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.

devilman OVA 1

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!

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