Devil Man: The Birth VHS

By John Huxley, 28th Apr 04
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So you think Urotsukidoji was the original extreme violence manga? You're not far wrong, but Devil Man must be viewed with the respect it deserves as it doubtlessly influenced an entire generation of manga creators, of which Urotsukidoji was one. Go Nagai created the original manga back in the 70s, and was something of a culture shock to the Japanese with scenes of violence and sex featuring, and concentrating on, high school kids. Let me clarify - this is an exceptionally violent anime where nothing is left to the imagination. Heads roll, and lots of them.

Although Go Nagai was pleased with the popularity of his anti-hero, he hated the TV adaptation for turning Devil Man into a kind of demonic super-hero complete with ridiculous plot

lines and laughable red underpants. This late eighties OVA version was created to rectify this and show audiences the true Devil Man he created for his seminal comic work. The result is astounding - the animation, characters and action are all of a remarkable standard and Go Nagai has every right to be proud of this version.

The Birth follows Akira Fudo's transformation from the shy, bullied high school kid into the demon killing machine that is Devil Man. Of course, this doesn't happen straight away. First we meet Miki, Akira's would-be girlfriend, although at this point he is so shy he cant even express the slightest feeling towards her. Akira soon bumps into Ryo, an old friend desperately in need of help. What follows

I wont divulge (this is nothing to do with my lack of narrative talent), but suffice to say that Akira melds with the powerful demon Amon to become neither Akira Fudo nor Amon, but Devil Man, the demon world's worst nightmare.

The animation quality is superb, handling complex rotation and scaling techniques with ease, and the art style is all Go Nagai, remaining faithful to the original source. Action scenes are particularly well realized, movements are smooth and the combat is easily followed. The designs of the demons and characters are straight from the 70s, but this gives a nice 'old-school' look similar to the recent Giant Robo series. Scripting is also top-notch, with an intriguing start to an epic story. This is the only

possible problem - The Birth is only a small section of a much larger storyline, and you are left with the need for more. This is partially satisfied with the sequel, The Demon Bird, but no more were made after this (except for the supposedly weak third outing, which has nothing much in common with the first two).

Viewing The Birth as a single film is unrewarding due to its unsatisfactory climax. However, watch both The Birth and The Demon Bird (both of which are part of the same story) together, and this is anime at its best. As I said before, this is sick stuff, with blood spilling left right and center, but hey, isn't that what we all came for?

By John Huxley, 28th Apr 04

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