Intro to Devilman, a Demonic Manga Masterwork

Intro to Devilman, a Demonic Manga Masterwork

Here’s my second lecture-style panel from this year’s Kumoricon. Again keep in mind this lacks the slideshow, delivery, and discussion time of the full panel.

Among the many manga by Go Nagai, this tale of a virtuous young man with demonic power stands apart with chilling art and poignant story. Since the 1970s, the Devilman universe has expanded with spinoffs and adaptations as well as influenced modern creators. There is a lot of Devilman-related media out there and it would be impossible for me to talk about everything, so I’m sticking to ones I consider important or noteworthy or just a personal favorite. It will be difficult, but spoilers will be kept to a minimum in this panel. One big spoiler in particular cannot be avoided, so I’ll only partially talk about it. If you’ve already read Devilman, you can probably guess what I’m talking about.

With all that in mind, first we will be briefly looking at how Devilman came to be. Devilman’s creator Go Nagai was born in 1945 and he’s still creating manga through his company Dynamic Production. In the late 1960s, he became infamous for his raunchy shounen manga Shameless School, which was one of the first manga serialized in Shounen Jump. He was only in his mid-20s at the time. Since then, he has gone onto create a ton of manga and franchises. They tend to have character cameos or all out crossovers. He’s been extremely influential in the manga industry, but he isn’t as well known in the United States since until recently his manga haven’t been officially available.

Before Devilman, Nagai explored demons and Christianity in manga for his fantasy story Mao Dante published in 1971. It follows a young man manipulated by cultists to become possessed by a demon, which may sound familiar, but the boy somehow takes over the consciousness of Dante the demon and becomes a monster. It’s a chilling manga with great art and some wild twists at the end. Highly recommended whether or nor you like Devilman. Toei Animation was interested in making a TV anime version of Mao Dante around the time it was publishing. The TV anime industry was less than a decade old at the time. They called Nagai up and instead he offered to conceptualize a similar new series for them, which became Devilman.

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The Devilman manga was published a little while before the anime, but of course the anime was developed first. The manga and anime take the same concept in different directions, but they are often intertwined in popular culture such as coloring Devilman green even though that’s just from the anime. The 39 episodes aired from 1972 to 1973. Nagai gave Toei the concept of a young man named Akira possessing the power of a demon in order to fight demons as Devilman. The body of a demon, but the heart of a man.

The big difference between manga and anime is in the anime, the demon Amon completely possess the boy and inhabits in his body. He’s sent to take over the Earth, but he falls in love with a human girl named Miki. They’re dating, but Miki has no idea “Akira” is no longer human. When weekly demons show up, Amon transforms into Devilman to fight them as while keeping his alter ego secret from his girlfriend. It’s somewhat of a superhero story, but it’s really a monster romantic comedy too. It may seem tame now, but the violence and demonic themes made it stand out and rise to popularity. For a long time this show was only floating around the Internet in Japanese with awkward English subtitles, but it’s now available on DVD with English subtitles by Discotek Media.

The Devilman manga tells a story completely different from the anime version. It was published from 1972 to 1973 in Weekly Shounen Magazine and collected into five volumes. The Devilman manga tells a story completely different from the anime version. Since it was first published in the 70s, there have been many editions that rearrange the order of the original, add side stories to their chronological places, or redraw portions of the art.

In 1986 Nagai self-published the first volume in English for the US, but that translation has been lost to time since it sold incredibly poorly. In the early 2000s Kodansha released every volume in bilingual Japanese and English editions, with English text in the word bubbles and Japanese in the gutters for Japanese ESL readers. We were left without a proper English translation, until the omnibus editions from Seven Seas Entertainment translated by Zack Davisson!

Let’s finally get into the plot and characters of Devilman. We’re introduced to our hero Akira Fudou right at the beginning. He’s a wimpy high school boy who can’t stand up for himself. When a gang of delinquents bully him, his friend Miki Makimura has to defend him. Akira has been living at Miki’s house ever since his parents moved for business, so the bullies tease them about being a couple. They’re definitely not a couple since Akira is too much of a wimp to make a move. Miki can’t take the whole gang on by herself, and the situation turns for the worse. Just then, another friend of Akira’s named Ryo Asuka shows up saying he has something to discuss with him. He whips out a shotgun and saves Akira and Miki from the bullies, then Akira ditches Miki to hear what Ryo wants from him. What a gentleman.

