A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Devilman Crybaby,’ Netflix’s Best, Most Disturbing Original Anime

Pack it up, anime directors. Last week, Netflix released a series so bonkers that fans are still trying to get their bearings.

Devilman Crybaby, director Masaaki Yuasa’s 10-episode riff on a 1970s manga, is already the bloodiest, most profane animated series of the year. It’s also Netflix’s first Japanese-produced anime. (Previous originals like Castlevania and Neo Yokio were produced by and for the U.S. market.) The show, set in a world were demons and demonic possession are a fact of life, can be a difficult watch for Americans, especially if they’ve never heard of the Devilman franchise before. But it would be a waste to ignore such a gorgeous, disturbing series—especially with its biblical twist ending. Here’s everything you need to know:

devilman crybaby Akira holds back Ryo in "Devilman Crybaby" Episode 1. Netflix

A Brief History of Devilman

The original Devilman manga was written by Go Nagai in 1972 as a loose sequel to an earlier series, Demon Lord Dante. It follows teenager Akira and his mysterious friend Ryo as they investigate Akira’s archeologist father’s death. When they find an ancient mask, Akira puts it on and is possessed by a demon. Devilman Crybaby uses the same major plot points, but the anime is set in a contemporary city and uses Twitter, Instagram and YouTube as narrative tools.

In the original manga, Yuasa doesn’t bother with backstory or connecting the dots. All you need to know is that, in the series, demons have always existed on Earth and something in our world has started worrying them, causing them to reveal themselves.

akira devil Akira escapes a demon in the series premiere. Netflix

Confused? That's kind of the idea

One big difference between the manga and anime versions is that, in Devilman Crybaby, it’s not a tribal mask that allows a demon access to Akira’s body, it’s a thumping, techno cartoon orgy that Ryo forces Akira to attend. Ryo says he wants to prove to Akira that demons exist, and an orgy is the perfect place to find them. To help lure the demons into the open, Ryo slices up random teenagers, screaming, “Demons love the smell of blood!” Akira watches as wounded teens begin to change into their true, demonic forms.

During all this carnage, a powerful demon named Amon tries to possess Akira, who mangest to retain some of his consciousness. But for the rest of the series, he shares his body with Amon—never a full “devil" or a complete “man"— a “devilman!”

The series bombards viewers with images of neon, jiggling women and sliced up, bleeding men. The action is uncomfortable to watch, but eventually you find yourself becoming numb to it. And that’s exactly where Ryo’s argument begins. He believes the world isn’t worth saving—it’s just a big, horrible, blood-soaked mess filled with imagery that makes you sick.

devilman4 ryo Ryo contemplates having murdered someone in "Devilman Crybaby." Netflix

The big finale, explained

After 10 episodes of encouraging Akira to fight demons and ignore humans, Ryo admits that he’s actually Satan in disguise. He purposefully fused Akira with Amon to keep his only friend by his side during the impending apocalypse, and all that demon-killing was training for the war against God. It's the same biblical reveal that's in the ’70s manga, and it elevates the series beyond a run-of-the-mill Japanese teen drama.

By the end of Devilman Crybaby, all humans, including Akira’s loved ones, die painful deaths. Ryo explains that it’s been his plan all along to wipe out humanity, a race he believes is weak and without purpose. As angels descend to cleanse the earth of bloodshed, Satan and Akira stage a final, insane battle. The earth is destroyed—it's the same shot at in the pilot—and the series, we’re to assume, begins all over again.

devilman Ryo explains demons to Akira in the club. Netflix

Will there be a Season 2?

Netflix hasn’t yet confirmed another Devilman series, but it could theoretically explore a different part of the franchise, beyond Akira and Ryo’s story. Other Devilman reimaginings include the Devilman Lady manga, the Devilman Saga manga and Toei’s original Devilman anime from 1972. Japanese production company Seven Seas Press is hoping to drum up excitement for the series by releasing this material in America, as well as a collector’s edition of the manga, to be released in May.

In the meantime, if Devilman Crybaby leaves you wanting more trippy anime that explores Christian themes, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Seven Deadly Sins can be streamed on Netflix.

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