A New Breed of Tokyo Vampire | Devils Line Anime Review

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 Devils Line. Read on.

A lot happened as I watched this anime. 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.

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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.)

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Devils’ Line Vol. 1 by using that link. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

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)

Leave your thoughts in the comments, I would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter, Reddit and Instagram for more updates and reviews!

Would A Yokai Turn You Into A Tree?|Gegege no Kitarou|Anime Review

An obnoxious YouTuber accidentally releases a centuries old spirit who wreaks havoc in the Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo. All for views. He is then turned into a tree along with other helpless souls whose noses stuck to their phone screens. If only things like this happened in real life to Yt click-baiters, the earth would be a much greener place. (well, technically purple since that’s what color the trees leaves were…but you get my meaning)

Welcome to the Spring 2018 Anime Season!

Gegege no Kitarou (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 ), or Kitaro of the Graveyard is a 2018 anime based on the 1960s manga series created by Mizuki Shigeru. The opening song has a very old-timey feeling to it, reminding me a lot of an episode of Mushishi. It also has elements of my all-time favorite show, Natsume Yuujinchou, but strangely enough it reminds me the most of my favorite manga – Aku no Hana. I’m positive I am making this association due to the unsettling atmosphere and Papa Medama, who is quite literally a talking eyeball with legs.

The series starts off with a group of middle school friends. There is a set of siblings, the big sister of the group and her neighbor. They are discussing the current events and Mana-chan is defending her neighbor from callous comments made by the siblings. For some reason, I thought the nameless youngin would be our main character. I’m still surprised he wasn’t even consulted or brought along on Mana’s later adventures. His grandparents seem to frequently tell him folklore stories about youkai, and he is the reason Kitarou is able to be summoned. He could have added something to the conversation, but I digress.

Kitarou is a youkai in humanoid form. His name seems to obviously draw on The Adventures of Kintaro, the Golden Boy folklore legends. His father Medama is a small red eyeball with a body. Not sure of his backstory yet, but it would be interesting to find out if somehow his power had been diminished and that is the reason for his small stature. In Shinto culture, spirits and kami (or gods) derive power through prayer. In Natsume’s Book of Friends there is a common theme of divine kami leaving our plane or yokai losing power due to the newer generation’s lack of prayers. The deities are sustained through the older era’s prayers, and slowly as they die off their power is relinquished.

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After the inciting incident with the YouTuber, residents of Tokyo are being turned into trees indiscriminately. Well, I shouldn’t say that because there seems to be a theme emerging concerning the divide between the digital age and traditionalist era. Those who stopped to take photos for Instagram and other social media were planted with seeds of the vampire tree by Nobiagari.  Turning those addicted to their phones into vampire trees seems to suggest that modern digital culture can literally suck the life out of you and turn you into something hollow. Although trees do still have roots – a connection. In a vague interpretation, the spirit could want people to reclaim their link with the earth.

Mana seems to ask a message board for the location of the Yokai Mailbox to summon Kitarou and receives a reply. The group arrives at a street with high foot traffic and many office workers wrapped up in their own lives. Down a shady back alley is an old dingy straw mailbox reminiscent of Gassho-style farmhouses. I keep wondering if Mana saw the black cat above her on the pipes. The cat later turns into a rodent who turns into a bird who delivers the message to Kitarou. As promised, he appears to her at dusk with the “clop clop” of his geta signaling his arrival. In spirituality, dusk and dawn are attributed to sacred times; as is midnight or three a.m., which is commonly referred to as the witching hour depending on who you ask.

This kicks off Mana’s supernatural adventures and her belief in yokai, which grants her the ability to see them. Kitarou tells her countless times that there is more to this world, even if you can’t see it. Before being saved from Nobiagari’s seeds, she can only see a faint outline of the creature. After spending more time with Papa Medama while his son is incapacitated, she is able to see more than a faint outline. Although not stated in the anime, I believe spending time with the spirits also aided her new ‘gift’.

The contrast between generations is something that will definitely keep me watching this show. The technology age does have enticements with the ease of accessibility to virtually anything, but there are many drawbacks. Mana doesn’t remember or know how to write a proper letter before summoning the yokai. I admittedly cringed at this, before realizing that these kids probably were born in the early 2000s. I was born in the 90s, a time where landline telephones were still a thing and the internet consisted of AIM chatrooms and spaceship dial-up internet sounds. It makes me wonder how different our realities would be if we did remember the stories our grandparents might have grown up on. Would it change how we interact with the world? Or would things stay the same?

If you watched the first episode, how did you like it? Have you read The Birth of Kitaro? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more anime reviews. It’s a new season, and we’ll have a few more coming for you all!

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Why Recovery of an MMO Junkie Starts a Positive Discussion|NEET in Anime

I may have fallen back into hell. No, I am certain I have. It’s been over a year since I’ve watched an episode of anime, and I have finally sunken back into the familiar world that carried me through a million and one troubled times. So, do you want to know the first anime I’ve watched – now that I am back into my addictive abyss? Read on, my fellow anime enthusiasts.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie [ ネト充のススメ], or Netojuu no Susume is an anime I’d heard whispers of back when I was actively not watching anime. For reference, I was working almost every day surrounded by Japanese culture, Japanese people and Japanese food – I felt like I was in an actual anime. I was living my best life, as a shoujo maiden running for the train with toast in my mouth each morning. Okay, the toast thing is an exaggeration but the shoujo maiden thing is totally legit.

