Demons exist and their power is beyond what humans can fathom. In fact they are so strong that humans do not stand a chance against them in a fight. The only thing strong enough to defeat a demon is another demon and it is through this logic that Ryo Asuka hatches the plan to have his good-hearted friend Akira Fudo possessed by a demon. If a person is of pure of heart then he might be able to control the demon that possesses him and thereby acquire power equal to a demon. After raising some hell in a club the plan works and Akira is possessed by the powerful demon known as Amon. Now Akira is mankind's sole champion of justice against the hidden demon menace that has plagued humanity since the dawn of time.
Considered to be author's most iconic work, Devilman has created certain standards for works to come after it and could be considered a pioneer in that respect. However, it is questionable how well can it cope with tastes of today and not be cast aside as a mere superheroic work with horror elements.
One of weakest and probably most prominent aspects is its artwork; which could repel readers immediately on the basis of its visuals. However, there is more than it meets the eye in this clunky and out-of-place cartoonish style. Emotional overtones simply ooze out of panels, while anatomical accuracy is sacrificed for the
sake of distorted depictions which pertain to violence and chaos as one of the themes. Nagai's expressionistic style subtly flirts with reality, thus never makes violence seem to be there for the sake of violence, but instead experiments with abstraction of it.
Main focus, as far as characters are concerned, is on Akira. What matters about him, is how he reflects the main theme of Devilman. Because, in a paradoxical way, Akira, in order to defeat evil, has to accept his inner evil. He also serves as a contrast to humankind, whom in their inability for acceptance of aforementioned turns into a mindless monsters - or better put, succumb to their demons. Truth be told, you can't even consider Akira to be your traditional hero -- especially if you tackle Devilman under scrutiny -- because his individuality is tossed aside and he's instead used to portray things on a grand scale.
The world of Devilman is multi-layered and it is very difficult to analyze its elements individually and in a typical way, because they are all juxtaposed into a coherent unity. Especially its story, which can appear simplistic, but in truth is so complex that with each re-read you discover more about it. Not to mention it tackles philosophies from Buddhism, Zen and even Christianity. I would say that it focuses mostly on duality, or rather the absurdity of belief that there are two separate extremes. The opposites must be conciliated and balance each other so to achieve a dynamic equilibrium, which is -- in Devilman -- manifested in the acceptance of ones inner demons.
Colors of Devilman are not black and white; there is no strict dualism which helps us create moral separations. It ventures so far to question God himself and makes us wonder what truly is evil.
This manga is an experience. Go Nagai experiments with genres, style and tone ultimately creating a story that is incoherent, full of nonsensical plot twists that culminate in a truly bizarre anti-climax ending. Amidst all the chaos, you may find elements you enjoy, but they are likely to be scarce as the manga has no focus whatsoever.
Devilman starts as an origin story for the eponymous character, only far more disturbing than your typical western comic book. This is typical of Go Nagai's work. There's plenty of violence, gore and rape from the beginning. This is in stark contrast to the art style, depicting the
human characters as if they're in a newspaper comic strip like Peanuts or Archie Comics. At the beginning, Devilman even has a minor conflict against some school bullies, in the same volume where demons murder a room of people for no reason.
The first arc largely focuses on Devilman keeping his secret identity and saving his would-be love interest from the demons, making use of one time powers such as eyebrow razors that are never seen again in any media. The early part of the manga has some promise, but the tone is completely inconsistent. Most of the time it's fairly lighthearted and Devilman is a normal high school student, but there's always a sense that the plot will go off the rails.
Eventually it does, rather spectacularly. This is what brings us to the next arc of Devilman and the best one in my opinion, the one shot villains, comprising only a few chapters of the entire manga. This is where possibly the best Devilman character, Jinmen, appears and has an amazingly dark, disgusting segment and is definitely worth a look. He would go on to become one of the most featured characters in the franchise and his entire section is excellent, barring maybe the finale of the fight which inserts a moral choice in place of a logical conclusion.
The fights in this manga tend to not be satisfying as Go Nagai will pull a new power for Devilman out of nowhere for him to win. The villains, besides Jinmen and Sirene, tend to be as undeveloped. The same goes for the main characters who largely exist as plot devices or symbols to be subverted, in place of good writing. It's a shame that Jinmen did not become the basis for a slew of one shots, as this whole arc comes to an abrupt stop to make way for build up into the ultimate anti-climax. The story veers off in so many directions it leaves no room for characterization.
Up until this point, Devilman has largely not faced any conflict he can't overcome by brute force and sheer dumb luck. It is now that the writer decides that he wants to make a political story like X-Men where the demons are a symbol for downtrodden people, or something. This is the point of no return where nothing begins to make sense. The story is effectively crumpled up and thrown in the garbage to make way for a massive plot twist. Everything that happened is completely meaningless and the final chapter in particular comes out of nowhere. It gets so abstract I had to read online to understand what the last pages are showing, as it's never explained.
Overall, this manga might be worth a read to form your own opinion. I read it in a day, and I can't say it wasn't captivating, but left me feeling very disappointed. Go Nagai would go on to make other mangas that while not as experimental and acclaimed, were far more coherent and focused properly on either the violence (Violence Jack) or experimental plot (Devilman Lady). To properly enjoy them it's a requirement to at least know the Devilman story. However if you're coming in to the original Devilman expecting a deep plot, good characters and art that isn't stuck in the 70s, I doubt you'll feel satisfied.
To start off, this review will be biased because Devilman is one of my favourite manga of all time. I feel it's a good time to review it now that it seems that an anime will finally be produced that will cover the entirety of this comic.
But where do I begin, really?
Devilman is a 1972 comic by the legendary comic artist, Go Nagai.
