Apologies for there being no Kill la Kill or Monogatari posts last week; I was busy for Halloween, and right after that I got my wisdom teeth pulled, so getting aniblog posts done on time wasn’t too much of a concern. After sleeping all day due to the drugs the dentist gave me however, I did pull an all-nighter and read through a bunch of Devilman Lady, and thus I present you a blog post on that. I’ll try not to spoil too much since probably most of you haven’t read it, but still, beware of spoilers!
The idea for Devilman Lady was thought up when Go Nagai wondered what Devilman would be like if the titular protagonist were a woman instead of a teenage boy. And instead of having it just be a “Devilman but with tits” copy and paste job, he played around with the concept and gave it its own unique setting and characters to make it stand out from its spiritual predecessor. What’s really neat about Devilman Lady though is that it gave Nagai a chance to incorporate ideas and concepts that he wasn’t able to fully explore in the original Devilman, and flesh out the story more with it’s comparatively slower and more reasonable pacing.
I haven’t read Cutey Honey so I can’t really compare this to any of Nagai’s other works that feature female protagonists, but Jun is a bit of a mary sue. A former olympic swimmer turned teacher, she’s smart, strong, intelligent, and quite feminine and kind. In spite of that though she never quite develops enough of a personality to really make her a compelling character in and of herself; she experiences trouble and inner conflict from having to deal with her new life as a devilman, but it always seems merely like response to her situation rather than a reflection of her own character. The story to Devilman Lady is enjoyable and its fun to see Jun deal with the various devil beasts, but Jun herself is just a boring character. In contrast, Akira from the original Devilman was a lot more interesting since he was this spineless dweeb suddenly thrust into a terrible and life-dooming situation; thereafter going through a fascinating character change where his fusing with Amon transformed him into a jerkass anti-hero. Granted, it was annoying how the manga also used that for wish fulfillment with how it played up the whole “girls love bad boys” trope, but still, it made him far from a Gary Sue.
Unfortunately another thing about the “Devilman but as a woman” plot is that apparently Nagai thought it’d be a good idea to put Jun in as many rape situations as possible. It’s kind of ridiculous how many times rape is brought up as a plot device, especially with the scenes which actually do result in Jun getting raped. The first few times that she transforms in Devilman Lady are all triggered by rape; midway through the series she ends up raped repeatedly by a dozen different cultists as part of a cultist scheme, and towards the end of the series she even gets raped by a woman devilbeast who grows a penis due to her lesbianism. (Yeah, that last point probably gives you an idea of how heterosexist and cissexist the series is as well.)
The devil beast dilemma requires a some suspension of disbelief. The phenomenon of people transforming into demonic beasts has been around since ancient times, yet somehow the Human Alliance has managed to keep it a secret from most of the human population—and doing so since they fear that human society would crumble with panic. Particularly annoying since the second volume takes quite a fair amount of time to go into excruciating detail and give a pseudo-scientific explanation, where people have some sort of inherit capability to transform due to the mitochondria in their DNA. This is all a bit easier to swallow though when considering how it contrasts with the events of the original Devilman—although I’d argue that just calling the devil beasts supernatural demons from the start would have been a better idea than throwing in some terrible pseudo-science.
The peak of the comic for me would be the whole story-arc where Jun goes to hell, meets up with the ghost of Akira, and the two of them travel to the deepest layer of hell. It was neat how it suddenly became a crossover with Dante’s Divine Comedy, and also how it turned into a full-fledged sequel of Devilman with Akira doing battle with the classic enemies he faced before. Akira largely overshadows Jun at this point and the latter becomes relegated to a mere damsel in distress much of the time, but Akira’s a more interesting character than her anyways so I didn’t mind.
For most of the story Devilman Lady contains a fairly decent story in spite of all the above issues, but the ending has to be the worst “gainax ending” that I’ve seen in a while. The series ended up getting cancelled, so Nagai had to rush through the ending in order to conclude—resulting in quite a jumbled clusterfuck of a final chapter. Various plot threads are abandoned, and a lot weird and unexpected developments occur. Like, really, the ending is really weird.
Overall I wouldn’t say that Devilman Lady is necessarily better or worse than Devilman, since in some aspects it’s highly superior while in other aspects it pale greatly. Either way though I’d definitely recommend it, especially to those who have read and enjoyed Devilman. (And if you haven’t read Devilman, make sure to read that before Devilman Lady.)