Why choose Devilman for this segment? Well, with a concept such as this, it’s quite obvious isn’t it? A boy transformed into a superhero demon to fight other demons reeks of blasphemy, ergo controversial. 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the more popular OVA of the Devilman saga; Siren the Demon Bird. Thus I’ll give a retrospective based on the three OVAs and not the 1974 Anime series.
Synopsis: Based on Go Nagai’s manga series; Devilman, 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. But whoever kills a demon must become a demon – and only one who is pure of heart can possess the body of a demon… only one like Akira! 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 possess him and thereby acquire power equal to a demon known as Devilman!
Vol. 1 The Birth
In the first volume titled The Birth, we are treated to a dialog free scene (accompanied by a peaceful melody) that occurred prior to the Ice Age in which demons had inherited the Earth.
Fast forward to a present era as Akira Fudo’s parents on some business trip, exploring a deep cave somewhere in the Antarctic. Unbeknownst to them, a mysterious demon who had been hibernating, has awoken from his disturbed sleep and devours the couple.
Normal life in modern day Tokyo is unexpectedly disrupted for a young high school kid like Akira.
As if it weren’t bad enough that his parents had gone missing, but his pet rabbit is viciously slaughtered by a bunch of asshole bullies who used the rabbits as target practice for a sling shot. Soon afterwards, his best friend, Ryo Asuka, reveals a terrifying secret – a secret that will change Akira’s life forever!
All it takes is one bad day right?
Ryo’s deceased archaeologist father left him a dark and sinister legacy, knowledge of which may only condemn Ryo in the same way it condemned his father – to an eternal sentence of suffering and torment. Accompanied by Akira, Ryo enters an abandoned estate which was previously, his father’s mansion in order to convince Akira into the unthinkable via merging with a demon in order to destroy other demons before all humanity is faced with extermination. Ryo believes that someone like Akira may be able to harness a demon’s powers when possessed, due to the fact that Akira has a pure heart. However, Ryo understands that his legacy also has the power to salvage the human race from torturous damnation at the hands of demon.
Throughout the second act, the two are fighting for their lives while fending off demonic monstrosities with a shotgun. And when the friends finally have a moment of respite, Akira musters the courage to accept his fate should he merge with a demon, but realizing that it was a demon who had murdered his parents, makes this sacrifice all the more easier for a once sensitive and naive Akira.
After entering an underground club, Ryo raises some hell by instigating hostility with the clubbers in order to lure the demonic forces inward. The ritual plan suddenly comes to fruition as the patrons are transformed into Demons and attack the two.
Akira feeling stress and hopelessness become possessed by the powerful demon known as Amon aka Devilman. Now Akira is humanity’s sole champion of justice against the hidden demonic menace that has plagued the world since time began. Devilman contains the strength and power of the demon Amon, as well as the heart and soul of Akira, thus giving Akira complete control…but does he?
Opinion: Despite the few action scenes, the last five minutes more than made up for it. It’s a detailed origin story that gives insight into Akira’s innocent yet courageous nature as he is willing to sacrifice his soul for the greater good. So that’s to be expected with most superhero films, animated one shots, etc.
The Birth served as a very good introductory OVA.
Vol. 2 Siren The Demon Bird
During the series, Devilman has many battles with the demon hordes. In particular- foes such as Siren the demon bird and a large turtle-like demon called Jinmen. The latter is responsible for the death of Akira’s parents and in Vol. 2 Siren the Demon Bird, Devilman avengers the gruesome deaths of his parents. However, during the confrontation, Akira sees a visage of his mother who is trapped inside Jinmen’s body since her corporal form has been consumed by the turtle demon. Akira, under his mother’s request, strikes her thus releasing her from damnation and out of grief and rage, he destroys Jinmen. This was a one of the scenes from the series that portrayed Akira’s sensitive side post Devilman transformation.
Akira’s personality has grown darker as his childhood friend and love interest, Miki Makimura notices that Fudo is no longer the shy, timid boy. Instead Akira is now more assertive and obnoxious to the point of Miki throwing a punch to his face. Meanwhile Siren the demon bird searches for Akira as she is now aware that Amon stands in their way of world conquest. Before attacking Fudo personally, she summons her allies Geruma the water demon and Aguwel the messenger from hell. When the Makimura residence is under attack, Akira defeats the elemental monsters, only for Siren to attack him unguarded.
