Crybaby is just the tip of the iceberg
Devilman—the hugely influential 1972 Go Nagai manga about a softboy who fuses with a demon to fight off the demonic invasion of Earth at the behest of his disaster gay boyfriend who is actually Satan, but forgot—has recently experienced something of a boom in popularity. As part of the promotions for the 50th anniversary of Go Nagai’s debut as a manga artist, it was announced that the series would receive a Netflix Original anime adaptation helmed by well-known director Masaaki Yuasa, which also spurred Seven Seas to finally license the manga for release in the US. While the series always had a small but passionate Western fanbase, the release of Devilman Crybaby in January 2018 was the first time it got anything approaching mainstream recognition.
The Devilman franchise—and it is a franchise—has been running for decades now, and the parts that have been made available to English-speaking audiences are really just the tip of the iceberg. There are of course the many reboots, such as Devilman Grimoire and Devilman VS. Hades—both of which have also received translations courtesy of Seven Seas. But there’s also what takes place after the end of the manga or Crybaby. That’s right—despite concluding with literal, Biblical Armageddon, Akira and Ryo’s story continues. Welcome to the bizarre world of the extended Devilcanon.
You, Me, and Satan Makes Three
The canonical sequel to Devilman is Devilman Lady, running for 18 volumes from 1997 to 2000. At first, it has all the trappings of another reboot—a young woman named Jun Fudo merges with a demon and becomes Devil Lady as a result of the terror of being sexually assaulted—this being unfortunately par for the course in Go Nagai’s work, especially Lady—and teams up with a psychic by the name of Asuka Lan to fight against the demon invasion. It’s not until volume seven, when Jun and Lan both start having strange hallucinations of a very familiar looking man, that things start to look a bit more complicated.
We receive confirmation in volume eight, when Jun is sent to Hell. As she falls, she sees a vision of Akira and Satan’s final battle, and upon landing, she meets Akira Fudo himself. As he guides her to Satan’s prison in the lowest level of Hell in an attempt to send her home—as per Dante’s Divine Comedy, which according to Devilman is based in fact—he tells her bits and pieces about his life as a Devilman and the two of them encounter many of his old foes from the original series, such as Jinmen and Silene. By this point, it’s clear that Lady is a direct sequel.
When Jun asks, Akira describes the vision she saw as a vanished dimension. After his death at the hands of Satan and subsequent awakening in Hell, he traveled to the world of the living as a ghost and found that the timeline had been changed by God to erase the demonic invasion and the existence of everyone and everyone involved. The only remaining trace is the manga Devilman, existing in-universe as a work of fiction.
This is likely the root of the longstanding belief in the Western fandom that God punished Satan for their transgressions by throwing them into a time loop, forcing them to relive their mistakes again and again with only slight variations every time in a fashion reminiscent of Nietzsche’s concept of the Eternal Recurrence. The fan wiki refers to it as fact in a number of places—which is likely how the misconception was propagated—but there’s nothing in the material proper to suggest that Satan’s punishment was anything other than imprisonment in Hell. This is the kind of bizarrely specific, universally accepted fanon that develops when a franchise is as sprawling and convoluted—to say nothing of difficult-to-find reliable information on and translations of—as Devilman.
But back to Lady. When Jun and Akira finally reach the lowest level, it’s revealed that Satan isn’t there—they’ve somehow managed to escape Hell, leaving their lieutenant Xenon in their place. Jun is reluctant to part with Akira—the two of them have fallen in love and had sex during their journey—but returns to the world of the living, where her memories of Hell quickly begin to fade. After this, a few red herrings are flung around, but it’s not until the final volume that we get a clear explanation. Well, an explanation. To call it “clear” would be generous, so buckle up—things are about to get wild.
When All Hell Quite Literally Breaks Loose
When the gates to Hell open and the demonic invasion begins in earnest, Psycho Jenny—a powerful psychic demon and one of Satan’s most trusted advisors—appears before Lan and unlocks her memories, at which point Lan turns into a man, as he(?) had apparently suppressed his(?) sex until now using his(?) psychic powers. Jun and Lan have sex, because this is a Go Nagai manga, and when Jun awakes alone the next morning she has apparently become five months pregnant in a single night. She gives birth almost immediately, and a week later, when Jun is finally allowed to come face to face with her child, he’s continued to develop at this shocking pace. He’s also Akira.
At this point, Psycho Jenny appears to Jun and unseals her memories as well, and Jun and Lan fuse back into Satan. That’s right, Devilman Lady was actually about Satan and their convoluted plan to jailbreak Akira from Hell by impregnating themselves and giving birth to him! Oh, and they needed to hide from the archangel Michael—the director of Jun and Lan’s organization and overseer of Earth—which is why they had their male half Lan present as female. As you do. This also means that Akira had sex with—half of—Satan while he was in Hell, making their relationship canon at a truly terribly cost. Akira, astonishingly unphased by all of this, agrees to join Satan in the fight against God, and the manga concludes on a cliffhanger as they face Michael on the field of battle.
There’s a certain poetry to this. Devilman began with Ryo pulling Akira into a war that neither of them could possibly understand the true extent of—what could be a better ending than for Satan to invite him to stand beside them one last time, all false pretenses stripped away, and for Akira to accept? We don’t need to see how the war against God ends. Together, having put the past behind them, they couldn’t lose.
But here’s the thing—this still isn’t the end. The finale is apparently Devilman Saga, which has been in serialization since 2014. It’s set in 2025, features symbiotic, semi-sentient “Demon Armors,” and stars roboticist Yuki Fudo, his wife Miki Fudo, and his childhood friend Asuka Oji Ryu. The manga was promoted in no uncertain terms as “the final chapter in the story of Devilman,” but even 9 volumes in, there’s no evidence of any direct connection to the timeline of Devilman and Lady. Is Go Nagai playing the long game? Or is he just misrepresenting the manga in a desperate bid to bring in readers? All we can do is wait and see. For now, Akira and Satan’s true fate remains in limbo, and only one thing is clear—it’s real hard to be a Devilfan.