This is review number two hundred and ten. This anime is part of the Spring 2013 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Devil Survivor 2. I’m supposed to do a movie but I have none in reserve so I’ll just push on with the Spring lineup. I’ve seen previous reviews of this anime claiming that it was an awful video game adaptation. I really don’t think so. Passionate fans of any medium always have something negative to say to any adaptation it receives and this show got the expected backlash from video game fans. Is the anime a bad adaptation? Actually, as an impartial viewer, I think this is the best video game adapted anime I’ve ever seen. I’m a supporter of the anime and I hope fans of the original source can see the beauty of the anime past the handicap it had of adapting their favorite video game. Let’s read on.
The anime is about a guy named Hibiki Kuze. He is just an ordinary third year student with a friend that introduced him to the site named “Nicaea” that sends you a video of your how your friends will die. Hibiki and his friend, Daichi Shima, registered to the site and immediately saw a video of them dying after being crushed by a subway. They dismissed it as a tasteless practical joke until they saw the familiar scene happening in front of them. They both died after the subway collapse. The Nicaea site suddenly asked them though if they choose to die or keep on living. They chose to live and the Demon App was downloaded in their phones. They survive the accident but they also witness a bunch of monsters prowling the streets of Tokyo. Hibiki suddenly finds himself involved in a seven day trial that would prove the worth of humans and the survival of the world.
Taking the Pants Off
Adapting a video game is always a risky thing. There’s always the problem of condensing thirty hours plus of game time into just six hours plus of TV time. That’s like converting a DVD rip movie into an RMVB file. The quality will most likely be poor. This is the pitfalls for this anime. Devil Survivor 2 is part of the Shin Megami Tensai series that spans a lot of consoles and titles. Among them is obviously the Persona series. I’ve been a long fan of the Shin Megami Tensai (SMT) series ever since I grinded my way out of every FF games and needed a decent RPG challenge. I always come back though for the story. Blame the previous installments for having an outdated platform but the story is always something that is conceptually unique. I wish I could’ve played Devil Survivor 2. If only I had a DS. It seems like it’s the Persona series of the Nintendo console though since Nintendo is known for hoarding original titles and not sharing them with other consoles. It’s conceptually the same. It’s about a bunch of kids fighting monsters set in a modern world with technology being a great element and a dark story that is coupled by a coming of age story for the characters. After watching this anime, I can honestly say that I really want to play the game. A video game gives you an interactive experience as you progress to the story. That experience is removed as you simply watch the characters in the anime. That’s no fun. I can already tell the anime version isn’t even in the heels of the video game version. In terms of a really entertaining anime though, Devil Survivor 2 maybe one of the best for the Spring 2013 lineup.
The anime had an interesting premise to start out with. The Nicaea site would post videos of people dying before they actually die. Hibiki and his friends suddenly got a Demon App that can make them summon demons in order to fight monsters. The Nicaea site would warn them if someone would die and they can do their best to prevent that. The appearance of the monsters and the demon app is actually part of a grander story that involves the government and a task force called the JPs. The idea that a bunch of ordinary high school kids are forced to fight monsters is a pretty interesting idea but it gradually expands from there. The JPs are a group of people that protects the country from the invading monsters and they recruited Hibiki and his friends to join their cause. The monsters they experience until now are actually just a bunch of low level demons compared to the trial actually set before them. The leader of JP, Yamato Hotsuin, tells them that seven really bad monsters are coming and they must do their best to stop them. If they don’t then the world would be destroyed. JP is a rather forceful group though and conflicts between humans and monsters aren’t the only thing that concerns the survival of mankind.
The anime started out pretty rough. It’s expected since it needed to lay the groundwork for the rest of the episodes but I personally felt that the anime was overlooking too many things to reach its actual story. One thing I really admired about the anime was how dark it started out. A lot of innocent people actually died because of the monsters. These are just normal people that thought an earthquake occurred and then the next thing you see are a bunch of monsters blowing them up. There was a psychological element to this design that the show didn’t seem to mention. I can imagine in the game that you’re too busy fighting the monsters but everything felt a bit hollow in the anime. The initial premise of the Nicaea site also lost its purpose in the anime. It was actually just a plot device for the show and it didn’t actually matter as the anime progresses. The characters being a bit bland also didn’t really make this show that special. Considering that they only just met in the subway in the first episode, the character interaction wasn’t able to carry the anime. Everything was a bit disjointed at first. The thing that interested me though was the idea that the ordinary kids are now forced to fight a bunch of monsters. It’s a familiar RPG structure that I really admire. It honestly reminds me of the dark style of the Shin Megami Tensei series I have fond memories of playing. From a world inside the TV that people die in to a world overrun by disaster and zombies, any seasoned SMT fan can see the appeal of the story. It’s familiar and unique up to this point. The actual story though isn’t clearly established until you reached the fourth episode.
