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.
For any fan of the recent Anime Devilman Crybaby and wondered if you should give this OVA a try, this review is for you. At this point, you’ve probably seen a couple “Devilman dub is gold” or “Devilman dub is a treasure.” The sheer quirkiness of some of the dialogue has made these videos become incredibly popular. After it being brought to your attention, you might wonder is Devilman: Tanjou-hen worth watching?
The story of Devilman: Tanjou-hen (also known as Devilman: The Birth) is much the same of the devilman you already know. Akira, young weak boy meets up with his good friend Ryo. Ryo
tells him about the existence of devils, turns him into devilman. We all know this basic plot, it’s the premise of Devilman Crybaby, but it’s the summary of Devilman: Tanjou-hen. In Crybaby, there was plenty of time to go beyond the basic premise and tell the story, Tanjou-hen on the other hand seems to act more of a prequel. Of course, it is important to note that Tanjou-hen has a sequel, but rating it on it’s own values shows that the plot is shallow.
Furthermore, the entire OVA, save for the last fifteen minutes, serves as buildup for the OVA, but never managing to go further than the premise. The pacing of the OVA suffers because of this fact, too long when there is no action and right when the OVA gets to a part with high intensity it ends.
Speaking of the pacing, there are some real weird moments of Akira and Ryo just standing and staring at each other. Not an intense mid battle stare, just standing there. There came a point where it became uncomfortable as a viewer as it seemed that the snare passed the ten second mark, which is an awful long time to stare.
Of course, the story that it does include is well done and enjoyable. The story does not gain praise nor scorn. It’s mediocre at best.
TLDR: Not much to speak of on the story, the premise of Devilman is what you get and no further. Pacing issues.
It’s always hard for an old anime to age well, and especially looking in the retrospective it is easy to be critical of art. That being said, I will try my best to put bias aside and give a fair review.
The art for this OVA was good. The landscapes at the beginning are nice, albeit run of the mill. I think where the art shines through is when the characters faces are drawn. There are some very quirky lines in Tanjou-hen and the visuals accompany it. While I’m sure that people will say that the lines are bad, and therefore so are the visuals, it is important to remember: regardless of what you thought of the lines the art did a good job representing it. One of the notable, yet unimportant, characters of the show was the goofy gangster. His movements and facial expressions mimicked how his character was weird and mocking. Even Akira’s facial expressions were very good in more comedic moments. The monsters were creative and interesting. What I think took away some of the points that the art earned was again the weird stare downs. When flashing between two characters faces with no change in expression, it is hard to get new information.
TLDR: Nice art for the time, landscape was run of the mill, but the characters motions and facial expressions shined through. But again the weird stare downs were a problem for me.
There were few times when I actually noticed the sound/music in the OVA, but that wasn’t a bad thing. It fit the show well, but it didn’t hold any particular impact for me. There were moments that I would hear soft creepy music playing in the OVA (there is a lot of that type of music) and would think, that’s nice. It didn’t distract me from the show, but it definitely added to the experience, even if in a minor way.
TLDR: It was Fine.
The characters of Devilman are iconic, and while Tenjou-hen misses some of the nuances that might have been there in another adaptation, it still nails these fun characters on the surface. Akira is still weak and Ryo is still an asshole, but each has a bit of humor attached to them. Akira’s desire to escape situations, disbelief, and awkwardness that lead to the comedy in his actions and reactions. For Ryo, it’s his dry nature and sarcasm that carries the moedy.
TLDR: No nuance, but fun characterization with humor.
I truly think that enjoyment is the most important category for this show in particular, especially if you are tempted to watch this show after watching a youtube video or two on the dub. I personally watched the dub, because of the youtube videos I watched as well as that was the method that was most accessible to me. I think watching this is a bit similar to Ghost Stories as there is no genuine reason why it's good, but you enjoy it nonetheless and you can’t say the dub isn’t entertaining. If you’re willing to watch a whole fifty minutes worth of an OVA to catch ever nugget of gold in the dub, to listen to every single casually dropped curse word, then this OVA is for you. If after watching a single youtube video, you think had enough of Tanjou-hen, then I wouldn’t go on to watch the entire OVA.
TLDR: The quotes from this show make it so enjoyable
The OVA was something good and incredibly enjoyable for me, but was nothing spectacular. If you are wanting to watch the OVA in a serious fashion, I don’t particularly recommend it since that is not the part of it I enjoyed the most. If you are looking for laughable moments in an otherwise serious series and don’t mind spending 50 minutes to further immerse yourself in the world of Devilman and some of the memes behind it, then go for it, the OVA is for you.
TLDR: If you’re in for a fun time, go for it. Don’t expect anything too serious or phenomenal.
