Akuma Kun Season 1 Review – Netflix’s spooky supernatural anime looks the part

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 11, 2023 (Last updated: December 8, 2023)
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Akuma Kun Season 1
Akuma Kun Season 1 | Image via Netflix

Netflix are having a phenomenal run with their animated content at the moment, with Pluto arriving out of nowhere as a best-of-the-year contender only to be rivaled by Blue Eye Samurai almost immediately afterward. Akuma Kun, an original anime based on Shigeru Mizuki’s manga and 1989 anime series, isn’t quite the same caliber of show as those two, but it is, at the very least, worthy of being in the conversation for its visuals alone.

Produced by Toei Animation and directed by Fumitoshi Oizaki and Junichi Sato, the twelve-episode series focuses on the titular Akuma Kun, or Ichiro, a boy genius who teams up with demon-human hybrid Mephisto II to solve murders and mysteries.

Akuma Kun Season 1 review and plot summary

I know what you’re thinking — an episodic animated series about paranormal investigators wasn’t on my radar, either. But the premise is compelling. Ichiro was raised Tarzan-style by demons. He can harness their supernatural power in his pursuit of the Millennium Kingdom, a utopia of human and demon coexistence, but he’s also a bit of a layabout and his soul and heart are desirable to various demon undesirables, including one named Gremory.

So about that art style. It is, in a way, quite hard to describe, but the fusion of obviously hand-drawn and more traditional anime art, the juxtaposition of the crude against the smooth, and the striking color palette, all lend Akuma Kun an extremely distinctive visual style. This is one of those animes that can easily be identified by an errant screenshot, and it’s one of the better-looking works of the season.

And the art is in service to a lived-in supernatural world that is just interesting to look at, and immersive the longer you spend there. The setting is contoured by a fairly nuanced exploration – Hiroshi Ohnogi contributed to the screenplay – of human-demon relationships, highlighted primarily through the odd-couple dynamic of Akuma Kun and Mephisto II.

Akuma Kun, like most boy genius types, is aggressively logical, his perspective on humans informed by his abandonment. Mephisto provides a more emotional and optimistic contrary stance, which allows for some toing and froing that is surprisingly engaging if a little wasted on an overarching plot that doesn’t seem as interested in challenging its ideas or doing anything all that interesting with the philosophical potential.

On the one hand, you probably shouldn’t expect this of a supernatural anime. On the other hand, it feels as if it’s right there, and I always felt there could be a little more surprise and interest in almost everything that happened. The late reveal of more useful exposition is a bit stinging considering how improved the season might have been by including it earlier.

Is Akuma Kun style over substance?

We return, again, to that old cliché of style over substance. In the case of Akuma Kun, I think the accusation is a bit harsh. There’s more to the show than just its visuals, including very solid vocal performances and surprisingly good characterization. But there are enough narrative shortcomings and irritating half-ideas for the art and animation to remain the primary selling point.

One can hope, though, that the cliffhanger ending encourages a tighter and more daring second season, since there’s plenty of potential in one. There’s a real world here – a couple, in fact – worthy of real interrogation, and fans of the first season, of which I’m sure there will be plenty, would take great pleasure in exploring it if Akuma Kun was willing to meet them halfway.

We can hope.

What did you think of Akuma Kun Season 1? Comment below.


Netflix, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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