animefringe may 2003 / reviews

The Devil Lady Vol.3: The Strengthening
Format: bilingual DVD, 4 eps., 100 min.
Production: ADV / Go Nagai
Comments: An engaging series featuring a powerful female protagonist with complex conflicts.
Animefringe Reviews:
The Devil Lady Vol.3: The Strengthening

Jun Fudou leads an interesting life. By day, she's a high-profile fashion model, but when her master summons her, she reveals a darker side of herself, transforming into a winged humanoid creature known as a Devilman.

There is a war going on that the general public is not aware of. Lately, normal humans have been undergoing drastic mutations into creatures that have a natural desire to destroy what they once were. Very few people with the beast gene are able to retain their soul after taking on their new form. Jun is one such person, though whether her ability to maintain rational control over herself is a biological or psychological ability remains unclear. As a creature with just as much power as these beasts, Jun must battle the malformed beings in order to protect the human race from its former members.

So far, the beast phenomenon has not been explained. However, with each passing episode of the show, we learn that not all scraps of a person's soul are necessarily lost when the change to beast is made. Yet, Jun's master, Asuka, refuses to leave a single beast alive, making things more complex for Jun than she'd like. In this volume, we discover that sometimes, Jun is more human when she's in beast form and more bestial when she's in human form.

While this may be considered to be a horror series, it is more akin to the TV show based on The Incredible Hulk than a mere slasher flick. As the frequency of beasts increases, Jun faces more and more opponents that retain a trace of humanity, and her willingness to obey Asuka seems to be eroding steadily. Only Jun's care for Kazumi, a recently orphaned teenager that Jun lives with, keeps her humanity dominant when she changes into the Devil Lady, and their relationship is becoming more stressed as Jun continues living her double life.

There's a significant amount of character development, in particular Kazumi's, Jun's, and Jason's characters. We learn more about them as they learn more about themselves in these four episodes, and the series keeps getting more and more interesting.

This is certainly not a show for children, with a giant beast in the form of a penis monster in the 4th episode on the disc marking that sentiment with an exclamation point. That said, the story outweighs the violence, and while there is a good deal of overt sexuality, there isn't very much blatant nudity and not really any sex, so far. This is a rough show, but its subject matter demands something a little harsher than the usual anime fare, and it works rather well.

The visuals are dark, with a good deal of reds frequently setting the tone for the show. The animation quality peaks with Jun's showdowns with other beasts, though it is rather good throughout as well. Character designs are beautiful and horrible, whenever either is necessary, and they are very distinct from other anime series. The women are not the typical small, almost frail, Japanese characters that some (more realistic shows) depict. Instead, Jun and Asuka are well fleshed out and very tall, and thus their designs carry their personalities well.

The voice acting is good, and while there's an occasional awkward timing moment in the English dub, this is certainly a sign of better dubs to come. Interestingly enough, as I noted in the review of Betterman this month, Jun is voiced in Japanese by the same voice actress that portrays the soft-spoken young Sakura in Betterman. I guess it just goes to show the range of a good seiyuu.

The music is good, but it does tend to get a little repetitive after twelve episodes. However, it builds the suspense skillfully, adding drama to already dramatic moments, as it should.

Extras for the disc include the original trailer, a clean opening and closing, previews, and a tiny art collection. Also in the package is another set of cards detailing various beasts from past episodes, which is a cool feature.

The package remains rather distinct from others, with a clear case and red insert, highlighted by silver accents. It certainly catches my eye when I'm browsing the DVD shelves in retail stores.

This is a show that really grabbed me from the beginning, and I'm glad to see that it hasn't let me down so far. As with most shows worth watching, there's still a significant amount of unsolved mysteries regarding the show (such as why beasts form, what Jun's "true" nature is, and if Kazumi is actually a latent beast herself), but we aren't left completely in the dark, so to speak. Mature viewers would do well to check out this show, for it features a solid female hero with some very realistic conflicts, despite the fact that this is a fantasy horror anime series. If you don't mind blood and large reproductive organs, then this show is easily worth watching.