Devil Lady Vol. #1: The Awakening (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, January 07, 2003



What They Say
Jun has always been different from everyone else-the life of a fashion model is unlike anything else in the world. But she has no idea how different she is...until a mysterious stalker throws her head-first into a brutal confrontation with the supernatural! From Go Nagai, the master of animated horror, comes a harrowing odyssey through the twisted maze that is Jun's new life. By day a beautiful, shy fashion plate. By night a terrifying vision of demonic power. It's full-tilt gothic horror as Jun, as the Devil Lady, does battle with a demonic army threatening to destroy mankind.

The Review!
My loathing of Go Nagai has been strong for years now. But can the introduction of boobies make me go over to the dark side?

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The track here is a standard stereo mix that makes good use of the forward soundstage, most notably during the action sequences as well as with the gorgeous music score attached to it. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions on either track.

Video:
Originally airing from late 1998 throughout all of 1999, the transfer for this show looks quite good. The feel of the animation itself is quite dark, especially with most of these episodes taking place at night, so the blue skies look good with hardly any macroblocking or pixelation. There’s a feel of grain throughout that’s very minor and looks to be more intentional than not, so as to give things a slightly soft and almost comfortable feeling, which balances out the suspense that the show builds. Colors look great, there’s no cross coloration and I was hard pressed to find much in the way of aliasing.

Packaging:
Going for simply striking looking, the cover hear features the lead character in blacks, grays and reds set against a solid red background. It’s definitely eye-catching and definitely lets you know the kind of show that it is as she’s bathed in blood. The back cover features only a few small screenshots but makes up for it in just a general look and feel. There’s a brief summary spread over most of the back cover as well as listing the discs features and basic production information. This release is in a clear keepcase, but the reverse side of the cover is completely red with nothing on it, giving it a very strange feel when you open it as you expect more. There’s also no insert, but that’s made up for with four trading cards, each of them about one of the Beasts found in the episodes on the disc. Don’t read them until afterwards though as they may spoil your enjoyment.

Menu:
Set up in a letterbox style, the central portion of the menu has a small sequence from the opening playing repeatedly to the opening music with the almost flame-like movement of the light against the reds and blacks. Selections ring the top and bottom of the menu, as well as providing instant episode access. Access times in the menus are nice and fast and the layout works good overall.

Extras:
There’s a decent selection of extras to open the series with. The first is the original Japanese trailer (which lists the shows official English name as Devil Lady, not DevilmanLady) which uses part of the opening music and various images from the first episode. A clean opening and ending sequence is also provided, both of which have gotten several playbacks from me already. A small image gallery is also included, mostly of rough artwork and character designs.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Past exposure to Go Nagai titles have been either mediocre or outright bad, so it was definitely with some trepidation that I approached this newest series based on his manga. What I’d seen of the trailer hadn’t really grabbed me either, so with little real expectations, I went into the first five episodes.

It’s at this point that I’m convinced I have to give a lot of the credit not to Nagai but to the series scriptwriter, Chiaki Konaka. I’ve managed to enjoy just about everything he’s been fully involved in and can definitely feel his style and approach here.

The show revolves around twenty-something Jun Fudou, a fashion model of a higher class than we typically see in anime, as she’s past the entire teen phase and is dealing in classy clothes, fashion for adults that doesn’t deal in the same kind of flash and lack of substance you get elsewhere. While she does lead something of a solitary life, she has a good friend in her younger friend Kazumi who does the teen modeling gig while going to school. The two meet up often enough and are good company for each other, but also help to highlight the differences in age and approach.

Jun’s life until now has been fairly ordinary, as she left her home to come to Tokyo after school to try and succeed as a model, something her family never thought she’d really do well at. To their surprise, she pulled it off and now lives by herself but has what seems to be a good life. Things change drastically however as she finds herself being followed by a woman who doesn’t look particularly friendly. She’s eventually confronted in her own home by the woman who introduces herself as Lan Asuka. She’s a rough type, which is definitely visible when set against the almost elegance of Jun. With little preamble, she simply insists that Jun comes with her, and there’s something in that voice that causes her to follow, though she does question her often enough.

Nothing good comes from going to a warehouse along the docks at night, but Jun still listens and enters the building. To her surprise, a young masculine man is chained to a chair in there and he looks almost wild. She insists to know what’s going on, only to hear Asuka going on about something within her that must be unleashed. With a sudden ferocity, the man bursts from his chains and begins to transform into a powerful looking Beast, hell bent on tearing open Jun. Not only hel lbent, but actually starts to succeed as he tears up and down her, bringing her near death. But it’s this moment that her eyes flash and her true self is revealed, and she begins to grow and transform into the Devil Lady.

Thus begins the life of Jun now as something less than she was, but something more as well. As she learns from Asuka, she’s one of the rare kind of people who can become a Devilman, something that’s in their genes that gives them this kind of power of transformation. It’s similar to the things that are cropping up worldwide, the Devil Beasts themselves. These creatures are things that can be hunted and hurt by normal means, but are proving to be more and more dangerous to deal with. Asuka has decided to force Jun’s transformation into the Devilman mode so that she can use her as a hunter, to prey upon the Beasts that are showing up everywhere.

We learn fleetingly of the organization that’s backing all of this, the Human Alliance, which makes good use of covering things up with the media and keeping everything a secret from the rest of the population. The Alliance appears to be a good worldwide group, though there’s obvious sparring between areas. Japan has now become a focal point as the Beasts are progressing faster as well as growing to unimaginable new heights, something that Jun also seems capable of.

Chiaki Konaka has crafted an excellent screenplay with these first five episodes, bringing about Jun’s evolution into the Devilman mode as well as her grasping with the new realities that are being pushed hard on her. While she does cave often, she also manages to show some excellent backbone as it progresses, moving her out of the pushover category and giving hope for some real confidence from her as we progress. While after the first episode things do seem to move in a monster of the week format, it’s done so well that it’s hard to complain about it. Each new creature brings a new change to Jun’s life and enhances her understanding of what’s going on around her.

The pacing and general slow plotting of the series may turn off some people though, but I simply love the gradual build to things here. There’s an excellent amount of actual suspense as things play out, not really knowing just how a particular scene or encounter is going to work out. The score for this series is also a perfect complement to that, building nicely and using some really excellent motifs with it. The opening and ending sequences are highly addictive to listen to. And to cap this off, one of my favorite voice actress, Junko Iwao, plays Jun, providing her the chance to once again prove that she’s extremely versatile.

We did listen to the English track on this release while writing the review, with a real interest at points since I had not heard of any of these actors before. I rather enjoyed the performances here, though a bit more work needs to be done on the screaming aspect of things.

Devil Lady so far is falling into the category of a series that I didn’t know I was looking for, as the number of shows that features adults and violent situations are growing, giving a much needed balance to all the cute and younger oriented shows that have been coming out the past couple of years. This show as a complete package really knocked my socks off, and I can’t wait to see more of it. I’m highly intrigued.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Original cover art,Clean credit animation,Original Japanese trailer

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Devil Lady