Zennon (also known as Devil King Zennon, or Great Demon King Zennon) is the name of two separate demon antagonists, the first appearing in the Demon Lord Dante manga and anime, the second in the Devilman franchise.
The two characters play separate, yet similar, roles and each have a different appearance in their respective universes. Both the Demon Lord Dante incarnation, as well as the Devilman character are portrayed as being exceptionaly powerful antagonists and are of an impossing stature. Depending on the incarnation, the second Zennons can either be the main adversary, or the second in command of an even greater threat (id est Satan).
Demon Lord Dante
The Dante version of Zennon was a mislead heroic figure, acting mostly on good intentions but the means through which he operated were wrong.
He was willing to murder his good friend, Dante, so long as the rest of demon kind would be spared from death. Likewise, he was willing to sacrifice hundreds of demon soldiers so long as the rest of his kind were insured a future. Ultimately, Zennon becomes a regrettable character who admits to his mistakes and asks for forgiveness, as well as warning his old friend of the threats yet to come.
This incarnation of the character is far less developed and is far more straight forward in terms of motivation and intentions. Like most demons of the series, Zennon is resentful of human life and opts to have them all exterminated so that the demon race could once more rule over the world. He is still written as being a carring figure to his people, as shown when he displayed his regret of loosing Amon and several other demons during the Black Sabbath, the event in which Akira Fudo fused with Amon and thus became Devilman. Zennon is also one of the very few demons to openly question Satan's intentions, specifically the fallen angel's decision to transform the meek Akira Fudo into a devilman out of love towards the human.
Demon Lord Dante
This first incarnation of the character is a giant, fur covered humanoid being with a canine head and a pair of large eyes in his chest and bulging arteries surrounding the armpits. His shoulders are covered in a thick and rounded armor plating.
The second incarnation of the character is the spitting image of Gustave Dore's illustration of Satan from The Divine Comedy. Zenon is a giant humanoid of a muscular build, with shaggy fur covering the entirety of his body. Sharp claws grow from his hands, while his feet are cloven. A pair of bat-like wings stretch out of his arms and over his torso's sides. He is polycephalic, having three heads on his shoulders and a fourth on his abdomen. The central head is grotesque, having jagged teeth, a pronounced aquiline nose, a third eye in his forehead, an unkempt mane and massive horns. The head on his right shoulder has razor-sharp fangs, a crooked nose, scruffy black hair and a single short horn on his forehead. The head on Zennon's left shoulder is, in contrast, of a much more feminin features, having a fair complexion, with long and golden hair. As for the head on Zennon's stomach this one has animalistic features, such as a snout, fangs and ears with pointed tips.
Demon Lord Dante
In this first instalment of the Devilman franchise, Zennon was once an ordinary human who lived in the city of Sodom, before the last great ice age. He was a close friend of the scientist Dante and his lover, Medusa. But when God wreaked havok upon the citizens of Sodom and Gomorah, it was Zennon and Dante who became the first two lords of the demons and raised up an army against God. Their army is defeated and is forced to retreat, with Dante having to go into hibernation, while Zennon seemingly dissapeared.
After Dante's reawakening and possesion at the hands of Ryo Utsugi, the great demon king goes on a rampage in a heavily populated city in Japan. Zennon appears before Dante/Ryo Utsugi in a napalm fire after his demon transformation and attack on the city to make him give up on defeating God. However Ryo isn't aware of the past of Dante at this time. After a conversation about Ryo being Dante and his heart being Dante's he attacks Ryo with his 100 demons. He freezes his demon warriors on Ryo to trap him in a living-prison.
However, Ryo manages to teleport outside of the ice and rips Zennon in half from behind. As he was dying Zennon admits to his weaknes. He became God's servant after God promised to have Zennon turned into a god and ofered to spare the other demons if Zennon could kill Dante. Before dying, Zennon told Ryo to raise a demon army to beat God as well as warning him about the danger of Adam and Eve.
Zennon first makes a brief appearance in the manga's first volume prologue. He, along with several other demons, emerge from the ice walls of a cave, deep within the Hymalayas, and murder a team of explorers. During Ryo's explanation to Akira about the nature of humans Ryo brings up Dante Aligheri's description of Lucifer: a three headed, bat-winged demon traped in ice from the waist down.
