Devil May Cry Anime Review
デビル メイ クライ
Devil May Cry
US Release By
Video Game-Based Action
12 25-minute episodes
2007-06-14 - 2007-09-06
Dante, the product of a union between a human woman and a powerful demon, runs a business called Devil May Cry. He takes on jobs, usually involving demons, in a quest to get revenge on those who killed his mother. During one such job he meets a girl named Patty Lowell who begins spending more time at his office. While Dante continues his business as usual he has encounters with a seemingly insignificant demon who proves to be more dangerous than he first appears.
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I'm just going to come right out and say it: the reason Devil May Cry doesn't work is because the animation is too crappy. The games this series is based on are all about stylish action, but while the first episode gets off to a promising start, the series as a whole fails to deliver. When the final episode finished, I kinda wondered why Capcom and Madhouse even bothered. It's not that it's a terrible series, it's just that the budget is stretched too thin to do what they were trying to accomplish--the animation is mediocre, hazy, and frequently awkward. The stories don't help, either; while there's a series-closing plot, most of the run is made up of a series of unrelated smaller jobs, and these episodes aren't particularly interesting. The characterization isn't bad, but the anime adds the insufferable Patty Lowell, and Lady is a redundant clone of Trish.
Overall, Devil May Cry isn't an awful series, it's just forgettable. There are bits of action in the show that are decent, but they're too infrequent and the ending confrontation feels anticlimactic. I would have preferred one interesting side story to the DMC universe instead of several smaller stories of varying quality.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
I'm just going to come right out and say it: the reason Devil May Cry doesn't work is because the animation is too crappy. Anyone who's played the games this series is based on knows the gameplay is all about stylish action. It's the sort of stylish action that could translate well to anime. While the first episode gets off to a promising start, the series as a whole fails to deliver. When the final episode finished, I kinda wondered why Capcom and Madhouse even bothered.
Devil May Cry isn't a terrible series, but it feels like the creative staff had to tackle the project in a fundamentally flawed way. By only managing to scrape together a meager budget yet being forced to produce a full 12 episode season, the funds were clearly stretched too thin. I don't think the series is unambitious due to lack of creative talent, but rather because making something consistently flashy and cool like the games just wasn't an option.
If you think about it, Dante runs an odd-job business, so some days would be slower than others. Showing what Dante's day-to-day life is like, and the smaller jobs that come to him, makes sense. Unfortunately, the stand-alone stories are fair-to-middlin' on average, and fans of the franchise like myself are maybe not so keen on watching Dante do things like race bikers and play poker. Coupling these ho-hum story lines with mediocre, hazy, and frequently awkward animation only compounds the problem. Dante still slays demons in every episode, but it doesn't always look that good.
The series hints that a dark plan by a demon named Sid is being hatched. That plot thread comes into play at the end of the tenth episode and is used to close the series. I think a better method would have been to make the series shorter (maybe even just 8-9 episodes) and more focused on the story line involving Sid. That would have given the producers more money to spread across the episodes, thus giving the animation staff a better chance to capture the essence of the games. Of course what I'm taking about is basically asking for fundamental changes in the Japanese animation industry. Somehow I doubt my feedback will make it very far.
The Devil May Cry franchise doesn't have a lot of characters, so the anime takes the liberty of introducing a few, namely the insufferable Patty Lowell. The fact that Dante lets her hang around shows he has a heart underneath his sardonic exterior, but no one would put up with her incessant whining without at least putting her in her place. I was all too happy to see Patty go at the end. Lady (that's right), a character from related manga and novels, is a clone of Trish. An important character from the games, Trish also makes appearances in the series, making Lady's role even more irrelevant. Morrison is an okay guy, though.
I actually liked the way Dante's character was handled in the show. Apathetic and unapologetic, his Popeye-esque "I am what I am" attitude provided a slightly different take on the antihero persona. I didn't even mind his addiction to pizza and strawberry sundaes. I did mind, however, when he's shown to be apathetic to a fault, allowing his funds to be taken by both Lady and Trish to pay back unspecified debts. That was definitely a convention that didn't feel like it belonged.
Dante is voiced by the same English and Japanese actors who voice him in the game. I can only speak for the English as of this writing, but it helped to have an experienced take on the character. The rest of the dub is certainly decent, though Trish is recast and Patty is viciously annoying. The somewhat rigid script occasionally results in dialog that's spoken a bit too fast as well. The show's soundtrack gets the job done, but the composition feels a bit thin at times and the ending is oddly melancholy.
While not the worst example of video game anime by a long shot, productions such as Devil May Cry don't really help, either. There are bits of action in the show that are decent, but they're too infrequent and the ending confrontation feels anticlimactic. I would have preferred one interesting side story to the DMC universe instead of several smaller stories of varying quality. Devil May Cry isn't an awful series, it's just forgettable.
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Night Warriors: Darkstalkers' Revenge also features demonic other-worldly beings but it too fails to hit the mark. Baldr Force Exe is a 4 episode OVA based on a game that feels a little like a throwback to fun but violent mid-90's OVAs. The Fatal Fury series, though certainly not perfect, expands on the simple story and characters featured in the games in a worthwhile way. There's also the awesomely dumb Virtua Fighter series, which is worth recommending any time video game anime is discussed.
Notes and Trivia
The Devil May Cry animated series takes place some time after the first game but before the fourth. Keep in mind the way the story is told in the games is non-sequential. The first game introduces Dante after Devil May Cry is already established, the second game is somewhat considered non-cannon and the third game is a prequel to the first, set before Dante opens his business.
The English voice of Dante is actually the third person to portray the character in English. He has been consistently voiced by Toshiyuki Morikawa in Japanese. Some may notice that the role is credited to Reubon Langdon in the games but to "Justin Cause" in the anime, although they're the same person. I'm not sure why Langdon used an alias, but he likely got it from his audio production company: Just Cause Productions.
US DVD Review
ADV Films originally began releasing Devil May Cry on single DVD volumes and a collector's box was offered as an option with volume 2. Beware the box will trap your DVDs and refuse to let them go. ADV got two volumes out before the show's license, for reasons too complicated to explain here, was transfered to FUNimation. FUNi released the third and final volume so consumers could complete the series. For various logistical reasons the production was still handled by ADV. Even though the logos change the DVDs still feel like a consistent ADV release. As you might expect, the DVDs are fine with a perfectly acceptable anamorphic transfer, dual 5.1 audio tracks (a nice surprise) and supplemental materials that mostly advertise the fourth Devil May Cry game.
FUNimation later released complete collections of Devil May Cry on DVD and Blu-ray. The BD version feels more like a FUNimation production as ADV's credits and subtitles are re-done in FUNimation's fonts. The video is a true HD transfer, however it doesn't feel like a huge upgrade from the DVDs most of the time. There's a weird haze effect in the show's animation, I assume to help compensate for the cheaper animation, and that haze makes the video come across as soft. The 5.1 audio tracks are encoded as Dolby TrueHD and the supplements are the same as those found on the DVDs.
A fair amount of violence and some salty language in the dub puts it in the 13-up range.
Violence: 3 - A fair bit of blood is spilled.
Nudity: 0 - I'll give credit for not trying to cram fanservice in a show where it really wouldn't have fit.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Nothing outrageous.
Language: 3 - The dub at least can get a little salty.