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Monday, 18 October 2010 00:00

Devil May Cry

Always nice to get a full series in one bite-sized chunk - 12 episodes, in this case - and that's what FUNimation are giving us with this streaming release. It doesn't make much of its violence credentials, but with a demon-slayer as its lead character you can rely on decent amounts of blood, guts and splatter. The story isn't what it could be, but let's not let that get in the way of a visual treat...

Episode summaries and screenshots spread over pages 2-4 of this review. With that out of the way, let's move quickly onwards. Devil May Cry is set in a world that may very well be Earth - the locations depicted in the show would all fit into the modern-day world without any problems - although with names like 'Elenay City' and 'Capulet City', I'd put bets on it being an alternative universe of sorts. It's never explicitly stated in the series. Wherever we are, though, demons have been a regular feature of the world for hundreds of years, although they're a feature that most of the populace is blissfully ignorant of. The exceptions, of course, are Dante and his ilk - the demon hunters - and those unfortunate enough to be on the wrong end of demonic shenanigans, of which there are enough to keep Dante in gainful employement.

When he can be bothered, anyway. There's very little Dante would rather do than eat pizza and strawberry sundaes - and that includes working. As a demon hunter, he excels - aided, no doubt, by his impressive skills with both gun and sword - but come to him with a job, and he's as likely to tell you to bugger off as he is to take the job, which explains why he's in as much debt as he is. Long-suffering partner Morrison, who handles the business side of things and keeps clear of the fighting, does his best, but with Dante being Dante, it's a thankless task.

Each episode of the series essentially stands on its own, giving Dante a demon-of-the-week to deal with. As usual with such settings, there's a formula to be followed, with the first half of each episode giving Dante a problem to deal with and setting up the battle that will inevitably follow in the second half. It's a decent enough idea, and Lady and the other 'sidekicks' Dante works with periodically stop it from falling into repetition while the combat scenes are laden with enough blood and guts that those who enjoy their anime being rather more visceral than most won't be disappointed. There's also a thoroughly impressive rock soundtrack that fits the tone of the series perfectly - there were a number of occasions where it kicked in to mark the start of a fight scene, and left me almost headbanging along. It certainly brought a smile to my face. There's also a decent range of episode styles to work with, from the speed and thrills of motorcycle racing in episode 2 to a more thoughtful, almost Death Note-esque whodunit based around a poker game in episode 9. So far, so good.

There are points where it falls down, though. The first failing is the character of Patty, the token loli who's kept on after the first episode to be the voice of Dante's conscience - as long as his conscience is only required to tell him that the offices need cleaning, or that Patty needs to be bought a sundae too. Throughout the whole series, she only once or twice does anything that has any impact on the story - for the most part, she's just there, a clear case of pandering to a certain section of the audience and nothing more than that. Cute as she may be to look at, I could have quite happily done without her.

The series also tosses in a few bits and pieces about Dante's past that are just begging to be explored further, but are then ignored. If the series had been 26 episodes are longer, looking into Dante's past in detail may have made more sense - in the 12 episodes we have here, there's simply no time to do that, in which case I would have been far happier if we'd simply been left with the demon-of-the-week and not given tantalising glimpses of other things that then can't be taken forward. As it is, those plot threads are left hanging like a hangnail, reminders of what could have been and unfinished business that leaves the series feeling incomplete.

Still, despite its failings, I found myself enjoying Devil May Cry a lot more than I had expected to. I like overarching stories and character development, both things that Devil May Cry almost goes out of its way to avoid, but from almost the first scene I was stuck with an amused grin on my face that persisted through most of the series. It's sometimes overlooked that anime doesn't have to be something special to be entertaining, as long as the show is presented in the right way, and this series manages to get that presentation just about right. Well worth a look.

Rating - ****