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Ryo uses some conspiracy theory logic to explain to Akira that demons are real. He figured out that his archeologist father was possessed by a demon when his personality changed to that of a violent monster and committed suicide. In Devilman, demons are violent and destructive creatures that can merge with and take on the properties of other living creatures, which leads to a lot of body horror. They can even merge with and take over humans, like with Ryo’s father.

Demons were trapped under ice since the age of dinosaurs, but have started escaping and possessing humans. So apparently if we don’t prevent climate change, we could face a demon apocalypse. Akira doesn’t take the news well and thinks Ryo has lost his mind, but their deep bond convinces him to take his friend seriously. Ryo proposes that because Akira has a pure and good soul, he can resist possession. Instead, Akira could harness the power to protect humanity from demons. Ryo’s knowledge of demons and Akira’s pure heart together are the only hope to save the world.

Ryo hatches a strange plan to get Akira possessed: he rounds up a bunch of hippies to have a dance party in his basement, offers them drugs, then breaks out a fight. Akira is understandably scared and unsure. Ryo believes the debauchery and violence will attract demons, and it turns out he’s right. Everyone starts getting possessed by demons, including Akira. They just so happen to get Akira possessed by an extremely powerful demon named Amon and he becomes Devilman. He’s so strong he slaughters all the demons at the party.

Unlike the anime, Akira stays in control of his body. Demonic possession makes his body more muscular and his personality more aggressive. He also gains permanent eyeliner. With his newfound strength he can defend himself from bullies without even transforming into Devilman. Miki becomes attracted to the new and improved Akira, but he doesn’t pursue her back since he’s still a wimp inside. The strength and sexual attention he receives makes Devilman a power fantasy for the young men the manga was aimed at. From then on, demons seek out Devilman to avenge Amon and the manga focuses on the monster battles. The demons challenge Akira’s decision to become Devilman since his loved ones are often put in danger. He manages to defeat them all as he discovers new powers like flight, telepathy, and most importantly extendable eyebrows.extendable eyebrows.

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As you can see by now, Devilman has a particular art style with thick lines, round shapes, and high contrast. Nagai’s style may seem unsuited to a horror and action story, but it can be effective. Still, the manga has its silly moments whether they’re intentional and or not. The “my father died!” page from early on is famous for something that should be dramatic coming across as stilted and funny, but redrawn versions just don’t have the same charm. The disparity between old and new drawings together on a page can be especially jarring. That’s not to say all the original artwork is “bad,” just look at this page when Akira becomes possessed from the same volume. It’s quite cinematic as it suspensefully pulls away from his face, cuts to the horde of demons, then zooms back for the big reveal. Nagai can be amazing at panel and page composition. A lot of Devilman pages don’t have any dialog, which lets the chilling art speak for itself.

But Nagai really shows off his imagination with monster designs and gore. He was at the forefront of making manga for children more violent with works like Devilman. His swirly shapes and high contrast actually work to make his art disturbing and haunting, rather than comedic. He always draw blood as a big splatter too.

This seems as good as time as any to acknowledge that Devilman contains a lot of violence against women, including demons that resemble women with monstrous breasts and pelvises. The violence is also often sexualized since the women are naked. Of course the story has violence all over, but there’s more emphasis when it’s against women with longer panel sequences or entire pages. It’s just something to keep in mind.

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Even though his figures may be crude, Nagai did a lot of creative and experimental things in Devilman. In the iconic fight with the demon bird Silene, he drew the subjects dynamically reaching out of their panels to emphasize their blows. Silene lends herself to this artistic direction since she has a wide wingspan and long limbs she can shoot off like rockets. Or in the Jinmen fight, he inverts the values to create an eerie atmosphere as well as convey how the battle flips what Akira believes to be “black and white.” Or when Akira wakes from a nightmare, his vision comes into focus through the blurred contents of the panel as well as the wobbly shape of the panels themselves for greater effect.

