First Impressions – Devil Survivor 2 The Animation

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And so it begins in earnest.

A trickle today becomes a flood as the premieres come fast and furious, and this is the first of a veritable busload of sci-fi and mecha debuts (not including the pustulent Date A Live).  My First Impressions posts are likewise going to be fast and furious for the next few days, by necessity – if there’s one thing this season has it’s quantity, and with school starting back up today and my usual resolve to cover the first ep of everything that was in the preview, the posts will be to-the-point.  Unless I see something exceptional you’re on your own for stuff like OPs and EDs.

Devil Survivor 2 is a funny one for me.  I’m a big fan of director Kishi Seiji and writer Uezu Makoto (Jinrui, Kamisama Dolls), but I felt that Persona 4 was one of the most depressingly inept and apathetic anime of recent vintage.  The sense I got is that they really didn’t give a damn with that one – if they did, they sure swung and missed.  I’ll admit to not being a huge fan of the concept behind Persona but I did go in really wanting to like that series, as I do with this one.

Sadly, I don’t – not so far anyway.  I do like seeing so much that’s familiar – I’ll be heading to Shibuya in two hours in the same train (the Hanzomon Line) that derailed and “killed” the two heroes of this series.    Hachiko is the normal meeting point whenever anyone gets together in Shibuya, and I’ve had coffee at that Starbucks in Tsutaya and stared down at Shibuya Crossing many a time.  But there wasn’t a whole lot else in this premiere that worked for me.  It wasn’t terrible – which was my immediate reaction to the Persona 4 premiere – but just kind of silly, without anything exceptional to recommend it.

I admit I tend to struggle when anime delivers a premise so absurd that it could only exist as a premise, like the idea behind Nicaea and the “death video” website and the demon war that springs from it.  I just can’t connect to something so manufactured, though if the visuals or atmosphere or casting were exceptional that would be enough to keep me hooked.  The visuals are average, the atmosphere is pretty standard and the casting is hindered by the ridiculous choice of Kamiya Hiroshi as MC Hibiki.  I’m sorry, but he just sounds preposterous trying to do that squeaky teen boy voice these days (though he’s grandfathered in for Natsume) – why can’t anime get past the nonsense of casting 40 year-old men as 16 year-olds?  Okamoto Nobuhiko is fine as Daichi and Uchida Aya as Io, but they’re really just delivering their standard performance.  And that’s Devil Survivor 2 for me after one episode – standard.  It feels wholly unexceptional in every way.  Will it pick up from here?  Sometimes game adaptations do, so I’ll give it a shot.

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  1. l

    Was there even a Devil Survivor 1 anime? Can't seem to find it.

    Do you think this will be like that recent Persona anime? That one had some comedic moments that were okay, though I skipped through all the battles. This one seems more serious from the screencaps.

    Btw, if I could give you a score for each write-up, this one would get a 5/5 just because you put 'pustulent' and 'Date A Live' in the same sentence.

  2. Heh. When the shoe fits…

    I believe DS1 was skipped. I don't know the game well enough to say why.

  3. l

    I don't game at all these days, that's why I was asking. Pointless to watch if it contains tons of references to a game I've never played.

  4. J

    Separate universe. No need to worry about it. The only connection is the gameplay elements

  5. i

    So its like Persona (just gameplay is the same)

    Personally I liked the adaptation of Night Wizard for some reason but other than that and F/SN I can't recall any non eroge or dating sim (like ef, Utawarerumono and Clannad) that I liked.

    Also I realize that we have 30 (now mid 30) men playing teens but why do you think that is GE? I mean anime gets a bevy of new female seiyuu each year so with a large fujoshi population why wouldnt it get a male bevy as well?

  6. Young male seiyuu aren't marketed like young females. They're one step down from the idol industry, and that simply isn't there on the male side. Whether it's because fujoshi don't care seiyuu or what, I couldn't say for sure – but it is what it is.

  7. i

    But what if the young actors in live-actions took part in seiyuu work. They're surely popular with the gals and ladies so wouldn't more of them come into the business of anime, or is the pay too low for them to spend time voice acting?

