Devil may Cry Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, March 21, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2008
What They Say
His name is Dante. Half demon and half human, he is charged with ridding the world of the demons that plague it...for the right price. The doors to his business, Devil May Cry, are always open to those with money in pocket, and occasionally to some without. Dante is approached by a man named Morrison to deliver a young heiress Patty to her inheritance. He thinks it's a job not worthy of his time - that is, until a group of demons intent on killing Patty crash the party. With guns drawn and sword ready by his side, Dante will have to mow down the opposition to delivery the mark and discover just who is behind the series of attacks. It's only the beginning for this iconic character, as familiar faces and foes test their mettle against the crew of the Devil May Cry.
Imagine having a character that's defined almost entirely by style and then deciding that the best thing to do for a series about him is to showcase his humanity and personal side.
Devil May Cry is a rarity as it's a Japanese TV anime series that's sporting an original 5.1 language mix. Both it and the English 5.1 mix are encoded at 448kbps and there's a lot of good use given to it overall. The show has a lot of quiet moments in which dialogue is well placed and given a distinct feel but it's the big action scenes where it shows off the most. There's a good bit of directionality during these moments and the subwoofer gets a solid workout at times when it comes to things like the guns and other elements like the motorcycles. The sound mix for this simply stands out better than most other series and reinforces my wish that the Japanese would get on this kick a bit more often since it does enhance the shows all the more.
Originally airing in the second half of 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Devil May Cry is a series that spends a lot of its time in the dark and shadowy places while using a lot of really solid animation. The end result that we have here is a very appealing looking show that holds up very well in some of the difficult areas by using a good bit of the bandwidth available to it. There are a lot of peeks into the high eight's here which helps it to maintain a solid feel and to flow with the very fluid animation at times. Colors are very distinct and vibrant when required and there is very little noise to be found throughout it. Aliasing isn't an issue outside of a couple of brief pans here and there which in the end means that this is a very appealing piece of work.
The packaging for this series is pretty spot on and an easy sell to both the anime and gamer crowd as it features a great looking shot of Dante with his cloak flowing around him and his sword out. There's a lot of "flowing" to this cover design with his cloak and the logo but it really works well with the colors used and the design itself. It's a dark cover but it's also one that manages to stand out in a positive way and just draws you in. The back cover is fairly straightforward with a dark murky background that has a collage of shots from the show along one side while the other has the summary of the premise. There's a good deal of text included below that the lists the episode titles and numbers, the game extras and then the anime extras. Add in the production credits and the technical grid and you've got a decently laid out if unexceptional back cover. No insert is included for the show nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout for this release is rather simple and straightforward which certainly doesn't earn it many cool points. The static background use the image of the floating metallic skull from the second episode with a lot of black around it while overlaying the episode selection and logo around the outside of it. The red text is a bit hard to read at times but the layout is decent overall and I liked the little gun icon for the cursor. The music for the menu gets a nice little bump up to a 224kbps stereo mix of some fast action material and that does help to set the mood nicely. Navigation is quick and simple and submenus load very quickly. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
The extras section is loaded with lots of stuff but it's pretty light in actual content. Fans of the games may find more to like here than just anime fans as there are a series of cut scenes and previews from different events. The two cut scenes are about a minute each (and looked like they came from the demo I believe) while the E3 2007 preview and the Tokyo Game Show 2006 preview both run just over two minutes. There's also a series of promos which mixes in both game and anime footage that run just over five minutes in length and are thankfully translated. In addition we get a clean opening and a clean closing sequence. The one extra that could be good is the five minute interview with the voice actor for Dante, Morikawa, but even that feels rather lightweight as he seems like he hasn't even seen the show he works in at times, never mind the game itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based off of the game franchise, Devil May Cry is the kind of show where you can't really be sure of how the adaptation will go. The entire game series has been built around the idea of being cool and stylish while fighting and has a legion of fans that like it's over the top style. My time with the game franchise has been pretty minimal as I owned Devil May Cry 2 years ago but just couldn't get into it. Upon playing the demo for Devil May Cry 4, I found myself thinking that I'm now firmly old enough that games like this just are too much for me. When your five year old daughter points out how to get around better than you can, well, it's time to move on to more noble gaming pursuits like... chess.
