You’ve all heard about the horrors of video game movies: They’re ludicrous messes of distorted, mismatched plot elements that show no respect for the source material. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not necessarily limited to Western games. In Japan, prominent games are regularly made into anime series, and more often than not, they end up just as convoluted as their western equivalents. Devil May Cry, as most of you readers probably already know, is a fairly successful video game franchise developed by Japanese publisher Capcom. It was only a matter of time until someone decided to make an anime out of it. Well, nothing can possibly go wrong here, can it?
The anime series in question is Devil May Cry: The Animated Series. It follows the misadventures of Dante, a tall, half-demon man that fights other demons with automatic pistols and a nine-foot-long sword. There are other characters, too, but none of them are particularly interesting, nor do any of them stand out as unique or dynamic. Dante is the owner of “Devil May Cry,” a business that investigates demons… or something. That’s about as far as the plot gets before it decides to throw storytelling out the window. Who are these demons? Why are they attacking? What do they want? Why is Dante hunting them? Well, the writers didn’t seem to think any of these questions were very important, because they didn’t bother to answer them. I guess they couldn’t cut a few minutes out of the fight scenes to make room.
Oh yes, the fight scenes. So very many mindless fight scenes, complete with copious levels of gore. Let me put it this way: The title for this show would probably be more accurate if it were “Dante Stabs Demons in the Face.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I like fight scenes, and I can see why an anime based on an action game would want to have a lot of fight scenes. But when the fight scenes preclude any form of storytelling, as they do in Devil May Cry, then I can’t see the justification in making an anime series at all. The only story elements that are given any time are those that set up the given episode’s action sequences. Anything else is apparently not worth the time – including things like, say, concluding the episode.
For example, in the first episode, Dante is tasked with guarding a young girl named Patty, who is apparently the illegitimate heir of a local rich man who just passed away. Okay, that’s simple enough. Then, as the climax of the episode draws near, another woman shows up at the man’s mansion to claim the inheritance, claiming that she is actually the heir and the girl was a decoy. Except she’s in her twenties and the man (presumably) wasn’t that old. So who’s the real heir? The “epic” fight scene of the episode ensues, but in the aftermath, the issue is promptly dropped without any explanation. To boot, the woman who claimed she was the real heir asks to help take care of Patty, completely out of the blue. What’s the history behind these two characters? No matter, the credits abruptly roll, and then we never see her again. Thanks, Devil May Cry, I guess concluding your own stories isn’t important after all.
I do have to give credit where credit is due, though. Despite all of its many faults, Devil May Cry is very well animated. The fight scenes and action sequences, countless as they are, are all fluidly animated. The backgrounds are crisp and clear, and provide a good contrast to the characters that inhabit them. Devil May Cry just looks good, and if there’s one thing I can say about the series as a whole, it’s that it definitely had a big budget.
But at the same time, when you realize the work that went into this show, it’s distressing that the writing managed to come out so badly. Did they just hire a hundred animators and one writer? Didn’t anyone see a problem with leaving entire episodes’ worth of story hanging without any sort of conclusion? Perhaps it’s better not to analyze it so closely; no matter how much you pick apart and examine a train wreck, it’s still a train wreck.
Bottom Line: Mindless fighting. Action is paramount, nothing else matters. Even ignoring the fact that most of the story elements are generic and uninteresting, and some of them don’t even make sense, Devil May Cry would need to do a lot more to be a compelling series, and it simply falls short.
Recommendation: I suppose if you like copious fighting or are a die-hard fan of the Devil May Cry games, you might find some semblance of entertainment from this series. Don’t bother with it if you’re looking for anything smarter.
Josh Viel is still wondering if Dante’s nine-foot sword is compensating for something.