A lot happened as I watched this anime.
You know how sometimes you’ll watch an anime, and the beginning is kinda crap? Like you don’t understand what is going on, the pacing is weird and the animation seems wonky?
But you don’t want to judge an anime by its OP, so you continue on and actually enjoy the episode and then at the very last moment – boom – the show decides to tell you to go screw yourself?
That was my experience watching Devil’s Line.
A churning, erratic cycle of thoughts flooded my mind within the first ten minutes. I had no clue what was going on; I could not find a cohesive link between the two seemingly different stories I viewed on screen.
My mind drifted to snarky remarks of how this may be the ‘poor man’s Tokyo Ghoul’. The mental trek continued toward associations with the Twilight franchise and Oshimi Shuuzo’s Happiness. I wondered if my interest in the episode would pick up.
Devils Line [デビルズライン] is a spring 2018 anime. It is one of several shows taking on the ‘a terrible creature is terrorizing the residents of Tokyo’ theme. Does that make it bad? No, not at all. What makes it curious, is its set up.
So the episode begins with this strange red tinged sequence of a vampire slaughtering innocent people under a full moon. I’m sure the red overlay was meant to convey the feelings of panic, fear, and anxiety in all of those being shown on screen. There were screams of agony with this sound of wind blowing through a funnel.
Rewatching the scene as I write, I still can’t really tell if this is supposed to show Anzai (who we meet later) or some random vampire who is later caught in the episode. I’m sure it truly is clear, but it’s just not registering to me.
I heard that in the manga it is immediately clarified, but alas…
We are then introduced to Taira Tsukasa, a university student who realizes that she is being stalked by a man with terrible bags under his eyes. There have been ‘vampiric killings’ around their prefecture that are only covered by conspiracy websites. One person who seems overly dismissive of the killings is Akimura, a close friend to Tsukasa who also happens to be in love with her.
(In a very, very creepy obsessive Lifetime Movie way)
The two subplots of the vampire killings intertwine and culminate when Akimura is walking Taira home. They discuss his apparent off-screen confession shortly before the start of the series, and he seems to get adamant about her possibly considering him as a potential lover.
No matter how long it may take.
Red flags doing the hula in front of Pride Rock a la Timon and Pumbaa style aside, I felt more uneasy with their interactions than Anzai’s apparent hero-stalking.
Akimura gets a bad feeling and Tsukasa tells him about her stalker. The two decide to run away from the brightly lit, high foot traffic area with tons of witnesses to a dark, secluded back street. The gloomy background animation style seems to have taken combined pages out of Another, Dusk Maiden of Amnesia and Aku no Hana’s manual on how-to-creep-out-your-audience with a foreboding atmosphere in otherwise pleasant places.
At some point the two embrace, and Akimura decides now is the perfect time to let his freak flag fly. He seems to get overly excited and begins to sniff Tsukasa’s hair. Rightfully so, she pushes him away. Then Anzai, her other stalker, decides to show up. But since he stalks for good, it’s perfectly fine.
Anzai confronts the source of the unsolved murders. Akimura decides to say that he assaulted and murdered those three innocent women out of love for Tsukasa; she gets misty-eyed.
Tsukasa tells him that he should have just told her he was an inhuman monster who may have secretly lusted for her blood. I believe she would have accepted him. I guess this is a nice gesture seeing as how they were very good friends, but the logical part of my brain can’t seem to not be creeped out by his actions.
Maybe my own past experiences are coloring my interpretation of this episode, but I just thought he was a really deplorable character.
This is coming from someone who enjoys psychological thrillers with a perverse passion. I am an avid fan of the Killing Stalking manhwa due to its exploration of mental illness and societal taboo. Mr. Robot, Death Parade, 13 Reasons Why, Pan’s Labyrinth, Alias Grace, The Red Road, Dark Mirror (somewhat – I find some episodes incredibly boring and I can’t get enough of others…It is a very mixed bag for me).
Anything that is film noir or neo-noir, I will adore it. This is the case with many other sources of media that examine outliers to the accepted norms that govern our world.
I do (on some level) understand that Akimura did what he did because in his mind, he was protecting the woman he loved. I also can understand Tsukasa’s reasoning for wanting to accept a man that has never harmed her and seemed to deeply care for her. But do I myself have to accept it? Absolutely not.
The series goes completely down the drain after that (for me) when Anzai takes Tsukasa home. Since he’d been hero-stalking her, he had a broad sense of where she lived and correctly guessed her apartment number.
The two have a somewhat heartfelt conversation about the nature of ‘demons’ and how humans could never co-exist with them. Anzai then notices that the victim is bleeding after he shoved her onto the hard, concrete street earlier in an effort to…urge her to run away? Which then ended with her injuring her leg and thus bringing us to the current situation.
Anzai decides to vampire it up and instead of trying to bite her neck, starts full out tongue kissing her? After we just had the conversation about how violation and murder are bad, and demons and humans shouldn’t mix?
MyAnimeList seems to list him as a half-vampire, so I guess he is exempt from his own cryptic advice. As he is forcing his tongue down her throat, a hip J-Poppy love song begins to play and the credits roll. I laugh uncontrollably between inhalation of oxygen wondering what I just watched.
It seems the two begin a forbidden relationship a la Bella and Edward style. There is also a character that is the spitting image of a young Victor Nikiforov. Apparently, his name is Johannes Kleemann, no doubt he is probably from the UK or Europe.
(After writing this, I tuned into episode two based on a dulled sense of curiosity. Moreso to try and find closure after the hodgepodge of a twenty-three-minute episode I sat through. I found no such closure.
It’s a bit depraved for the sake of depravity, but I won’t knock the anime based on my own perceptions of its storyline thus far. Also our female lead might have the absolute worst luck in the history of any vampire anime I’ve ever seen.)
Have you watched this show yet? Or read the Devils’ Line manga by Hanada Ryou? What is your take on the ‘monster in Tokyo’ genre that seems to have re-emerged in recent years? (I mean, I know Godzilla was really the kaiju that made it popular, but anime has had a lot of creatures terrorizing big cities lately)