Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anime review: Devil May Cry

Being relatively new to the video game series off which the Devil May Cry anime is based, I found Dante's slick and chill style to be a welcome break from countless other gun-wielding badasses. Instead of trying to force a macho image on viewers, Dante is presented as an individual who is more than aware of the threat demons possess, but also has plenty of experience in dealing with them, and so he remains calm and collected as he identifies his foes' weaknesses and then proceeds to dispatch them.

Early on, some of the demons show similarities, while the story is more concerned with introducing Lady, Trish, Morrison, and Patty. Overall, though, the demons themselves are quite nicely varied. Some bear more humanoid appearances, while others are as outlandish and alien as possible.

There is an overarching story to everything, though the pieces don't come together until the last few episodes. None of the episodes shoot for the epic scale of any of the games, but an interesting perspective is presented as viewers witness Dante taking on smaller, separate missions with demons plauging various groups or individuals. This format ultimately allows Dante's character development to shine through, though Lady and Trish sit on the backburner with their involvement and development being minimal in comparison to Patty or the son of Sparda himself.

The final episodes do throw a few story elements at viewers that don't receive much in the way of explanation, but these are all minor in the grand scheme of things. The series finale plays out over the course of two episodes. While the first half of the second episode does drag on a bit, it presents an interesting perspective on the climactic events therein, through the eyes of Patty. The finale is a bit predictable, but does a very good job of giving each of the characters enough time in the spotlight. Things wrap up nicely for the characters who are exclusive to the anime, while leaving things (understandably) open-ended for Dante, Trish, and Lady.

The English dub for Devil May Cry is very well done, which may come as a surprise to some, considering Capcom's involvement in the project. I found Reuben Langdon as Dante to exaggerate pauses in his statements a bit too dramatically in early episodes, but it's a very minor drawback and Langdon cuts back on this habit as the series progresses. Luci Christian and Melissa Davis provide solid enough voices for Trish and Lady respectively, though neither of them voiced those characters in the video games so it's understandable if they aren't outstanding. Hilary Haag provides the voice of Patty Lowell, and though the young girl can come across as annoying early on, her story ultimately plays out in a rather exciting fashion, with Haag only adding to Patty's adorable and strong-willed nature.

The anime series is more heavily grounded in a realistic world setting than the games are. Most of the backdrops are city streets, though a countryside village or a cruise ship prevent settings from becoming mundane. Not unlike the video game franchise it is based off of, Devil May Cry's soundtrack is comprised first and foremost of heavier new-age rock pieces. A number of classical and opera tracks contrast this, with a handful of electronic pieces making their way into the mix. When Dante is following leads on various demons, the soundtrack is a dark and moody, but when he's taking them on guns blazing, it's wild and rockin'.

The pacing throughout is nearly perfect, and being a Madhouse project, the animation is stellar. It's not often that a tie-in series intended primarily for promotional purposes (in this case, alongside Devil May Cry 4) turns out to be anything more than a flash in the pan. But other companies could learn a thing or two from the Devil May Cry anime. It's not a perfect anime by any means, but it's certainly a well-rounded story that breathes the essence of what Devil May Cry is. True, it does separate itself from the games in a number of respects, but the character development benefits from Dante taking on lesser demons, and the story retains its focus instead of each episode trying to outdo the previous with increasingly epically-scaled battles. That said, the action is largely what Devil May Cry sells itself by, and there is plenty to be found in this anime. So fans of Devil May Cry, grab yourself some pizza and a strawberry sundae, because this is one smokin' series.

My rating: 8.75 (out of 10)

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