Britain/007: Tony Azzolino
  • Pyunma/008: Steve Staley
  • Dr. Isaac Gilmore: Dave Mallow
  • Miki Makimura: Cristina Valenzuela
  • Ryo Asuka: Chris Smith
  • Edward/0014: Kyle McCarley
  • Eva/0015: Lindsay Torrance
  • Abel/0017: Dorothy Elias-Fahn
  • Seth/0018: Griffin Burns
  • Dr. Adams: Michael McConnohie
  • Lilith: Wendee Lee
  • Apollo: Doug Erholtz
  • Helena: Christine Marie Cabanos
  • Jinmen: Jamieson Price
  • Sacchan: Erin Fitzgerald

 

cyborg 009 vs devilman seth atun

So was it perfect? always coherent? a masterpiece? the answer to all three of these are a resounding no, but it is VERY fun, entertaining, and exciting enough to spend a few hours with on Netflix especially if you just finished Devilman Crybaby and want to quench your thirst for that character yet again. I’m happy that both franchises are represented so well, seen as equal and complimenting each other – and I’m glad this lead to even more anime in BOTH franchises.

Netflix has again and again proven itself to be one of my more favorite anime licencors as of late due to their risk-taking and choice of shows that would have been deemed a stupid idea to bring over in the past. Funding all sorts of cult-classic stuff like Devilman and Cyborg 009 and somehow making them very popular franchises after years of being dormant shows it’s power in the TV industry. Now I really wish they’d get behind some other classic stuff like Harlock or Gundam, that would be awesome!

Definitely, check this out!

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Click HERE to see what you missed!

Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (2015) OVA Ep 2

If you missed my recap/review of ep 1 – check here

While the last episode of this three part OVA basically introduced us to the characters of both the Devilman and Cyborg 009 franchises, eventually pushing the two groups into battle, this episode is a sort of “breather” that steps back and introduces the villains of the adventure as well as setting a plausible way for everyone to eventually team up. When we last left our various groups of heroes, both Team Devilman and Team Cyborg mistook each other for their opposing groups (Demons or the Black Ghost organization). A fierce battle was had, and both characters got beat up pretty bad – Devilman getting what would normally be a mortal wound on his arm, and 009 having to jettison his arm because it nearly blew him up after a fierce attack.

So, technically the duel between 009 and Devilman ends in stalemate since both of them lost consciousness. Ryo swoops in to grab Akira’s body and bring him home, while 009 and 003 are rescued by the cyborg airship. Back in his home, Ryo searches information about Black Ghost organization after 003 previously asked whether Ryo and Akira are affiliated to Black Ghost. Meanwhile, 002, 004, and 008 stumble into the den of a new group of Black Ghost operatives – new cyborgs two generations newer than the original 00 series cyborgs – an evil plan involving cyborg demon/hybrids is unveiled and the scene is set for the thrilling climax.

Another major villain appears in this episode from the world of Devilman, but she is actually an entirely new creation made for this OVA – Lilith. When we first saw her, she was devouring a bunch of high school delinquents, now she appears in her full snakey-flower form. Her main ability seems to be something similar to that of a siren from Greek Mythology – she can use hallucinogenic pollen to alter reality around people making them see things that make them happy. Since most of the cyborgs suffered losses of major loved ones prior to being experimented on by Black Ghost, most of them were put face to face with former lovers, parents, and even children.

Lilith is such a cool character because she seems to basically be very much in-line with something Go Nagai would have created for Devilman. Apparently the people involved with this production went to great lengths to use characters inspired by other Nagai and Ishinomori works as Easter eggs for fans. I enjoy this a lot as it reminds me of how many works related to Leiji Matsumoto are handled today – while he usually gets top billing, other directors are usually adapting much older works and flesh them out using his art style to mimic the way he did things.

As I stated before, the animation in this is really good, albeit not too flashy. It preserves both of the art styles of the two franchises without creating a bizarre rift like some of these crossovers often do – imagine Family Guy and Simpsons meeting for example. Perhaps my only issue for this is the pacing as it rushes its way through the plot like many cross-overs do.

