Demon Lord Dante
|Demon Lord Dante|
Cover of the second volume of the Italian release of Mao Dante, as published by d/visual in 2002
|Genre||Horror, action, science fiction|
|Written by||Go Nagai|
|Original run||January 1, 1971 – June 1, 1971|
|Written by||Go Nagai|
|Original run||March 2002 – January 2004|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Kenichi Maejima|
|Produced by||Hiroshi Murano|
|Written by||Shozo Uehara|
|Music by||Hiroshi Motokura|
|Original run||August 31, 2002 – November 23, 2002|
Demon Lord Dante (Japanese: 魔王ダンテ Hepburn: Maō Dante) is a manga series written and illustrated by Go Nagai. The series tells the story of Ryo Utsugi, a student who discovers he is the reincarnation of an ancient demon known as Dante and sees himself in the middlle of a conflict between God and the devils. Nagai's main influence to create the work was Gustave Doré's illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy. The series change the traditional view of God as good and Devil as bad, and was created to provocate the critics of his previous works.
During 1971, Nagai wrote the original Demon Lord Dante manga, which was published in Kodansha's Bokura Magazine. The series ran from January to June, but it ended prematurely because of the magazine discontinuation. In 2002, the manga was officially revived by Nagai, and during the same year a 13-episode anime adaption was created and broadcast in Japan by AT-X. The anime was released in North America in DVD format by Geneon Entertainment in 2004 and rereleased by Discotek Media in 2016.
Ryo Utsugi (宇津木 涼 Utsugi Ryō) is a school student who lives with his sister Saori (沙織) and his parents. He has been repeatedly having nightmares about demons. Because of this, he cannot sleep well the day before he goes onto a trip in the mountains. There, Ryo follows a voice who proclaims himself to be "Dante, the King of Devils" and ends up falling from a cliff. As he falls, he unconsciously teleports to the Himalayas with his psychic powers. After Dante explains he was Judas Iscariot when he was a human, he controls Ryo's mind to break free from the ice prison and kills Ryo.
Unaware of Dante's resurrection, a group of Satanists kidnap a female student to sacrifice her to revive Dante in a Black Mass. A religious group secretly led by Ryo's father, Kosuke (康介), attack the ritual, but Dante arrives and kills them. Dante flies to Nagoya, where he is confronted by the Army after he crushes buildings and kills people. Ryo notices his consciousness is in Dante's body, but he still kills the Army's soldiers. Then the demon Zenon (ゼノン) appears and fights Dante. Zenon is defeated but before while dying he says he wanted to fight God but he was afraid to do it. Zenon trusts Dante this task, saying Dante should assemble a demon army.
The other day Ryo returns home in his human form and goes to school. When a student is murdered, Ryo suspects it was a demon's deed and wonders if the culprit is himself. But at night he sees a demon attacking a human and kills it by transforming himself into a half demon, half human figure. During the same night, a Medusa-like demon appears in the city. At school, another student, Sosuke Oshiba, says he fights demons and that he wants Ryo to be his partner. As Oshiba shows a demon to Ryo and tortures it, Ryo feels compassion for the demon. Unsettled, Ryo leaves the place and meets Medusa (メドゥーサ Medūsa), who takes him to a time travel.
Medusa reveals Ryo that God is an energy-based monster who once destroyed the high-tech Sodom where they lived as lovers. God wanted Earth inhabitants' bodies but as Dante denied to comply it God attacked the city. Dante, Medusa, and some others turned into demons by absorbing God's power. When Dante pilots a powerful jet fighter in an attempt to buy time for his friends to escape, he is grabbed by a Pteranodon. Careening into a nearby Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dante was left open to be consumed in God's fires, causing him to be fused with his jet and the two prehistoric reptiles to create his current form. Later in a confrontation with God at the Himalayas, Dante was sealed in ice.
God also attacked Gomorrah and its survivors, the last actual humans in existence, became the Satanists. After this, God divided himself into pieces and took residence in apes that evolved to the current "human" race. Defeated by God and sealed in the Himalayas, Dante transferred his human body and soul to Judas Iscariot and Ryo Utsugi respectively to be reborn two thousand years later. The story ends as Dante reassembles his demon army and is prepared to destroy humankind.
Differences in the anime
As the manga ended in a cliffhanger and never developed some characters, the anime staff had to create new storylines for most of them. Ryo's sister and father, Saori and Kosuke, respectively, have a more prominent role in the anime, as well as Sosuke and Medusa (who assumes the form of a supermodel named Saeko Kodai (古代 冴子 Kodai Saeko)). Beelzebub (ベルゼブブ Beruzebubu) (referred as Professor Veil Zebub (ベール・ゼブブ教授 Bēru Zebubu Kyōju)) and Demon Lord Satan (魔王サタン Maō Satan) that were only mentioned in the manga but never appeared also have central roles; the former as Dante's mentor in Sodom and the latter as Sodom and Gomorrah's ruler. Zenon's past is related in anime, while in the manga it is only vaguely mentioned. The Satanists were never mentioned by their names in the manga, but the anime introduces Astarot (アスタロト Asutaroto), Samael (サマエル Samaeru), Carne (カーネ Kāne), Gushion (グシオン), and Ura (ウーラ). While in the manga all Satanists are humans, in the anime its leaders are demons in human form. The Satanists orchestrate a chain of events to lure Ryo into the mountains, while in the manga he goes by his own desire.