Devilman isn't a complex manga. Everything is spelled out to you in ordinary fashion. There are no symbols to decipher here.
Devilman isn't a perfect manga. You will find the occasional goofy writing and art, especially in the earlier chapters, which are very
good if you want your endless dose of smug Ryo.
Devilman's characters aren't exactly the most realistic. Some of them just seem outright crazy.
Devilman isn't even good with subtlety. What you see is what you get.
Devilman won't win you any creds with your pals. Some people thought it looked like Pokemon, no joke.
So why do I still consider it one of the greatest comics of our time? Two reasons.
Nowadays, artists will spend ages trying to plan their masterpiece. They'll think hard about what readers would love, sort of like a checklist. The author of Devilman, Go Nagai, didn't plan the narrative. He himself didn't even know how the last act was going to turn out until he actually finished drawing it. After finishing Devilman, it was said that the author's mental and physique were completely exhausted. Because of his lack of planning, Devilman was genuinely refreshing to read. I wasn't reading a manga that was made to appeal and pander to me, I was reading a manga that gave me a piece of the author's mind.
Its narrative relevance.
No one is a stranger to the horrors that are being committed in the name of humanity. Even though it's been 4 decades since Devilman, the human race is still having petty fights over resources, religion and their own ego. We even stopped caring about the truth, and the truth presented in Devilman isn't pretty; we humans are some the most barbaric and vile creatures to ever walk this earth. I'm we'll aware there are many other manga may have gone way deeper in exploring the human psyche, but because of Devilman's shortness (It's only 5 volumes long), I recommend Devilman strongly especially if you have a mind that's not well rested on your shoulders. It is by far one of the greatest deterrent to the true evils of the human race I could possibly think of, in manga format.
In the case that you don't care about any of the pretentious babble I just spit out, Devilman is still a highly entertaining manga that will amuse you with its uniquely designed demons (Mouth vaginas are a thing), gory intense action, and panels that are full of memetic and hypnotic quality. '
And this concludes Devilman's biggest strength. You can read the manga while making fun of its weird qualities, and you can also read the manga while taking everything seriously. Both ways work if you're willing to invest.
Note: this review was originally uploaded to my anime amino blog.
Devilman is a manga published in 1972 in kodansha’s weekly shonen magazine. Written and illustrated by Go Nagai, it is considered to be his magnum opus. So does it really deserve that much praise? Let's find out:
Story + characters:
To be honest, the first 2 volumes are just ok. They're not necessarily bad by any means, but they're nothing to write home about either. They’re about what you’d expect from a shonen manga from the 70’s. There’s lots of gore and fighting. It's your typical monster of the week type superhero story. They were still somewhat
enjoyable, but considering that this is suppose to be Go Nagai’s masterpiece, they did feel a bit underwhelming. However, i think the story really starts to pick up during the third volume. In volume 3, much darker and more depressing themes are introduced. It stops being an episodic superhero story and starts to delve into psychological territory. Then volumes 4 and 5 take it a step further, with a battle of a much larger scope, themes such as ‘war is never the answer’ and several very well executed plot twists that really keep you invested. I was honestly surprised at how deep the story had gotten, because up until volume 3 i wasn’t really taking it too seriously. It also has a very good ending. I want to keep this review spoiler free, so i won’t talk about it, but it really does leave a lasting impression.
Now i’ll talk a bit about the characters. The protagonist is a timid boy by the name of akira. After he is possessed by a demon, he becomes a Devilman. After that his goal is to protect humans from demons who are trying to take over the earth. Timid characters are usually very easy to develop, as you only have to make them gain strength and confidence throughout the story. However, akira develops in a slightly different way. He starts off pretty weak. He is unable to stand up for himself or his friends when they are in trouble. He is always being saved by his friend, Ryo his girlfriend, Miki. He is clearly dissatisfied with himself. Then Ryo convinces him to give up his humanity in order to become a devilman, so that he can save the world from demons. After he becomes a devilman, he becomes stronger and more confident. You would think that he would just keep getting stronger as the story progresses, but his development doesn’t end there. He also has to deal with the responsibility of using his strength, and in volume 3, he learns that his strength cannot solve all his problems. Then there’s his friend, Ryo. He is a very intelligent character and he is the one who drags akira into the war against the demons. He is much more selfish than akira, and he’s not afraid to harm others in order to get what he wants, but at the same time he still shows a shred of humanity. He becomes a good friend of akira, and he cares for his wellbeing. He is a very logical thinker, so he can stay calm in most dangerous situations, whereas akira loses control under pressure due to his devilman instincts. However, he is physically weak, so there is only so much he can do to participate in the war against the demons.
Devilman’s art is hard to get use to. Take a look at other horror manga, such as tokyo ghoul and attack on titan. They have very detailed art styles that are more realistic compared to other manga. This is to suit the gritty tone of the stories that they tell. You would think that devilman would do the same. But it doesn't. It actually has one of the most simplistic art styles i’ve ever seen in a manga. It's not what you’ expect a horror manga to look like. But still, its stylised in such a way that it’s hard not to like it. Its an art style that stands out, it sticks in your mind, and i think that’s what makes it so visually appealing. I also like how creative Go Nagai can be when it comes to panelling. He doesn’t just stick to squares and rectangles, he uses various other shapes aswell, which stops it from becoming boring to look at. I also thought there was some pretty good visual storytelling in volume 5, whereas the rest of the volumes were very dialog heavy. I do have one complaint about the art however. I think go nagai uses too much space sometimes when he’s trying to show a particular scene, for example, there was a war scene in volume 4 that lasted nearly 20 pages. This could have easily been done in about 4 pages. I thought the art was fairly good overall.
Enjoyment + overall summary :
I definitely enjoyed devilman. I thought it had a slow start but it had a really good climax. I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to get into older manga.