For historical /manga lovers, Devilman [デビルマン] is quite a famous (or infamous, depending on where you stand) feature. Authored by Go Nagai [永井 豪] – yes, it’s the same mangaka that created Mazinger [グレートマジンガー ] and Grendizer / Goldrake [ＵＦＯロボ グレンダイザー], just to be clear – it had the puzzling destiny of becoming known around the world under a different version than the original one pencilled by his author. Yes, because the anime, that was released in 1972 just a few weeks after the manga and sold to Europe (to Italy in 1983, among other places), changes so much from the original to make you wonder if you’re looking at the same story at all.
To be fair, Nagai personally wrote both versions, but he wanted the anime to be a sort of YA version of the manga – without all the violence and horror that are the main features of the manga – and, if you read it after you’ve seen the TV series, you can’t blame him. The manga is dark, and definitively not suitable for a young public that is the intended audience of the anime series. Even though the anime as a whole became progressively darker over the decades (see this), Devilman (the manga) is still a notch up – therefore I don’t see finding its way to the TV anytime soon.
In time, however, there were OVA produced out of the manga version and, while they were unable to convey the original complexity of the story (which involves time travels, too, and many historical references – hey, you have even Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution), they still provide a glimpse at the vision Go Nagai had for his anti-hero.
My take? Devilman was one of my favourites as a kid, but I prefer the manga – especially for my favourite character Ryo Asuka / Satan, who doesn’t exist in the anime, I believe to avoid making compromises over sexual issues (Ryo is a hermaphrodite and in love with Asuka. Difficult to make this one child-friendly), and to more easily change the apocalyptic ending. And yet, it is Ryo’s presence that makes the manga and the story so original and heart-breaking – therefore cutting him out comes at a cost.
Later on, starting from 2000, there was a sequel for Devilman called Amon: The Darkside of the Devilman [AMON デビルマン黙示録], illustrated by Yu Kinutani, and that tells the story of Amon, the powerful demon that has been imprisoned in the body of the human Akira Fudo. While I still prefer the manga style of Nagai, I have to say that Kinutani managed to give a powerful rendition of Amon – worth the master (The OVA they produced later on, however, is not at the level of the manga).
By the way, there’s also an alternative history featuring a woman at the place of Akira – Devil Lady, created by Go Nagai itself in 1997, but I have to confess I haven’t read it – so can’t offer any comment on that one. (I might do it, at a later stage. Who knows…).
The good thing is that all Devilman manga have now being collected in a series of volumes – so you can buy them online or in some good manga shops. In case you want to have a go at the OVA based on the original manga, here you have a trailer: