This year marks thirty years since the publication of Devilman. In June 1972, when Shukan Shonen Magazine began
serializing my manga version of Devilman, I had been a comic strip artist for five years and had been very successful.
But after doing Mao Dante, I had been dying to do more serialized manga in the epic style, so I was thrilled to have
the opportunity to do Devilman and threw myself into it with great passion.
By Go Nagai
originally printed in the english translated series from Kodansha
In July that year, Devilman the TV animation series went on air. We worried about ratings, for not only did the show
air during prime time at 8:30 p.m. but it shared the slot with the Drifters' hit comedy show. Yet in spite of such
worries, Devilman did very well, proving false the prejudice of those times that maintained animation couldn't win the
ratings game. Since then animation has aired on prime time with no particular difficulty; Devilman paved the way, so to speak.
The TV series lasted eight months, while my magazine series continued a year. When you think about it, that's not very
long, but Devilman has exhibited an amazing and curious staying power. In the past thirty years, the TV series has been
rebroadcast repeatedly, while several new editions of the magazine manga have been published. Countless licensed products
have appeared, as have Devilman videos. TV, video, and manga versions have all been well received abroad, and I have been
inundated with requests for permission to use parts of Devilman from both Japanese and foreign artists and publishers. Many
a production company has asked if I would consider making a Devilman film. The reaction has been such that I wondered if
Devilman and it's hero had lives of their own, fighting for survival.
I initially conceived Devilman as a TV animation series. A producer for TOEI Animation Co., Ltd. who had read Mao dante,
wondered if I could come up with an animation series with a devil-albeit a very human one-as it's hero. Thus Devilman was
born, an amalgam of Devil and man with bat wings as his trademark. I tend to think I was greatly influenced by my first
images of devils- Gustave Dore's illustrations of Satan trapped in ice in Dante's Inferno. It had inspired Mao Dante and
went on to influence Devilman too.
The TV and manga versions of Devilman began around the same time. But due to my particular creative method, the two works
ended up being very different. The basic concept for the TV series was simple: Evil vs. Evil, revolving around a hero. Evil
takes over a human body, and to protect Miki, the girl he loves, the hero participates in the human world and battles evil.
The magazine series on the other hand, grew further from this plot with each episode.
One reason for the difference in the two versions is that the readership of Shukan Shonen Magazine was consistently older
than the viewership of the TV series. I thought I needed quite a realistic story to convince the older readers. I discarded
the evil vs. evil paradigm of the TV series for one in which the human hero takes over a demon and throws himself into a
humans vs. demons war for the sake of mankind. I also added a character: Ryo Asuka, a friend who drags Akira into the world
of devils. With Ryo, the story developed in surprising ways. The staff of the TV series were rather thrown off by these changes.
They later lamented that the TV series could have been more interesting if the character Ryo Asuka had existed.
Earlier I referred to my 'particular creative method'. What I mean is the trance I often fell into while creating Devilman.
As with my other works, I resist meticulous planning before writing and drawing. I start with my characters and a somewhat
general idea of a central concept and direction, after which I become one with each character and basically go with the flow.
I, the author do not know the result until I complete an episode. A scene comes to me like one in a movie, and I work furiously
to record it. With such a working method, it's not surprising that I would ask myself, "Hey did I really do this?" when looking at something
I produced the night before. I remember being particularly astonished by the turn of events when the character Miki died.
In the magazine series, Devilman ends with Armageddon, the last decisive battle between good and evil, ending with the complete
destruction of mankind. I didn't know why I had created such a shocking tale, I was left feeling a gaping hole in my heart. I
understood when I met an English chaneller, or medium, who told me that in a past life I had been a priest undergoing austerities
in late thirteenth-century Austria. Unable to endure attrocities of those times, including witch hunting, I had committed suicide.
Immediately upon hearing this, I had a vision of a tall thin priest with a hooked nose walking under a blue sky. I saw before
him a tree with lots of big branches. Before I could say a word, the chaneller said, "You hung yourself on that tree".
These are the words of a medium and of course I have no objective proof. Still, I know that if I had lived in Europe during such times
and had been on the persecuting side, I would have suffered excruciatingly from guilt and shame. Near the end of Devilman, Akira
screams to those who are suposedly weeding out evil, "You are the true demons!" Perhaps those were the words that I, the priest had
wanted to utter. There is a sense of Armageddon as we enter a new millenium. Global tension is high, and mankind seems to be on the
brink of the final world war. Do human beings really have a bright future?
The theme of Devilman is antiwar. When humans transform into devils and demons, what they really are doing is taking up murder
weapons and embarking on war. The 'indiscriminate melding of demons with humans' that we see in Devilman refers to the draft system,
while the death of Akira Fudo's beloved Miki symbolizes the death of peace.
I am the author of Devilman yet throughout it's creation, I felt as though I were being pushed by an invisible power. 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.