The anime had two plot points nicely interlinked together. The first one is obviously about the seven day trial. JP believes that there are seven really strong monsters coming in the span of seven days that are out to destroy the world. Hibiki and the rest of the JP members must stop these monsters or else humanity would be eliminated. The characters fight using the demon app that summons demons that will help them in their fight. The RPG elements is obviously toned down up to this point but the anime claims that strong people attracts strong demons. Hibiki is able to summon a really strong one and that makes him pretty vital in stopping the monsters. The anime also kind of glossed over the fact that the seven monsters are attracted to the various towers that protects certain cities of Japan. JP has set up barriers that stop strong monsters in invading the cities so losing the towers would spell doom for the city. The characters must stop the monsters before they succeed in destroying the towers. It’s pretty straightforward from there but the monsters aren’t as simple though. I honestly wished I was playing the game at this point because the seven monsters are impossibly hard and considering it’s not a turn based battle, the characters are easily overwhelmed. It gets pretty exciting how the characters can pull a victory out of their ass. These seven monsters might as well be LV 60 and our heroes are mere LVL 10s. This makes the battles really fun and exciting. I was honestly caught up in them and, as the monsters kept getting harder, I was anticipating them to come and destroy more cities.
Along with the first plot point is the emphasis on the demons that the characters use. I am pretty sure that the complexity of summoning demons was dumbed down in the anime but one of the best parts of any SMT game is the familiar monsters and the fusion system. They always re-use the same monsters as either allies or enemies and you always have the option to fuse them to get stronger monsters. I grinded my ass off to get strong fusion monsters in Persona 4 and I was deeply disappointed that the anime butchered that experience. I can tell it’s the same for Devil Survivor 2 but I still fangirl’ed when I saw the familiar monsters appear in the anime. These are the same monsters that I used in Persona 4 and Devil Summoner so I am really glad the anime found a way to make them part of the story. You should’ve heard me as I mark out seeing Jack Frost in the anime. Familiarity with the SMT really helps in enjoying this anime but it’s OK being unfamiliar with them since it doesn’t take the fun out of the experience as well.
The second plot point is about the conflict between JP and their ideals against basically the rest of the world. JP is a group that has the power to protect people but it seems that their only goal is to stop the monsters in any way possible. There were some pretty grim moments where JP would casually sacrifice people just to stop the monsters. It seems that they have an idea of sacrificing a few to save many which really bothers a lot of people in the show. Their leader, Yamato, is also a massive d*ck that doesn’t even sugarcoat his words. He believes that the seven day trial is a way to weed out the weak so the strong can prevail. Whenever someone pleads to him to show a shred of humanity, he would shrug it off and call them idiots. It’s pretty insane considering the world is in turmoil and a selfish guy like him is given the means to save the world. As the anime progresses, a lot of people would show sign of resistance towards him and question his authority. They believe that there is way to stop the monsters and protect the people instead of just blindly doing things without the regards of others. This plot point had a really amazing build up. Imagine a story of the world being destroyed by monsters yet you have a sociopath guiding people in this time of distress. It’s very unsettling and Yamato was the perfect bitter flavor to complete this anime. People would like to resist but disobeying him would only make the monsters destroy more things. It’s pretty ingenious and complex in its own dark way.
This plot point would slowly culminate with the main character, Hibiki, finally standing up to Yamato. Yamato is a pretty strong individual that can really save the world but it seems that Hibiki is right behind him. The story came to a point where Yamato’s belief of only the strong surviving clashed with Hibiki’s belief of the strong having a moral obligation of saving the weak. This is the best part of the anime, to be honest. The story wonderfully highlights both Yamato and Hibiki’s personal growth and backstory. The rest of the characters also got involved in the progression of the story that the show really had a wonderful balance till the end. The anime did a wonderful buildup of the narrative and you can hardly tell the show was adapted from a video game. Every boss battle from this point out is really amazing because you have two clashing beliefs working together and facing the harsh trails while they also fight among themselves. It got a bit personal towards the later parts of the anime and I really admire how engaging the show became afterwards.
