Your posts have certainly given me a lot to think about in regards to this franchise's history with female characters. I definitely agree with your take on Lady in 4 and 5 but I can't say she was done dirty in 3. I think the writers handled her quite well. Her stance on whether or not it's right to kill Vergil could be taken as her not being in a right head space after killing her own father and not wanting Nero to go through the same thing. But her opinion in that game doesn't occur in a vacuum.
I have my reasons for thinking that she was
done dirty with regards to how Lady and Dante's characters in that game were constructed as a standalone installment, the fact that her opinion in 5 doesn't occur in a vacuum (and undermines the reason why the scene existed in 3 to start with), and comparing Lady to the similar character of her type, Beryl from the DMC2 Novel.
DMC3 starts with Lady narrating the game. She narrates the game about
the Sons of Sparda. That wouldn't be a big deal, except her narration deals entirely about what she
heard from Arkham about Sparda, her
opinions on it, her
meeting both Sons, and what she
learned from interacting with Dante that caused her to develop as a character, while most of what we play in the game has her be absent for most of it. So why weren't we playing as her, then? That's like if Trish had narration in DMC1 talking about herself and occasionally Dante, or if it were the other way around, Dante narrating about Trish but Trish is the sole playable character and Dante is secondary/cameo'ing. They're pulling a Moby Dick, but this isn't Moby Dick-tier writing.
Her presence in the third game boils down to, "She's a bit racist and an irrational psycho, but she's also soft and vulnerable too!", and for Dante she's a Manic Pixie Dream Girl with Guns, Rockets, and Clunky Dialogue. Arkham, a human, killed her mother for ambition and power. She then blames all demons for Arkham's darkness. She proceeds to want to Kill All Demons, but fires a rocket at Dante and then
shoots him in the head later, before
she finds out that he is a demon, meaning she's not above committing Human Murder on her way to Demonic Genocide. She determines that Dante is a demon, but then spills out her life story to him even though she's under the impression that he "knows nothing about family!
" because of his assumed genealogy, which makes her ranting about Arkham's crimes to Dante as functional as explaining quantum physics to an ant. She lets her guard down around a man she believes is a cold-blooded, inhuman murderer,
while staring at the body of another cold-blooded, inhuman murderer. That's just irrational
. Later she, after having thought that Arkham killed Kalina on his own (yet still wanting to Kill All Demons?), is tricked by Arkham into believing that he was forced/possessed by Vergil, which stokes her fire to Kill All Demons Even More Now and pushes her to Mission 13, and all Vergil does there is call her a "foolish girl" and has her questioning everything again. She does and thinks all of these things even though the entire series hinges on the Legend of Sparda being true when the Legend is pretty much #NotAllDemons, a.k.a. Demons Can Be Good, a.k.a. Lady has no reason to think All Demons Are Evil when the world exists solely because they're Not All Evil, and her quest starts when a Human Commits Evil, even though if she picked up a history text book or thought about the existence of jails or prisons, she'd be well aware that Humans Commit Evil All The Time.
But like, let's move on from that one.
Her character files state she's of "weak flesh and blood", and that really
shouldn't matter in a story that's espoused the morals of "not judging people by their birth", and "humans are capable of tremendous feats" -- literally, Dante in DMC1 says "We humans never give up!
" -- but the story as executed in game shows that yes it does matter. Lady even with her humanity is weak, so she matters less than Dante who embraces his humanity only 4/5ths of the way through the game. Dante beats Lady in a fight to convince her not to go through with her life mission (kill Arkham, because it's her responsibility). She gives up
and entrusts Dante with her only useful weapon, the Kalina Ann, named after her mother, and tells Dante to "Please, free my father
". The Kalina Ann has sentimental value to Lady, but doesn't mean anything
to Dante himself. He doesn't know who Kalina Ann is. Lady never mentioned her by name; in dialogue she's "[Arkham's] loving wife
" or "[Lady's] dear mother
", no name given. He just gets the weapon because he defeated the Boss Fight that had it, making Lady no different than any other Boss Devil in the game (Cerberus, A&R, Nevan, etc.). He defeated her, she gave him her Soul.
Why? Hell if I know. As mentioned before, Dante's whole character arc is about him being totally apathetic to what Vergil's actions mean for the world and even for his own personal story, until Lady
teaches him what's important. He admits it in Mission 16. So why is he even there?
Usually, a protagonist must want something and the antagonist opposes them. That's what makes them ant
agonist. But what does Dante want? He saw it as "fun" and "a party". It's not even like he had his Amulet stolen in the first mission and scaled the tower to get it back, and he'd take it and leave. That would mean his apathy is really a hyperfocus on protecting his personal belongings (the Amulet, the memory of his Mother) at the expense
of everything else. But this was not that story. He has everything already (his amulet, his shop), wants nothing, isn't interested in Vergil's machinations or attaining power, he didn't go there out of personal pride in his bloodline since "Father? I don't have a father. I just don't like you, that's all",
didn't mention his mother's memory or his quest for vengeance so it can't be that either, and he didn't do it out of an internal sense of Justice because "At first I didn't give a damn, but because of you, I know what's important now
". So he shouldn't even be there. Him being in the Tower anyway actually makes things worse because he gets his Amulet stolen in
Mission 7. He could have just skipped town. What's Vergil gonna do, get mad?