    The low pay could be another thing as I heard that most female seiyuu make an actual living from character CDs and concerts not the pay from voice-roles. Men probably have less of those so make up for it with tons of roles.

  8. S

    Not even one minute into the first episode, and Hibiki instantly reminded me of Snufkin from Tanoshii Moomin Ikka. Except Hibiki dresses in a modern/semi-futuristic clothing fashion, and is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya instead of Takehito Koyasu.

    The cell phones showing videos of death before they happen reminds me of Mirai Nikki.

    The first few seconds of the opening reminds me of Nina Simone's Sinnerman.

    I enjoyed watching the Persona 4 anime when it came out, and Yu Narukami actually became one of my favorite anime characters during 2011, alongside Rintarou Okabe and Ao no Exorcist's Mephisto.

    I'm liking the Byakko demon, though it definitely does feel very Pokemon-ish. Byakko could easily be Entei, or vice versa.

    I thought it was a pretty decent first episode, only premiere I've seen so far, and I'll definitely be watching more.

  9. i

    I always thought it was AKOOOO when I was a kid but after learning Japanese I get that its just us saying Aku in an american accent and with GAR

  10. k

    As someone who listens to a lot of talk radio, it's kind of ridiculous how young men can sound even if they're over 50…. ^^;; Anyway, it's kind of unreasonable to exclude older actors from voicing younger characters just because of their age, especially since 90% of anime has teenagers as main characters. It would be like saying "it's nice that you had all these years to improve and impress, but now that you've 'arrived' we'll ignore you and give those yummy roles that you worked so hard to get to play to noobs." Obviously, after a certain age, or rather, after their voice reaches a certain quality, there's no point in trying to sound fresh and young, but other than that… Anime voice acting is not really about realism, anyway.

    That said, I agree that Kamiya doesn't really work in this role, though I think the problem is that his voice simply doesn't fit this character. It's not horrible, I can live with it, but based on this episode I definitely wouldn't have chosen him for this role.

  11. It isn's isn't simply about excluding older (and I don't mean guys in their 20's or even early 30's here, necessarily) from voicing teens in a blanket sense. It's not using guys who sound preposterous doing it, like Kamiya-san does now (and so does Fukuyama Jun, and Sakurai Takahiro, and…). The point is there are very few people Kamiya's age who can pull it off without it sounding like a gag. It's not that they aren't good actors – they're just not being used well.

    Shoot, man, Chihayafuru even used Miki Shinichiro to play a teen recently. Was Shou Hayami unavailable?

  12. l

    Meh, prepostorous would be a godsend this season, especially after listening to the leads from Karneval and that Hairdressing Hentai (seriously, what's up with the voices of silver haired dudes this season?!).

    We need more Norio Wakamoto, dammit!! Heck, someone should make him voice a toddler and create a Japanese version of Family Guy.

  13. K

    Well it would be nice if there was more adult lead roles but that is a problem with the industry itself.

    So for all those seiyuu to get roles they almost have to voice teens and they are popular so they are used. Ideally for me there is always a good mixture of veterans & new talent in the industry.

    And it's not like they are voicing little kids but teens. Once you go through puberty your voice doesn't really change, maybe when you get really old but that is not the issue here.

    Anyways I don't think Kamiya is using that voice to sound "young" but to match the character's personality which I do think fits. It's not like he specifically uses that voice for teens.

  14. Z

    "Well it would be nice if there was more adult lead roles but that is a problem with the industry itself."

    I couldn't agree more.

  15. k

    I think the issue is not the character's age but the character type. Anime voice acting usually(!) follows character types. I'm not saying the character's age doesn't matter at all, of course, but it's part of the type like "young, brash hero" or "young, rowdy trouble-maker." As long as the voice fits the character's overall "image" it's a good match, regardless of the seiyuu's age. That's how you get 38+ year old seiyuu play (ostensibly) 15-19 year old characters convincingly, without even trying to pitch their voice high or anything.

    The problem here is, I think, not that Kamiya's voice doesn't match the character's age, it's that it doesn't have the kind of freshness and edge that this character should have in this show. He sounds too soft and "pretty."