The characters are all pretty good. It needed time for them to get interesting though since they really just functioned within the limits of the story. In the game, there is this thing called the “Fate System” where you slowly get to know each character and this is where the Nicaea site actually mattered. While in their route, you have the task of saving their life. Through various choices, your relationship with them grows. This also culminates in a specific “ending” depending on what choices you make. This is the interactive element of the game that doesn’t translate well to the anime so obviously it got cut. The characters now became pretty one dimensional and they mostly serve as playthings for the story. I am pretty glad though that the anime didn’t try to tackle the complicated routes. Persona 4 the animation tried it and it made the anime pretty confusing. Devil Survivor 2 was pretty smart in introducing the characters based on how they affect the story. Like I said though, most of them are pretty disappointing especially if you played the game yourself. Most of the side characters are barely introduced and they had very little role in the anime. This was a major flaw considering how most of them die in the show. There was no reaction for their death. I personally wanted to care but it was all a shallow plot device from my perspective but it really shouldn’t be. I’m sure a decent fleshing out would’ve made them more amazing but thirteen episodes cannot satisfy that. Towards the later parts of the show though, the characters got a bit more tolerable because of the events of the anime.
Hibiki is pretty miserable though. The anime did a bad job of developing this character. He started out as an ordinary student that turned into a really concerned guy that preached about saving people. Granted, the events of the anime was pretty shocking that it’s enough to rattle the main character but his progression just felt a bit awkward and it’s clear he is just rolling along with the story. He became really interesting though when the story reached the point where he was standing up against Yamato and his twisted beliefs. He was the face of resistance while Yamato was the face of authority which made him really interesting and seeing his growth from there is one of the highlights of the show. Yamato is the best character in this show though. He was just really anti-everything. He rejects friendship, morality and camaraderie that seems weird considering the world doesn’t need any friction from the people that will save it at this point. He was just so resistant and nothing bothers him. People dying don’t affect him, using people like pawns are something he feels he must do and he believes that useless idiots should just die. Every time he speaks you can just know that it will be negative and it will make you want to knock him out. The worst part is that he even pushes others into follow his ideals simply because the world would be destroyed if they don’t. Seeing Hibiki and Yamato clash ideals is really fun to watch and how it would end would be an awesome part of the anime.
Hibiki’s best friend, Daichi, also nicely stands out. In the anime, he was deemed as weak and almost every demon he summons are low level type that would either run away from battle or just suck at fighting. He served as comic relief when times are easy in the show and seeing him hug Hibiki also stirs something evil inside my mind. The rest of the cast is pretty decent. Most of them hold ideals that either support Yamato or deny him and it’s pretty interesting to what lengths they go to just to uphold those ideals. Most would follow Yamato with no question asked despite knowing how twisted he is and some of them want to punch him but they know he has powers they can never match up to. As far as their personality, it’s really weak. With their ideals aside, they don’t do much in the anime other than summon familiar SMT monsters or reinforce the dark theme of the anime by dying. Their participation in certain boss fights also adds variety to it. Seeing a lot of people flail and get pinned down by the monsters made the scene pretty exciting.
Lastly, the anime had a nice theme of hope and despair. It’s a pretty subtle theme because of the rough pacing of the anime but there were still moments where it nicely shined. A lot of people cling onto hope that one day the entire thing would be over and they could go back to their normal lives. Some have a realistic look at things and know that the world is too f*cked up for it to be normal again. The different views of the characters made the theme pretty great but you can tell the story was slightly butchered to fit the anime’s time frame. I can tell the individual character routes had some interesting stories to tell that the anime cannot entertain. I’m fine with that because those certain moments where a character must choose between hope and despair is really nicely executed. One character that nicely carries this theme the best is Alcor, the awesome dude with white hair and oddly bushy eyebrows. His role in the anime isn’t that clear at first but he seems to cling onto hope while also acknowledging despair. The anime nicely explored his background and there was some decent fleshing out that made him one of the most interesting characters in the anime next only to Hibiki and Yamato.
I’m not familiar with Studio Bridge and it seems that they’re just starting out. They did a tremendous job at adapting a video game where as others fail miserably at it. As it stands, Devil Survivor 2 might be the best anime based on a video game you can ever watch. They really did a great at capturing the game’s spirit while making sure they nicely condense the events of the game in such a limited time. It also seems like Seiji Kishi learned a lot from directing Persona 4 in making sure this anime becomes successful. It’s pretty great and a really enjoyable one. Like I said, not a lot of video game anime is successful. This one crushes that notion though as it delivers a gripping story with a nice subtle RPG theme on the side.