Nagai says that he fell into a trance as he worked on Devilman (spoilers at link). He started with the concept and characters, but did not have an ending in mind. It’s fun to read a story not knowing what will happen when the author didn’t know either. The story took form as it was written and Nagai found himself surprised by the developments he depicted. A lot of this process involved the character of Ryo (spoilers at link again). Nagai looked at Ryo’s behavior and concluded not only was Ryo in love with Akira, but the two friends would become each other’s greatest enemies. He accidentally wrote one of the best love stories of all time.

Devilman is a testament to how you can create something great without having it all planned out. That’s not to say Nagai didn’t work hard, since he considers it the manga he put the most effort into. He set out to make his magnum opus and move away from gag manga and it shows. The writing isn’t without its weaknesses, though. Sometimes the story is messy or things come out silly, but the weirdness is half the fun.

As the story goes on, stakes become higher. More and more civilians become possessed by demons who wreak havoc. With human bodies, demons have access to weapons of mass destruction. Demons pop up all over the world, but they cannot be distinguished from regular humans. Akira worries over his secret identity as Devilman being exposed to Miki and he questions his own humanity. Tensions grow between humans and demons, as well as between fellow humans. Akira and Ryo become enemies over ideological disagreements. Ryo calls fear the weak point of humanity: humans cannot trust one another and resort to violence. It may be cliché, but Devilman suggests that humans may be just as monstrous as the demons they fear.

Nagai himself calls Devilman an anti-war story (spoilers at link). In his words, “there is no justice in war, any war, nor is there any justification for human beings killing one another. Devilman carries a message of warning, as we step toward a bright future.” That’s quite poignant for a creator whose works feature gratuitous violence. Keep in mind he was born only a few days after World War II ended and grew up in post-war Japan. According to Nagai, in the war metaphor the possession and transformation of humans into demons represents taking up murder weapons and going to war. Because demons possess them indiscriminately, it represents the military draft.

Without spoiling the rest of Devilman, it has an amazing twist and powerful ending. If you read it with the war metaphor in mind, meanings will emerge. For now, perhaps Akira represents a person who enlists in the military with good intentions but finds himself in over his head. The story begins as a masculine power fantasy, but it does not end that way. It turns out the world is a lot more complicated than it seemed. Of course, that’s not the only way to interpret and analyze the story. Devilman can be looked at in terms of horror, superheroes, religious and literary references, manga history, gender, romance, and more. It’s nearly 50 years old, but there’s always new things to discover about it or new ways to look at it.

Since Devilman ended in 1973, Nagai hasn’t stopped revisiting it. This has created a vast fictional universe. We’ll be looking at some spinoff manga closest to the core of the Devilman universe, roughly in an order it makes sense to read them in rather than strictly publication order.

The first spinoff was New Devilman in 1979, six years after the original ended. It takes place in the middle of the original Devilman story, which makes it a midquel, but it will only make sense to read it after the original. In the late 1990s, three chapters were translated to English and digitally colored to be sold as comic issues in the US by Verotik.  It sold poorly, but you can still find the issues floating around for sale on the Internet.

This manga is pretty silly. Suddenly, Akira and Ryo fall into a time hole and are transported to famous historical events. They visit Austria on the brink of World War II, the Siege of Orleans, Ancient Greece, the French Revolution, and the Battle of Little Bighorn. Nagai’s interest in war comes through in these choices. And what do you know, demons are there and Devilman has to stop them. Unfortunately, some of the historical events are handled extremely poorly. For example, it’s pretty offensive to deflect blame from General Custer and his soldiers by saying they just killed Native Americans because they were possessed by demons. This manga seems like insignificant stories, but overall it’s actually important for introducing flexibility of time and space to the Devilman universe.