Ryo hypothesized that the historical poet had witnessed a demon trapt inside a glacial, which undoubtedly was Zennon. In the second volume of the manga, Zennon makes another brief appearance as a shadowy silhouette in one of Akira's dreams, immediately after the latter had fused with the demon Amon. Akira sensed Amon's fear thowards the three-headed demon lord and thusly realised that the demon had to be an exceptionally poweful one if even a brutal creature such as Amon would find it intimidating.
Sirene, alongside Ghelmer and Agwel are the first two demons sent by Zennon to capture Devilman so that he could be subjected to the "death of a hundred pieces". As her heated fight against Devilman leads to her getting visciously beaten, Sirene begges Zennon for the power to beat her enemy. As a respons, the demon lord sends Kaim and some other demons to aid her. Ultimately, the combined bodies of Sirene and Kaim do manage to critically injure Devilman, but they fail to kill him.
Zennon finally makes his debut in the manga's third volume, wherein he telepathicaly projects his image all around the world to declare war on the human race, thus sparking the demon-human war which ravages the human population. In volume five, during a conversation with the recently restored Satan, Zennon fills in the secret part of the Satan's plan, how Satan orchestrated Akira Fudo's becoming into Devilman out of love towards the human. Zennon is then seen alongside Caliorruar, Satan's giant dragon/hydra mount in the final battle against Akira's Devilman Corps. Zennon's fait is left undisclosed. (but its not revealed that its him until the last chapter of Violence Jack)
Zennon returns in this sequel of the original manga, which also incorporates Mao Dante into the Devilman canon.
After the great war between the demons and the devilmen, God recreated Earth and had the fallen demon and devilmen souls sent into Hell and repopulated the Earth with humans. Now, Zenoon lies frozen at the lowest level of Hell, the Cocytus, and is believed to be Satan according to Dante Aligherie's epic poem. In thruth, the Dante from the Mao Dante manga is revealed to have been reincarnated as the historical Italian poet of the same name, and then later reincarnated in the modern age (the 90s) as the Japanese college student, Ryo Utsugi.
Zennon's three heads also had detached themselves from his body and made their way into the physical world. The middle head is comprised out of two devilmen, an unnamed bird woman and Jim Langer, also known as Devilman Liger, working as a double agent for Satan. The other two heads transform into two malevolent devilmen, the Christian priest Judah Hiroko and his assistent, Maria, who lead a cult of devilmen called The Curch of Dante.
At the start of the series, Zenon's face is missing and Akira (now trapped in Hell) believes that Ryo/Satan has returned to the real world to plot another attack on humanity and God. Akira warns the titular Devilman Lady, a.k.a. Jun Fudo, to beware of Satan, whom he believes to be Jun's colleague and supervisor, Ran Asuka.
Later on in the series, as Judah and Maria amass and army of Devil Beasts and Devilmen to invade Earth, they reveal Ryo Utsugi's identity as Mao Dante and have him trasported into Hell in order to refuse with the demon body. Ryo does make it to the Cocytus, after having to endure a long and dangerous journey while aided by the various inhabitants of Hell. Ryo fuses with Zennon body and emerges as Demon Lord Dante reborn.
He makes his way back to the physical world, now leading all of Hell's denizens, including the majority of Devilman's former enemies, and joins the demonic armies against humanity. In the manga's climax Judah, Maria, Liger and the Bird Woman fuse with Dante to reconstitute Zennon and fight under Satan's banner.
Devilman (1972 anime)
Zennon awakens from his slumber inside the icy caves of the Himmalayas and begins his plans to have humanity wiped-out. He easily murders the human Akira Fudo and his, who had come across the demons. Zennon decides to send one of his three top warriors and bodyguards (Daruni, Rerasu and Devilman) into the human world, disguised as the late Akira Fudo, as a spy in order to gain knowledge first.
The three fight over the right of possession over Akira Fudo's corpse, to which Devilman is victorious. Devilman, now disguised as Akira, makes his way to Japan and hides amongst the human's old friends, the Makimuras. Surprisingly, Devilman falls in love with the family's daughter, Miki, so he instead decides to fight against the demons. Throughout the anime's run, Zennon sneds out various demons to execute Devilman and prepare the way for his invasion, but Devilman always manages to stop them. Zennon is never defeated, however, as the anime merely ended with Devilman and Miki becoming a couple, while Zennon remained imprisoned inside his caves.