Characters are often seen doing incredibly convenient things like finding out the entire history of a clandestine scientific weapons manufacturer on the internet on order to plot along. Granted, going to much into the whys and hows of how this all fits together would be a waste of time and annoying, so leaving this sort of “fluffy” retains the special nature of this series.

What I really wish we had available in the US is the manga and light novels that were also produced for this, because they apparently flesh things out a bit and add to the story in the very same way that I would enjoy. Maybe I need to start searching fan translation sites if those are still a thing…

All-in-all another solid and fun episode, all leading up to what is shaping up to be an awesome final battle.

Click HERE to see what you missed!

Devilman: The Birth (1987)

Today we have a change of pace for Devilman Month, as I am reviewing a pretty bad film – one that I originally watched back in the VHS days and haven’t seen since. I’ve seen far worse anime, stuff so crudely constructed that one is often confused within mere moments of gazing at it on screen. In my “Hall of Shame” I have a collection of Hong Kong “bootleg” anime that I need to review on here one of these days that was literally cobbled together from stolen anime cels from a dumpster, but this is somehow almost as bad. It’s not an ineptly made product, it just is the perfect lightning storm of bad decisions all rolled into one complete misfire.

I remember being sort of lukewarm about it back then, but now I can honestly say it’s a true classic, but not for a good reason.

Akira is just another normal kid in modern-day Tokyo, until an old friend of his, Ryo, shows up and turns his world upside down. Akira learns that there is an upcoming war of demons on humanity and he has just been enlisted for a major tour of duty. But the only way to fight a demon is with their power, so Akira and Ryo risk a dangerous ceremony in an attempt to create humanity’s only hope: the powerful Devilman.

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The most notable thing about this somewhat forgetable first OVA (especially to Youtube) is the notoriously bad English dub, which is how most westerners became familiar with the franchise. One can immediately tell that the production must have been done by inexperienced and/or cheap voice actors – lines are delivered in an almost elementary school play quality with weird inflections and lingering pauses for no explicable reason. I’ve read a bit of the original manga at this point, and there are whole sections here drawn from the books in which something really intense and dark happens, but that same material falls hilariously flat in this due to the voice acting – the infamous “WHYYYYYY GOOOOD” scene comes to mind immediately. I guess part of this can be chalked up to this being a UK production with most actors trying to suppress accents, but boy is it awkward.

But don’t worry folks! What the films lacks in actual acting ability and good writing, it sure makes up for it in the foul language department! Just like most late 80’s and early 90’s anime releases, this film has the same amount of curse words as your typical Tarantino film for no other reason than to make it seem cool. After the success of Akira, most anime was marketed to the west as an in your face, edgy new type of entertainment that only badass guys in leather jackets watched. How can you tell it’s for badasses? You gotta say the F bomb at least once a minute.

Here’s a 90’s commercial telling you like it is about anime:

Those commercials used to be on all the time on The Science Fiction Channel back when they would randomly play things like Vampire Hunter D on weekends.

Don’t believe me about the dub, check this nonsense out:

(warning NSFW)

Can I really recommend this as a good introduction to the world of Devilman? Absolutely not – watch Crybaby. Is it hilarious in an almost MST3K way? very much so! In fact, if I wasn’t watching this in English I bet I wouldn’t be half as entertained as I am now, as the actual film isn’t very well made. Yeah, it has it’s fair share of some solid “better than TV” animation and interesting synth music for the soundtrack, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s paced oddly, with sections of the film overstaying their welcome and other making little to no sense without having a passing knowledge of the characters.

Since I’m a glutton for punishment, and a connoisseur of bad films, I’ll be watching the second OVA next which is represented a bit in the above video, and it seems just as amazing.

Click HERE to see what you missed!

Cyborg 009 VS Devilman (2015) OVA Ep 1

Around the time I had just started college, I fell in love with an anime on Toonami Midnight Run called Cyborg 009. At the time, I was oblivious to the age of the property or that it was held in the same regard in japan as something like The X-men, but I loved it. It had a great soundtrack, awesome retro art-style, and felt different than most anime on at the time. Then, Sony refused to do anything with the licence, released a single DVD and that was that – I never got to finish the show. It was not until 2015 when Netflix randomly tossed this cross-over anime onto it’s streaming service that I saw some new content with the characters. And as a bonus, I got Devilman, which at the time I had only ever seen the older film, so that was a bonus!