Next we have Neo Devilman from 1999 and 2000, which is actually an anthology of chapters by various artists. Some chapters are done by Nagai himself, but most are by other artists. Unsurprisingly, the chapters are a mixed bag. However, some of them are well worth reading. The chapters by Nagai are obviously a highlight. His art is more polished than it was in the 1970s, but still has personality. One chapter beautifully juxtaposes Ryo and Akira’s carefree past with their apocalyptic future.

You can get an idea of what the artist enjoys about Devilman based on the focus of their chapter, whether it’s eroticism or monsters or character development. It’s especially interesting to see creators directly influenced by the original play in its sandbox, like Hitoshi Iwaaki who created Parasyte.

Around the same time as Neo Devilman, there was also Amon: The Dark Side of Devilman from 1999 to 2004 It is part prequel and part midquel to the original Devilman. The story is credited to Nagai, but it was drawn by the artist Yuu Kinutani. He has a much more detailed style with heavy shading and an H. R. Giger vibe. Expect a lot of clusters, like scales and feathers, and a lot of disturbing melting and slime.

About half the volumes make up the midquel during the last volumes of Devilman. A single episode OVA, titled Amon: The Apocalypse of Devilman, which loosely adapts the first volume of Amon also exists. The manga explores the idea that the demon Amon was capable of regaining consciousness and when Akira was so traumatized by a spoiler event, he took over his body for once. The manga depicts more events that weren’t detailed in Devilman and spotlights minor human characters. The other volumes roughly make up a prequel that looks at the world of demons long before humans, including the backstories of Amon and Silene. Whether you consider this manga “canon” or not, it has interesting lore.

Nagai himself led the story and art for Devilman Lady. Oh boy, where to begin with this manga. Basically, it begins as a retelling of Devilman with woman versions of the main characters, but over the course of 17 volumes it becomes so much more. Instead of Akira Fudo, the main character is a teacher named Jun Fudo. On a camping trip a horde of demons attack her students, and she discovers she can transform into a monster to protect them. She joins an organization investigating the demons and meets a psychic named Ran Asuka. In this world, Devilman exists as fiction and Ran declares Jun “Devilman Lady” for their resemblance.

Everything from the original Devilman is cranked up to eleven for Devilman Lady: the length, the violence, the nudity, the sexual content, the religious references, and more. Unfortunately, the art was a downgrade as it’s so polished it lacks the experimental fun of the original Devilman art. This manga also contains a ton of rape, which makes it unpleasant and exhausting to read. Despite its problems Jun and Ran’s relationship is compelling, it adds a ton of lore, and it has a mind-blowing finale. An 1998 anime version localized as Devil Lady by ADV Films also exists, but it does not the same connection to the original manga and has a different ending.

For over a decade Devilman Lady was the end to the main Devilman storyline, until Nagai started a new manga called Devilman Saga. Its exact place in the Devilman universe is unclear at the moment, but it has some familiar faces. It begins when Yuuki Fudo, the CEO of a robotics company, gets a job offer from a mysterious company and leaves his newlywed wife Miki for California. The company reveals an ancient mural and armor they believe belonged to demons. Then Yuuki reunites with his childhood friend Ryo Asuka, the CEO of a weapons company. Who knows if these are the same Akira and Ryo we know and love. Ryo proposes that Yuuki could harness the power of the demon armor for the greater good. While Yuuki won’t because he’s a pacifist, other characters find themselves compelled to don the armor.

Let’s dial it back to the original Devilman story with Devilman vs. Hades, which is part midquel and part crossover with Mazinger Z by the art group Team Moon. Specifically it’s a crossover with Great Mazinger, the sequel to Mazinger Z, as the title refers to the antagonist of that series. This manga is available in English from Seven Seas! Akira goes on a quest to free Miki’s soul from hell and track her down. He kills Hades’ wife Persephone in the process and sets off a chain of events that lead to their showdown. This series features a lot of Mazinger characters and lore, but has some neat reimaginings of demons like Jinmen too.

