As most die hard Go Nagai fans probably already know, a new Dororon Enmakun Tv series is in preparation for 2011. [link]
What better occasion then, to have a brief look at this character's history? Unlike Mazinger Z or Cutey Honey, Enma-kun is practically unknown outside of Japan, and this new series may well be a good occasion to know him better.
Enma-kun was 'born' on 30/09/1973, on the pages of the Shonen Sunday Magazine, published by Shogakukan. He took the place of another Go Nagai character, which had appeared on the pages of the same magazine a few years before: Animaru Kedaman.
As Go Nagai himself narrates in his autobiographical manga Gekiman, Kedaman had been an 'illustrious victim' of another character: Devilman. While drawing Devilman, Nagai had been drained out of all his creative energy, so, in order to better concentrate on his demonic character, he decided to stop drawing other mangas he had in progress. Animaru Kedaman was one of such manga.
Animaru Kedaman had been inspired, as Nagai himself tells us in Gekiman, by the american comedy 'The Munsters' and by characters created by the duo Fujiko F. Fujio, most notably Kaibutsu Kun. It told the stories of everyday life of a lycathrope boy who mingled with (not so) normal human beings, mixing magical and absurd elements in a very common environment, much like The Munsters or Kaibutsu Kun did. When Nagai decided to end the series, he decided to do so in the most classical of ways: the true nature of Kedaman had been discovered, so he and his family had to move to another city, much to the dismay of Kedaman's human friends.
When the serialization of Devilman finished, Nagai could finally take a rest, and start drawing at his usual rhythms again. He was contacted by Shogakukan, and the result was the creation of a new character, much similar to Kedaman. That character was Dororon Enmakun.
Dororon Enmakun told the story of young Enma (炎魔), the nephew of the great Enma Daiou, the king of hell. ([link]
Young Enma is a problem child who wreaks havoc in all the corners of Hell, so, to solve the problem, Enma Daiou sends him to earth. Young Enma's task is to hunt down and apprehend the inhabitants of Hell that have fled to earth and are causing trouble to humans, who call them 'youkai' (妖怪 a japanese word that can be roughly translated as 'spectre' in english).If the youkai resist arrest, Enma has permission to eliminate them. In order to help his nephew, and keep him under control, Enma Daiou assigns Young Enma three assistants: snow-fairy Yukiko Hime, who helps him in combat; Kappaeru the Kappa, who gathers information ([link]
); the old and wise living hat Chapeau Jii (Granpa Hat), who acts as counselor to Young Enma. To better fight the youkai, Enma has an array of powers and weapons: the Stick of Flames, which can extend indefinitely and works as a flamethrower, as well as augmenting its wielder's power (Yukiko Hime tried it too in the manga, and it augmented her freezing powers); a magical mantle which transforms into any weapon Young Enma needs (mostly ropes and chains); eyebrow antennas, which allow Young Enma to 'sense' the presence of the youkai. Thus begin the adventures on Earth of Young Enma, who will also make friends among humans (a young boy named Tsutomu and a girl named Harumi), often used as bait for the youkai.
Some of the characters appearing in Kedaman appear in Dororon Enmakun too, like Tsutomu's school teacher, Tobacchiri Sensei, thus giving a certain sense of continuity.
Despite the grim appearence of the plot, the manga series is quite comical in tone, with Young Enma always waiting for Yukiko Hime to remain without clothes before dealing with the youkai. The youkai themselves, are not the ones which appear in japenese folklore. Rather, they are created 'ad hoc' by Nagai himself using word puns, and they look quite funny and not too scary in the manga, despite their grotesque appearence.
Fuji TV and Toei animation immediately decided to make an animated series for the character. The series started to be broadcast on 04/10/1973, and it lasted for 25 episodes. Veteran Toei writers like Massaki Tsuji and Shozo Uehara, who had already worked on the Devilman animated series, were involved in the project.
