Devils’ Line was my number-one most-anticipated show for the Spring 2018 season. It is being made by studio Platinum Vision, with direction from Yoshinobu Tokumoto. As a dedicated fan of the original manga that the anime stems from, my enthusiasm for the season as a whole bloomed with excitement. Because of my anticipation, I also felt immensely nervous about watching it. I did not want to see a recreation that would taint a story I had grown so passionate about. Today, I finally sat down and forced myself to watch the first couple of episodes, and I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. I was not blown away either, not by a long shot, but there were no strong moments of disappointment! I can work with that.
Originally written by Ryo Hanada, Devils’ Line is a seinen, dark fantasy, crime fiction series. At its core, it is about devils, or a race of beings with vampiric characteristics, who exist alongside humans in Japan. Some of them can control their devil-traits enough to work along side the police in a special investigations unit where they hunt down and arrest other devils who break the laws or lose themselves to their hunger. One evening while hunting a serial killer, Yūki Anzai meets a young woman named Tsukasa. Through various plot happenings, he walks her home. As he prepares to leave, he notices the blood on her lip, and transforms into a devil himself.
**Please note that I will make some minor comparisons of the anime to the manga, and I will provide a brief explanation later as to why these people are called ‘devils’ instead of simply being known as ‘vampires.’ This information should be released later as the series goes on, so if you do not want to read it, you can skip it. I will label it when I begin talking about it.**
The one thing that will be at once off-putting for many watchers is the insta-love. Anzai and Tsukasa end up having a very strong attraction to one another, which it seems in the anime is being developed as love rather than lust. In the manga, their initial allure to each other mostly comes from her physical attraction towards Anzai, and vice versa, which then inadvertently affects his devil half. Then the more they interact, the more their feelings grow. I really hope that the anime will tone down the romance bit to allow for that emotional growth to shine through because it is one of the aspects of the story that makes it wonderful. So, I am not too pleased by this, but I am going to keep an open mind about it.
Progression wise, aside from Anzai and Tsukasa’s interaction, it was a very basic pilot episode. The devils are introduced in the most simplistic way without having too much revealed about them, probably to help build the suspense, and we get a look at a few of our main characters. The animation quality was average, but with a clean design to it. There is a lot of violence, however, they are muted out with vibrant splashes of cinematography to lessen its brutality. The series is super violent and bloody overall and complements the narrative as it unfolds. I would hate to see this element being blanketed by other effects just to make it more watchable because that would make the story lose its intensity and gritty ambience. I also did like the musical score. It has been a long time since I have heard an oboe in anime music, and when combined with some stringed sounds, I felt it helped to enhance the atmosphere of whatever is going on on-screen in the moment.
** START: Devils vs. Vampires Terminology **
Speaking of gritting ambience, let us look at these two terms. I read a lot of thoughts from various watchers about the confusion on referring to these folks as “devils” rather than “vampires.” Many people felt it was unnecessary, or it was the series trying to be pretentious. But there are legitimate reasons behind the word usage. There are a few reasons why they are specifically called devils in this story.
Firstly, a devil, or Satan, is always associated with doing unthinkable things; the most heinous of all crimes and atrocities that you can possibly think of, making them the purest form of evil imaginable. When a devil’s (from the anime) hunger gets triggered and they lose themselves to their urges, they become the epitome of what a devil is traditionally known as. All they see, think, and feel is hunger. They savagely rip into their victims to drink their blood and more-often than not, they will also rape their victims while they are killing them. Interpersonal connections heighten these things.
Next, in addition, aside from sharing fangs, blood-lust, and a few other traits that are revealed later in the series, devils are physiologically very different than vampires. They can walk in the sunlight, for one. Secondly, they are a distinct race of beings that can propagate like other normal creatures. When a devil has a child with a human, the child is a half-devil. When two devils have a kid, then the kid is a full devil. Unlike historical vampires, devils need sustenance aside from blood in order to survive in society as a functioning and coherent member, as well.
Lastly, the term “vampire” is distinctly European. In most Asian cultures, specifically in Japan, monsters and demons play a big part in supernatural beliefs. To see someone who appears the way that devils do—with elongated wolfish fangs, blood-red eyes, long claws, with a voice that borders on growling and screeching—the association will always be to that of monsters and demons, especially the latter. Culturally it makes much more sense for these vampires to be labelled as devils than anything else.
This is another reason why this series so fascinates me, because it takes that familiar mould/cliché of “vampire,” turns it into something that is uniquely Japanese, and does it with fresh perspective.
**END: Devils vs Vampire Terminology**
Overall, as it stands based off the first and second episodes, there is nothing uniquely special about the Devils’ Line anime that makes it stand out over other titles this season. If you are a fan of the manga like I am, but have been feeling hesitant in starting it, I recommend you try it out. It will give you a platform to see if you want to invest in it or not. If you do not know a damn thing about Devils’ Line and enjoy violent shows about what the word “humanity” truly means, and if you do not mind some insta-love that will get quite ecchi, then also give it a shot. However, if you only want to see things that will blow your fucking mind, avoid it.
You can catch Devils’ Line on HIDIVE on Saturday afternoons.