Devilman Grimoire is a testament to the flexibility of Devilman’s universe and the tendency for Nagai’s works to crossover. The artist Takato Rui emulates Nagai’s old art style with some modern sensibilities. It retells the origin of Devilman with Miki as a witch who summons a demon that possesses Akira, in a blend of the original manga and anime. This manga is also available officially in English from Seven Seas! While the art is a pastiche of the bold manga aesthetic, down to recreating pages, the set-up borrows more from the anime as Amon takes over Akira’s body and Ryo is nowhere to be found. There are lots of others iconic Devilman characters like Silene and Miko, and even characters from Devilman Lady and other Go Nagai works like Cutie Honey. A word of warning: this manga is more graphic in body horror, violence, and sexuality than even the original Devilman.

Next we’ll look back at the various screen adaptations of Devilman manga. In the 1980s, Nagai himself proposed making a new anime adaptation of Devilman. Umanosuke Iida, an animator from the brand new Studio Ghibli, leapt at the chance to direct and script an adaptation of one of his favorite manga. The 50 minute OVA had a budget of over one million dollars and more staff from Studio Ghibli like animators Yoshinori Kanada, Kazuo Komatsubara, and Shinji Ootsuka and color designer Michiyo Yasuda. There was a plan for Oh Production to adapt each of the five volumes into an OVA, and the first of those was Devilman: The Birth in 1987. It was dubbed into English and released on VHS by Manga Entertainment in 1994 with awkward acting and gratuitous swearing. While the OVA makes Devilman as serious and cool as it can be, the dub echoes the off-beat humor of the manga.

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The OVA adapts the first volume of the manga. The changes to the story are pretty minor or just build on what was in the original. As an adaptation it’s interesting because the staff already knew the whole story of the manga and could use that hindsight to their advantage. They can emphasize story elements that become important down the line or make the story more consistent. For example, the OVA doesn’t begin with Akira but with a look at the ancient age of demons based on a manga side story. Then, it shows modern people on an arctic expedition killed by demons. The OVA establishes the fantasy world of Devilman first, then moves onto Akira. His introduction is expanded with him protecting the school’s last class pet rabbit from delinquents no matter how much they attack him. The OVA gives him more of backbone than in the manga, but better establishes his virtuous soul willing to save others. Sadly, this change means Miki doesn’t get to show off her tough side.

The OVA is designed in a way to focus on Akira being pulled into the horrific world of demons by Ryo. The fantasy world was shown to the audience first, then they watch Akira discover it rather than discover it through him. When Ryo shows up, Akira stares at him like he’s entranced. Staring at someone and suddenly realizing “oh of course, it’s my old friend Ryo” comes out awkward, they have been going for something tense and mysterious. The color scheme of the OVA gradually changes as it goes on to represent the descent to darkness. The colors start bright and even at Akira’s school, then darker when Ryo explains demons are real. As they plunge to the basement, the background fades completely into solid black. The dance party scenes bring back color, with harsh solid black shading.

The second OVA was released three years later by the same staff and studio. The title Devilman: The Demon Bird refers to Silene, the antagonist of the OVA. This was also dubbed by Manga Entertainment in the 1990s, still with awkward delivery and edgy swearing but now with more puns. If The Birth focuses on Akira’s descent into the world of demons, The Demon Bird focuses on his newfound demonic strength. The OVA opens with a battle between Akira and a demon named Jinmen from the third manga volume. The addition of this battle adds to the amount of powerful demons Akira can now defeat, to emphasize his strength.

It turns out one of the people on the expedition in the first OVA was Akira’s mother and Jinmen who killed her is coming for him next. The manga uses a generic girl introduced shortly before the fight to distress Akira, but the OVA had the sense to replace her with Akira’s mother for a deeper connection. Then he goes on to battle Silene and her minions. Silene is one of Nagai’s favorite characters, so he was happy to see her animated in all her glory. Be warned this OVA has a lot of boobs on screen and if someone sees you watching it, they will think you’re watching porn. The Demon Bird has the same great animation as The Birth. It doesn’t play with color as much, but it always looks great. Unfortunately, this was the last of the adaptations by Oh Production and many of the staff members have passed away since the turn of the millennium.

