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Devil Survivor 2: The Animation – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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The story revolves around a mysterious calamity which plunges the world into a state of chaos. This causes Hibiki Kuze and his friends Daichi Shijima and Io Nitta to be suddenly thrown from their normal lives into a battle of survival. They must now fight against creatures called Septentriones, sent by the alien entity Polaris to destroy the spiritual barriers protecting Japan from a recreation tool known as The Void. Gaining the ability to summon demons from a cell phone app, Hibiki and his friends team up with an organization known as the JP’s to protect Japan and above all else, survive.

Anime series that are based on video game titles often find themselves in the predicament of attempting to appease both fans as well as newcomers to their respective universes. Leaning too much towards one approach may unintentionally alienate the other, in turn producing a bizarre concoction of a work that is as confusing as it troublesome to watch. Devil Survivor 2: The Animation finds itself in such a precarious position, with it being a series based upon the popular Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2 for the Nintendo 3DS. Fortunately, Devil Survivor 2: The Animation is a series that attempts to rectify the complex narrative found within its source material, therein providing a suitable adaptation of that source material for a general viewing audience.

Given that the series is based on a video game though, Devil Survivor 2: The Animation does not shy away from presenting a sort of monster-of-the-week-tone that resonants throughout the entire series. There are literally dozens of character transformations, demon summonings, and utterly devastating battles that commence throughout the series that makes it a work that is highly reflective upon the RPG-laden environment of its source material. Those looking for such high octane action sequences will be pleased to know that the series unequivocally focuses on delivering them in abundance and without much hesitation. This is especially seen in the sheer grandiosity of the battles themselves, with plenty of environmental devastation that rivals much of the absolute destructiveness seen in the most popular of giant monster films. They are brutal, intense, and most importantly, central to much of the character development of the series.

And considering character development, the series does a commendable job in eliciting it even though it is not exactly expressed in the most original of ways. Once again, when one considers that the series is based on a video game, character development here is seemingly sufficient enough to accommodate the game’s own exploration of such development, choosing only to elaborate upon certain circumstances in order to expand upon the ‘plausibility’ of the series’ narrative. Considering that one of the most important dynamics of the video game was the importance of player choice and how it influenced the outcome of certain events, the series must essentially choose its own outcome in order to tell a cohesive and understanding narrative. This approach is an interesting one to say the least, but some viewers who are familiar with the source material may disapprove of the choices the series adheres to, simply viewing them as constrained attempts at removing choice from the equation. Of course, this is a dilemma more so belonging to those accustomed to the video game than the average viewer, but it is a significant one to say the least.

One of the elements of the narrative that remained quite intriguing though was that of its focus on humanity and freewill. A complicated and controversial topic amongst many circles, Devil Survivor 2: The Animation views it as a proposition for humankind to dictate its own future without the need for supernatural interference. Hibiki and company are seen as various, human pieces within a cosmic puzzle far larger than themselves, with their actions towards saving or destroying humanity remaining a constant struggle throughout the series. It makes the impact of the final several episodes all the most notable as the simple aspect of survival weighs heavy on Hibiki and his choice regarding the prospects of humanity. And although the supernatural is a strong component of its narrative, Devil Survivor 2: The Animation expresses it by using governmental organizations and authoritative figureheads to validate its somewhat farfetched premise involving demons and apparitions. It may appear as rather ridiculous at times, but it does ground a series that could have easily been totally adherent to the supernatural and without much believability.

Even with these issues, Devil Survivor 2: The Animation is a series that faithfully recreates the ferocity of the source material in which it stems from. The way that the series implements  violent clashes, the notion of humanity choosing its own destination, and immediate planet-wide destruction produces a series that remains outside the realm of most video game-to-anime adaptations. While this suggestion certainly does not remove the series from some of its problems, it does convey itself as a show that is deeply interested in reflecting the atmosphere of its video game counterpart quite well. Considering that Devil Survivor 2: The Animation is a series stemming from a prominent video game title, it is even more surprising to see it succeed in many areas, offering a series that both fans and newcomers should enjoy given its considerable substance.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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