NOTE: Discotek is going to re-release the show soon…YAAY!

I know cross-over stuff like this is usually silly, and makes almost no sense most of the time, as a huge fanboy I absolutely love it. Even when Star Trek crosses over with stuff like Transformers or Planet of the Apes, I’m 100% on-board. Apparently, this cross-over is not as random as some might believe as before Go Nagai became the author of Devilman, he worked as an assistant to Shotaro Ishinomori, drawing backgrounds for the Cyborg 009 manga. It was reported in Sankei Sports that he wished to do a collaboration with Ishinomori. Sadly, Ishinomori has long since died, but this crossover lives on.

cybirg vs devilman jinmen

Our story here starts on some sort of active volcano with a ancient Greece theme, Cyborg 009 and his comrades are battling the Mythos Cyborgs which appears to be ripping the whole area apart Frieza Vs Goku style. Now that I’ve seen this short snippet of the battle with Apollyon, I really want to see these guys in action more. I’m aware they are crazy cyborgs that believe that their mission is to destroy Earth so they may end war and rebuild the world with themselves as the ruling Gods, but I’ve never seen those episodes, so this was awesome.

Simultaneously in Japan, Devilman kills Jinmen after he eats Akira’s longtime childhood friend  Sachiko. This scene is terrifying and honestly the best version of the battle with Jinmen I’ve seen. The art is this stark black and white style with only red peering through the monochrome field similar to how a manga page would look. This was gorgeous and I honestly wish there were more scenes like this.

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Next thing you know, Demons start popping up everywhere which draws the characters from both franchises together in order to fight the shared threat. well let me back up in this episode they are very much fighting each-other since they see the other as a demon that needs to be vanquished. For the brief time we see 009 and Devilman actually fight, we are shown that they are fairly evenly maatched with Devilman getting the slight edge.

Wile this episode basically just sets everything up, you really do get a sense of where the show is going and how plausibly both universes fit together.

 

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I mentioned a bit tat I enjoyed the art direction behind the short Devilman segment at the beginning of the show; this extends to just about everything else as well. In particular, I love the look of the cyborgs in this show, as many modern interpretations seem to be obsessed with downplaying the art style of a few of the characters. Granted Pyunma, or Cyborg 008, is basically a racist architecture of a black man in his earliest versions, changing the rest of the characters to look “more modern” is always annoying to me. I especially like that both Chang Changku (006) and Jet Link (002) have the zany body proportions that they should have like Jet’s huge nose and crazy hair.

Great start to this show, here’s hoping this momentum can be kept up for the next episodes. Watching this also makes me want to look over what Cyborg 009 stuff I can find and have a marathon.

 

Click HERE to see what you missed!

Devilman G: Grimoire Vol 1 (2012)

While Netflix audiences were shocked in 2018 to find a brand-new, shiny Devilman Reboot on their TV, it’s far from the first time that the nearly 50 year old franchise has been repackaged. Today, we will be looking at the first volume of a manga series called Devilman G: Grimoire to see where it stands.

“IT TAKES A DEVIL TO KILL A DEVIL!

When Miki attempts to summon a demon on the roof of her high school, things don’t go quite as planned. Not only does she instigate a vicious massacre, but her friend Akira gets possessed by the legendary demon Amon the Uneater, who annihilates his own kind. As Tokyo’s streets grow bloodier by the day–thanks to invaders from Hell–a demonic demon slayer might be the city’s only hope for salvation.

A modern, ultra-violent spin on the devilish classic by Go Nagai!”

One thing that immediately jumps out at you is that this manga is not a faithful translation of previous versions of the story. For all intents and purposes, this is a sort of an alternative universe using some of the same characters – sort of like the Marvel Ultimate Universe from around a decade ago. In many ways this is refreshing, as it doesn’t seem as dated as something as old as Devilman is can seem, although it also falls victim to a lot of the tropes of manga from 2012 that I was not a fan of – namely the juxtaposition of seemingly juvenile dialog and characters in a manga full f intense gore that was definitely NOT meant for kids.

