Video game adaptations get a (deservedly) bad rap. How can one coherently condense an eight- to sixty-hour interactive experience into a 90-minute film or multi-part series? Hollywood has no shortage of terrible video game adaptations. Even as a child, I knew there was something terribly wrong with seeing Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo in Super Mario Brothers and the campy performance from 98% of the Mortal Kombat cast.
Sitting down to Devil May Cry, I was expecting some sort of rehashing of the 2001 video game. What I got instead was a wonderful surprise. The game serves as the anime’s foundation, allowing it to present the day to day life of Dante as a demon hunter for hire.
The series appears to be set some time after the events of the first game in the Devil May Cry franchise. Having solved the mystery of his lineage, Dante is allowed the opportunity for more mercenary pursuits. Although there are a number of callbacks to the game, the anime series really doesn’t require a significant buy-in and is suitable for those those with no previous history with the series. All you need to know is that Dante, half-human/half-demon, runs a business hunting demons for the right price. With mounting debts (mostly from his unpaid pizza and strawberry sundae tabs), Dante needs all the work he can get in order to dig himself out of his financial hole. A number of characters move in and out of his life, such as fellow demon hunter Lady, his former partner Trish, and a young girl named Patty Lowell who ends up becoming Dante’s maid.
Throughout the course of twelve episodes, Dante will go toe-to-toe with all sorts of creatures from the demon realm and, while they look big and scary, they are easily dispatched by Dante’s guns (Ebony and Ivory) and his sword. Each episode plays out with Dante getting a mission from his handler involving random people finding their lives disrupted by demons of one form or another. Often, these demon attacks are a result of dark pacts between ambitious and unscrupulous humans who always end up getting their comeuppance by the end of the episode. The last three episodes tie the entire series together, bringing back earlier characters who have since influenced events to their favor in order to bring about an invasion of the human realm.
The quality of the animation and writing was a complete surprise. From the character designs to the camera angles, the series shares many similarities with Cowboy Bebop, an anime near and dear to my heart. Characters have a similar look: they are tall and lanky, and their movements are very fluid and well captured. Action fans will have plenty to take in. Dante’s battles with demon spawn are exciting and incredibly violent as limbs are sliced apart and torsos get riddled with bloody bullet wounds. Violence is the anime’s raison d’etre, so expect a great deal of it. If the violence doesn’t scare you, the demons will. Although many of the creatures are nothing more than stock, average looking monsters, many of the higher level demons are positively terrifying to behold: eyes are big, red, and bulgy; teeth are sharp, long and usually pierce the cheeks, as human skin disguises are torn and shredded away. Scary stuff!
The quality of the show’s storytelling and presentation are enough to recommend this series. The show is much more than Dante mindlessly killing demons left and right. The show operates on familiar themes of love and friendship and, while Dante maintains a cool and collected demeanor, he shows compassion for those around him. In one episode, Dante helps a demon who has fallen in love with a human woman (something Dante’s parents can relate to). But the show isn’t all pathos and bringing together loved ones. One episode is set entirely during a poker game and another shifts the point of view to a regular joe who tracks Dante’s whereabouts in order to learn more about him (with hilarious results). Again, this is much more than a video game adaptation.
Though short, the series is satisfying and a joy to experience. As such, Devil May Cry is a strong title for fans of the video game as well as action oriented anime.
Devil May Cry
directed by Shin Itagaki
300 minutes, Number of Discs: 3, Box set
Company Age Rating: 15