To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Go Nagai's Devilman series, Devilman Grimoire was conceived as a way to reboot the series for a new generation of readers, and it makes quite a few changes to the original story. These changes put quite a bit of pressure on Grimoire as altering 40 years worth of story is a daunting task. Luckily, author Rui Takato is up to the challenge, and offers a great entryway for new fans.
But while it is a great entryway, Devilman is still a series full of extravagant violence and fanservice. This won't be an issue for current fans of the series, but new readers will admittedly be taken aback at first.
Devilman Grimoire follows Akira and his best friend Miki, who believes herself to be a witch. She's built up a reputation for herself for being a bit of an oddity, but she's often searched out because she's good at finding things for her classmates. When one girl goes missing, Miki attempts a demon summoning ritual in order to find her. Things take a brutal turn when actual demons show up and nearly strike them all down. When Akira is in danger of dying, Miki summons a mysterious power to save him: the demon Amon.
The demon Amon then bonds with Akira, and they become the titular Devilman. Now with Amon taking control of Akira's body, he has to adjust to human life as Akira constantly fights against Amon's urge to kill. Couple that with an army of demons out to hunt him, and Akira and Miki's lives change for the worse.
Grimoire has a few similarities to the original series, such as main characters Akira Fudo and Miki Makimura, but this is pretty much where the similarities end. The changes don't harm the story and in fact streamline a lot of the series plots. It helps the first volume to avoid pitfalls like Miki asking Akira why he's acting strangely as Miki's key involvement with Akira's initial transformation eliminates the need for contrived horror possession tropes. But while the new relationship teases an interesting and fresh take, Grimoire is more comfortable speeding past it.
Making up for a lack of fully fleshing out Akira and Miki's relationship this early in the story, Volume 1 instead places more of its focus on gory action. Fans of the series would be the most comfortable here as Devilman's famous demon-on-demon fights are truly a sight to behold. There's a distinct visual rip and tear with each demon bite, slash, and attack. The creative and almost euphoric way the hyperviolence is depicted often allows the twisted and brutal nature of its subject matter to be more palatable. Blood and cuts coat each battle, yet it often doesn't feel as horrific as the content would imply. This is likely due to Takato's nostalgic artstyle.
Grimoire's art style will most likely be a point of contention for older fans, but it's part of what makes this a successful reboot. Although the nostalgic art does lead to a more childlike, less realistic character design which often clashes with the hyperviolent content, the reboot often takes on a pulp-horror vibe and makes its action read more like shonen manga set pieces rather than graphic horror.
Takato's art also carries with it heavier inks, quirky demon design, and tons of nudity. The tongue-in-cheek nature of Grimoire often allows these elements to blend into a surprisingly exciting package even when the panel layout of each page leaves something to be desired.
Devilman Grimoire often beckons, like its central seductive demonic fiends, readers to turn the page in order to see the next display of elaborate, fanciful fanservice rather than for its narrative. Since this is only the first volume, there will be plenty of time to flesh out the characters later on. As it stands, Volume 1 is like a grindhouse reboot of the original series which lays out an intoxicating path forward.
Written by Go Nagai and Rui Takato
Art by Rui Takato