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A Better Game than a Series

17 AUG

I recently (okay, like, three weeks ago) finished watching Devil May Cry. I had high expectations for this. It was all over the Anime Insider magazine right before it came out. There were advertisements everywhere, and the great animation and cynical but humorous tone in the previews made it look like it would be a great show.

This was a lie.

I'll admit, I don't know much about the game franchise - I've never played, never sat through any walkthroughs, never watched anyone else play. So maybe I'm missing something here. But I can't imagine that if I bought and played all the games and then went back and re-watched the anime it would suddenly seem that much better.

It's very much your typical monster-of-the-week setup. The main character, a demon named Dante (.5 points for creativity, guys) is constantly being hired to go out and kill other demons. 'Why?' Because he needs to make a living. 'But isn't he killing his own kind?' Well, technically he's a half-breed. 'But doesn't that still -' don't ask questions.

There really isn't much else of a plot to discuss. Yes, the ending is linked to a few minor little incidents earlier on in the series, but those were such short little things if I explained them I'd give everything away. Basically, there's an agency run by a half-demon named Dante who racks up debts quicker than he can repay them and has terrible luck. Yet he still gambles to determine important financial things. Therefore, he predictably loses a lot. Hence the massive amounts of debts.

But Dante isn't the only recurring character - there's also little Patty, and orphan girl he was charged with protecting for one episode and who for some strange reason seems to be stuck with him. She's your typical obnoxious and presumptuous little girl who tries to act older than she really is and yet still has more maturity than the main character at times. Her voice grates on the nerves (probably because all she ever does is yell) and her backstory is such an obscene compilation of stereotypes I literally couldn't believe it until the truth pretty much slapped me across the face. And even then I still didn't want to believe it.

There's also lady, a rough-and-tumble badass who Dante owes a ton of money to. She's the kind of girl who doesn't ask for handouts and who doesn't want anyone's help. She's an okay character, but it would be a lot better if we actually knew something about her. As far as we're concerned she just dropped out of the sky one day with a bazooka on her shoulder and a pistol on her hip. And, of course, an attitude the size of the Grand Canyon. Basically, she's the person who constantly has to assert her toughness to the point where you're wondering what she's compensating for. If she were a guy I'd say she had a really small *censored.*

And then there's Dante's ex-partner, whose name I can't remember but that's okay because she's barely there. She's the typical sexy well-endowed girl that every self-respecting series of anything needs. And... that's pretty much it. Oh, did I mention she's a half-demon like Dante? But since she never really gets to show the full extent of her powers, this basically doesn't even matter. It's just like a fun little fact. She and Dante seem to have some minor unresolved issues possibly (I'd say it's just lingering sexual tension. But who knows? Better yet, who cares?) but never discuss this. At all.

Oh, and there's also Dante's boss. He's gruff, well meaning, and a completely static character that I can't even thing up something memorable to say about.

So what kind of cast does this leave us with? The kind that makes me regret starting the show.

Maybe the characters would be better if their stories and their jobs weren't such total and complete stereotypes. I mean, dear God, this series has more cliches than a soap opera. You have little orphan Patty, who's still clinging to hope that she'll one day meet the mother that she somehow knows didn't mean to abandon her. You have the scary Lady, who seems to enjoy tormenting Dante. You have the ex-partner, who... really doesn't bring anything to the table. Forget her life, the lack of any kind of story doesn't even give us a glimpse into Dante's past. And then you have Dante himself, who is so incredibly badass that all the women in his life own him, except on the battlefield, where he is basically a god.

For a series that tries to market action, the action is surprisingly sparse. Dante rarely gets a monster that takes him more than two minutes to kill. The rest of the time there's plenty of monologing and an explanation of motives that often doesn't make that much sense. Lady has some okay battles, but it seems like a lot of the time she needs help despite the fact that she's constantly trying to flaunt her toughness. And the ex-partner... Well, she's good, I guess.

But on the flip side, I can see how this series would make a good game. I mean, sure, the characters aren't great, but when you're playing a game, who cares? Just kill the freaking boss and be done with the level. And the story may be stereotype upon stereotype, but again, who cares? It's not a roleplaying game, it's an action game. So long as your person is able to fight, it doesn't matter if you swear you just saw his backstory on a SyFy movie a few weeks ago. And as for the series' action, well, turning it into a game sequence is probably the only way you could spice it up. That way there would actually be limitations, and it would probably take more than a minute and three shots to kill a monster.

Series like Devil May Cry often make me wonder why people feel the need to expand into different territories with their franchise. Certain things are best left as they are. Most people don't play an action game for the plot, so why make a movie, which will ideally need one, out of said game? And if you happen to already have a plot that just so happens to be totally ridiculous, why put it on a huge screen and show it to thousands of people? 

It's the same way with tv series. A shooting game doesn't really need a good plot. In fact, focusing too much on the plot can sometimes trip up the action. But in a tv series, you can't grab the attention of the viewer by having them point and fire at something; you have to have a storyline. That's a lot of trouble to go to, and it's clearly not always worth it.

Of course there's a huge, huge reason why people expand: money. That's the main (and possibly the only) reason in a lot of videogame-to-other-media transfers. But that has issues of its own. Movies and tv shows are expensive. If they tank, you just wasted a ton of money on it. If it does well, then good for you! But you're going to have to be proactive in making sure that it will do well. You've gotta hire a screenplay writer who knows what they're doing, animations/special effects people who have at very least a 'good' quality of work, and a sound specialist who knows how to incorporate already-existing tracks without relying solely on that resource. Basically, you need to have people who produce high-quality movies or shows. And I'm sure that's expensive, but it's a necessary evil to bear.

I think where Devil May Cry went wrong was with the story. Or more specifically, the fact that it didn't really have any. If it had a set goal and the characters were continuously working towards it, it probably would have been a much better show. But instead it just flounders around, proving by example (and not a good one) that a show needs a point, even if it is just a serial monster fighting thing. In a video game, this wouldn't matter. The point is self-evident: beat the game. Kill as many demons as you can. But in a tv show, the viewers need something more.

I'm always hesitant to watch something if I hear it's an adaption from a game. It's not that there haven't been any good ones; there have. But it's one of those things that could go either way and usually ends up going the bad way. More effort gets put into the visuals than the plot, so what you wind up with is an aesthetic but dull piece. Adaptions aren't just a new way of presenting graphics, and they can't be handled as such, or else they'll fall flat on their face.

So basically, I think that if someone wants to expand their franchise, they need to apply a lot of thought into doing so. Sure, this could become a total cash cow, but it could also become a financial drain that you're going to be too ashamed to mention ten years from year. So think before you act, creators. For the sake of the viewers, think before you act.

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