Jun Fudou is a successful model with a shy, demure personality, but unbeknownst to everyone- herself included- there is a darker side to her. In an age where humanity has begun evolving into hideous Beasts, Jun discovers that she is a Devilman, able to evolve whilst maintaining her human soul. Forced into fighting the Beasts by the enigmatic and manipulative Asuka Ran, Jun struggles to hold onto her humanity even as her bestial impulses threaten to tear it away entirely.
If you’ve ever wondered it might be like to take a magical girl series and fuse it with a retro giant-monster-of-the-week style horror, then it seems likely that Devil Lady would be the result. As expected from such a combination, the series starts out with a pretty standard formula; character of the week turns into a monster, Jun fights it, Jun suddenly gains the ability to defeat it- lather, rinse repeat. It isn’t the most enthralling content ever to grace anime, but as far as non-taxing mild entertainment goes, it isn’t too bad- provided you have a liking for giant monsters and retro violence.
Sadly, it is when Devil Lady actually tries to include some kind of a plot that it goes horribly wrong, and whilst I usually try to avoid spoilers in this sort of review, this time I must include them in order to indicate just how ridiculous the whole thing gets, and why you should listen to the people who will tell you that the finale is a big waste of time.
As to be expected, around halfway through the series, an overall story begins to emerge, as the generic monsters of the week start growing in number and banding together to terrorise the city under the direction of the more distinctively designed generals of evil. Once again, it’s not the most original of storylines, but so far, there’s nothing particularly awful to point one’s finger at- no, that would come later, for it is about halfway through the fourth volume that everything suddenly takes a turn for the worse.
At this point in the series, communication between the writers begins to break down, resulting in a messy and incoherent sequence of events. Characters randomly show up and suddenly become important to the plot, or equally they vanish for entire episodes with little explanation. At one point, Jun’s friend Kazumi is kidnapped, but even after being rescued she remains absent for an entire episode before randomly returning to stay at Jun’s apartment as if she had never been gone.
All this, however, is a mere warm-up for the finale, a confusing sequence of events that can only lead one to question the mental state of the people who wrote it. Late in the series, it is revealed that the domineering Asuka is actually herself an evolved human- a being with a gene that can prevent humans from turning into Beasts. Secretly believing herself to be the true future of humanity, Asuka cares little for anyone else, causing her to first concentrate on hunting Beasts, before enacting a plan to accelerate the transformation of humans into Beasts and then gather them all in one place to be killed (if that sounds a little inconsistent and unnecessarily convoluted, that’s because it is). As if this wasn’t enough, we also learn that not only did Asuka kill her father (the first ever Beast), but that she also possesses male genitalia despite otherwise being female.
This last point may seem a little superfluous, but as it turns out, it is of importance in setting up what happens next. For reasons which I cannot quite discern, Asuka needs to rape Jun in order to further her evolution, and once this act is committed, she somehow becomes an angelic version of the Devil Lady, which everyone seems quite willing to accept as God. God-Asuka now appears floating in the sky before several well-known landmarks, and even though she does nothing except just hover there, world peace is immediately declared. Even though this situation does not seem unpleasant, however, Jun is naturally stirred by feelings for her now-deceased friend Kazumi to challenge Asuka to a final boss battle and defeat her so that everything can return to normal. The point of this exercise? No one knows for sure.
Story aside, one area in which Devil Lady does take an interesting approach is in casting women in the main roles in an intentional attempt to be a ‘female take’ on Devilman. That being said, our lead is more than just Akira Fudou with breasts, instead, she is a fully developed character with her own distinct personality- and whilst her reluctant and retiring nature can sometimes annoy, it at least marks her out as a more complex individual than the usual brash and energetic hero who throws themselves into saving the world. Sadly, however, the supporting cast is far more one-dimensional, generally existing to fall in love with Jun (regardless of their gender or current commitments) and provide assistance to her as and when the plot demands it.
Visually. Devil Lady is technically quite clean, with attractive female and generic male character designs. The monsters, naturally, are pure retro ugliness, with only Jun and a handful of named characters actually looking quite good.
Despite being an interesting exercise in giving women a proper role in retro action-horror, ultimately Devil Lady is let down by sloppy writing in its latter half and a laughably bad conclusion that reflects poorly on the series as a whole. Enjoy it as a monster-of-the-week series for as long as you can, but be sure to keep your expectations set low if you wish to watch it through to the end.