But before I get into that, I wanted to talk about some stuff I did like. I absolutely loved the idea that the whole concept of the show has origins with the Demon wrangling of Good old King Solomon who is said to have built an enormous temple by enslaving hundreds of demons using a relic called the Ring of Solomon (emblazoned with the seal of Solomon of course). I have yet to read the original manga (yet, as it just got released in English), so I assume this is a new addition. It’s cool to see something like this reference The Ars Goetia as it seems like the concept would go hand-in-hand with something like this, much like how it does when referenced by Shin Megaami Tensei games.

Another thing is that the other characters have been far more fleshed out. Miki, for instance, has been given a lot more to her character than simply being a love interest that eventually gets killed in order to move the story along. She might still end up getting killed for all I know, but I hope that after a complete overhaul, this manga avoids the “fridging” trope that characters like this and Gwen Staacy can never seem to escape. Although, by having Miki 100% tied to the creation of Devilman instead of being somewhat unaware of his connection to Akira – the relationship between the characters has been altered.

By doing this, the series sort of removes the “Doctor Jekyll / Mr. Hyde” secret identity thing from the story-line and instead goes towards a vibe that reminded me of shows like Cardcaptor Sakura or even Parasyte – where a super being is directed by somebody else to fight stuff – this time a novice magic user of sorts.

I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t a fan of some of the dialog in this comic, and a lot of that is because the tone of the writing seems to completely be at odds with the content of the comic. Some of the characters, especially MIki, have this anime trope “DO YOUR BEST!” mentality that I suppose exists in Japan, but comes across really fake and like something you would see in Sailor Moon. Right after this, somebody would get disemboweled in grave detail in such a way that you are both shocked and repulsed. Rui Takato seems particularly obsessed with showing intestines falling out of corpses and female nudity, so be ready for that.

Had this been either a straight superhero comic or a straight horror comic, I think the two sides would have fit better, but there are more volumes ahead so hopefully it falls into place eventually. In saying this, I do like shows like Kill la KIll from Studio Trigger that are vaguely similar in nature to this, so perhaps seeing this in motion would have sharpened the whole thing up for me. Otherwise, who knows, the translation could be wonky to meet demands of comics from that time period.

All-in-all this is a competent comic, but it’s not great….yet. I can see myself warming up to this as it goes, and assume that if I wasn’t already familiar with the franchise, I would enjoy it more. I enjoyed the world building and nods to the classic comics and shows, but wasn’t a huge fan of the dialogue and “tropey” way in which the comic moves.

One thing I forgot to mention is that I absolutely LOVE the retro art-style. While it’s not exactly a 1970’s style, and is different than Go Nagai, it still feels nostalgic and “old school” which is the style I prefer.

Stay tuned for more Devilman goodies this month as it DEVILMAN MONTH on Arcadia Pod!

Devilman-september

Click HERE to see what you missed!

Joey Ryan: Big in Japan (2017)

Another Day, another foray into my stack of wrestling comics I’ve obtained in the past few years but woefully neglected to read for some reason. In the past, and especially in the days when I was a really heavy comic reader, I never really got into wrestling comics simply because they would usually take things far too seriously or end up like the infamous Ultimate Warrior comic book where he ….emmm….does something to Santa Claus. Nowadays, it seems like wrestling comics are thankfully way more fun, much like today’s topic.

Today, we’ll be looking at a comic that came from one of my boxes from Pro Wrestling crate, although I think it was originally produced by Chido comics as a follow up to their successful line of Lucha Underground comics via Kickstarter. You might remember Chido comics was also the company behind the Rey Mysterio comic I’ve done on here in the past.

For those completely unfamiliar with the rise of Joey Ryan’s unique brand of comedy wrestling, I’ll try my best to fill you in a bit. Ryan has had something of a sleazy 70’s pornstar gimmick for a while – he comes to the ring rubbing oil allover his hairy chest while sucking on a lollipop in a suggestive way showing that in his mind at least – he’s a sexy guy that all of the women in the crowd all going to swoon over. But since he’s actually presented like the anti-Rick Rude, it’s mostly people cringing at how creepy he can be.

