There are volumes to be written regarding free will and the potential for mankind to prosper, or to face certain doom. Devil Survivor 2: The Animation is but one way to tell the story of mankind’s struggle against the tide—and it just so happens to be based off of a video game. Was this endeavor created for fans of the video game who will watch to see this modern-day Japan spun in a different light? Or was it marketed towards newcomers who will be pulled towards Devil Survivor 2: Break Record? In addition to describing what makes the two stories different, perhaps it’s important to tie game and anime together with a common thread in the end.
Devil Survivor 2: The Animation centers around Hibiki Kuze and the handful of people he meets in modern-day Japan. The story begins with mention of a website, Nicaea β ver., which shows users how their friends will die. These aren’t just random strangers you meet in class or while going about your daily routine. The death clips you see via Nicaea involve those tied to you by fate. What fate can and cannot determine will be made wildly clear by the time the series is over. Regarding this website, and the applications it installs on the phones of Kuze and his friends—there is plenty of intrigue and mystery, especially when you consider that just after the first break of Episode 1, there are demons and widespread destruction. Japan will never be the same again.
Does Nicaea serve as the trigger of destruction? And what about this secret government organization that seems to know almost everything about the demons that suddenly appeared? The story very quickly escalates to something beyond what Kuze and his friends can handle, and it focuses entirely on survival against impossible odds.
But if you’ve played Devil Survivor 2 for the Nintendo DS—you knew all this already. The anime clearly outlines and executes the exact premise from the video game, and fans of the game may be able to predict the outcome… But Kuze’s journey has numerous differences from the nameless protagonist he is based off of. Various plot points from the game are more streamlined or have subtle differences, in order to accommodate thirteen episodes versus a thirty-hour experience. Infamous characters that can be saved in the game may or may not be saved in the animation. Characters who wind up just fine throughout the game take somewhat different paths that lead to an untimely exit (or not).
Who will survive?
If you’ve played the game—you honestly don’t know the answer to that question.
How will they survive?
This approach is handled in a way that both newcomers and fans of the videogame will enjoy.
One last note I’d like to discuss before moving on to the strengths and weaknesses of Devil Survivor 2: The Animation without anymore game-comparisons: Hibiki Kuze has personality. There is no player to guide his actions or influence his fate. Some may be turned off by the fact that this character is no longer theirs to control…but if I may, I completely enjoyed and respected how Kuze was written. And not only Kuze, but every single character in the anime stays true to their personalities (greatly expanded upon) in the game. Demons have always been a series staple; expect plenty of familiar faces during each epic battle. How the anime handles demon summoning and battle in comparison to the game felt unique, to me; I suppose that’s yet another difference to look forward to!
Devil Survivor 2: The Animation suffers from trying to balance the rich (and large) cast of the game in thirteen episodes—so some may get shafted in favor of better portraying the relationship between more “central” characters like Hibiki Kuze and Yamato Hotsuin, or The Anguished One. But everyone you know and love is there in some fashion, and they’re worth getting to know, worth caring about. People who watch Devil Survivor 2: The Animation as their gateway into this world are not experiencing a lesser version of it. All of the philosophy and charm of the game is executed exceptionally well, despite differences.
If you’ve played anything from Shin Megami Tensei or Persona—you know what this art style is. You know what these characters look like, and you know some exaggerated features are to be expected in (wo)man and beast alike. As someone who takes ATLUS artistry with a grain of salt and forgives physics, I found the art style quite enjoyable. Every one of these characters, as well as the situations and environments they found themselves in, were designed well. The animation is consistent, there is nothing too over-the-top that’s not worth overlooking, and ultimately…it’s all pleasing to the eyes.
The music is absolutely worth praising all by itself. A few themes are borrowed or inspired by Devil Survivor 2, but the soundtrack is comprised mostly of original stuff that feels like it could have been arranged by Kenji Ito, despite a different brilliant mind being behind it all. The opening and ending themes are very memorable, and do a lot to capture the essence of the series in just a few short minutes. Sometimes, they even weave into various episodes for an even better effect!
Ultimately—this experience is worth your time, whether you’ve played the game it’s based off of for hundreds of hours like me, or whether you’ll be experiencing this world for the first time when you watch for yourself. Devil Survivor 2: The Animation is a different way of spinning a familiar thread. It almost certainly accomplishes its mission of telling a story of survival that will appeal to those who’ve never heard it before, as well as those who are all too familiar.
Streamed via Crunchyroll, subscription purchased by Author.