ANIME REVIEW: The Devil Lady (Part 3)

NOTE: This is the conclusion of Anime Obscura’s coverage of the anime The Devil Lady. We will be delving into major spoilers this time, so be advised.

devil lady - asuka transformed 1

Last time we looked at how The Devil Lady portrayed a depressingly true-to-life depiction of how society would splinter were its premise to become a reality. This time, we’ll wrap things up by talking about the ending and how the anime provides an amazing character chemistry between Jun Fudou and Lan Asuka.

If the first half The Devil Lady is a story of Jun Fudou performing a scary balancing act between her two alter egos, the second half of the anime is one long, heartbreaking process of loss. As society begins falling apart, Jun’s personal life follows suit, and she gradually loses everything in her life that mattered to her. She loses her home—this former safe space gets destroyed by a cabal of violent devil-beasts. She loses her job and the work-relationships she had come to treasure as part of her identity. Her friendship with Kazumi splinters as the two part ways, with the younger model needing time to process the truth about the older woman she adored. She ultimately even loses her freedom as Lan Asuka and her former allies among the human commandoes isolate her, jail her, and ultimately use her as a lab rat. Finally, in the lead-up to the final battle, Jun loses everything and everyone she ever cared about, and she quite literally abandons her humanity, cutting her hair and declaring that, “I will never be human again.”

As all this has been happening, Jun’s powers as the Devil Lady have only been growing. To meet the threat of each new devil beast, she becomes stronger, faster, and tougher; develops new abilities such as an electric shock; and gains greater control over her powers of flight and her kaiju-sized “giga” form. With this explosion of power happening alongside a total emotional breakdown, you keep waiting for Jun to explode in violence at the unfairness of it all and lash out at the world. What actually happens is that Jun’s self-loathing makes her turn all that anger inward, and she retreats into herself. Even as a normal human before all this started, Jun was always incredibly hard on herself, her own worst critic, someone who didn’t trust her own value and constantly deferred to others. This trait was counterproductive in her human life, but it proves her salvation as the Devil Lady. Even when Jun gains the might of a goddess, she doesn’t think herself worthy of wielding that power except in service of others.

devil lady - asuka and jun 2

This sets her apart from Lan Asuka, who we eventually discover is a non-human of a totally different sort—an artificial being created from biblical-era instructions to inaugurate a new golden age. Asuka is also a hermaphrodite, which sets her apart from most of humanity even if her pseudo-Babylonian origins are left out of the picture. Asuka and Jun prove to be mirrors of one anothers’ personality. Both women are consumed with self-loathing and bitterness about what makes them different, but this emotion that leads Jun into humility instead leads Asuka into scorn. She views regular humanity as earth’s past rather than its future, and the devilmen and devil-beasts as evolutionary mistakes that must be wiped out in order for her to fulfill her destiny.

This part of The Devil Lady takes a trip into unexplained weirdness, but apparently the devilmen who have been killed in the concentration camps have been sacrificed and thrown into Hell through some weird rite that sends their life force and power to Asuka. Once she absorbs a critical mass of it, Asuka takes on an angelic form of Biblical proportions – winged, radiant, beautiful, gigantic in size, and (true to a biblical apocalypse) visible to all the earth and worshipped by it. Humanity’s elite see the proverbial writing on the wall and line up to worship Asuka as a goddess and the harbinger of a new age. However, Asuka’s paradise only applies to the “worthy”; those who don’t fit into her vision for the future (i.e. the devilmen) have no place there. This is part and parcel of the Nazi ethos that landed the devilmen in the concentration camps to start with, and Asuka is Lucifer incarnate—beautiful, all-powerful, fiendishly clever, and fatally proud. Her pride robs her of any sympathy for the weak, and even as she ushers in the start of a golden era, we see that her paradise is a sham for those who don’t meet her ideal.

The only living creature who meets Asuka’s superhuman ideal other than herself is Jun. When Asuka’s “pet tigress” refuses to join her, though, Jun gets cast into the depths of Hell itself with the other devilmen. Here Jun has an almost hallucinatory de profundis moment where she quite understandably gives up and wonders what the purpose of all her suffering was, but the memory of Kazumi renews her sense of purpose, and the rage of the slain devilmen gives her power. Jun may have nothing to lose anymore on the personal level, but she recognizes and reclaims what has been driving her all along: there are people suffering who need her help, and she alone has the power to do something about it. What happens next is possibly the coolest and most “Hell, yeah!” visual I have ever seen in anime: a pillar of fire the width of a whole city block erupts on the outskirts of Tokyo, and giga-sized Jun rises on bat wings straight out of the pit of Hell. I shit you not, the hair was standing on the back of my neck. After all she went through, seeing Jun claw her way out of Hell to kick Asuka’s ass made you want to stand up and cheer.

devil lady - dl battle 3

The final battle itself is absolutely epic and carries one final cost to Jun in the form of a double arm amputation, but the end result is worth the sacrifice. The world left in the wake of Jun’s victory is not without its problems. The rifts and emotional scars between humans and devilmen won’t heal overnight, and presumably devil-beasts may still sometimes emerge in cases where a person has a particularly striking transformation that they can’t control. But what Jun did leave behind is a world that has room for everyone, regardless of their genetics. We see this in the anime’s final scene, where two little girls run down the street together on their way home from school—one of them has a tail, and one of them doesn’t. What made me feel better than anything is seeing that this is a world that even has room for Jun Fudou. She was the person the girls brushed past on their way home, and while the sleeves of her coat flow emptily in the breeze, she herself is well-dressed and looks beautiful. Jun Fudou has become a representation for her world: scarred by her experiences, but alive, well, and forging a new future.

It’s a beautiful ending to an anime that threatened to resolve in nothing but heartbreak, and I think it’s a wonderful parting statement for this show as a work of art. I said in the first part of my coverage that The Devil Lady was so much more than its bloody cover art promised, and I hope the successive two articles showed in part why I feel this way about it. The Devil Lady goes to some incredibly dark places, but its underlying message is one of tolerance, forgiveness, and principled courage in the face of unprincipled fear. Jun Fudou is a hero for our time, or any time, and The Devil Lady absolutely deserves to be on your anime bucket list because of that.

devil lady - jun and kazumi 5

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