The German folklore of Dr. Faust has inspired a number of classic tales, notably legendary playwright Christopher Marlowe’s tragedy “Doctor Faustus”. The literary piece was a modernized morality play in essence, which played an instrumental role in popularizing the thematic significance of the story—the binary of good and evil instincts and the complexities of human nature showcased through supernatural elements of occultism. Shigeru Mizuki’s iconic manga Akuma Kun revolves around the themes explored in Marlowe’s play and additionally incorporates a narrative that includes elements of the diverse world mythology as well. The anime adaptation of its first volume, which was released in the late 1980s, garnered a massive fan following among children, and a continuation of the series as a part of the 100th birth anniversary celebration of the mangaka has recently been released on Netflix.
The continuation of Akuma Kun turned out to be another wonderful addition to Netflix’s recent catalogue of classic manga adaptations, which adheres to the series’ roots through cartoonish visuals while at the same time amplifying the horror element to cater to a mature audience. Despite that, the way the twelve-episode series keeps its focus steady on examining philosophical questions regarding morality, life, and humanity, thereby matching Mangaka’s vision expressed in the source material, is definitely commendable.
What Do We Know About Akuma Kun And Mephisto III?
The world where the story of Akuma Kun takes place is full of humans who occasionally strike up Faustian bargains with demons, in a literal sense, which is to say that in a desperate attempt to gain more from life, they make pacts with demons, who end up preying on their negative emotions, resulting in humans paying the ultimate price. In the original series, the rise of demons threatened the existence of the real world, which prompted some of the mystical protectors to seek unique ways to safeguard humanity. Such a protector, the legendary wise sorcerer named Professor Faust, headmaster of the mystical and sentient Invisible School, tried to stop the uprising of the demons by searching for a prodigy who could take up his role as the savior of humankind after his demise. Faust found Shingo Umoregi, a kid who is exceptionally well versed in the occult and also chosen by Solomon’s flute to become the next ‘Akuma Kun,’ a child prodigy who appears every 10,000 years and is destined to usher in a new age of peace for humankind known as the Millennium Kingdom. In order to do so, Shingo summoned the son of Mephistopheles, Mephisto II, who bonded with him in a blood pact to help in his quest to bring peace to earth.
After Professor Faust passed away, Shingo and Mephisto II went on their adventure of fighting the evil demons and other diabolical forces for years. The duo formed a strong bond of friendship, and eventually, Mephisto II married Shingo’s sister, Etsuko. Their conjugal bond led to the birth of Mephisto III, a half-demon, half-human child who, much like his father, became fully accustomed to human life. During one of Shingo’s missions in the demonic worlds, he and Mephisto III rescued a human child named Aeshma, who was being raised by a demon named Count and a crooked fallen angel named Strophaia. Aeshma’s presence was recognized by Solomon’s flute, which indicated that he might become the next ‘Akuma Kun’. Shingo adopted the child, named him Ichiro, raised him with love and care, and taught him the principles of occultism and sorcery. Eventually, Akuma Kun II, aka Ichiro, and Mephisto III were introduced to each other, and they carried on their father’s legacy of establishing the Millennium Kingdom.
The Adventures Of Akuma Kun And Mephisto III: Can They Bring About The Millennium Kingdom?
The main hook of the series is how the essence of humanity is examined through the two leads of the series and a number of other characters, which include both humans and demons. Ichiro, aka Akuma II, himself is an interesting character, as his eccentricity, awkwardness, unsocial behaviors, and struggle to cope with human emotions, behaviors, and customs stemming from his adverse upbringing come in total contrast to that of Mephisto III. An enjoyer of the finer things in life, sensible, lovable, and cheerful, Mephisto III is quite a foil to Ichiro, as despite being half-demon himself, he is the most humane character in the series. The duo investigates particular paranormal infestation cases and has their office, the Millenarianism Institute, set atop the Odeon Theatre, owned by single mother Sanae and her daughter Mio.
The cases Akuma investigates provide him with a rough understanding of the human psyche, the intricacies of relationships, and emotional turmoil, but at the same time, he gets even more bemused by them. The first case he and Mephisto III undertake revolves around Hina, a university student who finds herself plagued with terrifying nightmares after a series of occult-related deaths of her former classmates take place in unison. Eventually, it is revealed that Hina’s protective, caring mother accidentally caused her death, and in order to escape the grim reality of being the killer of her own daughter, the mother summoned the demon Gremory, whom she asked to take the role of her deceased daughter. After Akuma exposes the truth, Gremory decides to stay in the physical realm for a while, and Akuma calls upon her supernatural assistance from time to time, luring her in the false hope of giving away his heart for her to devour.
