(I’m going to be using the heading Devilminutia for short posts discussing the minutia of Devilman – things that don’t quite have enough substance for a proper piece, but are still worth pointing out and discussing.)
Because of the nuances of kanji, there are both a lot of ways to write Japanese names and a wide variety of meanings to them. The names in Devilman are no different, of course, so let’s break down how they’re written and what they mean!
Fudou Akira – 不動明
Akira is an extremely common name, and there are approximately a million different ways to write it. The character used, 明, is a fairly common one, meaning “light.” 不動, on the other hand, isn’t unheard of as a surname, but it’s not exactly common either. While the literal meaning is “unmoving,” combined with 明 it’s a clear reference to the Buddhist protector deity Acala – known in Japan as 不動明王 (Fudou Myou-ou) – which is written the same as Fudou Akira with one extra character. Acala is known for his fearsome appearance, and battles evil with immovable faith and understanding, converting anger into compassion and cutting the ties of negative feelings to guide people to enlightenment. He’s also popular among the yazuka, due to said appearance. A good fit for a demon with a human heart.
Asuka Ryo – 飛鳥了
Again, Ryo is a fairly common name with a variety of ways it can be written. The one used here, 了, means “end.” Asuka is a more common surname than Fudou, but not especially common either, and 飛鳥 isn’t the most common spelling of it. The characters used literally mean “flight” and “bird” – with 了, the impression it gives is that of a winged harbinger of the end. Satan, in other words. I spent quite a while wondering how much Go Nagai had planned from the beginning, especially regarding Ryo and Satan – the way his name’s written would imply it was all in place from the start.
Makimura Miki – 牧村美樹
There’s nothing remarkable about Miki’s name. 美樹 means “beautiful tree,” 牧村 means “farming village.” This is probably deliberate, considering the thought that was clearly put into Akira and Ryo’s names – Miki isn’t a benevolent demon or a heavenly endbringer. She’s an ordinary girl from an ordinary family, who just happens to get caught in the middle of Armageddon.
Now if only Go Nagai had put as much thought into representation as he did into names.