Kiyoshi was born as the fourth son to Yoshio and Fujiko Nagai. As a child, he was influenced by The Divine Comedy (which would serve as the inspiration for Demon Lord Dante and by later extension Devilman) and the works of Osamu Tezuka. After suffering diarrhea in prep school and recovery the hospital with catarrh of colon, Kiyoshi decided to make himself known by drawing manga despite his mother's insistence not to. Kiyoshi's brother, Yasutaka would often help him in his manga, with several rejections. Eventually his works were noticed by the famous manga artist Shotaro Ishinomori.
Kiyoshi took the pen name Go Nagai after becoming an assistant to Ishinomori and started writing one-shot gag manga before writing more elaborate stories for Shonen Jump. While Harenchi Gakuen was heavily criticized at the time for showing erotica, fans saw this as an icon for a new generation of manga. Ironically, these protests gave Nagai the idea to create manga such as Abashiri Ikka, which like Harenchi Gakuen became popular during that period.
With the success of his works, Nagai founded Dynamic Productions with his brothers to help him with his works by funding his manga and anime production and to manage relations and contracts with other companies. There he met Ken Ishikawa who became his assistant. With Dynamic Productions' founding, Nagai started creating his more famous works from the demonic hero Devilman, the giant robot Mazinger Z, to the introduction of the transforming magical girl Cutey Honey. On 1974, Nagai and Ken collaborated ideas which lead to the creation of Getter Robo.
Since 2009, he is a member of Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize's nominating committee.
Career and StyleEdit
Go Nagai had written and drawn multiple manga covering several genre's most notably horror, science fiction, and fantasies. Nagai was among several manga artists as the first being born after the post-war effects. Seeing the affects first hand, he incorporated stories to remind his generation on how war works and how there are no actual winners even in spite of beliefs or loyalty, this is part of the reason Devilman became so popular during its manga run. Other less serious series tended to include a couple of slapstick gags while poking fun at social norms. Nagai also stated that he was greatly influenced by Sanpei Shirato much in the same Tezuka was with Walt Disney. A lot of manga after Harenchi Gakuen also included quite a bit of sex appeal from female characters to the point of nudity and gory scenes after the success of Devilman. His piecework was also unique at the time featuring large frames showing great detail and emphasizing actions including the dialogue and sound effects jumping out. The storylines are also fast, clear, and easy to understand. While Nagai's lighthearted storytelling remained more-or-less the same, his style improved over the years.
The start of his career had him begin with gag manga. By the time he started work with Weekly Shonen Jump, Nagai began utilizing his more creative yet questionable content starting with Harenchi Gakuen and furthered it with Abashiri Ikka. Later incorporating horror elements starting with Demon Lord Dante, Nagai would use Dante as a template for later similar works. By the time Devilman was developed both in anime, he worked closely with Toei until a fallout between ownership of Gaiking that was designed by Nagai forced them to separate. Some series including Violence Jack and Shutendoji would continue the violent and darker trends starting with Devilman. More gag oriented series including Kekko Kamen featured a corrupt school system that the protagonists had to fight against.
Near the 80s, works such as Hanappe Bazooka (a collaboration with the famed Kazuo Koike) and Susano-O would challenge the limits with Susano-O winning the 1980 Kodansha Manga Award. By the late 80-90s, Nagai would work on remakes and sequels of his more notable series including Mazinger, Devilman, and Cutie Honey. At the start of the 21st century, Nagai's more notable series would get spin-offs from other manga artists while Nagai himself worked with several magazines most notably including Sengoku Era samurai including Date Masamune and Hojo Soun. Near and after the 2010s, Nagai began his autobiography work Gekiman while also doing other projects; most notably crossovers with notable series including Devilman vs Getter Robo, some original works like Bijinman, and manga focused on more notable works like Grendizer Giga and Devilman Saga.
Nagai's influence as a mangaka had reached audiences all over Japan. His early days as a manga artist were met with criticism from content moderators, but had driven an increase in readership in Shonen Jump. Because of this, Nagai's use of gags, puns, and crude humor started to become a norm in manga. His most famous series were well known for pushing genres and content to their limits, helping pave way for future generations of mangaka. Many of Nagai's works had gained notoriety across Europe with fan bases in Italy and France for some of his more famous franchises.
However, by the late 80s and beyond, Nagai's works had gotten obscure and at best got a mention from the average fan. Nagai's writing style often had a formula of series that were heavy in dialogue, had tragedies occur, plots and sub-plots advancing at a breakneck pace, and were often left on cliffhangers or rushed endings. The amount of gore, sex appeal, and melodramatic characterization in these series also came to be viewed as oversaturated. Yet, a significant number of these series can be attributed to agreements with the editors he had worked with as well as a compressed amount of time on those series. Nagai's artwork however was praised for its detail compared to previous decades.
Go Nagai as a local manga icon would appear in some films, starting off with a small role in The Toxic Avenger: Part 2. Most films he appeared in were based off the series he created including the Devilman film.