It becomes more and more evident throughout the course of Devil King Volume 1 that Takao Saito wanted to make a statement on the structure and nature of society in the Manga.
Is Saito’s social commentary interesting however? Well the idea that to change society for the better one must completely reconstruct and take charge through a dictatorship is an interesting idea, and also the exploration of how far people would go to achieve this through the characters like the professor does give this title the potential to be interesting. Unfortunately the fact that Saito tries to explore these themes through an almost ‘monster movie’ like structure made it hard for me to conjure up any interest in the plot.
I hardly had any sympathy for the protagonist Akio – if you can call him that – he hardly made an appearance in the book and rarely said anything. Its evident that Saito wanted the reader to feel sympathy for him due to the depression he seems to have (caused by the loss of his parents) and his wish to be independent from his brother so that he wont financially drag him down. However he is really quite generic – much like Detective Conan without the wit – he’s curious and brave…and that’s all, he has no real personality to him, his entire existence as a character seems to be so that this title could have been marketed as a shonen title and sold to teenagers. However this is not a shonen title yes Akio is a young boy and therefor you would presume that this was aimed at younger readers. It also contains elements of action and often characters speak with a childish voice however this story is very much a seinen title, this is both demonstrated immediately at the beginning of the book when an ex-patient combusts after escaping from the laboratory and through the adult themes the book contains.
Whilst the story cannot be argued to be entirely original in its plot points, the interesting angles which are drawn and the way in which the eye flows from panel to panel due to the almost film like way each panel follows each other makes the title an addictive read. By this I mean that Saito doesn’t use a concentration of close up or medium shots he uses a wide variety of different ones and draws similar poses from different angles to suggest movement – a technique which is rarely used at the moment, and uses lots of panels to describe small movements – creating suspense. Whilst characters look generic backgrounds and scenery are detailed, there is not a noticeably high use of screen tone in the volume but when it is used it is highly effective with the backgrounds.
Whilst the story isn’t very original and writing is often poor the strong artwork made this book very addictive to read, Saito pays a lot of attention to small details – which modern mangaka’s often avoid doing to save time. If you are looking for a strong story and you want to read one of the great classic manga titles from the 70’s by Takao Saito read Gologo 13.
Devil King Volume 1 is available from Jmanga at http://www.jmanga.com/devil-king/1