I’ll freely admit it – I am vulnerable to franchising. Get me hooked on one thing, and I’ll seriously consider all the resulting variations and spin offs that get churned out. The cynical side of me knows it’s only a cash-in. All this trans-media marketing – games to books, books to series, series to comics, comics to movies, movies to games ad infinitum – is about one thing: how many dollars in how many markets the Powers That Be can attract to a single umbrella title. Gone are the isolated entertainment products of the past. Someone has finally realised; we’re not just gamers, or just anime junkies, or just movie goers – we’re the multiple personality disorder of entertainment consumerism, and we have a disposable income. This is the day and age of ‘there is no such thing as too much of a good thing’.
Devil May Cry, one of those officially listed Good Things, is one of Japanese gaming company Capcom’s biggest titles. In fact, it’s practically gaming royalty. Originally meant as a Resident Evil sequel, game designer Hideki Kamiya’s direction was such a radical change that Capcom decided to make it its own beast and now, four iterations later (the third of which was a prequel of all things) Devil May Cry has finally ventured into animated series territory with Madhouse Studios. The question however is whether watching Dante do his thing is anywhere near as much fun as mashing those buttons for him.
Different medium, different method, of course, but this is where the aforementioned Powers That Be demonstrate that just because you’ve got the power, doesn’t mean you know how to use it. Madhouse’s capable rendition of this influential gaming title doesn’t want for style points, of course. Dante, cooler than cool and packing about as much attitude as he does heat, slouches his way through the show like a professional BAMF, exuding awesome without even trying until he explodes into the kind of action that would make a superhero feel a bit inferior. His sidekicks are buxom and equally lethal, the damsels sweet and the villains vile. It’s all exactly as it should be.
But disappointingly, the anime doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, doesn’t further the overall franchise story or reveal anything critical about the characters. Sure, it introduces a sweet little girl in a frilly dress, and adds quite a few well distributed pounds to DMC3’s schoolgirl revenge heroine, Lady (Trish always had them so no change there), but it could have done a hell of a lot more – pun intended – to further the title’s story. Considering Hiroyuki Kobayashi from Capcom supposedly supervised series development (and considering the three book manga arc managed to do it), it’s not unreasonable to expect a little more depth in this department, right?
What it does get right though is probably what matters most. Loyal gaming fans are going to be checking the show out for those R1⇓Δ☐ combos of Dante’s and in most respects, they won’t be disappointed. Dante pulls some of his signature moves, and while gamers will probably still want to see the Helm Breaker in all its awesome detail, there’s enough there to make you want to reach for that controller. And for their part, anime fans that have never played the game can look forward to Madhouse’s signature style and lots of cool, bloody action. But in the end, the question needs to be asked, is the point of all this trans-media just to regurgitate? Devil May Cry seems a pretty strong argument in the affirmative.