A few years back, a short clip surfaced online of Ryan using his penis (not really, wrestling’s silly) to flip someone over after they attempted to harm his downstairs neighbor. This, of course, went incredibly viral due to the silliness and absurdity of the “move” and basically changed Ryan’s entire career. Now, he’s managed to even land a sponsorship from a popular online porn company.

Here’s the move in action:

In this post-Kayfabe world of pro wrestling, where despite heckling by diehard MMA guys (You know it’s fake right brah!) – everyone knows exactly what wrestling is, and a gimmick such as this can flourish. In fact, lately it seems like wrestling things that go viral are almost always something intentionally ridiculous, and make somebody what I assume is a pretty good living. they might even get popular enough to appear on National TV wrestling brands such as Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground, or even get their own comic book!

“Joey Ryan was pro wrestling’s king of sleaze – until five years ago, when a match gone wrong left his tag team partner crippled and one of his opponents dead. Now he spends his days looking for answers at the bottom of bottles in Tokyo bars. But when he hears that his old nemesis is back in town, he decides it’s time to get back in the ring.”

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This comic is basically a Dark Knight Returns sort of alternate future affair for Mr. Ryan as it’s not a tale of him at his prime vanquishing evil-doers, but a story of a washed up and grizzled Ryan who has abandoned the business due to a horrible tragedy and how he gets back into the ring. It seems that five years prior to this comic, Joey Ryan and his tag partner Candice LeRae (who is not named) were involved in some sort of match where a wrestler was killed and LeRae was horribly injured, Ryan obviously blames himself and has turned into a miserable drunk.

Joey runs into an old friend that has news of his arch nemesis, a huge guy called Butch Satan, and that he has issued an open challenge – Ryan initially refuses to even contemplate wrestling again since the last time, his penis killed a man, but is swayed by promising to do a serious match with no silly gimmicks. Ryan tries to fight a clean fight, but soon realizes that he must use Dong Style one more time to win…

joey ryan big in japan comic 4

This comic is pretty silly, it both takes itself almost too seriously at times, and veers into absurdity at others. it’s because of this that the comic actually reminds me a LOT of a Deadpool book, especially some of the more serious ones before folks thought his catchphrase was “Chimichanga!” which it isn’t you guys. I mean when you have a guy getting advice from a sentient Gummy Bear, which is something that happens in this book, you know it’s a crazy comic. Jamie Jones provides a solid art style and coloring for the book, and you can follow the action very easily.

My only quibble is that it’s a bit too short, if this only exists as a one shot it’s a shame as I’d love to see more comics like this. Thankfully Chido Comics will be masking a series of Lucha Libre comics soon, but they are all looking like one-shots as well – fingers crossed that changes.

La Mano del Destino #2 (2011)

la mano del destino 2 cover

La Mano del Destino is a six-issue story which tells the tale of a once-champion Luchadore – who, after being betrayed, agrees to a Faustian bargain in order to exact revenge upon his betrayers. Mesoamerican myth and high-flying, Lucha Libre action converge to tell this story of vengeance and destiny.

In issue 2 of the La Mano del Destino six-issue story, we learn the harrowing history of the man who became La Mano del Destino – a familiar tale of sibling rivalry, but with a tragic twist. We see what drove our hero to become champion and why the loss of his title and mask were an unbearable indignity.

After reviewing the Rey Mysterio comic book a few weeks ago, I remembered that I’ve actually received a few more wrestling comics in various boxes I’ve ended up with. Forgive me for not remembering which one, but one of the very first Lucha Loot packages I got contained a random issue of a comic called La Mano del Destino by J. Gonzo. For some reason, I tossed this book into my swag box and forgot about it until I went in looking for a Joey Ryan comic I also plan to review. Published by a small independent publisher called Castle and Key Publication, La Mano del Destino is planned  to be a six issue series of which I believe five have been released. My main question is – can you jump into this at issue 2, or would it be a bad idea? we’ll see!

la mano del destino 2 page 1

Luckily, this issue is entirely a flashback issue and has little of what came before. It’s basically a stand-alone tale of a pair of brothers trying to survive after the death of their father in the early 1940’s in Mexico. The boys are sent to live with a military general that basically only agreed to bring them in because he respected their mother. One brother, nicknamed “Monchi” is seen a s a strong boy, so he is to work in the fields with the other laborers, he basically lives outside and sleeps in a barn – a rough life for a young man.