Zennon makes brief appearances throughout the Devilman: The Birth and The Demon Bird OVAs, which follow the original manga's storyline. He is once again referred to as Lucifer by Ryo Asuka during his recall of the Divine Comedy as an explanation of demon hybernation inside glaciars dated back to the last ice age. Zennon is featured as a shadowy silhouette during Sirene and Devilman's climactic battle in The Demon Bird. As she is loosing the fight, a bloodied Siren begs Zennon for help, so the demon lord summons several demons in order to distract Devilman, plus Kaim to personally fight alongside Sirene.
CB Chara: Go Nagai World
In this pastiche universe Zennon is among the several other chibi (diminutive/cartoony) versions of characters created by Go Nagai. Here, Zennon is revealed to be the several dozen, or so, members of the Demon Clean-Up Crew, small, olive-skinned humanoid creatures that maintain the demons' glacial arctic hideout within the Devilman portion of the chibi world. Like most of the villains and heroes of this OVA series, the Demon Clean-Up Crew are portrayed as comical and silly, as they often complain about the massive damage caused by Devilman's battle with Sirene.
They also assist Kaim in his quest to woo Sirene, though they initialy find this pair-up to be impossible. During the final battle between Devilman and Satan, the Demon Clean-Up Crew pile-up and reform Zennon, albeit without the middle head's face because Akira had grabbed the member who formed the face (the leader of the Clean-Up Crew) and had him thrown out of the Ghoul hoover craft. In desperation, the rest of Zennon's body flies out after the missing Clean-Up Crew member. The Chibi World's version of Jinmen initially sought Zennon's approval by trying to kill Devilman, which he obviously fails at. In Jinmen's dreams of being recognized, Zennon appears in his entirety, this being the only instance in which he appears fully whole.
Zennon exists in this interpretation as the main antagonist and once again amalgamates elements of Dante and Satan. Here he is the demonic half of Devilman Zennon, while the human half is comprised out of Ryo Utsugi. Utsugi was the modern day reincarnation of King Solomon, who learned the ways of demon summoning and possession, as well as how human beings could influence demons to do their bidding. After summoning the Great Demon Lord Zennon, Solomon fused with him and became an eternal being which could reincarnate in the future in the hopes of conquering the world.
During the events of the series King Solomon's summoning rituals are well known by demonologists and enthusiasts, such as Miki Makimura. Using Solomon's magics, Miki summons a handful of demons, among which was the warrior Amon, who fussed with Akira Fudo to form Devilman.
This adaptation of the character is drawn in the anime's far more abstract art style, having little shadowing, all three of his heads being grotesque, while the face on his abdomen is replaced with a mouth that has tusk-like teeth. His role is mostly unchanged, with the exception that he does not announce the demon's invasion and that he has a fight to the death against Devilman during the last episode.
The original Zennon was created by mangaka Go Nagai and made his debut in the Mao Dante manga of 1971, Nagai's first entry in what would become the Devilman franchise. After Toei Animation offered to remake Mao Dante into a superhero anime Nagai wrote a new manga series to accompany the anime, id est Devilman. As such, the character of Zennon was repurposed for the new series. This second incarnation was reestablished as a red herring for the series actual main antagonist, Satan, and written in as a near omnipotent adversary. Nagai redesigned Zennon after Gustave Dore's rendition of Satan from Dante Aligheri's The Divine Comedy, a throwback to the idea that Nagai's previous character, Demon Lord Dante, had also been inspired off of Dore's illustrations of the Biblical Satan. While the manga followed its own story, the anime series had its own Zennon who, at first, resembled Dante, but later adopted the design from the manga.
Several other Devilman characters were based both visualy and personality wise off of the two Zennons:
- In the Devilman TV Series (1972) the original Mao Dante design of the character was reused for the character Zannin, one of the three Demon Generals working directly under Zennon.
- Different alternate versions of Zannin appear in subsequent material, such as AMON: The Darkside of Devilman, Hiruta and Devilman Grimoire. Of note, the Grimoire incarnation is ultimately possessed by the human Asuka Himura and becomes Devilman Zannin, a champion of the human race.
- Eader is another lesser demon from the original Devilman manga, who's appearance is based on that of the first Zennon.
- Muzan is one of the three Demon Generals appearing in the Devilman anime. He is believed to also have been directly based off of the original Zennon on account of their similar designes.
- Zann, a major villain in the Devilman manga, a high-ranking subordinate of Zennon's and leader of his 100 Demon Army.