It's a shocker. It's unfit for family viewing, to put it mildly. However it's also so good that you had critics apologising for not putting it first in their lists of "best of 2018", and they weren't always just talking about anime.
PREMISE: Akira Fudou is a timid teenager who lives with the family of his childhood friend, Miki Makimura. His best friend is the cool, gun-toting and possibly insane Ryou Asuka, who has a theory about devils. Distressingly, he's right. Devils are real. Akira's about to be transformed into one: Devilman.
This adaptation combines:
1. Go Nagai's most infamous work (that's not just going for shock value), with sex, ultra-violence and a hero who's, literally, a devil. Oh, and the ultimate Go Nagai ending. He worked really hard on it, incidentally, and was shocked when Mazinger Z became more popular. I haven't actually read the original manga, but it's been on my "to buy" list for years and I've seen all the adaptations. Leaving aside bits and pieces like Violence Jack, the 1972 TV series is a kiddie show (!?!), the 1987 OVAs are bypassing the story to go for the shocking finale and the 2004 live-action film is better than everyone says (but is widely hated). Devilman Lady is a very respectable attempt, though.
2. Masaaki Yuasa, one of anime's most interesting directors. I haven't seen everything of his by any means, but The Tatami Galaxy is clearly the work of a unique voice and I must watch Kaiba and Kemonozume.
What he's done here, frankly, is to make Go Nagai good. I revere Nagai, don't get me wrong, and he's a creative powerhouse who invented whole industries. However he's also a childish vulgarian who keeps going so far over the top that you can't show great swathes of his work to normal people. Yuasa, though, is seeing the story's human heart while also embracing the Nagai-ness. He's called Devilman a romance... and it is, but you need a special kind of person to say that.
You've got Go Nagai demons, with 1970s character designs and their own kind of crudity. You've got lots and lots of sex, boobs, ultra-violence, vigilante murder gangs and more. You've got drug orgies. There's so much extreme content that you'd expect it to be shlock, but Yuasa keeps it true and emotionally honest.
Hence the critical response. The storytelling's like a cannonball. Doing a story this huge in ten episodes is mental. There's always something huge around the corner. However the characterisation feels real and you can always feel the human dimension.
Hence the dichotomy in the title. Devilman is a crybaby.
I've seen gay fans say that this show spoke strongly and personally to them. I can see that. There's a group of rappers... and they're great! Yuasa cast real rappers in those roles and they're a strong voice in the show. We see mankind at its best and its very, very worst. (When the apocalypse comes, we'll deserve it.) Amazingly, wonderfully, the 1970s Devilman anime exists in-universe and the characters have watched it. We'll even hear its theme tune.
The characters are all-important. Akira and Ryou's relationship has never come across to me this strongly, ever. They really are friends. They love each other. It's just that Ryou is... well. (Ep.10 is unexpected and kind of off-putting unless you see it as the show shifting to a character study of Ryou, incidentally.) Miki's been updated from the original and I loved her in ep.9. "You haven't changed, Akira." We also have key new characters like Miko.
This one's special, but also completely foot-off-the-brake. It's probably unbroadcastable. Hurrah for Netflix! It's filled with mega-nudity and horrible gross things happening to nice people. Not everyone will like it, obviously. It looks utterly Yuasa, with his fluid and anti-anime art style. No one else will ever do Devilman this well, including Go Nagai himself.
I'll finish with a Yuasa quote about other Go Nagai works. "I love Mazinger Z and Cutey Honey. That one has a lot of lewd bits. I understand its lewdness and see the fun in it."
YES. YES. DO THIS. PLEASE, PLEASE, DO THIS.
(There were two 2018 Go Nagai anniversary adaptations and the one I'd been looking forward to above all others was Cutey Honey. That was a mistake.)