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AKA: 悪魔くん
Genre: Supernatural Horror/Comedy
Length: Web release, 12 episodes, 25 minutes each
Distributor: Currently available streaming on Netflix.
Content Rating: TV-MA (Strong violence.)
Related Series: A live-action series (1966-1967); an earlier anime series ran from 1989 to 1990.
Also Recommended: Mob Psycho 100; Zombie Loan, GeGeGe no Kitaro
Notes: Based on manga by Shigeru Mizuki, published by Kodansha (1963-1967) and Shueisha (1970-1971)



The current "Akuma-kun" (real name Ichiro Umoregi) and his "business partner", Mephistopheles the Third (AKA Mephisto III) operate "The Millenarianism Research Institute" (a dingy office cluttered with books and odds-and-ends), and try to help people either bound in contracts to, or possessed by, demons- or at least Mephisto does (he wants to pay the rent); Ichiro/"Akuma-kun" usually just doesn't want to get involved.

"He takes his dog for walks in the middle of the day, he falls asleep in the park, and he always goes to the morning show at the theater. That sounds like stuff a demon would do" - Mio (Akuma's landlady's daughter)


A demon would do those things, sure, or something even scarier- like a retiree.

There's a 42-episode version of Akuma-kun that ran from 1989 to 1990 per Wiki; I thought this might be a pared-down version of it, but the Wiki article asserts this is a sort of sequel to the original.

I can't say I'm a fan of the character art, at least for the leads. The whole Mephistopheles family is drawn in a cartoonish fashion, and the depiction of our lead "Akuma-kun" adds grotesque to that- he's been given bulbous eyes with tiny irises/pupils, more the look we often see given to zombies in anime than to living persons. (On the other hand, the cast ventures to Easter Island at one point, and the islanders are drawn fairly realistically. For some reason, this reminded me of E. C. Segar's artistic habits in the original Popeye comic strips: the lead characters were drawn as caricatures, but minor characters were often done much more realistically, I guess to show that yes, we could make them look pretty, but we choose not to.) The art often has the crude sketchiness of early Ralph Bakshi, or, to use a more modern example, Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt. (This one emulates the latter in another, very unwelcome, way at one point.)

Concerning that "Millenarianism Research Institute" title, it's because "Akuma-kun" is supposed to be working toward bringing humanity into an idyllic "Millennium", but the current "Akuma-kun" seems ill-equipped to do this, simply because he hates humanity (despite being, himself, human), seeing people as irredeemably selfish and depraved. It's up to his sidekick, Mephisto III- who's half DEMON- to defend humanity's honor, and the show has these marvelous philosophical debates between our two leads, where they cite aspects of the "cases" they're working on as evidence for each of their viewpoints. (I preferred Mephisto III's compassionate, sentimental viewpoint to "Akuma-kun's" cynical, dismissive attitude; maybe I'm not as much of a curmudgeon myself as I thought.)

As far as the division of labor in their anti-demon operations, "Akuma-kun" has analytical skills, an encyclopedic knowledge of arcana, and the ability to create magic circles for conjuring (or, if they can maneuver them into them, banishing) demons, while Mephisto III has a magical staff and a few magic spells to use in combat; but our heroes' principal weapon to help those who've sold their souls to demons may be the fact that demons write legally sloppy contracts, so "Akuma-kun" can often void them on technical issues. (Sometimes it's the DEMONS that want out of the agreements.)

I have to admit that the two-part story that begins this threw me for a loop. I just wish that the final battle with the show's chronic enemy, a "fallen angel" rather than a demon (named Strophaia), had also been able to avoid genre cliches; but, on the other hand, I DIDN'T particularly like that "surprise" twist at the end of the series. I guess I'm just hard to please.

You just knew there would be other comments, didn't you?

-I REALLY need to find out the proper term for those hats with the ridiculously tall peaks worn by Mephisto III and his dad (Mephisto II, of course). They're the same style as the Mayor's hat in The Nightmare Before Christmas, if you need a visual.

-We're told that a new "Akuma-kun" only appears once every 10,000 years; but we're also told that Ichiro's adoptive dad Shingo is the previous "Akuma-kun". Does this make Shingo at least 10,000 years old? And where does that leave his "sister", if she's his biological sibling? (Sis is named Etsuko, and is married to Mephisto II, Mephisto III's dad; so Ichiro (current "Akuma-kun") and his "business partner" Mephisto III are cousins-by-adoption.) I finally understood the familial relationships, but the AGE thing is still puzzling me. Shingo, by the way, is so undersized (and looks so young) that I couldn't believe he could be anyone's dad, even an adoptive one, no matter HOW old he actually is.

-There's one storyline, involving our heroes' landlady (named Sanae) and her daughter Mio, that's genuinely (and heart-wrenchingly) morally complex; you could say it provides evidence for BOTH "Akuma-kun's" AND Mephisto III's viewpoints about humanity.

-There's also a demon named Gremory that becomes a semi-regular character in the show, and who is genuinely annoying. "Akuma-kun" keeps her in his service by promising her something, but tries to postpone the fulfillment of HIS end of the bargain into the indefinite future. For very good reasons.

-Various anime take various approaches to the background, and motivation, of magic (or Magick, as it's known to practitioners); some adopt Japanese traditions, but this one leans into the Hebrew traditions involving King Solomon, who was purportedly able to control and use demons. I'm pretty sure most rabbis would not consider those stories canon, but I'm sure even the Song of Solomon gives some Hebrew scholars fits. Solomon seems like an interesting guy.

I may not have liked the character art that much, nor did I particularly care for that showdown battle with the fallen angel, which brought in some of the usual shonen battle cliches. But there are several other great comic lines besides the one I quoted; Mephisto III is a stalwart and compassionate fellow (if ALSO a bit undersized); I was impressed that the first story totally blindsided me; and the Sanae story was quite moving, albeit melancholy. It's a very interesting show overall, despite its disagreeable (and disturbingly-countenanced) main character.Allen Moody

Recommended Audience: Netflix goes TV-MA; MAL goes R 17+. The main issue is gory violence, but we'll also include Mature Themes. There's no fanservice; it's NOT that sort of show.

Version(s) Viewed: Netflix video stream.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Akuma-kun © 2023 Netflix
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