In modern day Tokyo, a beautiful but fragile young supermodel, Jun Fudou, finds her ordinary life turned upside-down when she is visited by Asuka Lan, a shady and mysterious woman with a secret agenda of her own. Soon Jun discovers that she can, when provoked, transform into a demonic giant, hence the title of the series. Under Asuka's command, Jun is forced to track down monsters--some of who may actually be her close colleagues in disguise. All the while, Jun's relationship with her best friend Kazumi begins to slide.
Created by Go Nagai, this dark, gothic-horror 26-episode series is most definitely not for young children. In addition to having a complex, sometimes nail-biting plot, THE DEVIL LADY also has its lion's share of gory violence and nudity. The battle sequences between the devilish Jun and the monsters are as bloody as you'd expect, and there are also scenes where several characters are nude. Still some other episodes feature somewhat sexual situations; for example, at one point, Jun is tied to a bed while a character (changed into a demonic cat), draws her claw against Jun's chest and slurps blood from the wound. Later, another character--Jason Bates--who, like our heroine, has the ability to transform into a devil beast, attempts to rape Jun.
To THE DEVIL LADY's credit, however, the show handles the above in a supernatural manner, so it's not so disturbing. And while some may bemoan that the production values are on par with an old-school Anime--uneven cel count, and somewhat limited backgrounds, in many ways it makes it easier to stomach a show like this.
However, there were two things that ultimately made THE DEVIL LADY for me. The first is its ominous musical score, provided by Toshiyuki Watanabe. Sparingly used, yet memorable, it adds to the show's creepy atmosphere. The main theme, in particular, a choral chant reminiscent of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" as well as Jerry Goldsmith's score for THE OMEN, is a knock-out. The other quality that struck me about THE DEVIL LADY was the compelling portrayal of Jun as a character. In between periods of killing, we see her overcome with remorse and shame for having committed such acts, and the very real pain we feel from this makes it all the more sad when she starts to become more monstrous and lose touch with her normal self. This issue of duality adds a human aspect and credibility to what could otherwise have been just another throwaway horror Anime flick.
Although episodic in nature, THE DEVIL LADY manages to find a plot of its own. While it does build to the typical apocalyptic conclusion and some episodes don't really move the story along, there are very rare moments when THE DEVIL LADY is not engrossing. As a story about a person's downward spiral, it's hard to pull away from every minute of it, but the only episodes that truly succeed in maintaining a thriller/horror feel are the opening three. Every one after that borders on predictable, but in all fairness, there are unexpected twists and just about enough intelligence to make the overall show not only an ideal choice for Halloween, but as a subject for discussion. Actually, I found out that this show is a reworking of another series by Go Nagai; THE DEVIL MAN, only with a man in the lead. To further compliment this show, it never even feels like a spin-off, so you wouldn't think otherwise.
Other kudos should be given to the folks at ADV for their handling of this series. The visual quality on the discs is very good, and the audio comes across very well on both the Japanese and English language tracks. The English dub is produced by the now defunct Monster Island Studios from Austin, Texas, whose track record has been mixed. Their English track for NADIA was wonderful, but SAMURAI X, their previous project, was too stiff, acting-wise, and loose, script-wise. THE DEVIL LADY's dub is somewhere in between. The principal trio of Jun, Asuka, and Kazumi are all excellently voiced and well acted by Shawn Sides, SiÔn Rees-Cleland, and especially Camille Chen (the latter's screaming scenes, in particular, are phenomenal; you'd swear that she was in the situation for real!). The supporting cast is hit or miss, but most of them verge on good; J. Shannon Weaver, in particular, is disturbingly creepy as the kid-devil Satoru. The ADR script by Elena Carrillo is probably the problem I have with the dub; although faithful in spirit, sometimes it's a little too loose, omitting and/or altering some important lines. This flaw, however, is toned down after the first volume and isn't all that bothersome after awhile. Purists probably won't give the dub a chance due to the aforementioned scripting issues, but for patient dub fans, this one might be worth checking out for the performances I described.
On a final note, THE DEVIL LADY also exists as a manga series, and has some even more horrifying violence and some sexual scenes. This Anime is tamer by comparison, although as mentioned, it's not for the kiddies.