Devilman is a true masterpiece of manga literature, and it’s one of the greatest manga that I have ever read in my life.
Being a huge fan of Go Nagai, I consider Devilman to be his best manga ever. The reason why I love the story of Devilman so much is because of how complex, ambitious, and metaphorical it is.
The art is also amazing and even though this manga was made in the 1970’s, the artwork still holds up.
The plot of Devilman is about a teenage boy named Akira Fudo who merges with a powerful demon named Amon which causes him to become none other than Devilman. Now that Akira Fudo has the powers of Amon, he must protect those he loves, and humanity from the demons that want to destroy the entire human race. What makes Devilman an awesome manga is that it’s not your typical superhero horror story at all. Instead, it’s a anti-war story. Allow me to explain.
The reason why Devilman is a work of anti-war is when Go Nagai himself said “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.” In order to help show this, Devilman has lot’s of symbolism that relates to war, and why war is bad. An example is when the story shows that demons have the ability to merge with humans (this is symbolic to people being drafted), and the death of a supporting character happened in order to symbolize the end of peace. While these are the two main examples for why Devilman is a work of anti-war, I was able to find more examples of it being an anti-war story.
Devilman volume 2 is the debut of Sirene, a bird demon that’s bent on killing Akira Fudo in the hopes of bringing back her lover Amon. I saw this as symbolism because it shows the idea of someone trying to free their friend, family member, or lover from the draft as Amon being merged with Akira Fudo is symbolic to someone being drafted, and for Sirene to want to kill Akira Fudo in order to bring back Amon is perfect symbolism of trying to free someone from the draft. Akira evens feels pity for her as he understood why she wanted to kill him.
In Devilman volume 3, the turtle demon Jinmen appears. Jinmen has a ability to have the faces of his victims grow on his shell after he’s eaten them in order to gain satisfaction from their pain and suffering. Akira Fudo transforms into Devilman in order to fight Jinmen, but it turns out to be a difficult fight because Akira is trying his best not to kill the faces that are on Jinmens shell. Jinmen even taunts Akira about his victims as a way to manipulate Akira’s emotions. Akira Fudo soon gains to courage to kill Jinmen by tearing off his shell, but ends up also killing the people that Jinmen ate in the process. This results in Akira living with guilt after the battle.
The reason why this is another example of Devilman being a story that’s anti-war is because the faces of the victims on Jinmens shell are meant to symbolize the suffering of innocent war prisoners, and them dying along with Jinmen also symbolizes innocents of people being killed during a war. For Akira Fudo to feel guilty after his fight with Jinmen because he also killed the victims that were on Jinmens shell is a metaphor for when soldiers go through psychological torment when they kill people (especially when they are forced to kill innocent people).
As for the ending of Devilman, I really do not want to spoil it, but I am certain that lot’s of people will have different opinions on it. As for me, it’s a good ending because it helps establish the anti-war message very well. The story also doesn’t pander about it being anti-war (which is a good thing because it allows the story to be fun, interesting, entertaining, and engaging).
What also makes Devilman a great manga is how much of an impact it had on Japanese culture. Without Devilman, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Berserk, Hellsing, Parasyte, and Bastard would not exist, and the way manga’s and anime’s are now wouldn’t be possible.
Go Nagai created Devilman because he wanted to show the world why war is awful, and Devilman truly succeeds in showing that message without it being pandering about it.
Devilman is not for everyone though because it contains gore, nudity, and religious themes which means it can only be read by a mature audience.
The Devilman manga has also not been officially licensed in English. It can only be read in English by going to scanalation sites, and it’s 5 volumes long (update about that actually. Seven Seas Entertainment got the license to publish this Manga in English for the USA. This review was made prior to that).
Overall, Go Nagai’s Devilman is truly a work of art, and is a manga that deserves to be read by everyone and remembered forever.
I give the Devilman manga 5/5 Stars, and Two Thumbs Up.