There’s a lot to unpack in Devilman Crybaby. So much that it would barely fit in a single 12 Days of Anime post.
I have a difficult time writing about existing properties that are held in high esteem or have significant historical value (or perceived historical value). Most people write episodically or editorially about currently-airing anime series to keep up with the discussion, and while that’s part of it, for me personally, it’s simply easier. Writing about a property like Patlabor after seeing it for the first time as an adult in 2018 is daunting. So many others have written articles, conducted interviews with staff, and organized entire fanzines. What do I really have to offer that hasn’t already been said? There’s a pressure to say something new, or if not something new, something personal — a unique take.
Devilman Crybaby is a remake, but it’s a retelling of what is arguably Go Nagai’s most famous work: Devilman. Masaaki Yuasa directing Devilman Crybaby only makes writing about it more of a frightening task. Yuasa is an entire personality in and of himself with a body of work that deserves its own separate study. There were a lot of expectations of Devilman Crybaby, the first full production with Yuasa and Eunyoung Choi’s Science Saru studio at the helm.
So I wrote about flowers.
Flower language is a bit of a hobby of mine, one of those things that I found interesting so I studied it and upon studying it couldn’t unsee it. Anime uses flower language frequently, both Japanese hanakotoba and Victorian floriography. Snapdragons suit Miki (Miko) Kuroda well — a variety of meanings that are often conflicting or incompatible with each other. This is all framed around Miko’s burgeoning sexuality (and later her transformation into a devilman) which is concluded by a conversation between the object of both her hatred and affection: Miki Makimura.
“I seriously hated you,” Miko tells Miki, after a lengthy rant about how, despite being a strong runner on her own, Miko was always slightly worse than Miki. Miki was the star. Miko was the person that they interviewed to get closer to the star. Someone who was good but not the best.
“But I loved you.” Miko confesses as her anger passes, slumping onto the floor as tears well at the corners of her eyes.
Miki responds that she knew of Miko’s feelings and the two embrace.
Devilman Crybaby has a lot of queer subtext (and text) but this was the scene that stood out to me the most. No other anime has so cleanly demonstrated the confusion of working through feelings for someone of the same gender as Devilman Crybaby’s Miko Kuroda narrative. In Miko we see the self-loathing, outward hatred, and hero worship. She worships Miki and sees her as a goal to surpass. She hates Miki for taking attention away from her own accomplishments. And she loves Miki for those same qualities that make her so accomplished.