animefringe february 2003 / feature
Animefringe Coverage:
The Devil Lady - Darkness Rising

Go Nagai's The Devil Lady is all about balance. Balance between light and darkness, good and evil, instinct and intellect. For me, it's also nice to balance the all-ages shows I've been watching with something significantly more sinister, more violent, and overall, more adult. Until this point, there haven't been too many adult titles released domestically on DVD. Typically, the mainstream anime titles with the most violence are feature films such as The Ninja Scroll, Fist of the North Star, or Wicked City. However, we now have a television series coming overseas that doesn't soften the blows when it comes to depicting the dark side of humanity.

The Devil Lady (otherwise known as Devilman Lady) is a spin-off of sorts of Go Nagai's earlier series, Devilman. Our protagonist is the subdued Fudou Jun, a prominent fashion model in her twenties. In the first episode, however, she discovers that her genetic structure has passed along more than just uncommon beauty. All over the world, there are increasingly frequent cases of humans mutating into Beasts. These creatures are driven only by their need to survive, and thanks to their incredible destructive powers, they present a danger to every member of the human race. In order to assure the continuation of their bloodline, Beasts seek out to destroy anything with a different genetic makeup. Seeing as humanity is the current dominant race on the Earth (depending on your perspective), the lives of men and women are in jeopardy thanks to the Beast phenomenon.

That's where Beast hunters come in. Jun is contacted by Asuka Lan, a member of a shadow organization called the Human Alliance that specializes in tracking these evolutionary anomalies and destroying them in order to maintain the supremacy of the human race. We quickly learn that Jun is, in fact, a Devilman - a creature of awesome power with the ability to adapt to new threats by altering her size and strength. While she has traits that make her similar to Beasts, for some reason she still possesses her human soul, and thus fights on the side of humanity rather than that of the Beasts. At first, her darker side only surfaces when inspired by survival instincts, but gradually, as she comes to accept what she is, she manages to take control of her newfound power.

However, everything is not so simple. There's far more to this show than simple search and destroy missions, for every moment is a struggle for Jun as she fights to balance her Beast side against her human intellect. Her true instinct is to destroy any potential threat, but her personality must temper such feelings in order to help humanity. If she were to ever allow her Bestial nature to consume her, it'd be bad news for every non-mutated person on the planet. For her, she has to consciously suppress the newly awakened Beast mentality in her continued daily life as a fashion model.

And, of course, there are other conflicts at play here. One of her only friends is the perky young model Takiura Kazumi who sees Jun as the ideal woman. For the most part, she treats Jun as an older sister, but there are times where something a bit more than fraternal love is hinted at. This places additional stress on Jun, as she's had some traumatic experiences with members of the same sex in the past.

This is certainly not a show for children. Fight scenes tend to contain buckets of blood, impaling a plenty, dismemberment, and the occasional throwing a punch through a creature's mouth directly into its brain. Then, there are also the sexual undercurrents running through the show. While they can be subdued at times, they can also be blatantly obvious. For example, it's hard to not notice the unusually large chests on the female characters, especially when Jun's in Devil Lady mode and her breasts are the size of Volkswagens. As a Devil Lady, she really doesn't wear any clothes, either. Of course, strategically placed skin patterns and tufts of hair cover all of her most private parts, but she might as well be naked. Yet, while there's quite a bit of adult content, it doesn't really get too insultingly gratuitous, so long as you know what you're getting into.

The music for the series was composed by Watanabe Toshiyuki, and it's all appropriately spooky and moody, closely following the gradual buildup of the action of the show. The series certainly has a distinct style with its muscular character designs, dark imagery, and juxtaposition of giant Beasts battling it out in various metropolitan locales. Overall, this seems like a great show to get into if you've had your fill of Magical Girls, after-school anime, or the adventures of Kirby. If you're looking for something more mature than what's been offered before, but that isn't full of mindless sex, then this is a show to watch for.

Fudou Jun
The heroine of our tale, Jun is a professional model harboring a dark secret. As a Devilman, she possesses the ability to take a more powerful form in order to fight Beasts that pose a threat to the Human Alliance. As a human, she's quiet and reserved, but when in Devilman mode, Jun is a force to be reckoned with.
Asuka Lan
Lan is the mysterious member of the Human Alliance that contacts Jun and helps bring her dark side to the surface. While she clearly hates Beasts with a passion, she isn't terribly fond of most of humanity, either. Though her intentions have not yet been made clear, she has a tendency to be harsh with Jun, forcing the Devil Lady to realize her potential.
Takiura Kazumi
Kazumi is a young aspiring model that isn't aware of Jun's alternate persona, and looks up to the older woman as a sister. She currently feels constrained by her parents and cannot wait to get out on her own in the real world.
Beasts are former humans that undergo a sudden evolutionary change, typically increasing their strength and enhancing their survival instincts. Pure beasts lose touch with their human soul, and instinct makes an enemy out of humanity swiftly, causing them to kill people indiscriminately.