Sight and Sound
Character design is amazing. Suzuhito Yasuda does a great job at capturing flashy teenagers at all his works. The nice touch of modernity in their fashion style coupled with a wide range of character templates gives his designs a refreshing look. If you’ve ever fallen in love with the characters of Durarara then I’m sure you’ll love the ones in Devil Survivor 2 since he designed the characters of both anime. The anime did a great job of capturing the flashiness of the characters though. Video game characters are always flashy by default but capturing that kind of style in an anime is pretty hard. Persona 4 did a rough job at it because of the low quality animation and odd choice of skin color (freaking gradient flesh color, WTF). This wasn’t the case in Devil Survivor 2. The intricate details of each character nicely stand out at almost every scene they are in. Hibiki is the typical hero type with a normal body built but I am a fan of that stupid hoodie he wears. The color scheme of his outfits plus the innocent look he has with those bright eyes and messy hair really gave his look a unique spin. Yamato is pretty amazing as well. A bit visual kei inspired in its conception, the way he wears black and frowns at everything made him look incredible. Yes, even devilish handsome. The rest of male characters had the same flashy design. The SMT series have a lot of flashy teenagers though that counters the conventional RPG ideals that make the series incredible. Certain characters look familiar and their fashion sense is a bit nostalgic. The nice range of different faces and body build is also one of the reasons why Suzuhito’s design is so amazing.
The female characters also had the same flashy style to them. The range of style is something worth noting. From a simple school girl with big boobs to a half-naked character with big boobs, the small details really made the big difference. The amazing design of the faces and body type as well made them stand out. I am a huge fan of Io. She was bland and really didn’t do much in the anime but she always looks so beautiful in every scene she was in. There aren’t a lot of female characters and most of them have simple looks but it’s really the small details that set them apart from the rest.
The monster designs are pretty great. The SMT monsters look really amazing. They look as lovely as if they just jumped out of the video game. Familiar summons and even the new ones are all nicely designed. The lack of explanation of them made them more like simple chess pieces but these guys have great history in the video game series. I still remember the nightmare I had just to fuse together a neko shogun and suddenly seeing this awesome creature fight along the even harder to fuse Cait Sith made me scream like fan girl. This is all geek talk, I’m sorry. The monsters are nicely featured in the anime and their designs are amazing. Atlus has a nice way of making awesome monsters and I commend the anime for featuring that. From simple animal monsters to human-like creatures, they nicely stand out. The smart use of different color scheme and the flashy details on them nicely make them pretty bad ass. It comes to a point where you even want to try your hand at summoning these creatures because it’s just so enticing as you watch the anime.
The animation is pretty amazing. I am not a fan of limiting movements of the characters when they talk though. Most characters do not blink and they have limited motion just because they wanted the pretty face to remain pretty. The movements are still pretty smooth though and it really improved the quality of the anime. The fight scenes are outstanding. I can tell it barely captures the appeal of the turn based RPG of the game but the individual fights all had a nice pacing to them. The focus on the characters along with the destructive style of the monsters made the fight scenes pretty incredible. I am also a fan of the innocent people dying. There’s not a lot of carnage in it but just seeing poor innocent people get blown up is enough for me. The use of CG was pretty smart and the color palette of the anime nicely mixed with the stiff CG movements. The fight scenes between characters are pretty impressive as well. It’s heavy with dialogue but the animation is never compromised. It’s smooth and the brilliant pacing made up for the lack of a turn base experience. I really admire how they overcame that hurdle.
The anime’s OP is “Take Your Way” by livetune adding Fukase (from SEKAI NO OWARI). This is an amazing song. It’s a catchy and upbeat techno song. It starts out a bit slow but hits a really catchy chorus. I’m new to kz so I instantly fell in love with the song. It’s a nice song about facing hardship and finding yourself. The OP sequence features all the characters in still poses with a flashy zoom and pan style as it progresses. It ends with an amazing montage of certain scenes in the anime and the characters on top of broken cogs. It’s a cool and flashy OP that really feels more like a video game OP to me.
The anime’s ED is “Be” by Song Riders. It’s another awesome song from this anime. It’s a decent rock song but the lyrics are a bit hard to understand. The amazing guitar riffs and this creepy vibe it has really made the song amazing and highly impressionable. It hits with an awesome chorus that is catchy and really vibrant. The singer’s voice is really amazing as he hits those high notes of the chorus. The ED sequence features the characters in still poses on the streets of Tokyo looking pretty happy. The background suddenly changes to the grim destroyed state when the monsters hits and the character’s vibrant demeanor changes into serious and gloomy ones. It reverts back after the last character is shown. It’s an amazing ED. It’s one of my favorites, to be honest.
7/10 “The intense series of events coupled by some amazing characters make this anime one of the best video adapted anime you can ever enjoy”
The anime had a rough start but the show eventually got amazing as it progresses. The characters really made this show special and the nice nod to the legacy of the SMT franchise is a nice touch. I’m sure fans of the video game would see the flaws of the anime but anime fans can easily enjoy what it presents. It has an exciting story and a bunch of hot characters. If you enjoy shounen anime with a deep theme then you’ll enjoy this anime. If you ever played the game then I’m sure you’ll love this one as well. I recommend it.