Devil in the water

            A collection of short romance stories tinged with crime and the supernatural. Each individual story unfolds quickly, and most revolve around unsolved murders and unfulfilled longings for often-dead lovers. In a number of the stories, a ghost of a deceased lover returns to tie up loose ends, including one story that takes its plot directly from Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugestu Monogatari. While no individual stories stand out as exceptional, the blend of melodrama, spirit possessions, and a number of twist endings straight out of detective fiction make for a surprisingly satisfying read.
Against the gods

            Millions of years ago, a race of demons led by the fallen angel Satan ruled planet Earth until the great ice age left them in a state of hibernation. But when an explorer in the Himalayas discovers these sleeping demons, their evil is reborn into the modern era. Back in Japan, teenager Ryo Asuka realizes through his late father’s studies that a great war will soon erupt between humankind and the awakened demons that want their world back. Believing that “the only actual way to fight the demons is to become a demon yourself,” Ryo convinces his mild-mannered friend Akira Fudoh to merge with a demon and become Devilman, a terrifying hybrid being with supernatural powers that he uses to fight the demonic legions. One of Go Nagai’s signature creations, Devilman is an envelope-pushing classic of 1970s-era manga. Developed at the same time as a more simplistic Devilman anime TV series, the manga contains everything from comedy to splatter, superheroics, and even dramatic pathos that rings loud and clear through Nagai’s loose and cartoony style. As Akira faces one ingeniously conceived threat after another, the story escalates from simple horror set pieces to huge-scale panoramas of biblically inspired carnage. Along the way, Nagai ruminates on topics ranging from evolution and morality to humankind’s penchant for self-destruction—heady stuff for a children’s manga back then, perhaps unthinkable now. The only caveat with the terrific Kodansha International edition is the inclusion of material created for a “ True martial world ” series that sees Ryo and Akira traveling back in time to meet the likes of Adolf Hitler and General Custer. Like computer graphics shoehorned into a classic film, this later material, drawn in a different style, never really meshes with the 1970s-era original. Still, it’s hard to complain too much, as these five volumes contain the sum total of Nagai’s Devilman manga output. Prior to the Kodansha Bilingual edition, a single volume was self-published in English by Nagai’s Dynamic Productions in 1986, and three monthly comic issues—actually “New Devilman” material—were released by Verotik in the mid-1990s.