Reviewby Jacob Chapman, Feb 17th 2010
Devil May Cry
DVD - Complete Box Set
Expert demon hunter Dante would like nothing more than to spend his days gambling and throwing back beer and strawberry sundaes, but even if it's only once a week, he has a dangerous job to do. As the supernatural investigator of the Devil May Cry agency, Dante is the only one capable of annihilating the hordes of demons plaguing his various clients. It's just too bad he gets a bill more often than a check for his services, which usually involve a lot of property damage. After a bodyguarding assignment goes awry, Dante is left with bratty orphan Patty Lowell to look after in addition to his deadly day job. Still, with a little help from femme fatales Lady and Trish, Dante will take on any mission his agent Morrison brings him, as long as he can stuff his face with pizza once the job is done.
What in the world is supposed to be funny about a demonspawn liking strawberry sundaes? Devil May Cry seems to think the idea is hilarious based on how much of the series' runtime is given over to how many he can eat…along with large pizzas, no olives. This joke with no good punch line is pretty indicative of the excitement to be gleaned from the episodic adventures of Dante in this plotless prequel/promotion for the game Devil May Cry 4. The formula is strictly monster of the week, and doesn't adopt an overarching plot until a forced climactic revelation in its last two episodes. (Though to be fair, this twist is built up in tiny scenes that begin as early as the first episode. It doesn't change the fact that the twist itself is dumb and contrived.)
From the food gags to the enormous stack of hack-and-slash clichés that form the show's script, “dumb and contrived” are really the best words for this. Every new “mission” is composed of a lame gag about Dante's habits or history, a long sequence of fact swapping with a client, a predictable demon revelation and battle, and a punchline to the lame gag we started with back at the Devil May Cry agency, no less facepalm-worthy twenty minutes later. Just repress the urge to “press A to scroll through the text” because sadly, this is not a video game, and this narrative oatmeal does not work outside of cutscenes. Some development of the characters might offset this, but Lady and Trish are barely used and even fresh face Patty is only predictably exposed as a despondent lonely girl with a brash exterior by story's end. Nothing really happens here…they're all just waiting for the new game to come out so the franchise canon won't be disturbed by this side story.
The only thing this series could potentially excel at is delivering a plethora of bloodbath action bonanzas, and this is doubtless the only reason people would buy it. For the most part, it does just that. Dante smashes demon after demon in this series and devil and human alike get ripped apart and tossed around in a myriad of ways by snapping jaws, thrashing tentacles, and Dante's heavy arsenal. However, even this aspect of the series could have been done much better. Like its melee-based buttonmasher ancestor, the visuals here are just too chaotic. Most of the fights are shot so tightly zoomed in to the monster's ugly face or Dante's whipping coat, at some bizarre angle through some fisheye lens no less, that it's hard to follow anything until: a bright flash, a blood shower, a severed head falls to the ground and we're done. Of course, when a particularly fantastic demon the size of a skyscraper shows up the fight is over in two swipes from Dante's Rebellion because they wasted the rest of the runtime on bad jokes and chitchat with the client of the week when all we wanted was a good brawl.
DMC's art, particularly the backgrounds and CG work, is certainly the series' greatest strength. Richly detailed, densely lit, and oozing all the atmosphere of the original games, it's easier to get drawn into than whatever the monster of the week is doing. The CG isn't flawless and has its intrusive moments like in any other traditionally animated work, but it is more minimal than expected and works well in this case, no doubt in part to the video game ambience of the whole series. The characters are also high gloss and meticulously detailed, which also makes them less versatile, but Madhouse did an excellent job of keeping them on-model even during the action scenes. The music is fairly monotonous, mostly variations on the same theme with a piano, an electric guitar, a music box, etc. It's not terribly reminiscent of the games with their many choral interludes, but all those dueling guitars sound familiar and it does feel like a video game score of some kind, for what it's worth. It's unnoticeable enough just to work.
The English adaptive script is faithful to a fault and sounds just as dumb and unfunny as the original, although the performances themselves are slightly different in two cases. Lady and Trish are catty and only slightly charming as usual and Morrison is gruff and tired-sounding, but Hilary Haag's Patty and Reuben Langdon's Dante are a little more fun to listen to. Patty spends most of her time yelling at Dante to clean himself up but Haag's softer, wispier voice makes her antics a lot cuter than the high-pitched screech usually associated with these types of characters. DMC fans should already be familiar with Langdon's glib and snarky rendition of Dante, which again, makes him more likable than if he had been played straight bored badass. Either way the dialogue can still be painful to roll your eyes through episode to episode. Extras include, unsurprisingly, oodles and oodles of clips, trailers, cutscenes and promotional reels for Devil May Cry 4, the game, otherwise known as “the reason money was wasted on this anime.” There's also a brief, uninteresting interview (really a promotional spot) with Dante's seiyuu, Toshiyuki Morikawa.
Devil May Cry isn't a terrible show, as that might at least be entertaining in some strange, subversive way. No, the problem with this series of urban sidequests is that they're just plain boring. Apart from all the bloody neck-fountains, the series has all the temerity of a Saturday morning cartoon and it doesn't serve a poorly written series at all to be so completely inoffensive. Kiddish writing aside, the high level of gore leaves fans of the games as the only audience for this series…they still might be better off playing Devil May Cry 4.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : C+
+ A wild gothic spectacle, sometimes campy fun
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