    (By the way, I'm curious as to why you think Fukuyama Jun is "preposterous"… he has a pretty youthful voice, and to me he tends to be unconvincing when he tries to deepen it, like most recently in RDG.)

  16. k

    Argh, thread fail…

  17. it pretty much boils down to what I thought when I heard him try to be convincing in Chuu2byou – it sounds like a guy doing an impression of his teenage son at the office to make his pals laugh.

    Who knows, maybe that's what he was going for. I think FukuJun is quite good when he's natural – he was great doing so in Natsuyuki Rendezvous – and when he's going for all-out absurdity like Panda-kun. When he tries to play boys somewhere close to realistically like in Chuunibyou or Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, for me he just sounds silly. YMMV.

  18. K

    I like Fukuyama's deep voice (or Lelouch voice as I like to call it) but lately I think he overuses it.

    But yeah his natural voice does sound pretty youthful. Personally I think so does Kamiyan's (and Kamiya deepens his voice for certain roles too).

  19. k

    I haven't seen Chuunibyou so I can't comment on that, but from the first 2-3 episodes of MaouYuu I thought he was perfectly OK. I guess there's the difference in our POVs: I thought he wasn't supposed to play a convincing teenage boy (how old is the Hero supposed to be, anyway?) but a convincing "young hero" and he did that well. (And I think Albert in Gankutsuou was, hands down, Fukuyama's best performance ever.)

    I find Fukuyama's deep voice mildly distracting at best and annoying at worst. ^^;; (Especially if he also hams it up, like he did with Lelouch from what little I've seen from Code Geass.) In RDG I find it really annoying. As for Kamiya, he has a wider range, so a deeper voice doesn't sound as unnatural from him as from Fukuyama.

  20. K

    Oh I admit he hammed it up for Lelouch but the theatrics of that performance is why I enjoyed it so much (I actually don't really like the show but Lelouch and Fukuyama's performance is why I stuck with it).

    Sometimes a role calls for that over-the-topness (like Lelouch) sometimes it does not. I think my issue with that deep voice now is Fukuyama uses it so much that it has become boring to me (whereas his performance of Lelouch stood out). The only other time I liked it was when he played Mariandale and only because it contrasted so much with Mariandale's "womanly voice" which was funny.

    "As for Kamiya, he has a wider range, so a deeper voice doesn't sound as unnatural from him as from Fukuyama."

    Well I won't argue with this I was just pointing out that Kamiya doesn't actually have a really deep "manly" voice either. Although his natural voice is certainly deeper than what he uses for Natsume but I still think his natural voice is rather soft sounding (hence why I love when he does though wistful narrations like in Natsume Yuujinchou and Honey & Clover, that is what made me a fan of him in the first place lol).

  21. I like his Albert too, but it's not insignificant that almost 10 years have passed since Fukuyama played that part – and that makes a pretty big difference in the timbre of a man's voice when those 10 years take you from your mid 20's to mid 30's.

  22. N

    SMT is basically Pokemon for grown-ups.

    As for P4? The 1st episode was the weakest, it sticks far too close to the game for comfort and suffers for it. I too did a 1ep test and dumped it for a few months, came back and marathoned the rest. When the anime gets to flex its creative wings, then beautiful things happen. Like some great character development. And environment fights. And the hilarious multiple perspectives of Yu going VN protagonist during summer break. Yu being swag as fuck. And the final, apocalyptic set of confrontations.

  23. I watched 7 or 8 episodes of that thing and it sure never got to that point with me…

  24. J

    To be honest, P4A didn't hit its strides until ep12 when they start to pay more attention to Narukami's character. He was "bland" prior, and just turned into one of the male characters of the year in the second half. Just like Steins Gate there's a watershed episode when things went from decent to amazing

  25. Heh, for me it never got to decent. And S;G was better than decent from the first episode. But we all have our own tastes when it comes to anime, just like anything else.

  26. i

    I'm ashamed to say I dropped SG after 7 episodes as I found it too slice of life and Otaku oriented for my liking (This was before I realized Miyano Mamoru is the most talented male seiyuu) so I guess with any show I drop its important to check back on whether it turned out to be good or in SG's case great. Persona was apparently good but even after checking back in I didn't fancy it.

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