Three kids, a God, and a plan for universal domination. This is ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’. Many of you out there are probably thinking that you’ve heard this name before, well you have because it was originally a game for the Nintendo DS which, funnily enough, has just been announced to be a getting a remake for the Nintendo 3DS sometime next year.
I suppose Hanabee, the Australian Anime distributors, knew something we didn’t as it is only now that this series is getting a release ‘down under’. Originally released over a year ago in Japan and streamed for the West thanks to Crunchyroll, it was an interesting experience being able to watch this series again in full English audio and without having to wait week by week.
Before even putting the disc in I took a moment to think about what I was getting into: Does it still hold up after a year of animation progression and newer series’? Will I be able to appreciate the English voice acting when I’ve already heard the supreme talents of the original Japanese dub? Will it be as good the second time around? I didn’t really know how it would go but, without giving away too much, I was pleasantly surprised.
To Live or to Die? When Japan is driven to the brink of despair by mysterious invaders called the Septentriones, humanity fights back using Devil Summoners, 13 people of great distinction who have made pacts with demons and been given the power to fight! This is the story where comrades’ deaths can be foretold, where mankind has been placed in the harshest of situations, a story of conflict and choices. Will they be able to survive the countdown to Armageddon! Their choices will decide the future in Devil Survivor 2 THE ANIMATION! – Hanabee
‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’, like the game, has audiences follow a young man named Hibiki Kuze and his two friends Io Nitta and Daichi Shijimi all of which were killed by a derailed train but were given a second chance at life…with a twist. Now back in the land of the living and accompanied by a cool new mobile phone application that allows them to summon demons, the trio must fight to survive.
An ancient being more powerful than any human can comprehend is testing us as a race: Seven days, seven trials, seven maleficent creatures to defend ourselves against. At the end of these seven days, all those who survive get a chance to talk directly with the creator of all existence, Polaris, who will recreate the world in any which way they see fit. In the right hands, this chance at rebirth can be great…unfortunately the ones in charge of reaching Polaris, the JP’s, are not the types to start a new world fit for everyone.
‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’, without coming off as cheap, is obviously influenced by older series’ like ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ and on some occasions even goes as far is to directly emulate them. Despite me not being able to shake the feeling that I’ve seen this all before, I never once thought less of the series because of how closely it resembled others I’ve seen in the past, and I think it is because ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’ takes what has been developed over many years of story writing and makes it it’s own.
While laced with traditional tropes, it does so much of its own and therefor cannot necessarily be faulted for it, though I can see and understand why people wouldn’t be too happy about it. The most obvious of the series when it comes to its story is that it is unfortunately falls victim to pacing issues. Though not terribly rhythmed, it does squash the story of an RPG into a thirteen episode series and USUALLY that means a recipe for disaster. Thank the Gods that ‘Devil Survivor 2’ wasn’t hit with the full force of this issue.
This means some characters aren’t around or explained enough for you to care about when they die and it also means that within the span of two episodes the series has almost entirely shifted. The story overall is incredibly interesting. The demons and the lore are very much inspired by true to life scriptures. Catholicism, Buddhism, Shintoism, all the ‘isms’ are featured in the line-up of summonable demons and it is clear what inspired what. As a fan of action and supernatural-type shows, I was very much into ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’.
Unfortunately, the animation wasn’t the best. In fact, it really brought down the experience of it for me. Now before you let your imagination wander; it wasn’t that the animation was flat out terrible, it’s just that it was dated and, even at the time of initial release, I never thought it was done to the best of the studio’s capabilities. Yes, there was a clear spike in quality when it came to action scenes but the ‘less than desired’ use of CG animation really let the series down.
That was actually a huge problem with the way ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’ looked, CGI was used WAY too much and it wasn’t utilized properly. Most of the time it actually just looked out of place. What lifted ‘DS 2’ back up was the way characters and demons were designed as well as the wonderfully dark environments. Each place had its very own feel and the implementations of things like steampunk style very much added to how good it looked. Once again, it was unfortunately let down by the animation.
Another of my fears was quelled when the first piece of dialogue was spoken in the series. I had no idea what to expect from the English cast, I hadn’t looked up a list of the voice actors and actresses featured, and I’d seen no trailers or footage of the English dub so, as you can imagine, I was going in…deaf. There’s only one real way to describe the English voice acting; it’s that each character actually sounded normal.
Like regular human beings and not extravagant, over the top Anime characters. It was so damn refreshing to not be able to pick a character’s trope personality just by the way they sound because they sounded like me or you. On paper, that actually seems kind of boring but I assure you it is everything BUT that. Patrick Poole, the voice of Hibiki, stole the show. It helps that Hibiki has the most impactful pieces of dialogue but Poole brings it to life with what seemed like real emotion. That’s not to say the rest of the cast did any worse, they all performed brilliantly and I was left feeling so impressed by their efforts. It actually made the characters I hated while watching the original Japanese version of the series likable. i can’t think of anything more fantastic than that.
While not nearly as impressive as the voice cast, the soundtrack for the series is very suited. What I enjoyed the most about it was that the timing of tracks are perfect. There was never an unnecessary placement of music and when a track was heard, it was because it needed to be and it blew me away. My favorite thing in Anime is when the opening or closing theme song bleeds into the actual episode, ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’ had this absolutely mastered! Nothing drives a scene home more than a soft song leading into a heavy chorus, and on multiple occasions it had me denying my need for sleep and continuing to watch the next episode. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the soundtrack does play second fiddle to the voice cast which is usually the case, for obvious reasons, but I never noticed it more than in ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’.
As far is video game adaptations go, ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’ would have to be one of the few that actually work. While I never played the game, I now definitely want to more than every. The way I see this series is that it just scratches the surface of what ‘Devil Survivor 2’ truly is. Look at it more as something that accompanies the game rather than tries to beat it and you’ll find a whole lot of enjoyment in what it has to offer.
I’m just a few clicks away from ordering the game online and it’s thanks to the Anime that I’m going to do so. As a stand alone Anime and not one based on a game…it’s still great! It IS missing certain things and it’s nowhere near perfect but it’s still just another good anime to sink your teeth into. Interesting narrative, fantastic voice acting and plenty of backstory to research once you’re done, but you can’t be done until you’ve started and there’s no better time than now.
Grab ‘Devil Survivor 2: The Animation’ on DVD now through Hanabee’s online store: Click Here