Devilman: The Birth (1987)

DVD Cover (Manga Video)
Movie Connections:
> Devilman: The Birth (1987)
> Devilman: Demon Bird (1990)
> Amon: Apocalypse Of Devilman (2000)
Umanosuke Iida Umanosuke Iida
Sh Hayami Sh Hayami
Alan Marriott Alan Marriott
Y Mizushima Y Mizushima
Adam Matalon Adam Matalon
Jun Konomaki Jun Konomaki

7.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Animated Feature Film, Animated Horror, Animation, Anime, Horror, Supernatural Horror
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Review by Ginose
Added: November 17, 2009
I'm not very big on anime (excluding most of Tatsunoko's 70s works, they made my childhood). I've said this before and I'll keep saying it until there is an AMAZING influx of excellence from the medium; however, there are some shining examples of the genre that always bear mentioning when I mention this to people.

This primarily includes the few great "space-westerns" that dominated the culture in the late 90s (or early 2000s here in the states), most of which went on the inspire (anf practically write) Joss Whedon's excellent (yet infinitely overrated) "Firefly" series, as well as many works of film. A few others were ones that seemed to drag themselves into western culture quite pleasantly, so much so that they were practically Americanized by name alone ("The Guyver" being a most shining example). Other works follow on my list, but the gothic/horror presentations of anime have always been my favorite; "Vampire Hunter D" (both the films and novels) give a wonderful redecoration to post-gothic literature as well as post-apocalyptia altogether, and newer series have easily restored my faith in the classical martial-arts epic ("Karas" and "Afro Samurai", respectively).*

However, here I'm reviewing a classical work, and I believe it deserves the respect that comes with such a title, with the impact it made on the American comic and film industry throughout the 80s and 90s, and how its leap to OVA made it far more recognizable in the west: Go Nagai's "Devilman".

A mysterious expedition to the South Pole ends in disaster as the archeologists involved are attacked by some sub-human creatures that were frozen in the caps. With no survivors, word never reaches anyone of what may have been unleashed. Now we are introduced to Akira whom, after saving the life of a rabbit (Yeah) and being treated for his wounds by his friend (and clear love-interest) Miki, is met by an old school-chum, Ryou, who desperately needs his help. Akira soon discovers the terrible circumstances that this meeting is held under, and wishes to help Ryou in his mission, by whatever means necessary.

Go Nagai is, and forever will be, a major influence on multiple forms of media with his unique works spanning a wide-variety of genres in the 70s, 80s and even today. Though he may not be as noted here in the west, it's hard to go through any horror-action work without seeing the impact "Devilman" made on the genre, with its unique emphasis played on an abundance of ultra-violence and sexuality with a highly detail-oriented script. The man did his research and dabbled through the mythologies of several different cultures, pressing them all into one unique work of demonic fiction.

I can say, with all certainty, that the three OVAs that reached our shores paid close attention to Nagai's story, and (with the exception of the third and final film) depicted it with accuracy in its lacking running time.

The running time, however, still forces a lot of the general plot to be condensed, the worse case of which being this entry, providing very little time to set the foundations of the characters and nearly NONE to develop them in any significant way. Still, it doesn't take much away from this piece, overall, as it is used as merely an introduction to the series, and, as such, it works fantastically.

The animation and original Japanese dubs are excellent, and truly exceed what their budget would suggest for a late 80s OVA, but still, we all have our complaints with the manga/anime art style, I'm sure. Regardless, it's still very close to Nagai's original comic artwork and, on its own, actually looks very good. It certainly revels in its pulpy origins, providing plenty of red-gold gushing from the human/demon geysers, but it does it in an almost respectable way; it certainly doesn't use its gore/titty factor as a cheap-ploy to hook people (though, that's what probably got me, when I rented the first two as a boy), but even the ones that come for that should leave impressed and wanting more. In the end, the legacy of the series does far more than this movie (or any of the others), it's still a damned enjoyable 50 minutes, though it doesn't really have an ending, given it's merely the introduction.

Though the three films in this series cover the whole of the "Devilman" saga, it's suffice to say that it doesn't NEARLY cover everything, or even a fraction of such. It may be reaching to hope the original manga will see a U.S. debut (as all of the American works that mimed the themes have surely made it lose a lot of relevance over here) perhaps the original anime could see a DVD release (though a mangled version of the story, still a series worth recognizing), in hoping that people will see exactly how much it has done for the entertainment industry overall. Slowly but surely, the series is FINALLY making its way to the Western world (along with some of Nagai's other works), and I can only hope it will finally be recognized for the genius it was, and for all the good it's done nowadays.


* The opening rant was only included due to the fact that I will be reviewing the bulk of these works soon, and would like to get my overall opinion of anime as a whole out there.
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