Before you die, you see... your dead face? As an avid sci-fi nut, I would've already been on board for a pilot centered on the reliable terror of technology taking over. DEVIL SURVIVOR 2: THE ANIMATION, though, goes one step further and combines a cutting-edge smart phone app with the supernatural.
(Trust me, it's actually a rather chilling premise).
Out of all the new Spring pilots I watched, this one was by far the best. It not only combined two of my favorite genres, but also introduced a fun futuristic story that kept me wanting more.
It only takes moments for the world to change when Hibiki and Daichi, two best friends in high school, discover a new app called "Nicea." Downloaded directly to their phones, Nicea is all the rage among their friends. Supposedly, it shows you your “dead face” - - the moment of your death!
As the two buddies wait for the metro, an ultra-cute, lavender-haired buxom bimbo swirls around their screen. She previews their fate, showing a devastating underground train incident that crushes and kills Hibiki. And that preview comes true only seconds later. The Nicea host pops up again, chipper as ever, offering Hibiki another chance. In true touch-tone fashion, our would-be hero is given two options: Die or Live.
Understandably, Hibiki chooses to live and then, out of the darkness, a monstrous creature rises out of the rubble. It's a demon, to be precise. And here’s where the true premise of the show is revealed. Nicea doesn’t just show you a premonition of your death; it’s actually a demon summoning app. Hibiki (and later, Daichi and the inevitable love interest, Nitta) can summon good demons to protect humanity from seven subsequent demons (known as the Septentriones) hell-bent on destruction.
If this all seems to be moving rather quickly, that’s because it is. DEVIL SURVIVOR wastes no time establishing its plot. By the end of the pilot, Hibiki has fought multiple demons, discovered a secret society sworn to protect the world from the Septentriones, and gotten the sneaking suspicion that he and his Avatar, a tiger-like demon named Byakko, are integral to humanity’s survival.
The next few episodes introduce more characters. There's the Japan Meteorological Agency (the JP), there are fellow summoners (some with ulterior motives) and there's an absolute hodgepodge of demons. Although the story dives right in, Hibiki, Daichi and Nitta are all so immensely likable that it isn’t hard, at all, to root for them as they fight to save humanity. Each episode moves at in rapid fire succession, introducing new villains and conflicts at every turn.
One of the highlights of the series so far is the variety in demons, both good and bad. Hibiki’s avatar is a bright blue snow tiger that bounds up skyscrapers, darts away from giant exploding ice cream cone-esque adversaries, and roars with the confidence of a true warrior. On the less ferocious end of the demonological tree: Daichi is saved by a spritely pixie demon, a moon-faced little ninja pops up more than once, and the different summoned demons come in a surprising number of shapes and sizes.
Watching this pilot, I was reminded of the other anime shows I’ve enjoyed so far; most notably BLOOD C. After viewing a few soul-destroying teen slice-of-life or humdrum romance shows, it's safe to say that dark supernatural / sci-fi dystopian anime captivates me far more than the tamer stuff.
In fact, this show seems to have all the integral anime plot points that keep me interested: an innovative twist, sleek design, the paranormal, corruption, conspiracy... and a ton of epic monster battles.
After five episodes, Hibiki and his demon summoning pals still have me hooked. By integrating the supernatural into their high-tech battle to save humanity, DEVIL SURVIVOR has fused two of my favorite genres together into a fast-paced futuristic thrill ride. With each episode, another day - - and demssssssson - - passes by.
Will Hibiki save us from the seven demons?
Are there more tricks up Nicea’s sleeve?
We’ll just have to keep up with the demon summoning gang to find out...
Rachel Heine is an anime novice, film buff and food blogger based in Los Angeles. She writes and edits for arts & culture online magazine, Buzzine, and runs her own personal blog at PopandSizzle. Follow her Twitter: @RachelHeine