"Devil May Cry": I'm Not Crying, But I Ain't Smiling Either
Little did one know that a failed dev kit for Resident Evil 4 would turn into the megahit franchise for Capcom known as Devil May Cry. The smartass main character, the over-the-top action, and the extreme difficulty gave this franchise life, and it has since become one of the top moneymakers for Capcom, ranking up there with Resident Evil, Megaman, and Street Fighter. To help hype up the newest game in the franchise, Devil May Cry 4, Capcom decided to make an animated series taking place between this game and the first game. Thus the unimaginatively titled Devil May Cry: The Animated Series.
In this world devils haunt the landscape, tricking and killing humans with grand relish. Enter Dante, a half-human/half-devil hybrid, born of the legendary devil king Sparta. With his trusty giant sword Rebellion and handguns Ebony and Ivory, Dante lives his life as a Devil Hunter with relish, slicing and dicing devils on an almost daily basis. Unfortunately, this job of his has a lot of collateral damage (of course) which has caused Dante to fall into heavy debt. His agent, Morrison, tries to get him jobs that pay well, but more often than not it’s not enough. His friend Lady also employs his help when things are too big or cumbersome for her, but even then Dante rarely gets paid for these jobs, as instead the money is just deducted from his debt to Lady. Sometimes Dante works with his mother/girlfriend Trish (it’s a long story), but not as often as Dante would like. Instead, Dante gets to spend all his off-time with Patty, a young orphan girl our hero saves during a mission and ends up being Dante’s biggest fan despite all her complaining about his cleaning habits. How’s a Devil Hunter supposed to eat pizza and strawberry sundaes in peace?
I’ll admit it right off: I’ve never played any of the Devil May Cry games (kind of hard to when you don’t own a Playstation 2). I knew of the over-the-top action, the wisecracking, and the difficulty, but I didn’t know much about the characters or the story. Heck, when I originally viewed the video game cut-scenes found on the disc, I originally wondered how Dante got this weird devil arm-like thing and how he lost his big sword, and wished ADV had gotten Johnny Young Bosch to reprise his role as Dante. (I now know that this was Nero, a new character for Devil May Cry 4 that shares the spotlight with Dante). As such, I had very few expectations coming into this series. In fact, my only expectations were that the voice cast would be different and the series would have lots of over-the-top action worthy of an animation studio like Madhouse. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts somewhat.
This series follows an episodic format with a very loose plotline that doesn’t really come to fruition until the final two episodes. I don’t mind a couple of episodic episodes here and there, and there are some series that manage to do this format right (though most of them are done by Shinichiro Watanabe), but this series isn’t one of them. I prefer my action series to have some kind of ongoing plot, making me feel like the events I just watched will affect what happens later in the story. Unfortunately, fewer than half of the episodes in this series contribute to the main plot, and one of them is the first episode and three of them are the final three episodes. The episodes in between are fun but unfulfilling. Some of the stories are nice and even have some genuine plot twists along the way, but they all share the same basic formula: Dante is hired to investigate mysterious goings-on, said mysterious goings-on are the work of a devil, Dante kills devil in brutal fashion, Dante then gets screwed out of his money somehow. Eventually it becomes rather tiresome, which is a big problem for a show with only 12 episodes.
It doesn’t help that the over-the-top action seems to be missing somewhat. Sure, we get some shots of Dante jumping all over the place and turning various devils into ground beef, but the fight scenes themselves last only a few minutes at the end of the episode. As a result, we get about as much fighting during the actual episode as we get in the opening theme song, which is a shame. Even the final bad guy gets a short fight, as Dante spends half the episode seemingly dead only to come back and have a two-minute fight with a giant monster. Seriously, with the games this series is based on you have the final battle last all of two freaking minutes? This could be forgiven if the plot took over, but most of the time it doesn’t. We get a bunch of character scenes, about half of which are unneeded, then we see Dante shoot things for a couple minutes before the wrap-up starts. For a series hailed as the father of the “Extreme Combat” genre of video games, its animated adaptation is decidedly low on the fight scenes.