What soon followed was a game of cat and mouse between the demon warriors. Devilman, having the upper hand, pursued the bird woman throughout the remainder of this episode. The score during the chase scene had a bit of romanticism however, things had gotten ugly when Amon, out of a fit of rage had damaged an incoming passenger plane causing it to explode along with the passengers. Said scene served as a testament that Akira does not have full control over his demonic alter ego as believed and although he is mankind’s greatest hope against the demons, he certainly is no Superhero.
The long winded battle ends in a pyrrhic victory for Siren.
Opinion: Just like the first OVA, there were some scenes that gave off that spooky vibe from the cult classic film; Phantasm (Geruma’s attack inside the Makimura house in particular). The soundtrack was one of the more memorable scores I can recall from an anime series, while the storyboards and quality animation itself rivals that of Studio Ghibi’s films of old. Volume 2 was more action oriented than its predecessor and not to mention the closure scene involving his mother, served as further motivation of why Akira must fight the demonic forces while maintaining control of both Amon and his dark side. Well done OVA!
Vol. 3 Amon Apocalypse of Devilman
But what soon follows is the darkest of the trilogy. In Apocalypse of Devilman, fear runs rampant throughout Tokyo with the revelation that demons in fact exist amongst us. Paranoia and the darker side of humanity boils onto the streets as people turn on one another, suspecting that anyone could in fact be a demon hiding in human clothing. Amidst the growing tensions, tragedy strikes Akira causing his mind to snap, retreating into his subconscious and thus allowing his Devilish alter-ego; Amon to break free from Akira’s cage of flesh and wreak havoc on both human and demons alike.
Akira’s “best friend” Ryo reveals to the public via television broadcast that Akira Fudoh is actually Devilman and after learning of Akira’s secret, a crazed Lynch Mob enters the Makimura residence……Akira goes into a blind rage and slaughters the erratic lynch mob. The worldwide panic and mass hysteria fuels rioting, anarchy and in turn leaving the world into an apocalyptic state.
Devilman now faces his greatest challenge; to fight his only friend Ryo, who is now revealed as Satan. It was Ryo’s plan to merge Akira into Amon and manifest the downfall of mankind so that the demons can reclaim the Earth leaving Akira (his object of affection) to rule by Ryo/Satan’s side. Ryo in his true guise as Satan is also a hermaphrodite (yes, he’s a “she”).
The third volume of the Devilman saga had taken a turn for the worst as in worst case scenarios. Taking a page from the X-Men metaphor, fear and prejudice of demons causes the more humane demonic groups (Akira’s Devilman army) to go underground and avoid persecution while fighting the rival demon gangs on the side of Satan (I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried). Unfortunately, Akira begins to lose what humanity that was left inside after the tragic events that have occurred. One poignant scene that had stood out among the others……faced the true Amon in mortal combat thus eventually remained victorious.
While the animation itself was good, I wasn’t too crazy about Devilman’s new look (“Gloves”? are you shitting me?!?). He looks more akin to some S&M gay biker.
I was also letdown by the ending which seemed anti climatic and devoid of catharsis to say in the least. However, the post ending hinted toward the revelation that Akira will eventually become Violence Jack (the world has reached the age of apocalypse and all that is left is an urban wasteland with very little human survivors).
Also, here were the final events based on the Manga that occurred.
Opinion: This was no doubt the most cerebral and gut wrenching of the trilogy. One can feel empathy for Akira as he falls into despair and relinquishes hope. Although Ryo (Satan) manages to aid Akira (Devilman) to defeat Amon, the ending as I mentioned before, lacked catharsis especially compared to the manga. But still a damn good OVA and a cool ending song.
To sum things up nicely, the Devilman saga is a compelling fun opus. I can’t recall a single moment that left me bored and the trilogy to its credit squeezed in as much as it can from the manga source material.
If you like supernatural with your superheroes, you can’t go wrong with Devilman.
Note: Avoid the Manga Entertainment dub version at all costs!!
Now you know
- Devilman was conceived within the same year as Marvel’s Ghost Rider (however, Devilman manga debuted three months prior to Ghost Rider’s comic).
- In the Tekken videogame series, the character Devil Jin Kazama bears a striking resemblance to Devilman and even has his signature powers.
- Glenn Danzig of The Misfits, Samhain and his namesake band, sold Devilman comics under his Verotik line.
- The song “Supercharger Heaven” performed by White Zombie includes lyrics such as; “Devil man, devil man, calling devil man / Running in my head yeah / Devil man, devil man, calling devil man / Running in my head yeah”.
The artwork for the single contains the Japanese superhero Devilman, which is also referenced in the chorus of the song.
- In 2004, the live action film based on Devilman was released in Japan to very negative reception.
- A remake of the Devilman series is set to debut during the fall of 2015.