Plotwise, Ryo and Saori's relationship is more developed, and it is implied as a romantic one. However, Ryo is not really her brother as his birth family was killed in a car accident and he was adopted by Kosuke. While he appears as the leader of the cult dedicated to God's Will in the manga, Kosuke is only portrayed as biodemic in the anime. This becomes a plot point when he biogenetically develops demons to fight for God. In retaliation to Dante's release, the followers of God unleash the Four Devil Kings (悪魔四天王)—anime-original characters—who wreak havoc on the city by draining the life force of its inhabitants, causing train wrecks, and so on, in order to gain Dante's attention. This alliance with demons cause Sosuke to enter in existential crisis and ultimatelly leads him to kill Kosuke and die.
The major difference is the end. God returns and gathers the pieces of itself within humans to reform, as the humans ultimately destroy themselves, while taking Saori to make her the ultimate weapon under his control to smite all the demons. After Dante/Ryo succeeds in destroying the first form which was a large serpent featuring Adam and Eve, she transforms into an angelic knight with Saori's body placed in its forehead. She battles Ryo fiercely before managing to break God's hold over her. But ultimately, along with the demons' creation, this was all part of God's design as they were collectively his trump Adam and Eve, their embrace destroying the world and scattering God back into space to find another world to repeat the cycle of conflict among its native lifeforms. The final scene shows Ryo and Saori holding hands and walking in what seems to be a prehistoric version of the Garden of Eden.
The concept of Demon Lord Dante is inspired by Nagai's contact with a Gustave Doré-illustated version of Dante's Divine Comedy. He found particularly likeable the figure of Lucifer in Inferno as "huge creature stuck in the ice in the center of the Earth". He started to think about it in the end of the 1960s, because of the critics he was receiving from his precedent works. His most popular manga until then, Harenchi Gakuen, an erotic comedy set in a school, was campaigned against by parent-teacher associations across Japan. He tried to subvert the traditional view of God and Devil to provocate "the keepers of the standard". As such, Demon Lord Dante "represents the struggle between the monster and the standard seen through the eyes of the former", as a pair of literary critics put it. Through the manga, Nagai wanted to show that good is not always the "good guys" and evil could be the right path.
The manga was materialized during 1971 through its serialization in Kodansha's Bokura Magazine from the January issue to the June issue. However, the magazine went defunct and the story ended incomplete. The first collected version of the series was published by Asahi Sonorama in three volumes released between June and July, 1973. It would be reprinted twice by the same publisher—in a three-volume edition in 1976 and in a two-volume version in 1984. Chuokoron-Shinsha also republished the manga twice; in a single-volume in 1991 and in a two-volume reprint in 1995. It was also rereleased by Kodansha into two volumes in 1999 and into three volumes in 2002.
Nagai started to rewrite the unfinished story in the March 2002 issue of Kodansha's Magazine Z. It was divided into four arcs, each one of them being released as a collected volume in June 2002, December 2002, July 2003, and January 2004, respectively. Kamiryaku-hen (神略編) was serialized until the June 2002 issue; Genma-hen (現魔編) was published between July 2002 and March 2003; Madō-hen (魔道編) from April to July 2003; and Kamima Taisen-hen (神魔大戦編) between September 2003 and January 2004 issues. The series was also made available as Shin Maō Dante (新魔王ダンテ, lit. The New Demon Lord Dante) by eBook Japan through its site on August 9, 2013.
Akira Fūga wrote a remake titled Shin Maō Dante (真・魔王ダンテ, lit. The True Demon Lord Dante) that was published in LEED's Kyofu no Yakata DX magazine. The series was collected into 8 volumes published between 1994 and 1996, and it features new characters and Boy's Love.
A crossover between Demon Lord Dante and Getter Robo G was created by Nagai and serialized in Akita Shoten's Monthly Champion Red from August 19, to December 19, 2011. The series was published in a single collected volume on March 19, 2012, and it renacts the events of Dante's resurrection with Getter Robo G's Ryoma Nagare in the place of Ryo Utsugi.
On May 1, 2000, an issue of the manga was released as an original video animation through VHS. Produced by Maxell e-cube and distributed by Art Port, the release format was called "manga video", which consists of the original manga images with sound effects and dubbing added. It was followed by an anime television series produced by Magic Bus and broadcast by AT-X in 2002. Most voice actors of the "manga video" were replaced for the anime, except for Susumu Chiba who played the role of Ryo Utsugi. As the manga was still unfinished, Nagai allowed the anime staff to create its own end.
Directed by Kenichi Maejima and written by Shozo Uehara, the television series ran for 13 episodes from August 31, to November 23, 2002. The episodes were later released in seven DVD compilations between November 25, 2002 and January 25, 2003 by Ken Media. The anime opening theme was "Release Your Mind" by Tomokazu Seki, while the ending theme was "Heal" by Asuka Kuroki. Theses theme musics and the score music that was composed by Hiroshi Motokura were included in a 25-track original soundtrack released by HiBoom on September 4, 2002.
In 2002, even before the Japanese premiere, Media Blasters licensed the television series. However, the company dropped it the following year, and it was Geneon Entertainment who brought the anime to the North American home media market. The series was released in four bilingual DVD volumes between May and November 2004. In 2016, Discotek Media relicensed the series and released it into a DVD box set on August 30.
Reception and legacy
Nagai's biggest success in his early career, Demon Lord Dante attracted many people because of its gruesome contents. It even aroused a Toei Animation producer's attention, but the piece was considered too violent to be adapted for television. The company required Nagai to create a human-like demon superhero; thus he created Devilman, which was greatly inspired by Demon Lord Dante. Although considered a "groundbreaking work", Demon Lord Dante "was forever eclipsed" by this decision. Jonathan Clements and Helen McCarthy wrote in The Anime Encyclopedia that the series "is undoubtedly a prototype, not just for Devilman but for all the apocalyptic tales that followed, particularly Nagai's later Shutendoji. However, in only being made into an anime 30 years after its publication, [the series] appears to all intends and purposes more like a poorman's Urotsukidoji".
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