Anime fans are still grappling with this season’s breakout show Devilman Crybaby, one of the most “extra” anime to have ever been made. It’s a rare masterpiece, grabby with its demon-filled story and brash, sometimes shocking sexuality. It’s also the most recent in a long line of masterpieces by director Masaaki Yuasa.
Masaaki Yuasa has been melting brains since 2004. Dipping your toe into his psychedelic body of work is the anime equivalent of hearing Pink Floyd for the first time. If you haven’t seen any of the anime he’s directed, perhaps you’ve noticed his cameos in mainstream cartoons, like Adventure Time’s “Food Chain” episode:
He also animated Samurai Champloo’s famous weed episode:
If you’re at all familiar with the way anime has looked over the last few decades, it’s clear that Yuasa’s work is something else. He forgoes lots of anime traditions—large eyes, for example—for a kind of visual elasticity. He doesn’t have a distinct “style” so much as he’s got a distinct brand of “flow.” Melting, falling, popping, ingesting and shifting backgrounds are all ways he moves between scenes. Protagonists’ smallest emotions and experiences are visual odysseys. There’s a lot of absurdism, but everything is polished and purposeful.
Yuasa’s latest work, Devilman Crybaby, landed on the largest platform he’s seen yet: Netflix. If you were intrigued and want to see more, we’ve got you covered:
Kaiba is a short sci-fi love story unlike any anime I’ve ever seen. In its dystopian world, memories can be stored on chips which are sold to the rich. Memories and bodies are interchangeable. The rich and the poor are stratified, with their realms separated by a storm cloud that clears people’s memories when they pass through it. It looks a little like an an old Disney movie on acid.
Tatami Galaxy is a wild ride of a show about a mundane, nameless, third-year college student. In the anime, which is separated into four parts, he repeats his third year at a slightly different university and in a slightly different club. Each time, he encounters a devilish boy named Ozu, who entraps him in some questionable (but mostly nefarious) misadventures.
There’s a scene in Mind Game where a 20-year-old loser is shot in the ass, ascends to a computerized afterlife where he meets God, races a jaguar and then returns to his body. I don’t know what else needs to be said about it.
Ping Pong laughs in the face of sports anime. It’s about two table tennis aficionados—one, reserved and the other, extraverted—who compete to become the best. Yuasa inserts drama into each game with exaggerated, amoebous ping pong balls and absurd shifts in perspective. Part of me wonders whether Yuasa picked this up just so he could show off freaky-looking games of ping pong.
In just a few months, the U.S. will see two new movies Yuasa directed: Lu Over The Wall (May 19th), a charming kids’ movie about a dour boy musician and his new mermaid friend, and The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (April 7th), a genius romantic comedy about a girl with insatiable wanderlust and a bottomless stomach for booze. There’s a lot to look forward to.