The TV series feels quite different from the manga. The general atmosphere is much more sinister, and all the series is rather action oriented, concentrating in the clash between Enma and the youkai.
The TV series spun a certain number of comicalizations, all drawn by members of Dynamic Pro, Go Nagai's studio. Of these comicalization, a selection of episodes by Tsutomu Oyamada and Ken Ishikawa were included in the first two editions (Wakaki Shobo and Asahi Sonorama) of the collected manga, but were dropped in subsequent editions, leaving only the Go Nagai original. ([link]
of the page).
This, of course, was only the beginning.
We meet Enma agin in a short story called Enma Jigoku, published in the september issue of Gekkan (Monthly) Manga Shonen in 1978. In this short story, Go Nagai parodies the energetic crisis of the time, and the dangers of war implicit in it: Hell is in need of energy due to the increasing population and its needs, and Hell's energy derives from the psychic energy of human souls that are being tortured there. So, Enma Daio sends Enma, not a child any more but a young man, on earth to collect human souls. Needless to say, Heaven too works on the same principle, so it sends out its own emissaries to stop Enma's soul collecting.
As stated, Enma, Yukiko Hime and Kappaeru are not children anymore, in this short story. They have grown to become young 'men' in their twenties.
That's the way they will be when next they reappear, in 1989, in the twelveth chapter of Go Nagai's lifework Violence Jack. In Violence Jack, Go Nagai uses most, if not all, his characters as actors on a gigantic, post apocalyptic stage. Enma had to appear on this stage. He does so in the role of an adversary of Jack, meaning he is a bad guy, here. Yukiko Hime and Kappaeru appear too. While Enma and Yukiko's aspect is almost the same as in Enma Jigoku, Kappaeru is portrayed here as a fat frog-man with underwater gear (it is just a disguise though).
Subsequently, Enma appears in a short 3 episode manga titled Doki Doki Enma Kun, drawn by Hagane Koichi (true name Maruyama Koichi) in 1992, published on children's magazine Koro Koro Comics by Shogakukan. ([link]
). The manga stars Enma & company as they originally appear in 1973, with gags and some nude scenes (which are common in children's magazines) (info on Doki Doki Enma taken from Wikipedia).
In 2000, Dororon Enpi chan (どろろん艶靡ちゃん, the two kanji meaning voluptuously seducing) is a slapstick and almost hardcore erotic comedy parodiying Dororon Enmakun, where the respective counterparts are Enpi, a voluptuous blond young women; Yukiko Hige (Yukiko beard) a middle aged old man with womanish behaviour (the character is in reality one of Go Nagai's Superstars, Hige Gojira (bearded Godzilla) who debuted in Harenchi Gakuen in 1968); Kabako, a female youkai modeled on Kappaeru.
It is only in 2006 that Go Nagi decides to write a serious sequel to Dororon Enmakun. The project, called Kikoushi Enma (鬼公子炎魔, Prince Enma) turns into a short manga and an OVA series of 4 episodes. Despite their differencies, both in the comic and in the animation, we see Enma, now a young man, taking action against his usual adversaries, the youkai.
In the manga, we discover further details on Enma's background: Hell itself was created by the greek god Hades, to contain the spectres, and these who are in charge of it belong to the dinasty of angels, and have been appointed as guardians of Hell. Snow women, who help the guardians in their tasks, are of angelic origin too, despite being known as spectres in the human world. Furthermore, we discover that Young Enma is in reality a descendant of Hades himself, and the future King of Hell.
The story revolves around a rebellion of the youkai led by duke Raima (雷魔), who wants to detronize Enma Daio and take the power for himself. To do so, he is gathering an army of youkai on Earth. Enma has to return to Earth in order to stop Raima's plans. He is accompanied by Yukihime (雪鬼姫), his childhood friend now grown up into a wonderful young woman, and Chapeu Kid, the youngest member of the Chapeau family, who has taken his grandfather's place. As we discover in the first episodes, Chapeau Kid has a primary role in sending the youkai back to hell, being a sort of inter dimensional door. To better investigate on youkai activity on Earth, Enma assumes a human identity, that of an occult detective called Matarou Homura with Yukihime acting as his assistant Himeko Yuki (the word puns become obvious by reading the names the japanese way: family name first).