Back to Lady. She's there because Arkham killed Kalina, thus she wants revenge. She's willing to take her revenge and let nothing get in her way, because her determination is that strong. She has compelling motivations to be in the Tower and survives some pretty lethal events across the course of the game. She does some straight-up unrealistic stuff, like reaching high places in the Tower with a souped-up motorcycle, fighting her way across what's actually the Mission 6 Trial of Might without either being locked in to the area or
getting the trophy, falling from the Tower and getting caught in the air without snapping her neck or even letting go of her guns, getting to the bottom of the Tower anyway in time for Leviathan to crash land next to her and Dante to come out, having an obligatory Super Cool Strong Female Character scene against more lesser demons, being stabbed in the leg with her own bayonet without bleeding out from her femoral artery being severed, standing on that recently-impaled leg without any sign of pain, bandaging it up in the next scene with no comment, climbing up the side of the Tower on that injured leg and reaching the library quicker than Dante did. By that point she's fired a bunch of missiles from her missile launcher without ever being seen reloading it or carrying the missiles that the launcher fires to begin with and pretty much runs on the Infinite Ammo cheat until Mission 16 (and later Mission 20), but in Mission 16, while somewhat tired, she picked a fight with Dante and had that boss fight, no problem. She lost, but she didn't die.
So the game had no problem with Lady doing unrealistic things and saving her from scenarios that should have killed her, except for
a version of the Mission 13 scene where Lady fought against Dante and Vergil for a few minutes. The scene we got instead shows her being overpowered very quickly. The previous version of the scene was replaced because it wasn't realistic for a human to face two half-demons.
Right. But it is realistic for her to do basically everything she's seen doing in the game anyway? Cool. Sure. The game implicitly gave Lady a high pain tolerance and inexplicable healing ability for her to do anything she does, and she did that as a relatively inexperienced devil hunter who was just a normal schoolgirl a year prior to her vengeance quest (see: manga). They hit her with the Realism Stick when it was convenient. Because
it was convenient.
For DMC Vol 2 we had Beryl, who has more or less the same backstory of "Demon Hunter with a dead mother, father was involved with the occult, father became a demon due to his obsession and the transformation is related to the dead mother, the Hunter gets a scar from the incident, wields a big gun, and eventually teams up with Dante". Beryl had her moments where she questioned herself and what she knew, but the storyline didn't diminish her, have Dante fight her to discourage her from her mission, or anything like that. She was still involved with events and in the final boss fight against Chen by breaking his armor so Dante could exploit that weakness. And that was DMC2 Dante, who until 4 and 5 came out, was considered by fandom and general canon as "Dante at his strongest". He still needed Beryl's help, and that was fine because it made for a cool boss fight. Beryl was in it for the Beastheads and Chen, and she got the Beastheads and Chen. She later gives Dante her weapon as a sign of thanks, as her fight is over. She had a place in that story.
Lady, though? Even though it's her father
she's after, making her fight more personal, she got sidelined for some guy who "embraced his humanity" very late in his own arc and had no prior personal motivations even with the personal element of Vergil. To add insult to injury, even Vergil
joins the fight against Arkham, and he didn't do it out of a great epiphany about humanity (since he only has this epiphany in 5), he did it to finish the job he thought he did in Mission 10. Lady sits out the fight against her own dad. She had every right to be there, even more than the guy who stabbed Arkham because Arkham outlived his usefulness. But a half-demon that forsook his humanity for power has more right
to defeat a human that forsook his humanity for power, over the human that overcame her own prejudice and taught a half-demon how to embrace his humanity through her own struggle. Somehow. And after completing her personal mission, instead of hanging up her weapon or letting Dante keep it like Beryl, she specifically asks for it back. Her narration says she "[has] a job to do that's far from done
" to kill more demons and prevent anyone from going through the same tragedy she did. A tragedy committed by a human. And then 4 and 5 show her method of doing her job is being on the sidelines, fobbing work onto Dante, or jobbing to Urizen.
But let's get back to 3. She sits out the struggle and the Sons of Sparda do the legwork of defeating Arkham. That'd be fine if that's all it was, but instead Lady's scene with Arkham is still added to Mission 20. For the scene to work it takes unironic acceptance that Lady couldn't overpower Arkham physically and was outwitted by him mentally, and the only way she had an upper hand on him was when he was rendered a paraplegic madman ranting about godhood. Lady shoots Arkham with the bullets she magically reloaded into her gun even though M16 made it a point to show that she ran out of bullets. If you remove the scene, nothing really changes.
Arkham was already assumed dead from Dante and Vergil finishing him off with a Jackpot shot (and Vergil straight-up saying, "Not very classy for someone's dying words.
