After an intense and action-packed first three episodes, Devilman Crybaby settles down into a rather calmer, more character-focused episode. Of course this is still Devilman Crybaby, so calmer and more character focused still involves a demon absorbing a busload of people and then wearing their tormented, moaning faces all over its torso.
Last episode, I posited that Akira had abandonment issues owing to his parents’ death; well, he likely does now, but apparently they were alive up to this point, simply traveling abroad for work. This is still a clear source of abandonment issues in this episode, as his hybrid flashback/daydream shows. It even ties his involvement in the school track team to those issues: he is racing to catch up to them, to grow up so that he can join them in their travels.
Despite his frequent crying, I don’t believe Akira has cried for himselfin the series thus far. His tears have always been rooted in compassion for others’ suffering, rather than expressions of his own. But here, talking with his mother’s face and realizing a demon has infected his father and killed her, he finally does cry for himself.
But this moment has a curious parallel earlier in the episode, when Kukun pours his heart out to Miko. His rap starts out slow and awkward, but soon picks up the pace and becomes more passionate as he transitions from expressing his interest in Miko to talking about how his anxiety holds him back but he has much to offer underneath, as well as expressing envy for the ease with which his friends express themselves.
Miko reciprocates because she recognizes herself, her shyness and her envy of Miki, in Kukun’s rap. She connects with him on that level, and goes with him to Sabbath, where they are killed by a demon (presumably–the episode ends in a cliffhanger, but Akira is nowhere nearby and as far as we know no one else is rescuing people from the demons).
Similarly, Akira starts out unable to act when confronted with his mother’s dead, pleading face and his demonic father. He tries to connect to his father on common ground: they are both humans infected by demons, so he exhorts his father to overcome the demon as he did. Unfortunately, his father is already too far gone; the demon slices the top of his head off, so that even if he were able to revert to human form, he would die immediately.
He is slowly pulled into action, moving faster and more aggressively–more passionately–once he finally snaps and transforms, after Ryo destroys the little girl face. But just as in the B-story with Miko and Kukun, it still ends in violence tragedy, with both his parents dead.
Curiously, the cliffhanger of the previous episode is treated as essentially a C-story. The episode opens with the same confrontation between Akira and Ryo over whether to let Miki live, but it’s interrupted by a phone call from Akira’s mother–after which we just cut to Miki and Akira having dinner with her family the next day, having a conversation that serves mostly to establish that she doesn’t remember anything after she got into the tub in the studio, though she has a vague notion Akira rescued her from something.
Other than that, the issue is not raised, and nothing about Ryo and Akira’s interactions suggests two people who were on the verge of trying to murder each other the previous day. It’s a curious storytelling choice, and one that implies that Ryo and Akira have had serious fights before, that it’s just an accepted part of their relationship.
Regardless, the focus in this episode is on the characters’ anxieties: Miko and Kukun are shy and envious of others, while Akira struggles with abandonment issues. In that sense, his fierce defense of Miki is of a piece with the climax of this episode: he doesn’t want to lose anyone close to him, so he is willing to fight Ryo to protect her, and he is unwilling to accept that his mother is dead or that he has to kill his father, because he doesn’t want to go through losing them again.
It’s not clear exactly how close he is to Miko, but she is definitely within his social circle, as they’re on the same track team and she’s friendly with Miki. Losing her is thus likely to impact him strongly (assuming, again, that he does, which seems probable but far from certain). But the deaths of his parents is likely to impact him even more strongly, and possibly cause him to retreat. The question is what form that retreat takes–pulling away from fighting demons so he can hide from the world? Or throwing himself into fighting demons so he can bury his feelings of loss under anger and violence?
It seems likely Ryo will push him towards the latter. His casual exhortation to Akira, to trust no one except him, is intensely sinister. He is already Akira’s main–pretty much only–source of information about the demonic, and now he’s trying to isolate Akira from everyone except himself. In that light, his desire to kill Miki last episode shifts from a cold, ruthless character making a harsh but plausibly necessary decision, to an attempt to eliminate a rival for possession of Akira. Any attempt on Akira’s part to deal with his parents’ death by fighting the demons more fiercely thus just plays into Ryo’s hands.
And, increasingly, it seems like doing so is a bad idea. He remains enigmatic, and there is still reason to think he is seeking some form of enlightenment, or at least knowledge, but he is also extremely dangerous and highly untrustworthy. Unfortunately, Akira seems to trust him anyway.
Learning his mistake will, I suspect, be painful. Hopefully the events of this and the prior episode will help Akira come to that conclusion.
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