Thankfully, the anime incarnation doesn't seem to want to play like the games do from what I've seen. With production by Madhouse, the series in its first four episodes has a very dark and ominous feel to it with some stunning looking designs and a real sense of presence and machismo. The character designs by Hisashi Abe, who made me happy with the Highlander: Vengeance character designs, have a real sense of movement to them and a sense of menace with some weight to it. These characters don't feel like they're lightweights moving through the scenes and could be blown away easily. There's a sensuality that comes in at times as well with both the men and women. The depth and detail combined with the fluidity of the animation is something that gives this a real sense of being done seriously.
Devil May Cry is the kind of show where it's hard to pin down exactly what it is that it'll be about from just the first four episodes. While that isn't a bad thing in a series that runs around twenty-six episodes, it's a bit more of a gamble when it only runs twelve episodes like this one does. The first four episodes of Devil May Cry deals with introducing is to what looks to be the core cast of characters and putting out a bit of the setting. The setting is where the show runs into a bit of trouble for me since it isn't exactly clear what kind of a world this is. The show deals with a number of devils that are coming over from their world, but do people in general know about them or is it a fairly limited thing where a select few realize it and fight against them? Little things like that go a long way towards establishing the groundwork of the series but they just aren't there in a clear cut fashion yet.
The series does spend some time focusing on how the world works though and this comes through a very basic plot setup. The show revolves usually around Dante, a half breed born of devil and man who spends his time hunting down devils. Why he does this outside of the massive debts he seems to accrue is unclear but he is quite good at his job and has a real knack for sensing the demons that take human form. He runs what seems to be a one man agency that takes care of these kinds of cases under the name Devil May Cry. It's from here that everyone seems to walk into things and we get a sense of how it all works. There's a certain kind of predictability to it because of this, but the show has a strong Western feel to it with the locales, character names and some of the plot elements.
For the first volume, each episode introduces someone new into the cast of characters that spend a lot of time around Dante. On the negative side, the first episode introduces us to Patty Lowell, a young girl whose case he takes on by being her bodyguard and transporter while some devils are chasing after her. Naturally, it doesn't go as planned and she ends up moving in with him and introducing a lot of girly aspects to his life as well as a bit of whining. The second episode introduces Lady, a fellow Devil Hunter who has a strong visual look to her as a short haired badass that is on par with Dante. The fourth episode introduces another tough as nails woman known as Trish who has something of a fun duel with Lady throughout it which showcases their tough side but also some of their femininity. The weakest of the introductions comes in the third episode with Morrison, Dante's agent who isn't too strongly involved but is a decent enough supporting character.
While the show has an interesting cast of characters, the stories are what hurts this opening volume a bit, but not to the level that I've seen from some. Part of that may simply come from expectations based on gameplay, but I've gone into this without any real first hand full on game knowledge. Devil May Cry plays more like an action oriented detective show where Dante finds himself wrapped up in various cases involved Devils that have taken human form. The opening has Patty being chased by some while the second episode revolves around a devil motorcyclist that's killing off other bikers. The third story is one that shows us that even a devil can love as it has a romantic interest in a woman whose father wants Dante to kill him since he can't bear the thought of his daughter going down that path. None of these stories stand out much and even from a one line description you can figure out how they'll play out almost in their entirety. They're not bad stories but they're not ones that will excite, particularly those coming from the games.
What does stand out is the overall production value of the series. Madhouse has always done some great work and this one shows a lot of effort going into it and onto the screen. The character designs are fantastic and wonderfully detailed and the settings have a strong presence to them even if it's not entirely clear where "here" is. The violent side of it when it does surface is definitely bloody and out there with a style that reminded me a lot of how I felt when I first saw Wicked City twenty odd years ago. The violence in particular has that kind of near cinema fluidity to it at times that really lets it stand out. Visually, Devil May Cry won me over early and quickly with how the production was put together and it's a definite big strength for the show.
When this series first came out in Japan, I remember hearing a lot of disappointment over it and plenty of dismissive comments about it being a weak show. These first four episodes don't paint much in the way of a larger storyline and it doesn't seem like it has much relation to the games from what I remember of them but it is a strong show in its production values. Taken on an episodic level, there's a certain simplicity here as they try to humanize Dante (pizza, beer and strawberry sundae's for all!) by working through standalone pieces that while predictable are fun enough. At the end of the volume, I don't see this show as deserving of the vitriol it gets just yet and actually am looking forward to the next volume to see if it's more of the same - which isn't bad - or whether it changes direction for the better or worse. Devil May Cry has me cautiously optimistic though as this set of episodes was more fun than I expected.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Japanese voice actor Toshiyuki Morikawa (Dante),Cut scenes from the Devil May Cry 4 videogame,Various promos of the new game,Game previews, Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorpchi Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Devil May Cry