At the risk of repeating myself, Concrete Revolutio just blows everything else out of the water in terms of ambition. Yes, ambition in and of myself doth not a good anime make, and its relative absence in no way precludes a show from being a good one. But I do admire it in and of itself, treasure it when I find it, and when it’s paired with good storytelling and delivers a result like this series, I celebrate.
If the other contender for best currently-running anime (Boku no Hero Academia) is a show you watch with your heart more than your head, Concrete Revolutio is definitely different. One certainly does respond to it emotionally, but it’s in terms of intellectual scope that this series establishes its greatness. There’s a wonderful soccer term “full of running”, used to describe a player who relentlessly moves about the pitch, never resting. Concrete Revolutio is intellectually full of running, a restless marvel of ideas and creative experimentation. It’s a product of both the experience and talent of those behind it. Every time an episode ends I need to take some time to gather my own restless thoughts, trying to make sense of what I’ve just experienced.
That “Shinka 47” is in reality an alternative 1972 can now no longer be even remotely doubted, thanks to the reference to Apollo 17 in this week’s episode. I don’t know who wrote “Devilo and Devila” but I would suspect it was the legendary Tsuji Masaki, who has quite some track record writing about devils and youkai. It also seems as if the guest-written episodes forego time jumps while the Aikawa Shou penned eps rely on them – one reason why this season is to an extent following the more linear narrative path I predicted it might.
The titular characters (no pun intended, but you know an anime is serious when it draws in the nipples) are a pair of “Underworld” siblings. The first clue that this episode would be special came in last week’s ludicrously enchanting preview, and that certainly turned out to be the case. There’s been a fire in a subway tunnel, causing fatalities, and the humans are in a rush to blame superhumans for the tragedy. While it’s never made expressly clear who or what did cause the accident, it seems clear that underground youkai weren’t involved – but that doesn’t stop the security patrols from going on a half-cocked witch hunt looking for scapegoats.
Emi has a particular interest and concern over these events, given that she’s basically a demoness herself. The devils in question seem to be something akin to youkai’s first cousins, and she’s quite familiar with both Devila and Devilo. The latter is still a devil child, one who hasn’t taken his adult form, and it’s he who winds up at Shinjuku Station intermingling with human commuters while Emi and a hitchhiking Fuurouta head downstairs searching for his big sister. Devilo has a peculiar singsong way of speaking, nearly poetic, and it has a hypnotic impact on the humans in his presence. And me too – while his words are simple and childlike, the way he strings them together gives them an air of profundity.
The themes of Concrete Revolutio are many and subtle, and don’t always reveal their nature easily. Racism (perhaps we can be kinder and call it prejudice) is obviously central to what we see this week. Japan is a highly homogeneous nation that has always struggled with “otherness”, and this series never lets Japan off the hook for any of its historical sins. When bad things happen it’s far easier to blame outsiders – obviously this is not a phenomenon limited to Japan, as the current U.S. presidential campaign illustrates. Devilo speaks of ideas that one might call naive and innocent – a universal brotherhood of beings, freedom, celebration of differences rather than fear and judgment – and for it is branded a dangerous freak and attacked by the security forces. At his side, by the way, is Zumanun, a giant catfish Devila has sent to protect Devilo – and it should be remembered that ancient Shinto texts warn that Japan’s many earthquakes are caused by a giant catfish livng beneath the Earth’s surface.
Zumanun is merciful, and Devila too – despite the manner in which Devilo is treated, they spare the humans a taste of what their wrath could do to them. Devilo’s parting benediction is a message of hope about a future where everyone gets along regardless of species, though the security forces don’t seem too impressed. It’s worth noting that in response to what happens in this episode Jirou and his former colleagues at the Bureau find common ground against the blatant recklessness and hate of the security forces – portending, perhaps, that in the end he and they might just come together in pursuit of a common goal. I hope so, because there are so many forces for evil in the world of Concrete Revolutio that there’s no room for the forces of good to waste time feuding with each other if we’re to have hope of a happy ending.