If you are a tad bit cracked in the head and you are a fervent Go Nagai fan like me, this film may be the most faithful interpretation of his work that you will ever see. While the film adds and subtracts
a tad bit of scenes, it is as if many of the panels and dialogue from the first volume of Devilman are literally animated onto the screen. The animation is a little wonky at times but is overall, very good for 1987. And true to Go "My Father Died" Nagai's work the film is sort of awkward and the dialogue is down right
bizarre at times. However, it still manages to create that depraved, trippy, unnatural atmosphere that colorizes Nagai's horror manga.
This is one of the first animes i ever saw and considering it’s themes it’s clear to me now that when I began my anime journey this anime in particular probably had a profound effect on my young mind for both good and bad reasons.
Akira Fudou is your typical kind hearted high school student. He looks after cute little bunny rabbits while at school and has a nice girl friend (not dating) that he lives with since his parents are away on an excavation in the South Pole.
One day while walking home from school Ryo, an old friend from Akira’s childhood turns up out of
the blue and demands that Akira follow him as he has something very important to discuss with him.
After Akira agrees to hear him out Ryo starts to explain the horrifying details of what had recently become of his father who was a scientist.
Ryo’s father seemed to have gone mad after investigating the existence of demons.
At this point I should mention this first movie is somewot slow placed while the foundation of the story is being laid down. It’s a bit of a drag but stick with it as things start to spice up soon enough.
Ryo takes Akira back to his father’s study where a lot of his research is being kept. Here Akira gets to actually SEE some of the crazy revelations Ryo’s father discovered.
After that, all hell breaks loose…..why…because due to their snooping around with demon research / artefact’s, they get the attention of actual demons who start to chase them down.
So after some more entertaining chase / demon encounters Ryo & Akira come to the realisation that the world will soon become exposed to the threat of a global demon outbreak…..so the question is what can they do to stop it…
Well that’s the best part which I am not going to spoil for you…let’s just say it involves performing a certain ritual that involves alcohol, debauchery and violence.
Since the name of this anime is Devilman it should be obvious at some point someone or something will become the Devilman….and no surprise to anyone who has seen the cover art who it’s going to be.
So after DEVILMAN IS BORN true insanity ensues and Holy Shit the last 10 minutes of this anime is hardcore violence at its best.
So yeah, in summary the first half of this anime is mostly explanation and build up for the last 15 minutes of pure awesomeness…..It was kinda worth the wait but sadly just after it starts getting really interesting its over……and at the time I watched this there was no way for me to know there was a part II so I was like Goddamn it I wanna know what happens next!
Then luckily for me 2 weeks later (at the time 1993) on Channel 4 part two was broadcast….which I have also reviewed
Keeping in mind this is late 80’s animation it is pretty decent…I mean the character designs look a bit cutesy at first but when the demons get involved things change quite dramatically.
The standout thing for me in this movie is the strange opening sequence, the return to the strange opening sequence in the middle of the movie and the super gory action sequence at the end.
Compared to today’s standards it’s not top notch but I feel it has still aged pretty well and is still very watchable.
I like the music in Devilman…its got a melancholy feel to it. The English dub is really quite comical to me but not in a bad way…I mean, re-watching this now I can understand why some people may find it korny but overall I think it works out very well. Devilman in particular say’s some really funny shite when he’s killing demons…certainly not the sweet boy Akira he was before.
Overall sound is pretty decent…compared to the original Jap language it’s a bit spicier which worked out well enough in my opinion
Devilman has an extremely small cast, which works in its favour. There’s pretty much Akira / Devilman, Ryo, Miki (barely) and the various demons Akira and Ryo have to face.
For such a short anime I think the characters are developed well enough…In particular you get good foundation for Akira’s character which is the most important thing.
I enjoy this anime on two levels, the first being nostalgia. I remember how confused and weird I felt about rooting for a demon to suceed…..this was way before the more recently accepted anti-hero boom we are surrounded by today.
The second level is the action in this anime is pretty hardcore, animated decently, barebone and VERY enjoyable to watch.
It’s a short fun crazy ride… I have enjoyed this title for many years and overall still find it of a high standard even after all these years.
Value / Final Thoughts
Over time Demon protagonist’s have become more common place in movies (Hellboy) and especially in anime, to name a few: Hellsing, Vampire hunter D, Inu Yasha, the cast of Saiyuki, Chrono from Chrono Crusade etc. So Devilman kinda loses the anti-hero shock value it had around the original time it was made.
But like I said before being very young and coming from a Christian upbringing in particular made this anime quite the shell-shocker.
I was hesitant to write this review at first as I did feel a lot of my praise for it would come from nostalgia but after re-watching it I am now reassured it is actually a quality title that still holds up to this very day
It’s short and sweet, thought provoking and many do hail it as a cult classic.
Surprisingly though I found more reviews for this anime on IMDB that on various anime sites….however the manga is vastly more popular than the anime incarnations.