Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jan 18th 2009
Devil May Cry
You can tell Dante is bad because he wears lots of red leather, totes big demon-busting guns, and has a sword with a skull for a hilt. Plus he can pose like pro. It's almost secondary that he's also inhumanly strong, fast, and accurate. That said, for all his indisputable badness, under all those unnecessary leather straps and ice-cold affectations Dante is still a basically decent fellow. You can tell because he loves strawberry sundaes. Plus he's perpetually broke—broke people are always decent at heart. When his sidekick-cum-caretaker, spunky blonde tyke Patty is kidnapped by power-hungry demon creampuff Sid, Dante's innate goodness drives him to rescue her. Unfortunately Sid has some nasty tricks up his brimstone scented sleeve, and Dante finds himself badly outclassed. Luckily Dante has a few super powers of his own, not the least of which is his ability to call fellow devil-hunter Miss Lady by name without laughing so hard that he snorts his lungs out his nostrils. With her dubious assistance and former partner Trish's estimable demonic powers, Dante may just be able to save humanity (and Patty) from Sid, who in the meantime grows really big and spits energy beams willy-nilly. The silly goose. Doesn't he know that size doesn't matter? Unless you're talking guns, that is.
The folks at ADV (and after its license rescue, at Funimation) know Devil May Cry's strengths well. It's no coincidence that every volume features more extras (mostly previews and cut scenes) for the Devil May Cry 4 game than for the series proper. After all, the game is the only thing the series has going for it. It's the reason the series got made, and its fans are the only people likely to enjoy the smelly slaughterhouse of butchered anime clichés that resulted. The series is an animated Frankenstein monster, a mash-up of fashionably over-utilized elements such as half-demon protectors, sexy lady warriors, tidal waves of blood, dorky demons, blunderingly obvious naming conventions, and perpetually broke jacks of all trades. Not to mention pervasive phallic imagery and a meticulously consistent lack of subtlety.
Director Shin Itagaki's camera slides over Hisashi Abe's slinky female designs, Dante uses his oversized Freudian weaponry to assert his dominance, and much slicing and exploding occurs. But rarely does it all gel into something interesting. As lead character, Dante does little more than project stylish ennui and effortlessly dispatch various uglies. So effortless is his monster dispatching that none of the fights can muster any suspense, and so stony is his demeanor that he's more deus-ex-machina than flesh-and-blood human (or demon, or whatever). The secondary cast might have compensated, but unfortunately Patty is a mere plot device, a failed ploy to add humanity to Dante, and the supporting players are stock characters of the most insultingly unelaborated type. Hardly the stuff of intense audience identification. Nothing that the all-star Japanese cast or the intensely faithful English adaptation does changes that (though Reuben Langdon's flippant Dante is a step in the right direction). Nor could they reasonably be expected to. No matter how experienced one is, no one can turn garbage like “the longer one gambles, the more interesting it becomes...the same as a kiss” into gold without being a certified alchemist.
Stubbornly episodic, the plot is a collection of standalone tales, each of which focuses largely on one of Dante's clients. That may seem a wise move given Dante's cold reticence, but the series' writers aren't deft enough to flesh out a character in a bare twenty minutes, which leaves viewers with precious little to care about, despite the focus on universal familial and romantic relationships. Only once—in the two-part finale, during Patty's messy and emotionally charged attempt to revive a crucified Dante—is the series freed from the confines of its episodic nature long enough to demonstrate what it might be capable of were it given room to develop its soft emotional underbelly. But it never really gets the chance, which leaves the series with nothing to fall back on but its action.
Devil May Cry's look is vintage Mad House, employing many of their seasoned veterans (Hisashi Abe, art director Katsushi Aoki, devil designer Yutaka Minowa). Beefy men with big manly jaws and lithe women with generous womanly mouths dominate the cast, and fast, furious motion is emphasized over flashy CG effects. Unfortunately Itagaki squanders this wealth of experience on action scenes so busy and crammed with distorted angles that they devolve into senseless montages of flashing swords, blazing guns, and random geysers of blood. It's such a conspicuous waste of talent that it's almost a relief when he starts cutting corners by dressing up stills and implying movement with fancy editing.
Too sloppily directed to succeed at action and too clunkily scripted to make for compelling drama, Devil May Cry does have the makings of a good, down and dirty exploitation series. The needlessly gory violence, shallow characters and even the hideously overbearing guitar-rock score would all be advantages in an unrepentant sleazefest. Unfortunately Devil May Cry just isn't nasty enough to work as exploitation, and with its dull cast, piles of dumb clichés and uninvolving action, it ends up being one thing that even exploitation series are never allowed to be: boring.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : B-
Art : B+
Music : C-
+ Patty and Dante have a touching moment together that is actually enhanced by gushing blood; dark, slick and loaded with sinister atmosphere.
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