Should You Read The Original Devilman Manga?

by Tito W. James

Devilman was a manga published in 1972 and broke new ground in the horror genre with its graphic depictions of violence and sexuality. Since its original publication, Devilman has influenced dark anime for decades, including Neon Genesis Evangelion, Berserk, and Magical Girl Madoka. With the critical success of Devilman Crybaby, the original Devilman manga by Go Nagai  is being printed in English for the first time. How does the manga hold up and is it a must-buy for fans of the anime?

The Devilman manga suffers from inconsistent pacing. We start with a fantastic action set-piece, then get bogged down in a a sea of backstory and exposition, then jump right into “freak of the week” style adventures. Considering the thickness of the manga volume, there’s very little plot or character progression. Akira doesn’t become Devilman until page 222.

The art holds up incredibly well considering that the manga is nearly 50 years old. The character designs are iconic and portray the essence of who these people are even if they are not dressed in contemporary clothes.
Miki is awesome! While I did like Miki’s portrayal in the anime, she was a little bland. In the manga, Miki is much more expressive. Yeah, she does follow the anime trope of being the tsundere step-sister who secretly loves Akira, but she’s really entertaining.

There are some fantastic action and horror scenes that didn’t appear in the anime adaptation, with the black-and- white aspect of the manga only adding to the creepy atmosphere. Jinmen, the demon based off of a Kappa, is given a lot more screen time and he’s truly terrifying.

There are other elements in the Devilman manga that didn’t make it into the show. Akira has some bizarre demon powers including electric-powered eyebrows.

There’s also a sequence at the end where Akria and Ryo time travel (for no reason) and meet historical figures like Joan of Arc, Marie Antonette, and Hitler before he turned evil.

As a fan of the of Devilman Crybaby anime, it was fascinating to read the original text. However, the manga on its own didn’t speak to me. Go Nagai’s Classic Devilman Manga is really for die-hard Devilman fans who want to read the original because of how influential it was. I’ll be looking forward to Volume 2, and I hope we can get Go Nagai’s Mugen Utamaro published in a classy hardcover format.

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