I love the ‘video game within an anime’ or virtual reality genre. It started with the first season of Sword Art Online, transcended with Accel World, fell off a bit with No Game no Life and still rests somewhere between hoping for a season 3 of Log Horizon and occasional rewatches of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. Maybe it’s because I actually love real life virtual reality; maybe it’s because I desperately wish to play an MMO with friends on Discord. Either way, I was really surprised at how fast I got invested in this show.

Have I also mentioned that I enjoy NEET characters? For those of you who might not know, NEET stands for Not into Education, Employment, or Training. It’s usually people in their late teens to even later twenties in anime, but statistics from the Japanese government suggest that those in their forties could even be qualified as NEETs. However, these individuals are usually not included in surveys – causing the overall number to be lower when it really may be much higher. These people tend to live with parents or alone in their own apartments, being supported by said parents or relatives. Some are self-sufficient, but this is not always the case. NEETs and Hikikomori share the traits of not liking to leave the house, as it gives them anxiety. They would rather order things online and have them dropped off in front of their doorstep, and do not socialize much. Many indulge in their hobbies, but some not even that. I have a demur enjoyment of learning about all aspects of Japanese culture, even the taboo bits that are usually hidden away.

We’re still getting to know one another with this new blog, but I’m really into this type of stuff. The subject of hikikomori in Japan interests me. It’s more of an interest in those people’s lives and how society perceives them, which although different from NEETs, episode two seems to focus on this subject based on the teaser preview. Our main character Morioka is a self-stylized “chosen NEET” who has retired from office work and honestly, I cannot blame her. The rat race is exhausting. I went from high school to college to internships all the while holding jobs without a break; until now that is, and let me tell you – I’ve been overwhelmed by having so much free time for the first time in literally eight years. Time to watch Netflix, time to watch my backlog list of films, anime, read manga, read books, finish reading the ASOIAF series. I think what really resonated with me in the first few minutes of watching this show is that Morioka jumps up hearing her alarm in a panic before realizing that she doesn’t work anymore. I still get anxiety anytime I hear my alarm go off…those are real feelings in our society today that I’m sure anyone reading this can relate to – whether it be an alarm for school, college or a job you’re not too fond of.

Morioka – which I am using her last name because it’s simply how I’ve grown accustomed to referring to anime characters and real-life Japanese people – reinvents herself as a turquoise haired male named ‘Hayashi’ in an MMO called Fruits de Mer. She is a newbie to the game and is kinda trash until she finds help from an angel in pink named Lily. Lily is actually an office worker, or 会社員 named Sakurai Yuuta. The two quickly hit it off, and through a somewhat nonchalant passage of time it’s almost Christmas and the Guild Master (Morioka joins a guild at some point, again super nonchalant passage of time) tells Hayashi that there is no romance allowed in the guild. Hayashi acts kind of dense and the episode ends with Hayashi and Lily exchanging gifts in a tree watching the stars at night. Romantic, but it was even more romantic that earlier in the episode the two (unbeknownst to them) met in their real-world avatars.

Maybe the camera panned in a confusing manner intentionally, but it seemed like when Morioka and Sakurai were in a discount Lawson’s together, the Fruits de Mer points card she was buying caught his attention. (Lawson’s is a popular convenience store chain in Japan, known for delicious chicken.)

The pair tries to purchase the same piece of konbini chicken, which happens to be the last. Sakurai recedes his offer, and Morioka leaves embarrassed. Again the passage of time is vague, but it seemed like she hadn’t left the house for at least a few weeks. Morioka upgraded her PC setup, but as I mentioned earlier she could have simply ordered it online. Her fridge was completely empty, but we have no determinate of how much she eats daily to calculate the exact amount of time she’s been NEET.

I enjoyed the first episode much more than I expected to, and I hope Morioka – rather Hayashi- has a supportive group of friends in regards to her new lifestyle choices. I will keep watching, but I wanted to make a first impressions post as I will most likely write more about this show.  It’s only ten episodes and seems to have an unaired eleventh episode special according to my anime list. I’ve had a habit since before film school of binge watching shows, even staying up all night to finish a season (here’s looking at you, Riverdale) but I am going to try my best to pace myself. I’ll share more thoughts on this show after I finish the series, but for now I’ll leave our conversation of NEETs here.

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Netoju no susume. 1. and Recovery of an MMO Junkie: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Have you seen Recovery of an MMO Junkie? If you could play any game for an extended period of time, or enter any video game – what world would you choose? Leave your thoughts in a comment below, I’d love to hear from you! Be sure to follow us for more episode reviews (also analysis of NEET and hikikomori in anime) in the future!

(I will let you know which game I’d like to live in when I make my after-show post)

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