Reviewby Theron Martin,
Akira's childhood friend Miki has always been more than a little odd, perpetually insisting that she's a witch. She is good at finding things though, so when some classmates ask her to help find a missing person, she arranges a demon-summoning ritual to help with the cause. As she completes the ritual, actual demons do show up looking for a particular girl, before deciding to feast on the classmates instead. When Miki desperately attempts another summoning to save Akira, he becomes possessed by the devil Amon and goes on a counter-rampage. Though the devil now controls Amon's body, he finds himself sometimes restrained and motivated by Akira's will. As Miki struggles to deal with Akira's radically changed behavior, Amon finds himself combating additional demonic threats.
The Devilman franchise has been around in one form or another since 1972. This manga from 2012 is a reimagining of the premise to celebrate the franchise's 40th anniversary and provide a gateway into the franchise for a new generation of fans. At the very least, it accomplishes that task pretty well.
This version retains the focus on Akira Fudo and his longtime friend Miki Makimura, even to the point of replicating some some early scenes from the original manga. However, it trends in a starkly different direction by having Miki believe herself to be a witch and get directly involved in the incident where Akira gets possessed by Amon; in other words, she knows from the start about the origins of Devilman. Also, Amon is the one in control rather than the other way around, though his actions are softened somewhat by Akira's thoughts and memories. Those factors put a different spin on the developing relationship of the trio, although that aspect of the story doesn't get much more attention through the rest of the first volume. Instead, there are all sorts of delinquents for Akira/Amon to beat up, not to mention all the powerful demons.
Contending with all sorts of nasty beasties is where the heart and soul of the franchise lies, and the first volume doesn't shirk on that angle; it even opens with demon-on-demon fights prior to Devilman's appearance. Fights that Miki and Akira/Amon get into against human punks are simple brawls, but the conflicts involving demons are gruesomely violent affairs, with bodies being sliced in twain, impaled, disemboweled, and dismembered with wicked glee; manga-ka Rui Takatō seems to have a particular fixation on entrails in this volume. This is all taken to such ridiculous extremes that the gore almost takes on a comical undertone, not unlike what can sometimes be seen in Battle Angel Alita. Intentional or not, this effect prevents the content from being taken too seriously and shifts the story more toward the realm of absurdity than the horror overtones it usually seems to strive for. Of course, the story works just fun as simple hyper-graphic fun.
This volume is also quite fond of female nudity. Even when portrayed as grotesque monsters with leering faces in their abdomens, female demons still display bare breasts, since their demonic forms don't wear clothes. (One even goes so far as to have her nipples be the eyes for her secondary demonic face.) Miki (among others) also has harrowing encounters with demons while naked, and the most disturbing scenes include a naked girl getting eaten alive while skewered on an electrical pole and several teenage girls who serve as nude decorations for a demon posing as a teacher. By comparison, male humans just get outright eaten and male demons are utterly inhuman in design. There's also a seemingly random pair of lesbian teachers who seem to have nothing to do with the main storyline yet.
The artistic effort deliberately aims to capture an older style, as the oft-exaggerated facial features on many characters look dated by current standards. Many character designs trend more towards goofy caricatures, especially for delinquent types. The very creative demon designs are sharper, and Amon retains his classic look when he fully takes over Akira's body. The artistry in general favors heavy shading and thick lines, especially when things turn demonic, but there's not much special in terms of framing or delivering action scenes.
Devilman Grimoire doesn't waste time setting up complicated backstories or overarching plots, so it should be a satisfying read for anyone who likes fanservice mixed in with their ultra-graphic violence, enjoys reading about demonic anti-heroes slashing up other demons with creative attacks, or doesn't need much depth from their entertainment. But one thing's for sure, this manga is definitely not for the squeamish.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : C+
+ Lots of gory violence and nudity for fans of that content, straightforward story, inventive monster designs
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