Kappaeru appears too, but he is not Enma's companion any more. Being a youkai, he has decided to side Raima's rebellion. He lures Enma and Yukihime into a trap, which will inevitably fail.
Here, we have the traditional youkai as adversaries, instead of the 'word-pun' ones created for the original 1973 manga.
Go Nagai's Kikoushi Enma remains with an open finale, but the story will be continued in the subsequent Satanikus Enma: Kerberos, a manga by Go Nagai and Eiji Karasuyama, published in 2007.
The OVA series differs a lot from the manga. In it, though we see an adult Enma in action too. The series consists of four OVAs that were published by Bandai at the end of 2006 ([link]
. Again, the story and characters are quite different from the manga.
While the general atmosphere of the manga was action oriented, in the animation it is quite claustrophobic, tense and horror-thriller like, despite some comical relief. Enma's past is only briefly mentioned. The youkai appear much more sinister and scary, since they feed on the darkness present in human souls (traumas, sense of guilt, etc...), darkness to whom even the emissaries from Hell are not immune. The series ends quite bitterly, confirming it as a 'horror' anime. As usual, several Go Nagai characters from other manga appear, or are mentioned, as actors on a stage. This technique, of using characters as actors, was introduced by Osamu Tezuka, the God of Manga ([link]
), and has always been largely used by Go Nagai.
As mentioned before, the Kikoushi Enma project culminated in Satanikus Enma: Kerberos, a manga by Go Nagai and Eiji Karasuyama, which was published on Kodansha's Magazine Z, and then collected in four hardcover volumes in 2007. The story, here, takes an unexpected development in the plot: Raima's rebellion has ended in disaster, and Enma is apparently dead. In reality, he managed to save himself, by transmitting his soul into the body of high school student Keitaro Sakazaki. In order to 'awaken' him Yukihime, now Enma's wife, and Enkimaru, Enma's son, have to collect a huge amount of spiritual energy. And the best way to do so is hunt down and kill the malicous spectres who are still causing trouble on Earth (this time they are called Youma 妖魔). In order to keep Keitaro safe, Yukihime and Enkimaru take human identities, and move in the apartment next to Keitaro's, much to the delight of the boy, and the dismay of Enkimaru, who finds Keitaro to be too much of a 'sukebe' (pervert).
If this was not enough, in order to not create any suspect, Enkimaru has to attend human school, which he finds extremely annoying and a waste of time. In reality, Yukihime insisted on this so that Enkimaru could learn the precious lessons she and Enma had learned as children: the value of friendship and of social life.
Carrying on this dangerous tasks, Yukihime and Enkimaru have to face the 'Chronoise' (God Eaters), very powerful Youma who have an agenda of their own.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, let's just say that the manga ends with Enma and his family still on Earth chasing spectres, ideally closing the circle started in 1973.
But for a circle that closes, another one is opened: in 2010, Enma Vs, Dororon Enma Kun Gaiden, a short manga by Go Nagai and Masaki Segawa (Basilisk) published on the 21/07 issue of Business Jump magazine, brings Enma and his crew on the stage again. The looks are these of Kikoushi Enma, but the atmosphere is definitely the comic one of Enma kun. The VS in the title is due to the 'clash' Enma has with another illustrious Go Nagai character: Honey Kisaragi, better known as Cutie Honey ([link]
It is after this short story that a new TV series, Dororon Enma Kun Mera Meera, has been announced. But that's not all: a manga series by Sae Amatsu, titled Shururun! Yukiko Hime feat. Dororon Enmakun, focusing on Enma's partner Yukiko Hime, is being now serialized on the monthly Young Ace magazine, by Kadokawa Shoten.
So what else can we say? Welcome back, Enma-Kun.