At least the characters are worth watching. Dante himself is quite fun, thanks to his trash-talking and brash attitude, although he seems a little stiff compared to the more exuberant Dante seen in the video game cutscenes. But he partially makes up for the lack of action and troubled stories. Lady is also fun to watch, especially when she pairs up with Dante, as the two get quite a few awesome scenes together, the most memorable being a motorbike battle against a devil early on in the series. The other female lead from the video games, Trish, shows up in Episode 4 and promptly disappears until Episode 10, despite being in the opening credits every episode. To make things worse, her origin isn’t even hinted at, whereas at least we’re told Dante is Sparta’s son and that he’s a half-breed late in the series (even though that kind of thing is something you should really say in the beginning of the series). The two anime-only characters of Morrison and Patty serve their roles well enough, though I do wish they had bothered to give some explanation as to why they only show up for the anime but leave Dante in time for DMC4.
Unfortunately, it’s that lack of game tie-ins that ends up hurting the series. Even without directly playing the games, it’s rather easy to tell which events and plotlines were spawned just for the anime and which were created for the games. Perhaps bringing back a villain from the games or have a plotline focus on the Church of Sparta (which is nonexistent in the series yet plays a major role in DMC4) or even having an episode where Dante’s brother Vergil appears would probably help the series out a bit. As it is, the series itself stands out because of Dante, Trish, Lady, and their eccentricities from the video games. Without them, this is just another generic, mature shoot-em-up-monster-hunter anime, except not done nearly as well as other series. Worst of all, this series doesn’t really make me want to go out and buy an XBox 360 or Playstation 3 so I can get Devil May Cry 4, which is one of the main reasons the series even exists. I will say, though, that the logo used here is much better than most of the logos used for the video games themselves.
Visually, this is your typical Madhouse series. The animation is strong and the coloring is terrific, perfectly embodying the mood of the video games and making the various characters look like the badasses they are. I do wish more the series took place during the day, but apparently devils don’t come out to fight unless the moon’s up, so whatever. My biggest problem is that some of the fights use sparse animation or details, detracting from the already-short fights and turning them into something even worse. Many times the animation skips frames trying to capture the series’ trademark over-the-top action, but it pales in comparison to Madhouse’s other series like Black Lagoon. It seems as though the series blew its budget on the intro, as its animation is worlds better than what we get in the series, and we even get a glimpse of the action this franchise is known for. At least they got Dante’s, Trish’s, and Lady’s character designs right, as they look exactly like their game counterparts while newcomers Patty and Morrison fit right into the world, despite Patty’s continual bright-colored clothing.
Now, it’s nothing new to see a Japanese cast voice both the video games and the respective anime series. In fact, it happens all the time. However, since ADV was the one who licensed the anime and the games were voiced by the LA talent pool, people feared we would only get sound-alikes. Luckily, Reuben Langdon, who voices Dante in the 3rd and 4th games, returns to voice the main character again in the series, and he makes such a wonderful Dante. His sardonic attitude and the exasperated air he gives the character is just wonderful, making the dub a helluva lot more entertaining that it would have been with any other actor in the role. Unfortunately, ADV didn’t get Danielle Burgio or Kari Wahlgren to reprise their characters of Trish and Lady respectively in the series. Still, Luci Christian and Melissa Davis do admirable jobs as Trish and Lady, especially Davis’ Lady. Hillary Haag’s Patty is, well, pretty much like every other little girl Haag has ever voiced, while Rob Mungle makes an excellent Morrison. Most of the background music is serviceable, but the opening theme is all kinds of awesome. I don’t know if “d.m.c.” is a remix of any track from the games, but it fits the series to a T and gets one pumped up for the story that awaits.
The extras offer further proof that this entire series was created just to hype Devil May Cry 4, as the majority of the extras are dedicated to the game. We’ve got a whopping 7 cut scenes from the game (mostly involving Nero and Kyrie and a fight between Nero and Dante) as well as six promos from 2006 all the way to 2008, two of which have certain spoilers involved and thus have title cards warning the viewer not to watch them if they haven’t played the video game yet. The only extras relevant to the TV series itself are a 10-minute interview with Toshiyuki Morikawa, who plays Dante in both the anime and games, as well as the standard textless opening and closing. That’s it. Seriously, you’d figure we’d get some commentaries or English interviews or something, but if we did they’d probably be talking about how much they love Devil May Cry 4 and how you should go out and buy it. At least the boxset is packaged well, as it comes in a very stylish thinpak set similar to other FUNimation boxsets as of late. The art on the actual thinpaks leaves a bit to be desired as they use shots of Dante’s weapons instead of showcasing more art from the show, but the packaging is still very classy.
Overall, I can only recommend this to diehard fans of the Devil May Cry video games. Those who are interested in the franchise may want to give this a rent, but if you are looking for a bloody shoot-em-up, I’d go for Gungrave or Black Lagoon instead.