Since then there’s even been a live action Devilman movie, but… it was voted one of the worst Japanese movies of 2004, by fans of the manga or otherwise. It tries to cram five volumes of content into one movie and it just comes out messy and awkward. The bland CG and stilted acting doesn’t help. Then there’s just strange decisions like casting twins as Akira and Ryo, but the characters aren’t treated like twins within the film. The funny thing is, on the surface the movie has a lot in common with Devilman Crybaby. Akira is on the track team, Ryo and Akira’s childhood together is shown, Miki is friends with Miko who has an expanded role, and more. It just goes to show that it’s not so much the ideas as it is the execution that makes a work enjoyable. Their new ideas couldn’t be fleshed out in only two hours, on top of everything else they included. If you’re interested, it’s available with English subtitles and English dub.

For over a decade that movie was the only full adaptation of the manga we had, but now we finally have Devilman Crybaby from Science Saru and Netflix. It made history not only as the first full anime adaptation of Devilman, but also the first Japanese anime production funded by Netflix and available there first. It made the story accessible like never before, and brought a whole new generation of fans.

A lot of changes came with the creative decision to set Crybaby in the modern day instead of the 1970s. For example, the characters lost their iconic sideburns in new designs that combine their old roles and new concepts. Crybaby exaggerates Akira’s transformation by making him frail and baby-faced, then angular in face and body. It’s like an extreme form of puberty, which goes hand-in-hand with the potent sexuality of the show. Ryo has a new trendy look, but his design is also rather childlike with the bowlcut and oversized clothes to represent his emotional immaturity. But the most drastic change is Miki, who is essentially split into two characters: Miki Makimura inherited her role in the narrative, while Miki Kuroda inherited her spunk and sexuality combined with the character of Miko. The two Mikis embody the madonna and whore dichotomy where no matter how a woman behaves she’ll be hated for not living up to expectations. There was a lot of thought put into the changes they made to make their vision stronger.

The themes of war and justice remain, but Crybaby brings ones like love and empathy to the forefront. It’s a story of how love is the strongest thing in the universe, only if you can open yourself to loving others and see them as more than their potential utility. In director Masaaki Yuasa’s own words, “we as humans can value others by more than if they’re ‘strong’ or ‘weak,’ as would be logical. There’s something more important than the natural order.” Humans can be cruel, as we see them discriminate and use social media to bombard with hate, but they can empathize and come together in times of crisis too. The use of modern technology and rappers as a Greek chorus stress the importance of this in our everyday lives. The way the show uplifts emotional vulnerability and compassion as the definition of humanity and road to salvation, especially for marginalized populations like the mixed race and gay characters, may have made Devilman resonate with this generation especially.

If you still want more, there’s a ton of Devilman-related media out there. There’s been crossovers, video games, toys, and even toilet paper with manga pages printed on it. We only have time to look at a few.

The same year Devilman ended, Nagai started a new manga called Violence Jack. As you can guess from the title, it’s very violent. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic Japan where people are divided into the weak and the strong. It’s mostly known in the US its for extremely graphic OVA adaptations. In the manga, a few characters from Devilman show up early on with no explanation, but you can tell something is off about them. Why would Ryo and Miki be in love? Where is Akira? The reason and connection to Devilman doesn’t become apparent until the very end.

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Devilman had an anime crossover with Violence Jack in the form of CB Chara Go Nagai World in 1991. This three episode OVA was the last Devilman project by the Oh Production staff. It’s a love letter to and crossover between three manga by Go Nagai: Devilman, Mazinger Z, and Violence Jack. All three episodes are all available in one package from Distotek Media. The first episode takes place in the Devilman universe, but the characters are aware they exist in a work of fiction. Akira, Ryo, and Miki realize to their horror they’re in a world where they have chibi bodies. They go on a journey to return to their own dimension, but instead find themselves in a chibi Mazinger Z universe and make new friends. Finally they travel to the chibi Violence Jack universe and learn about how they came to be along the way. It’s super fun and cute, with references to the manga as well as OVAs. It knows how to poke fun at the source material while having the utmost respect for it.

