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Devil May Cry Complete Series Blu-ray Review

14 min read

Substance over style is not what one expects when it comes to a series like Devil May Cry.

What They Say:
Cursed to live as both monster and man, Dante must spend his life fighting the demonic forces of darkness. Brandishing his sword, Rebellion, and his always-loaded guns, Ebony and Ivory, Dante is more than happy to send the demons back to hell – especially when there’s money to be made.

The Review:
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 using Dolby TrueHD with its variable bitrate and the series really makes out very well because of it. The soundtrack for this series is a real high point for this release, more so than the visuals. Because it’s an original 5.1 mix that was used quite well in the DVD version, it’s much more impressive here with the lossless compression and the overall usage of the soundfield. So many of the scenes stand out very strongly with a lot of impact that it can really change the feeling of a scene. The opening and closing sequences really stand out as well with their clarity and sharpness. Often I skip an opening and closing because it is repetitive after thirteen or more episodes, but with the design here I wanted to hear it each and every time. Dialogue is very well placed when appropriate and it has that stronger feeling of the voices really being in the room with you compared to the DVD version. I loved the way this series sounded here..

Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is in 1080p using the AVC codec. This release has its thirteen episodes split across two volumes in a nine/three format, allowing for the first disc to be dual layered while the second is a single layered disc. 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. Because of the added resolution, with the bit rate in the twenties most of the time, it holds up very well but does have a noisy feel to a lot of the background and foreground animation that may have been intentional in its broadcast design. There are areas that don’t look great, such as when the dark monster in episode ten shows up as you can see a lot of blocking in the black areas. But it appears more to be a source issue than an encoding issue with how the animation for it was created. Devil May Cry looks good, nicely vibrant and the higher resolution shows off the animation more, but the stylistic choices hamper it some..

This complete collection is in a standard sized Blu-ray case with no hinge inside. The front cover uses the artwork that’s been prominent from the start of the domestic release of the series with Dante in full battle mode with lots of detail set against the image of the moon behind him. With the additional framing here, it’s nicely dark and appealing with the strong design and the look of the character artwork. The colors are nicely vivid as well which is certainly appealing. The back cover retains the framing from the front and has a few small shots from the show as well as another piece with Dante looking all determined. The summary is surprisingly small but they give over a lot of space to the breakdown of the extras – in the same layout that they’re done in for the menu no less. The technical specs are all clearly listed but they’re spread out a bit as the region coding and runtime aren’t in the main grid. Though there aren’t any show related inserts included, there is some artwork on the reverse side. It’s also done sideways which is unusual, but it’s a very good piece of artwork with Dante shown full length looking very impressive.

Devil May Cry changes up what FUNimation was doing at the time with a drop down menu from the top with the basic strip along a metal bar hung by chain links and a hoop. It has a nice ominous dark feeling to it with the sounds attached to it, though it does stand out as a bit clean compared to the bright vibrant animation playing underneath it. The background takes from some of the best material of the show itself with striking visuals that set the mood just right with the instrumental music. Though it’s not a stand out piece, it’s a solid design that avoids what a lot of their menus have been like and does something nicely in-theme. Submenus load somewhat slowly though which is slightly frustrating, but I was pleased to see language selection indicators so you know what’s actually selected. Now if only it would read our players’ presets when it loads up, it would be perfect.

The extras section is only on the second disc and is all in its original 480p format using MPEG-2, so it looks to be a port of what ADV Films used with the change of the subtitle font to what FUNimation uses. It looks like all the extras made it over to this edition which is a plus. 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)
After watching Devil May Cry on DVD originally and then taking it in again in Blu-ray form, I found myself wanting to settle in on something that was pretty episodic and laid back, so I pulled it out again to see if it held up in the last couple of years, especially since I’m not a fan of the game and there’s no big hype around it at this point anymore. .

Thankfully, the anime incarnation doesn’t seem to want to play like the games, though that’s going to alienate a lot of the fans. With production by Madhouse, the series 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.

The series spends 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 four episodes, each one 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 seriesa bit, but not to the level that I’ve seen from some. Part of that may simply come from expectations based on gameplay that many fans will have. 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.

While predictable, the stories are still rather enjoyable and remind me of a kind of old school style storytelling, reminiscent of some of the films and OVAs of the late 80’s where it was tinged with sexuality and violence. But there’s also a sense of fun to it, such as the opening tale in which a man named Isaac has the hots for a waitress at a diner that Dante frequents a lot for his sundaes. She tells him that Dante is a real man and that’s why he turns down her advances. That gets to him and he tries to figure out what makes Dante a real man, but all he can see from his point of view is that Dante is mixed up in a lot of bad stuff and doesn’t qualify as a good guy that Cindy should be interested in. It does mix things up with the Devils and all, but it’s interesting to see how Dante comes across from an outside point of view.

