The first thing that most people think of when they hear the name Nagai Go is the blood-soaked world of his popular Devilman. Others might think of his many giant robot anime that dominated the landscape of the 1970s. Maybe then Go is just another standard action genre manga-ka, and his work has no real substance? It would be highly unfair to discredit such a diversely talented man whose anime touch on quite a few poignant subjects; anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam and RahXephon all owe credit as Nagai Go invented the giant robot concept back in 1972 with his seminal Mazinger Z.
Nagai Go was born in Wajima City on September 6th, 1945, and relatively early in his life he decided
to pursue his dream life as a manga-ka. This decision was largely based on his brother introducing him to Tezuka “God of Manga” Osamu‘s Lost World. A nineteen-year-old Go became deathly ill, and during this bleak time he created Black Lion. This modest success led to Ishimori Shotaro (Cyborg 009, Sarutobi Ecchan) taking Go in as his apprentice.
After five years and a couple of manga released under Shotaro’s tutelage, Go decided it was time to strike out on his own. In 1970, he set up his studio Dynamic Productions and began work on the creations that would bring him undreamed fame. 1972 was going to be a big year for Go, as the world was about to see the birth of his biggest works.
Probably his most well-known and beloved creation is Devilman. Telling the story of Fudo Akira and how he joined with the demon Amon to protect mankind from legions of demons, Devilman was a breath of fresh air for the industry in that Go refused to censor his ideas. Demons fighting were bound to be a bloody and brutal affair, and Go drew it that way. This led to constant clashes with various parents’ groups, but despite the uproar, the manga proved so popular that an anime was created that same year and ran 39 episodes before finishing in 1973. Devilman, which in a recent poll was picked by the Japanese public as one of their most beloved anime characters, is continued to this day in the Violence Jack sequels, Devilman Lady spin-off and the occasional Devilman OVA.
Showing that he wasn’t just a horror maven, Nagai Go also released Mazinger Z in 1972. The manga chronicled Koji and his giant robot Mazinger Z as they fought against the evil Dr. Hell. Not surprisingly, the then fresh idea was a runaway hit. For the second time that year, one of Go’s immensely popular manga was turned into an immensely popular anime, this time running for 92 episodes before finishing up in 1974.
Yet another genre he tackled was the idea of a magical girl show; though a little more adult-oriented, Cutey Honey shares many of the signature magical girl elements of today, including the ever-popular nude transformation. Not surprisingly, the hugely popular manga went on to be an anime the same year, making Nagai Go’s three biggest characters running in manga and on television at the same time.
Nagai Go continues to produce manga to this day with one of his more popular work being the Devilman Lady spin-off. Live-action versions of Cutey Honey and Devilman continue the hopes that the end of the Devilman saga will be animated somewhere down the line. I’ll leave you all with a quote from Nagai Go himself, one which I hope will allow some of you to see that his work indeed has meaning to it and isn’t just about ripping flesh:
“The theme of Devilman is antiwar. When humans transform into devils and demons, what they really are doing is taking up murder weapons and embarking on war. The ‘indiscriminate melding of demons with humans’ that we see in Devilman refers to the draft system. There is no justice in war, any war, nor is there any justification for human beings killing one another. Devilman carries a message of warning, as we step toward a bright future”.
Amon: The Apocalypse of Devilman
Cutey Honey Flash
Daikyu Maryu Gaiking
Demon Lord Dante
Getter Robo G
Getter Robo Go
Getter Robo: Armageddon
Grandizer, Getter Robot G, Great Mazinger Decisive Battle! The Great Sea Monster
Great Battle of the Flying Saucers
Great Mazinger vs. Getter Robo
Great Mazinger vs. Getter Robo G: The Great Space Encounter
Iron Virgin Jun
Mazinger Z vs. Devilman
Mazinger Z vs. Dr. Hell
Mazinger Z vs. The Grand General of Darkness
Mazinkaiser: Shitou! Ankoku Daishogun
New Cutey Honey
Psycho Armor Govarian
Robonimal Panda-Z: The Robonimation
Shin Getter Robo
Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo
Shuten Doji-The Star Hand Kid
UFO Robo Grandizer
UFO Robo Grandizer vs. Great Mazinger
Violence Jack II
Violence Jack III