In 2010 Nagai started a semi-autobiographical manga called Gekiman, in that it’s about the creation of Devilman but the author is a character called Geki Nagai rather than Go Nagai himself. The first six volumes cover Devilman, while arcs about Mazinger Z and Cutie Honey came later. It has a lot of insight to Nagai’s creative process and the magazine editing system, but it’s worth a look even if you can’t read Japanese because half the manga is just redrawn pages of the original manga. Unlike reprints that only redraw portions of a page, it’s like the whole thing is in HD. It strikes a good balance between bold classic and polished current Dynamic Pro art.

If you search Netflix for more Devilman you won’t find a season two, but you will find the OVA Cyborg 009 vs. Devilman from 2015. This is another crossover, but with Cyborg 009 by Shotaro Ishinomori in honor of how Nagai and Ishinomori created Getter Robo together. In typical “so and so versus so and so” fashion, they’re led to believe the one is an enemy and hash it out. The OVA pays tribute to the source material by opening on iconic scenes from both series. For Devilman, they recreate the aesthetic of the Jinmen battle. The rest of the episodes have their own style with updated character designs. It’s a fine intro to either franchises, though it leans more on Cyborg 009 for plot. That was pretty disappointing when this was the closest thing we had to a modern version of Devilman, since this project was initially announced as a straightforward adaptation of the manga and was later revealed to be a crossover.

It’s impressive how when this OVA first came out there wasn’t much response to it, but after Crybaby a lot of fans have embraced it. The wounds have healed now that we have a real full adaptation and we can appreciate other creative endeavors for what they are. Hopefully no matter how long you’ve been into Devilman or how much Devilman media you’ve checked out, you can find new things to cherish about it and respect the opinions of others.

Devilman is a famous and influential manga, so of course a lot of creators like it. Some people may create their manga not even aware of Devilman’s impact on the industry. In the words of Guillermo del Toro, “we all steal from Go Nagai!” Here are some manga and anime that the creators have explicitly said were influenced by it.

  • Berserk by Kentaro Miura. It follows a man named Guts seeking revenge against evil gods in a medieval fantasy world. Miura is a big fan of Nagai. Knowing that, it’s easy to see the influence of Devilman on the story, particularly the parallels between Guts and Griffith and Akira and Ryo.
  • X by CLAMP. It involves two groups of super humans fighting whether the earth or humankind should be saved from the coming apocalypse. CLAMP was inspired by many sources for writing about the apocalypse, including Nagai. It’s no secret they’re fans of Devilman since they created doujinshi for it in the 1990s. I can’t help seeing the influence of Devilman Lady on their manga Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles too.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s about kids piloting robots to save the world from aliens, but also not actually about that at all. The influence seems to extend to the modern Rebuild of Evangelion films too, not just the original television series. The director Hideaki Anno has also directed a live action adaptation of Nagai’s Cutie Honey.

All these works have religion, gore, violence, the apocalypse, and the hero’s loved one becoming an enemy in common with Devilman. However, they all incorporate these elements to tell very different stories. Check them out if you like Devilman! Or check out Devilman if you like these, though hopefully you’ve been convinced already.

6 thoughts on “Intro to Devilman, a Demonic Manga Masterwork

  1. I’ve only heard mention of Devilman here and there over the years and always meant to take a deeper look into the series. This was a fantastic article and I think I might track down this to read now 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for this article! I’ve just only found about Devilman thanks to Crybaby and I made my way thru all the manga/sequels/spin-off’s I coud find. I’ts such a compelling story!

    It’s interesting that you guys said that Akira Fudou is a male fantasy. To be honest, I didn’t even notice but you’re right. And I think it’s funny given how many female and nb fans Devilman has. Well, I don’t know the exact numbers, but to me it seems like its fandom has a lot of non-male members. But then I usually just lurk Tumblr and Twitter so… I’m trying to think about a reason for why this story is so interesting and compelling. Is it its anti-war message? The love story? Mmmmm…

    Anyway, thanks for writing this!

    Like

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