The supernatural investigator duo summons and escapes from Satan as well while adhering to the request of one of their rich clients, who had an unusual desire for Satan’s flesh but became a victim himself in the end. Akuma gets hooked on the murder of an island ambassador girl, whose mother and lover turn out to be the unwitting orchestrators of her death—a classic case of excess love resulting in destruction. One of the most interesting cases of the series turns out to be the lost, haunted masterpiece of late director Bito, which is demanded to be found by his rival and friend, director Ei. Bito sold his soul to a demon to create an unforgettable piece of art, but in the end, he was convinced that it was cursed and hid it away from the public. With the help of Gremory, Akuma Kun found the only remaining physical copy of the movie and handed it over to Ei, who wanted to let the world know about the last work of his dear friend. However, after watching the movie, Ei destroyed the copy before collapsing to death, and it seemed as if he was a mere jealous competitor who only sought to destroy the legacy left by his friend. Ultimately, the demon of Envy who followed Ei through his lifetime, Leviathan, revealed that it was out of regard for his deceased friend that he destroyed the movie’s last copy, as it was a dumpster fire that would have ruined his already established legacy. Ei would rather make himself appear a petty and envious rival than to see his deceased friend’s name tarnished.
Another interesting aspect that is explored in the series is the humanity of apparently inhuman beings and the lack of it among human beings themselves. A demon child was reared up by a kind, loving father figure who wanted to make the world a beautiful place for abandoned children and never discriminated against based on his identity. Hiding his true form, the demon rose through ranks of social strata and became a cabinet minister, thereby finally coming a step closer to fulfilling his father’s dream. However, after being threatened by an extortionist regarding his identity, the demon’s human psyche bursts in a fit of rage, and he goes on a murder spree. At the end, Akuma Kun is able to expose his secret and appeals to the demon’s humanity to give himself up, presenting a tragic dichotomy as a result.
Some of the cases involve personal stakes as well, as Sanae’s husband, Kazama, who was mysteriously missing, returns after five years to his family and discovers he is being plagued by the demonic apparition with whom he had made a deal. Akuma and Mephisto III fight the demon and find a loophole in the pact to nullify its presence and earn the family a second chance at life, but eventually, it is revealed that Kazama had made the trade of being able to write the most wondrous script in exchange for his daughter’s life. Which is why he left his script unfinished and left his family in the first place. Ichiro secretly confronts Kazama about the truth and finds him remorseful and already on his way to abandoning his family once again as he considers himself to be unworthy of their love. In another situation, one of Mio’s human friends pleads with Mephisto II to help him become a strong demon like him so that he can use his powers to fight injustice, but Ichiro discovers that the real cause of his desperation is his hapless mother, whom he wants to save from his abusive boyfriend. All the experiences gradually let Ichiro develop a better understanding of the human mind, but his sordid past still gives him emotional closure at the same time, and he can never bring himself to profess his feelings to his close ones. He is also unable to define what happiness means for him, which prevents him from using Solomon’s flute.
Was Ichiro Able To Save His Family From Strophaia?
Ichiro’s past starts to creep into his new life as Strophaia returns to the mortal plane and tries to take him back with him. A red pin seems to be in central McGuffin, which can allow Strophaia to force Ichiro into releasing an unknown, captive evil. Strophaia eventually becomes strong enough to take hold of Invisible School and hold Shingo captive, which prompts Ichiro and Mephisto to engage in a losing battle against him. Ichiro makes another pact with Gremory in exchange for his heart and acquires the power to annihilate Strophaia once and for all.
After Shingo gets incapacitated, Mephisto III decides to go all out against Strophaia and convinces Ichiro to kill him if his demonic side takes away his humanity. His fear manifests, despite the fact that a demon formed. Mephisto III cries in regret, and Ichiro breaks down at the thought of killing his friend. Eventually, a tearful Ichiro kills Mephisto III, and the cathartic moment finally marks his emotional release, he is able to play the flute of Solomon, which revives Shingo, undoes all of Strophaia’s machinations, and finally kills the fallen angel. It is revealed later that, thanks to being a half-human, half-demon hybrid, Mephisto III survived as well. However, as the first season ends, it is shown that, as per their previous pact, Gremory rips out Ichiro’s heart to devour it herself, and despite being fatally injured, it is indicated that Ichiro possibly survives the ordeal. The season ends in a massive cliffhanger, with Akuma Kun’s fate remaining unknown at this point and his origin remaining ever-shrouded in mystery as well. Previously, Satan had expressed his interest in gaining Ichiro’s soul as well, and whether that comes to pass eventually will only be revealed in the upcoming season. The mystery of the captive evil being is another plot point fans will be looking forward to being explored in the second season as well, along with many metaphysical mysteries that involve Akuma Kun and co.