THINGS ANCIENT AND MODERN II – Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san

At first glance Azazel-san seems to share with Enma-kun the idea of bringing of the myths of the past into the present. That is just the surface though, it’s what those myths represent and how civilisation looks upon them that is at the core of the series. Where the demons in Enma-kun prey on mankind, the demons in Azazel-san bring out the basest of human behaviour.

I mentioned in the last post that distaste for older anime/manga may be down to a sense of civilisation vs the barbarism of the past. Well, Azazel-san addresses that head on. We are firmly in modern Japan, and brought into this world, are demons summoned into the service of pseudo-detectives. Each demon has powers over man’s most shameful behaviour, destroying the veneer of civilisation and reducing people to barbarians of one form or another.

The central joke is that mankind doesn’t really need much encouraging on this point, as various people who hire the detectives and their bound demons are usually grotesques themselves. So far in the series we’ve had a harridan (a parody of iconic character Sazae-san), a selfish vegetarian, a obese stalker, a drunken advertising executive and an obnoxious brat. While the demons would like to deal out some sort of punishment to humans of their own, much of the time they are tools of a human’s own desires, forced to act through various magicks. No one ever ends up completely satisfied, even our supposed “heroes” tend to get pyrrhic victories.

Unlike Enma-kun’s hotchpotch of mythology, Azazel-san is surprisingly specific in its choices of entitiy, their appearance and their associated powers. The title character is a goat demon, and takes his mastery of lust from the Pan idea of goat demons and his position within the show from Azazel’s relationship with the idea of a scapegoat. While seperate ideas in their original mythologies, history and occultism has associated and corrupted the two. So if you wanted to be fair to Go Nagai, you could say he simply speeds up the process when he deals with mythology in Enma-kun and his other series.

Azazel-san, like Enma-kun will pretty much let you know whether you will like the show or not within the first episode. The tone is set early, and Tsutomu Mizushima (xxxHolic, Squid Girl) was the ideal choice for director. It plays to his strengths, namely comedic tension bordering on horror (and vice versa) and comedic ultraviolence. The show hasn’t generated the same level of aversion as Enma-kun, in fact some commenters in the previous post expressed getting enjoyement from Azazel-san.

While it’s more modern in its visuals than Enma-kun, there’s only really one character so far who’s really felt a nod to modern sensibilites, the female lead Sakuma. Even then, her character avoids the usual off the rack personality thumbnails. And she’s an adult! The ostensible male lead, Akutabe (ostensible, because he actually gets very little screen time), feels more like a 90s character. Imagine Hell Teacher Nube shot through the prism of early 90s Satoru Akahori shows, and you’re getting close to his look. The guest characters have a tendancy towards gag manga grotesquery (what is up with the dog people?). And the demons, in their summoned forms… well, they are kind of Onstadian.

Azazel & Ray Smuckles. Seperated at girth?

If anything it’s the form that causes viewers problems. Running at 12 minutes it’s half the length that some viewers seem to expect, and you get complaints about the pacing or that it should be longer. It’s probably exactly the right length and pacing, and if anything, you can throw a stone and hit any number of other anime series that would benefit from shorter episode lengths.

I highly recommend the series, particularly if you’ve liked Mizushima’s darker comedies. The general level of animation that Production IG bring to the show is really high too. I’ve been down on the more serious TV shows they’ve put out over the last decade or so, but this lacks the stiffness that you see in some of those shows. Episode six in particular has both some great naturalistic acting and unusual action sequences that are worth your time.