08 April, 2012

Devil May Cry: A Medium Reading

written by Blain Newport on Sunday, 8 April, 2012


I've never been big fan of "close readings". If you have something important to say, just say it. Communication is hard enough without hiding a message behind symbols. But that may be because I was forced to do close readings of works I had no love for in school.

As melodramatic and poorly translated as it is, I do love Devil May Cry. And while I was playing it for my latest video series, I started noticing elements of structure and symbolism that I hadn't seen before.

I'm not claiming these elements give the game artistic merit, or somehow "make up" for the shoddy bits. But there was thought and planning and work that I'd never noticed before. That work deserves to be recognized.

I believe Devil May Cry is a game about balance. There is a demon world and a human world. Dante, who is himself half demon, is not seeking to destroy the demon world. He's just trying to maintain the balance. The main villain in the game is Mundus, mostly represented as a three eyed statue with angel wings. I suspect that the three eyes and angelic affectations represent Mundus' pride. He believes he can transcend balance and rule all.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the game's history puts Mundus' birth within a year of Christ's. I'm not saying DMC is intended to be particularly Christian or anti-Christian. But it does seem to reference it, almost mirror it, in its construction. In Christian belief, an angel rebelled against God and corrupted humanity. In Devil May Cry, a demon rebelled against Mundus and saved the human world.

But Devil May Cry has no heaven or ultimate victory. It seems to believe in eternal, cyclical coexistence and conflict. It's a very natural belief system for a fighting game's world. :)

The idea of coexistence even extends to Dante not killing his major opponents. Trish sacrifices herself. Phantom gets carried away and falls through a window. Griffon is killed by Mundus. Vergil overloads on his own power. Even Mundus himself, the target of Dante's vendetta, is only forced back into the Underworld, with Dante asking Mundus to pass on his regards to his son in another thousand years. The only major opponent Dante destroys is Nightmare, which appears to be a magical construct and displays no sentience.

I could go on, but I'll wrap up by saying that pairings are also a very important motif in DMC. Male and female, parent and child, siblings, and possibly even race relations (as represented by Dante's twin pistols Ebony and Ivory) are referenced. There are mirrors, reflections, and representations (paintings) that can physically be traversed. In Devil May Cry connectedness is the driving force.

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