Devil May Cry also has an interesting sense of history in how it deals with events that took place awhile ago. A pair of stories dwell in that area and both are interesting for different reasons. In “Rock Queen,” we get to find out about a massively popular rock singer who had been almost doppleganged and whose music caused a lot of problems while still being intensely popular. Dante even has an affection for it as he has worn through the original record he had of hers about the mermaid song. When he gets involved with a group of treasure hunters who have discovered a trove of records that haven’t seen the light of day, he finds an interesting connection to the singer and starts to discover the real story behind it.

In a similar kind of background piece, Dante is drawn into a story that happened twenty years prior where an entire town was burned down and one woman was blamed for it. Dante discovers this when a man shows up claiming to be a friend of Dante’s from back then as well as claiming that Dante was really this woman’s son named Tony. The smell of a Devil in the mix does draw Dante in but he plays along with the entire thing which is surprisingly creepy. Everyone seems to get into the story in this way but there are those who admit the truth to him. The man, Earnest, is just like his namesake and he’s come to get Dante so that he can reveal that Dante’s “mother” really wasn’t guilty of what she’s been accused of. This is a slow episode, one where you can feel Dante’s distaste in playing along, but it provides for one of the better Devils for him to fight when the big reveal comes along.

But this is also where the main problem with the show lies in that there really isn’t all that much in the way of an action payoff to each episode. The battles with the Devil’s tend to be more psychological at times, or a game of cat and mouse as Dante manipulates things so that they can be revealed and he can dispatch them. The actual dispatch moment – the thing that the Devil May Cry games are built on with its style over substance – is given only a brief moment and often without the actual climax to it. The shift to the moments afterwards instead of seeing Dante defeat the Devil feels very awkward at times, though it does fit in with the overall mood and style of the show. The series is very much about the atmosphere and persona of Dante rather than his action

When it comes to the two part finale, Devil May Cry plays out beautifully. I can imagine fans wanting things like this to be the bulk of the series. The introduction of Nina, Patty’s mother, brings that particular arc back to the forefront. It doesn’t get dealt with directly at first since she’s initially brought to Dante to safeguard a talisman that she has that acts as the final part of a seal against Abigail, a very powerful devil that was put away by her husband and Patty’s father years ago. Everything gets murky when Patty finds this woman and instantly realizes that it’s her mother. Throwing everything further into the mud is that Nina is being manipulated by Sid, the powerless devil from early on that’s been cackling in the shadows. He’s intent on getting all the pieces together to try and make a play to become on par with the four great devil kings.

The two episodes feature a good bit of action, but it’s the second episode where it has the most. With Dante going up hard against Sid and taking the fight right to him when they cross to the other side, it has a very good epic feel. It’s somewhat forced at times, such as Nina’s occasional “The world is going to end now because of what I’ve done” and all, but when you have everything being raised to this level, it certainly feels appropriate. It’s dark, moody and stylish at the same time. The culmination of the story here does a surprisingly solid job of bringing to closure several of the smaller story plots that have been brought up here and there throughout. It’s obviously open ended enough for more, but what we get here takes elements introduced in the start of the series and ties it all together in a smart yet simple way.
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.

In Summary:
Revisiting this title after a couple of years has been fun since I found that it does hold up pretty well and when I got to stories that I remembered, such as the gambling one, it brought back a smile as I remembered them fondly. Again, it’s not a show that’s going to be a classic by any means, but it’s an interesting adaptation. It’s kept to episodic stories with some underlying currents to them but it avoided being filled with nonstop action and over the top silliness. Everything that caused me to enjoy the show are likely things that alienated its gamer audience and because of that I can see why it didn’t fare well with the game fans. It’s not a series that leaps out as the cream of the crop, but it’s solidly animated, has a great sense of style in its design itself and gave me twelve interesting and rather well connected stories in the end. This high definition collection is pretty good in putting it all together, getting the right extras and providing a good experience. As a whole, it’s definitely a show that’s worth checking out and it’s one I can easily see myself revisiting again in another couple of years.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Special Interview: Toshiyuki Morikawa (Dante), Devil May Cry: The Game Cut Scenes, Game E3 2007 Preview, Game Tokyo Game Show 2006 Preview, Game Trailers, Devil May Cry 4: Final 2007 Footage, Devil May Cry 4: Final 2008 Footage, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 25th, 2009
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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