#1 Meandering plot
As far as spin-offs go, few are as to-the-point as Devil Lady. It’s Devilman… but with a lady this time. Absolutely stellar innovation right there and I’m not even kidding about that. The original manga by Go Nagai holds a prestigious place in manga history. The anime adaptation meanwhile is more… insignificant.
The story follows a fashion model called Jun Fudo. One day she is taken captive by a shady organization and exposed to a horrific experiment; turning her into a so-called devil beast. Though she can turn back into a human form, she is now condemned to being the organization’s attack dog. Wherever beasts like her appear, Jun is forced to fight them to the death. All while being regarded as a disgusting monster by the very people who depend on her. The people who made her into this thing.
Because this anime started while the manga was ongoing, the decision was made to have the anime tell its own story. Using the manga as a base, but otherwise giving the scripwriter free reign to do their own thing. Unfortunately, that scriptwriter was Chiaki “The Evil Feminist Government” Konaka.
The original plot that Chiaki and his team settled on is mostly defined by its meandering pace. Absent are any of the manga’s shocking twists and fascinating parallels with other Devilman media. Over half the show’s runtime instead consists of generic monster-of-the-week plots. The scripts for which are dull due to a lack of character development and shallow themes. These soon begin to feel formulaic leading to much boredom. Those 26 episodes are going to feel like a looooooong slog.
Throughout all of this, the plot never really builds much tension. The manga has many twists and escalations that make the imminent finale exciting. By comparison, it’s remarkable if you even make it to the anime’s finale. Barely anything of note happens and plot threads only get to advance sporadically. You could skip half the series and your experience of watching the finale wouldn’t be affected in the slightest. How comical is it that Chiaki Konako—renowned for his complex, esoteric plots—gets outdone by Go Nagai of all people?
#2 Uninteresting/unlikeable cast
Despite her awful predicament, Jun never grabbed me as a character. Akira was a fantastic protagonist with emotional depth and an engaging personality. Jun feels more like a deer staring into the headlights, extended for the duration of 26 episodes.
Everything just kind of happens to her and she meekly goes along with it. The show pretends like Jun is a strong, confident woman with a fighting spirit, but never in any way that actually matters. She always ends up doing what she’s told no matter how wrong it seems to her. All that abuse thrown her way she only offers a token resistance against. Followed by her treating these very same abusers like friends who are worthy of her trust. I never got a feel (or appreciation) for her way of thinking. That in turn made her many baffling decisions all the more annoying.
The rest of the mainstay cast is characterized by how forgettable they are. Many characters were added to the plot that didn’t actually appear in the manga. All of them I struggle to name any kind of significant detail about. The most egregious addition to the plot is Kazumi, who is an attempt by the scriptwriter to give Devil Lady its own Miki Makimura. Even though no such character was deemed necessary in the original story. But because the characters and their development are so uninteresting, it didn’t even click with me that this was the intent behind Kazumi. They couldn’t even bootleg a character right.
This leaves Jun’s handler, Asuka Lan, as the only noteworthy character in this story. And she is memorable specifically because she is insufferable to have around. Asuka is a complete bitch. There is no opportunity to be an asshole so small that Asuka won’t take it. From shouting spoilers in a movie theater to getting people killed by deliberately escalating situations. All while constantly demeaning and wishing death upon Jun and everybody else. Of course, Jun being Jun, she starts viewing Asuka as a beloved friend because of this.
#3 Oversexed but no sex
I am no prude and neither is Go Nagai. Sex was an integral part of the Devil Lady manga, playing a central role in many of the story’s developments. Understandably this had to be toned down somewhat for the anime. Yet despite having no intention of featuring sex, Devil Lady keeps pretending that it will.
A fat chunk of the episodic stories revolve around Jun being seduced and that somehow leading to her having to fight again. Then the next episode starts and Jun is already finding new strangers to trade saliva with. There is an explanation for this behavior in the manga, but that whole plot point didn’t make it into the anime. Creating the impression Jun is just super casual no matter how often it puts her in extreme danger.
Besides making Jun seem like a dodgy person, these short-lived romances also became annoying due to their lack of pay-off. I am not calling for on-screen sex of course, but there’s just so little passion involved. A quick kiss is the most you get, usually presented in the least-romantic way possible. It is excessively safe. Why write half your story around romances when you’re too afraid to present any kind of intimacy? In fact, why even adapt Devil Lady at all if you need to remove one of its most core elements?
#4 Constant nighttime scenes
As an action series, Devil Lady is not terrible. Occasionally it even manages to get quite exciting. What’s not to love about giant monsters beating the snot out of each other? Well there is one issue with that. The fact that most fights are set at night.
I’ve railed against this before, but it bears repeating. I hate how anime like Devil Lady handle nighttime scenes. All the color and details gets stripped out in an attempt to mimic how things are just harder to see at night. As a result, these nighttime scenes end up being boring. There is no color or detail to appreciate and even the action itself is harder to make out. Almost like they’re trying to cover something up.
Some would call that realism, but is it really? This entire show is taking place in a major city. You’re telling me there are no artificial light sources at all? They could have found interesting ways to light up these battles. That would have taken effort and creativity though, so nope.
#5 Lack of memorable monsters
A monster-of-the-week formula isn’t necessarily bad. It’s a staple of anime that has been used in some of the most popular series ever. Even the 1970s Devilman anime used this format. Hell even the OG manga leaned on it for a while. Where this becomes a problem is when the monsters just aren’t very interesting at all.
The monsters in the original Devilman were memorable villains and that made the formula work. Big names like Sirene and Jinmen of course stand out, but there plenty of smaller fry that stood out. Ghelmer, Puffurle, The Bonds of Hinduism, Agwel, Nike, Psycho Jenny. And in the anime you have even more great one-off characters like Ebain, Lacock, and Faim. I didn’t look these up or anything, these are just characters that instantly come to mind when I think back on the series.
Devil Lady has no such luck. Its monsters trend towards being generic creatures, the likes of which would be background fodder in other Devilman media. Their stories are also fairly uninteresting, so nothing about them leaves an impression. Embarrassingly, there are some exceptions. Monsters that were straight-up copied from the manga look notably better than the anime’s own creations. Like this shark monster in the picture is pretty rad, right? That’s a monster straight from the manga. In fact, she looked even cooler in the manga!
More like this…
Cutie Honey: Superhero story by Go Nagai starring a female protagonist.
Serial Experiments Lain: Dark story with composition by Chiaki J Konaka.
Devilman: Devil Lady, but with a man.