This is all while “Petey” becomes a house-servant of some sort – living a life of relative luxury when compared to his brother. Monchi apparently has a gift for leadership and agitation and leads a servant revolt right up to The General’s doorsstep – Petey tries to stop tragedy from happening, but ends up accidentally accidentally shooting his brother in the hand before the General basically fires all of the servants and they both get tossed in prison. More tragedy leads to Petey deciding to become a luchador once he gets out, to atone for his past.

la mano del destino 2 page 2

The art in this comic is definitely something unique, it’s somewhat exaggerated and angular while being vaguely reminiscent of classic “Silver Age” books from artists such as Jack Kirby especially in the coloring. This gives the book an odd vibe where it looks modern, like some sort of street art, but also VERY retro – looking like a screen-toned book from the past. This brash coloring scheme can lead to some things I did not like, such as a lot of expeditionary test bubbles being a bright pink color that are harder to read than most comics.

Despite a few typos here and there, this is a solid comic, but it flies by wayyyy to fast in order to meet the 25 page max limit. I wish we could have seen more of Monchi’s path into becoming a rebel leader of sorts, or more with them interacting with The General in any way, but what’s there serves its purpose and flows well. I might have to try to get more of this, or perhaps I will see if a trade eventually comes out.

To read more about this comic series, check this out.

la mano del destino 2 page 3

DEVILMAN Crybaby (2018)

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Almost out of nowhere, Netflix has started to become my go-to location for watching new anime – even over Crunchyroll. This is largely because instead of simply streaming properties that were made in Japan, Netflix has been funding original content and taking huge chances in an industry that has been going through various stages of stagnation for a number of years. After last year’s Castlevania, a witty, dark adaptation of an old NES game, the company has set to dip into the more brutal side of anime yet again with DEVILMAN Crybaby.

DEVILMAN Crybaby is based on the legendary manga and anime by Go Nagai – author of other popular series such as Cutie Honey and Mazinger Z. The property had an odd, almost simultaneous release as a  39-episode anime series which was developed by Toei Animation in 1972, and as a manga in Kodansha’s Weekly Shōnen Magazine barely a month before the anime series started. The series has since spawned numerous OVAs, manga, novels, and films. Today we will be talking about a BRAND-NEW remake of the franchise in DEVILMAN Crybaby, the surprise hit of the year in the anime world.

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When I started watching this, I was immediately enthralled by the opening theme song and video which is a bizarre, simplistic electronic dance song that basically just has the lyrics “MAN MAN MAN MAN MAN MAN MAN HUMAN MAN MAN MAN MAN MAN HUMAN HUMAN!” playing against a trippy background reminiscent of watercolor inkblot tests. I’m not sure why, but this song, perhaps in it’s simplicity, is a total earworm and gets stuck in your head immediately. Whenever Netflix would try to skip the intro I was like “OH HELL NO!” in the same way that I always must watch both the Doctor Who and Game of Thrones intros to completion.

In DEVILMAN Crybaby Demons invade humanity after being frozen in ice for millions of years. Akira, a timid boy, is tasked by his friend Ryo to merge with one of these demons in order to be able to fight back against them for the sake of humanity. Akira has been chosen because, as the title would suggest, he is very very emotional – sobbing uncontrollably at the drop of a hat. It’s this susceptibility to extreme empathy that makes him the perfect candidate to become a demon as he can control the impulses that usually turn people into inhuman creatures of pure impulse.