") because Dante has always beaten bosses with Jackpot shots. Arkham is still dead without the Mission 20 scene, only that Lady goes from watching Vergil pass her by in M19, going up to the top in M20, killing Arkham, then going all the way back down by the end of M20 (I guess we have to assume that Dante fighting Vergil took hours instead of a few minutes, or Lady has super speed?) to her watching Vergil pass her by, and.... simply leaving the Tower to wait for Dante at the bottom because she's not needed. She already decided on her own that she wasn't needed when she gave Dante the Kalina Ann. Vergil going past her wouldn't really
do much to change her mind. He didn't even talk to her.
But the scene is there anyway. She does shoot Arkham. She didn't do this in 3 with anything from 5 in mind. No one at Capcom even had 4
and Nero being Vergil's son
in mind when they did anything about the third game. Lady shooting Arkham wasn't done with sole intention of her teaching a lesson to some dude later about how traumatizing it is. She did it for closure and it exists in parallel with Dante handling Vergil, where Vergil chooses not to change his ways and he's assumed dead. Neither Dante nor Lady could save their family via turning them good. They died. They both shed tears about it for what they lost and what could have been. Lady consoles Dante a little, then they go on to Fight More Demons because the series doesn't dwell on drama.
Except now 5 shows up and renders that closure pointless. She was wrong to have done it, she wasn't in the right mental state to make that call, whatever. So it shouldn't have been there.
It was anyway, and including that into the character arc of 5 means her overall story is one where even her own decisions come to bite her in the ass and affect her negatively in service to the Sons of Sparda. Dante at most only cried for Vergil in 3 and thought he was dead, put him down again in 1 and thought he was actually
dead, made his peace with Nero's presence as proof Vergil was good for something after all, and then doesn't try to reason with Vergil/Urizen in 5 or express regret for not saving him in 3, he tells him a story about Eva to appeal to his childish ego, then decides the guy is a lost cause and needs to Die until Nero stops him.
The resolution to Lady's arc, unless they want to extend it even more, is to tell Nero it's wrong to put an end to a terrible, genocidal man because he happens to be the next of kin to that genocidal man, and to leave it to Dante, who's also kin with the genocidal man. Nero then decides to save the genocidal man because of his hang-ups about Kyrie's Brother, even though Vergil is the kind of character that would have murdered Credo himself
if he were in Sanctus's position. Vergil and Lady are then civil to each other (I guess) when Vergil's thoughts around Lady during 3 were him not caring that Arkham killed Kalina Ann, relying on Arkham's murder of Kalina Ann to suggest Arkham could have (and should have) murdered Lady
in cold blood, being annoyed he didn't do it and murdering him for not being evil enough and therefore useless, thinking Lady a foolish girl, and then not talking to her since then.
That's it, that's her plot. She's just there to motivate whatever guy is in the game into killing or not killing the villain of the day. The writing arbitrarily chooses when she can or can't do unrealistic things, who can or can't regret their killing a bad person, or even which bad person is capable of redemption or not.
Lady still doesn't have her own playable spin-off. As much as Itsuno says that she's his favorite, "definitely [a] cool enough and strong enough character
", and her high popularity, it still took, what, 7 years for her to show up in the Special Edition to 4? Trish is in Marvel vs Capcom 3 to represent DMC alongside Dante and Vergil, not Lady. But at least she's in the DMC mobile game! Right?
With Trish I think the writers just never figured out how to integrate her into the games as Dante's partner. While I like Lucia, I think DMC 2 was a missed opportunity to show Dante and Trish's partnership.
Lucia was certainly a step in the right direction when it came to writing female characters. I really hope we see her in future games.
Nico is an entertaining non-combatant.
Speaking of Nico, your idea of a moral dilemma for Kyrie made me wonder how she'd react to the knowledge of him killing Nico's mother.
That said, I think these ideas would best be explored in a medium other than the games like a t.v. series or a novel.
Nico's grandmother? Vergil didn't have anything to do with Nico's mom unless I missed something, but the game tries really hard to dodge the fact that the novel being canon means Vergil was responsible for mass murder on three separate occasions
and killed everyone Dante ever knew about except Enzo, or forced Dante to mercy-kill Jessica. Vergil killing Nell as well means Dante would have had 1001 reasons to pull a Fatality on Vergil in the third game and not shed a single tear for him, but that's not what happened, because 3 wasn't written with the novel being canon. 3 pushed the novel into non-canon status until 5 dug it up from its grave.
If Kyrie found out that Vergil killed off Nell, considering Kyrie happens to think Nico is good company and Nico likes her in return, that'd make her less
sympathetic to Vergil.
They keep insisting on there being a story
in this game to get us invested in the characters, so they should do better on the story since it's in the game. Otherwise we could just have Bloody Palace with a roster.
They're content with throwing Lucia into the DMC5 novel which limits who even hears about her, so I don't think they care much about her character anymore except for reminding us she exists. It was too much work even for them to make Gloria her own character to insert development of Dumary Island in DMC4 and they opted to make Gloria a Lucia-lookalike for fanservice as an existing character's skin. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but that's how it is.