All good things must come to an end, including the amazing run of quality series we've seen throughout Summer 2007. Just when we think directors are learning humility, animators are being reigned in to make room for talented script writers, and fresh ideas are rising from the graveyard that is the horror genre, an anime like Devil May Cry comes along to shatter those dreams with an irreverent, gore-splattering combo. The series basically suffers from the same thing every other incompetent horror tale does, namely suffocating cliché.
The story is not actually a story, but a collection of mini tales, each an episode long, each depicting a day or two of Dante's rather pointless existence. You get your stock plots like ‘stoic warrior burdened with whiny little brat' and ‘demon man falls in love with human girl' as well as the injection of a couple of patronising comedy episodes. Most of them are poorly executed mysteries. The creators also struggle to balance the stunts with the necessary levels of realism required to retain a sense of peril, which leads to several inconsistencies in world-building. For example, in one scene Lady can hit a fast-moving target on a motorcycle with one shot, which becomes meaningless when two episodes later she fails to hit a fairly motionless target even after five rounds.
Comedy-wise, the series leans heavily on Patty the annoying brat and Dante's flippant remarks, which quickly become predictable and boring. It's fine in the games because on the rare occasion that he does speak, he's usually about to do something awesome in full CG glory. Here, he mostly talks the talk and limps the walk. Also, much of it is forced i.e. milked from contrived circumstances and dialogue (Patty's pink and girly possessions spread all over Dante's dingy, manly office - oh, how we laughed).
Worst of all, the series falls short of capturing the fun of the games because it forgets to adapt its material for the change in medium. A comparison with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children might be useful here. Advent Children does not make any attempt whatsoever to appeal to a broader audience than the fanbase, meaning it can rely on its original game to provide the emotional investment and also avoids competing with other anime on the market. DMC on the other hand wants to be liked by everyone (very few clever or exclusive inside jokes and references aimed at fans) but hasn't got the necessary clout to compete in a diverse world of far superior series. Perhaps the real problem is its format; it could have been a movie, where the plot is more streamlined, thus allowing for a concentration of good ideas, but instead it chose to be a series, spreading its best bits too thin. Even worse, although the series attempts to mirror the game, it thoroughly fails to grasp the concept of using action to offset the lack of depth. None of the fights are particularly eye-popping beyond the first episode, with the animation lagging far behind other contemporary works such as Seirei no Moribito.
Lastly, the story has a repetitive streak in that every episode has one mystery or other which requires only brawn to solve, and the demon always loses in a matter of seconds. No exceptions. Add to that the incessant posing and the total lack of suspense because every demon is just as weak as the one before, and the entire thing falls flat on its undead, grimacing face.
At first sight, the animation looks very good; clear, bold colours, dark tones to match the mood, boobalicious female and handsome male character designs. However, movement is not actually as smooth as one would hope for an anime that revolves around action. Seriously, you'll find better looking battles in Street Fighter II. There were several instances when I'd hold my breath, waiting for Dante to kick royal arse, but instead there'd be a couple of boring swings of his sword, countless camera shots down the barrel of his gun, and the beast would be dead. It feels as if the show got tedious even for the creators and they just couldn't be bothered to think up new stunts anymore. Also, almost everything is set at night in nightclubs, seedy bars, restaurants and alleyways. However, whilst technically dark, it's never actually very atmospheric.
The series has an excellent instrumental opening theme and the end theme is not bad either. The stuff in the middle is not really that impressive, except for the rock song used as part of the plot in episode six. Between Lady's believable performance and Dante's lack of dynamism and charisma, the voice acting is not fantastic but not terrible either. Oh, and Patty Lowell is just noise pollution.
As far as generic and uncomplicated heroes go, Dante is alright, although it takes at least half the series to get him to that point. Initially he's as flat as an ironing board, which has a lot to do with the fact that, in trying to make him a lone wolf type, he actually turns out bland and monotone. In the game, he's an ostentatious, cocky brat with an ingrained sense of style; in the anime he's a calorie-hunting layabout. Think Spike Spiegel (Cowboy Bebop) without the follow-up back story. It's easy to believe that with a much better storyline and action sequences, Dante would have been more enjoyable, but in light of the series' actual achievements, he's a disappointment.
Anyway, that might explain the abomination that is Patty Lowell's role; it's very possible that she's a failed attempt to add zest. However, no attempt is ever made to use her to characterise Dante and she never achieves any depth in her own right either. Frankly, just removing her from the plot would have added two more points to the score, because the time they wasted on her could have been spent deepening Dante.
Lastly, Lady is a woman with the role roughly equivalent to every single Bond girl you've ever seen; she's smart talking and kick-arse but her personality is ultimately overshadowed by her two biggest assets. Not that I expected much else for the female characters in this anime, but it still would have been nice to be surprised. She's roughly on par with Dante on the scale of interesting-to-boring.
Because of its episodic nature, none of the minor characters can reasonably be expected to develop, however nobody could be prepared for just how uninteresting they turned out to be. Take Mushishi as a contrast - none of the characters apart from Ginko carry over from one episode into the next, yet they are highly sympathetic because of their harrowingly weird situations. In another vein, Black Lagoon generates interest in its shallow supporting cast by at least giving them gimmicky quirks. DMC doesn't bother with any techniques whatsoever to dress up its supporting cast, and they suffer for it.
I'm sure DMC was intended to radiate an effortless cool and a cheeky disregard for the boundaries of taste, but instead it turned out rather juvenile. Whilst this level of mediocrity occasionally provides belly laughs when accompanied by 80s animation, no modern anime should presume to become enough of a cult classic to excuse such delivery. As a woven plot, the series is nonsense; as an action fest, it has limited entertainment value. DMC will appeal to those who very recently came to anime via Blood+, Hellsing and the like, and thus haven't yet developed their tastes with better fare.
Dante works as a demon hunter for the office of Devil May Cry, and as he is always in debt he doesn't have the luxury to turn down jobs as long as they pay well. His latest assignment is to be a bodyguard for the young Patty Lowe while she receives her inheritance. During the mission he was able to defeat the demons that got in his way and deliver Patty safely, but upon completion of the mission Dante discovers that Patty will be staying with him – indefinitely! Now, Dante must not only hunt demons and coexist peacefully with other hunters, but also handle the responsibility of taking care of a little girl!
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