Go Nagai’s Contributions to Transmedia
If you live in the United States, it is unlikely that the name ‘Go Nagai’ will ring any bells. Nonetheless, many people throughout the world, from Spain, Latin America, France, and most notably, Japan, grew up with his characters. Uncle Go, as his fans call him, is responsible for many of the genres and tropes we see in anime and manga today. He is credited with popularizing the mecha genre with his 1972, super robot series, “Mazinger Z”; the protagonist of his manga “Cutey Honey” was the first heroine in a Shōnen (manga marketed to a young, male audience) series and one of the first magical girls; And, his manga, “Abashiri Ikka,” and “Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko,” pushed the boundaries of censorship for their time, resulting in greater creative freedom for manga artists. However, Go Nagai’s work is also notable in how it applies to transmedia.
While many of his manga, like Gakuen Taikutsu Otoko, remained on print, many more enjoyed success through anime adaptations. Nevertheless, these anime adaptions almost always differed from their manga counterparts. One notable series that saw this change was Mao Dante. Published in Kodansha’s “Bokura Magazine” in 1971, Mao Dante was a unique manga for its time. Drawing inspiration from Christianity, Mao Dante told the story of the demons’ battle against the malicious, Christian god. The demons in the manga were the people of Sodom, who had been transformed into hideous creatures through God’s wrath. God, in the manga, is an invading mass of energy who wishes to use the people of Sodom and Gomorrah as vessels to materialize himself. When those people fight back, however, he creates a new lineage of mankind by altering the evolution of apes and using them as his vessels. The survivors of Gomorrah (God destroyed Gomorrah in a way that did not transform its people into demons) became the Satanists, while the demons became dormant, waiting for a moment when the newly evolved humans would forget about God, so they could kill the invader and his vessels once and for all.
After the manga was canceled, due to “Bokura Magazine” closing its doors, Go Nagai was approached by Toei Animation to do an anime adaptation of the series. However, “Mao Dante’s” controversial message and violence proved too much for the animation studio, and they asked for it to be toned down. Out of this, came Devilman, a series that included several aspects from “Mao Dante,” but one that was nonetheless its own thing. The “Devilman” anime series ran for 39 episodes from 1972 to 1973, and was, for the most part, a “monster of the week” series. That is, until Go Nagai started doing his own manga adaption alongside the anime.
While the manga adaption of “Devilman” used the same characters, it differed in several aspects. Despite the fact that the anime ran in a later timeslot than usual and featured quite a bit of violence, it paled in comparison to the amount of violence and nudity present in the manga. In fact, the manga’s violence is seen by many as excessive today. It also did away with the “monster of the week” plot, and introduced a more adult story like “Mao Dante,” one filled with allusions to Christianity. Since the original manga, Go Nagai has released several spin-offs of “Devilman,” as well as a sequel, titled “Devilman Lady.” Additionally, many other artists and animation studios have released “Devilman” spin-offs and reimaginings, adding to the series’ role as a form of transmedia.
I used “Devilman” for this particular example; however, many of Go Nagai’s series have seen similar treatment. “Mazinger Z,” for instance, has been retold several different times, by Go Nagai, as well as other authors. Most of his well-known series have seen similar treatment. Of course, these works are generally seen as separate entities, as they do not belong to any sort of canon. Except for a few instances, Go Nagai’s series tend to see more reimaginings than they do sequels, creating several slightly different storylines that share similar characters and backgrounds, but differ in the execution and minor details.
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