Despite using “devil” in the prefix of the name and the “-man” suffix, this manga is not about Satanism, nor is it about superheroes! The generic moniker is used on the cover of a story that is a classic tale of good versus evil, right versus wrong, it also personifies the outlook of Japanese citizens, after their loss during World War II. Think about the battle with Silene as an example of wartime commentary, and boy, is it a hard-hitter! Devilman (1972) is a story that you’ll be thinking about for years!
※ Bonus: The hulking omnibus of Devilman’s hardcover edition, distributed by Seven Seas, is gorgeous and I would suggest checking it out for old and new Devilman fans alike!
⚠️ This review of Devilman: The Classic Collection will contain spoilers ⚠️
Synopsis: 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 Ryō Asuka hatches the plan to have his good-hearted friend Akira Fudō 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.
Akira Fudō is a hapless lad, a pure-hearted young man, who gets led into the underworld by his old pal, Ryō Asuka, who is not good — though, when his identity as Satan is revealed, it’s apparent that he still has the heart of a human. Through the slivers of dark panels, we see Akira’s face become wrought with fear, as he makes his transformation and inherits the spirit of the most powerful demon to ever exist, Amon. The club scene is a living example of the old adage, “if you stare too long into the abyss, it stares back” — since Akira encounters such treachery and evil, like a mirror, his inner demons stare back at him. Thus, he is able to become Devilman and becomes somewhat possessed by the spirit of Amon.
It’s interesting foreshadowing, when you think that the naïve Akira transformed into Devilman because of shock and fear. Juxtapose that with the apocalypse, where hoards of humans are acting like demons, because they feel fear from the existence of demons. In the manga version, demons like Agwell and Gelmar are not given the same levity as the other demons are, they are painted as farcical villains — while Akira is coming into his own as Devilman. It’s more of a stereotypical hero scene, where Miki begins to fawn all over Akira, because he’s become strong and isn’t the wimpy guy that she knew from before.
There’s also a group of school delinquents that Akira has beef with, but they turn out to be pretty decent characters, defying their yakuza-like archetypes! The plot first gets really dark when Jinmen is introduced. In most anime adaptations, Jinmen’s captures the disembodied head of Akira’s mother (and sometimes his father, too) and carries it on his shell, but in the original manga (and “Devilman VS Cyborg 009”), it is a young neighborhood girl, named Sachiko. I actually prefer the latter as a plot device, because Sachiko is a very sweet little girl, and I think that’s more emblematic of the cruelty of demons, rather than the whole “Batman” shtick, where the demon killed his parents! Being able to ruthlessly kill a child is a very evil thing to do, and it doesn’t seem as contrived, when used as a plot device.
After Jinmen, Akira defeats Sirene, who hopelessly lusts after Amon’s power. Check out my “Devilman: Yochō Sirene-hen” review for a more detailed analysis of her character. And then the apocalypse begins, in a fourth-wall breaking moment, Akira appears out of the shadows and warns the readers that the story is about to get very dark. Ryō Asuka remembers his identity as Satan, it is implied that Psychogenie (or “Psycho Jenny”) is a demon that had the ability to alter Ryō’s memories and so, Ryō realizes that his entire life as a human has been a lie, and he’s actually Satan. With that, he pulls a ※Fūma Monō (“X/1999”) and reveals footage of Devilman to the public, thus beginning the apocalypse, by casting the world into a pit of pure pandemonium.
※ Fūma (“X/1999) may have been based off of Ryō in some capacity, because CLAMP actually used to distribute Akira ✕ Ryō dōjinshi, before they made it big. Fūma and Kamui’s childhood bromance is suspiciously similar to Akira and Ryō’s story!
The world becomes a stage for a massive witch hunt, and people with torches start killing innocent people in cold blood, suspecting everyone of secretly being a demon. The first scene to really tug at my heartstrings, is when Akira (as Devilman) searches for Miki’s missing parents and they have been tortured to death in an experimentation facility, he then says, “And you call yourselves human?” That really struck a chord with me, and then to lay on the melancholy mood further, Devilman returns to Miki and finds that people have murdered her and are barbarically hoisting her dismember head up on a stake! Miki Makimura: the typical, girl-next-door character — was even killed and accused of being a demon. The most honest and forthright character in the whole series!
Feeling devastated, Devilman finds the resolve to gather a tribe of Devilmen (after the apocalypse, demon forcefully fuse with human vessels and give them a similar affliction to Akira) to wage a war against Satan, and his followers! The Devilmen that followed Akira were hybrids that were still able to remain human, due to a pure heart, this is kind of a surprise with characters like Mikiko Kawamoto — who is shown to be a rebellious hoodlum. But, like the good-hearted gangsters from before, Gō Nagai seems to like the trope of hood rats becoming reformed characters. In the end, after several years of a catastrophic battle, that has destroyed the entire world; Satan and his clan are victorious and Satan weeps over the ruinous planet, next to Akira’s corpse, because ※they had fallen in love with him. It then reveals that God has forced Satan to relive the same reality over and over again, to punish them for their disobedience.
※ Referring to them as a “they” because Satan is a hermaphrodite in Devilman.
If you think of things spiritually, Satan didn’t really triumph in the end, though he won the war. They killed the only person that they had ever loved and they are left with an empty world, that may as well be Hell. In the end, God wins and Satan is left in a never-ending cycle of despair. I think that the ending was also supposed to be a commentary on the second World War, the Allies won, but they didn’t really win, because the world was left in ruin and innocent people were murdered in the process. Devilman is truly a deep story.
Luna’s Favorite Works by Each Respective Creator = ✅
Gō Nagai (creator), ※notable works:
- Abashiri Ikka
- Akuma Kishi ✅
- Bakuratsu Kyōshitsu
- Barabanba 2
- Cinderella Knight
- Cutie Honey
- Cutie Honey Tai Devilman Lady
- Cutie Honey: Tennyo Densetsu
- Dante Shinkyoku (“The Divine Comedy”)
- Devilman Lady
- Devilman Saga ✅
- Dokuro no Yakata (“Gō Nagai’s Horror Story Collection — Skull Manor”)
- Dororo to Enma-kun
- Dororon Enbi-chan
- Dororon Enma-kun ✅
- Fullmetal Lady
- Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko
- Gekiman!: Mazinger Z-hen
- Getter Robo
- Getter Robo Anthology: Shinka no Ishi
- God Mazinger
- Great Mazinger
- Grendizer Giga
- Hanappe Bazooka
- Harenchi Gakuen
- Harenchi Golfer Jūbee
- Iyahaya Nantomo
- Jūshin Liger
- Kekkō Kamen
- Kikōshi Enma
- Kuro no Shishi (“Black Lion”)
- Lovely Angel
- Maboroshi Panty
- Maeda Toshiie
- Magokko Kinta
- Maō Dante ✅
- Maō Dante (2002)
- Maō Dante Tai Getter Robo G
- Mayonaka no Senshi
- Mazin Saga
- Mazinger Z
- Memory Glass
- Mist Story
- Mugen Utamaro
- Nagai Gō Ecchi Manga Selection
- Neo Devilman
- Oira Sukeban
- Oni: 2889-nen no Hanran
- Rambo Sensei
- Salacia: Waga Hakugin no Mermaid
- Shin Devilman ✅
- Shin Mazinger: Shōgeki! H-hen
- Shin Violence Jack
- Shuten Dōji
- Supeope Chūgaku (“Space Opera Chūgaku”)
- Super Saiyūki
- Susano Ō
- Tantei Jimusho H.G
- Teito Onna Kisha Den — Sharaku
- Tenkū no Inu
- Tetsu no Shōjo Jun (“Iron Virgin Jun”)
- This is Daisuke
- UFO Robo Grendizer
- Violence Jack
- Violence Jack: Demons in a War-Torn Land
- Violence Jack: Jigoku Machihen
- Z Mazinger
※ These are just the works which he did BOTH the art and story, there are a plethora of other stories in which he only wrote the story or just did the art.
Commentary: Mr. Nagai’s art LOOKS like what a ’70s manga would typically look like, there are some aspects that have aged well and others that haven’t, some of the faces during the beginning of the collection are drawn comedically, despite the situation being serious. I would say that Nagai is proficient at drawing Akira as Devilman and the creature designs, than the actual humans! Although, Akira’s iconic winged bottom lashes are still a staple to his design… to this day! I really loved when Devilman would get angry or anguished, and Mr. Nagai would distort the line work, and almost give the character an avant-garde kind of feel to him! You can tell from Mr. Nagai’s nuance in artistic expression and style, that he was an apprentice to the late Osamu Tezuka! Incredible work, even the panel layouts are very eye-catching!
Conclusively, “Devilman: The Classic Collection” is a must-buy classic series. Even if you aren’t usually interested in an antiquated manga collection, the philosophical message of the story and the prolific characters are still important in our contemporary culture! The original Devilman, some of the other off-shoot series are mostly about shock value, sex, and gore — is about holding on to a sense of righteousness and dignity, even if you are forced into the role of a devil. I rate “Devilman: The Classic Collection” a solid 8/10!