Devil May Cry is an anime spin-off of the Capcom video game franchise. The games do not emphasize plot and narrative; the game's strengths lie in its exciting and stylish action, where players must fight and connect combos in ways that increase their overall combat rating. The anime brilliantly follows the same formula, avoiding the alienation of strangers to the franchise with tedious background info . It's easy for newcomers to accuse Devil May Cry of preferring style over substance; instead consider how its style constitutes as its substance.
Dante is the progeny of a mortal woman and the demon lord Sparda. Sparda protected the mortal world from the threatening forces of the demon world over two thousand years ago. Sparda is dead, but his son is just as powerful, and so many demons seek to devour Dante's soul in order to obtain his strength and rule over the demon world. Dante, however, doesn't care about such politics. He runs an odd jobs business called “Devil May Cry” and takes any work he's offered in order to pay off his ever-increasing debts. Viewers of the anime quickly figure this out, and this is the most information we are given about Dante.
The episodes are mostly stand alone, a format similar to Supernatural: The Animated Series, also produced by MADHOUSE Inc. Dante is hired for a job that seems boring and simple until he discovers that demons are involved in some way. He cleverly uses deductive skills to lure the monster out of hiding, and then he slays the beast. The show cannot be lauded for narrative innovation. Like the video games, Devil May Cry's atmosphere is what's enticing. Dante is practically immortal, suffering what seems like fatal wounds only to shrug them off. He typically disposes of demons with his twin guns Ebony and Ivory, which have infinite ammo.
Patty and Morrison.
Dante and Patty, a young girl he is hired to protect, are the central characters. Dante's care-free attitude and penchant for leaving garbage all over the house clashes with Patty's bratty but responsible nature. She screams at him and he ignores her, which makes for many funny moments. After some time Dante's attitude becomes a problem for everyone he knows. He gambles but always loses his bets, and so he owes everyone something; the amount of money he owes his friend Lady, for example, is never specified, but he takes jobs to pay off this insurmountable debt. At the end of day, Dante likely doesn't owe anyone anything, but everyone needs a favor and so he obliges.
MADHOUSE Inc.'s visual aesthetics are decent, not superb. Their other recent shows, such as Rideback and Claymore, easily verify that sentiment. The animation vacillates between being pretty good some episodes and a bit crude in others. The show's mood is a mix of excitement and dark violence, which is reflected in the color palette; fight animation is often heavily shaded, but there are a fair mix of bright colors that reflect the show's comedic and cheerful moments. But when fights break out, the only color that stands out is the bright red blood flying across the room. The show does not miss an opportunity to splash a room in red.
Sid, an odd demon nuisance.
Devil May Cry's soundtrack is focused around creating variations of the main theme, which is in itself an exhilarating assault of guitars and violin. Grave or solemn moments in the show are accompanied by a slow piano variant, and moments where Dante is about to shoot someone are coupled with what sounds like a Spanish folk guitar, as if he were engaged in a Mexican standoff. The music, like everything else about the show, exudes style above all; the soundtrack sticks to a familiar melody and makes it unforgettable.
If there's one thing MADHOUSE Inc. is good at, it's producing badass anime. Many of their works are well known to American audiences, including Ninja Scroll, Trigun, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and Claymore. They're all violent and bloody and certainly not for children. Devil May Cry lives up to the MADHOUSE legacy, and does so with the confidence and narcissism only a best-selling franchise could claim. The first minute and a half makes this very clear...
* Devil May Cry was produced by MADHOUSE Inc. It is available through Netflix instant streaming.