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Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, a man that is perhaps my favorite surrealist anime director considering I LOVE his films Cat Soup and Kick Heart, which the latter was reviewed here from back before I merged my blogs together. He is one of those guys that usually makes short films rather than long-form pieces such as a full-on TV series, but I’m glad he is branching out and trying things like this. I’m not sure how much Netflix has to say about funding decisions such as this, but I feel Japan would have likely skipped on something like this on their own since it won’t sell body pillows.

I think I was sold on DEVILMAN Crybaby towards the end of the very first episode where Masaaki Yuasa finally steps forward and unleashes his signature weirdness that I was wanting to see. Not since Gantz, an anime that I was able to watch the premiere of at an anime convention and stayed glued to the seat due to how messed up it was, have I been able to not stop watching something as if it’s a crazy car crash.

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At one point our titular hero, just minus his devil powers, finds himself being forced to go to a full-on rave / orgy full of drug-addled women of various states of undress waving all sorts of body parts around. Suddenly Akira’s friend Ryo starts attacking strangers (which should be a hell of a red flag) to add the smell of blood to all of the other debauchery and summon demons to the club. Suddenly, people are ripped into pieces or transformed into other demons themselves, including our boy Akira.

I’m not being facetious when I say – this is perhaps the most violent, gory, and raunchy anime Netflix has and perhaps we can extend that to the rest of the anime world in the last five years outside of actual pornography. But the weird thing is, it never feels wholly gratuitous; it somehow stays artistic rather than going down the road of juvenile T&A shows like Prison School or Queen’s Blade. Its use of grandiose sexual and violent imagery are a tool used to peer into the overindulgent, sometimes disgusting nature of being human. Because, in the world of DEVILMAN Crybaby becoming a demon is basically taking your most base animalistic tendencies and amplifying it to the point of absurdity.

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In most versions of Devilman, a relatively minor villain named Jinmen encapsulates this very well. He has fully fallen into being a demon and shows no human side whatsoever. Even other long-time antagonists such as Sirene show some sort of humanity poking though as small as the sliver is. Jinmen is arguably one of the most depraved, repulsive and perverse villains in all of Devilman.

He is a complete sadist, who revels in the suffering of human beings and enjoys tormenting them psychologically, as evidenced by his macabre habit of keeping their still-living faces on the back of his shell after eating them. Jinmen would compare the faces growing off of his back to the tattoos which human beings paint on their bodies and happily flaunts them in front of his adversaries. This was part of Jinmen’s scare tactic; by having his enemy cower in fear at the sight of his kills, or in the case of Akira Fudo cause reluctance in fighting Jinmen out of concern towards the several humans attached to the demon turtles body.

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As you can see from the pictures on here and my descriptions, the art style in this show is extremely trippy – not at all the “norm” for modern anime in 2018. Everything is exaggerated in just about every manner causing an almost unsettling juxtaposition between scenes of light-hearted banter, sex, and grim violence. A lot of the art reminds me a lot of French comics books, the sort of stuff that would eventually end up in Heavy Metal magazine in both their loose grasp of human anatomy and their use of trippy colors and shapes.

This is a hallmark of Masaaki Yuasa’s many works of art and shows up in most of his films. I have come to expect this from him, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Earlier on, I stated that DEVILMAN Crybaby was a surprise hit for me. I honestly assumed this show would go seemingly unnoticed outside of anime fans such as myself (pretentious snob guys LOL) and might a few honorable mention lists at the end of the year. Instead it has become a force of nature in social media and just about every major anime podcast, magazine, and website. We all know that Netflix rarely releases data on how much their shows get watched, but judging solely by the amount of buzz it generated, I’m almost certain it is considered a big success. I have also seen reviews that mention random facts like the soundtrack completely selling out in Japan which is unheard of for anime OSTs. I’ve even seen this get mentioned on lists of things to watch on Netflix that basically say “you need to watch this even if you don’t like anime” implying that it has crossed into the mainstream film community.

Yeah, the show can be seen as over-hyped and I bet there are tons of “I hate stuff because it’s popular” guys out there whining about how they don’t understand the love for the show, but screw them honestly. DEVILMAN Crybaby has the markings of a modern classic like FLCL and Cowboy Bebop by getting non-fans watching anime – and that’s never a bad thing gatekeepers be damned.

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