Header Ads

Castlevania [Season 1]

There are few things that can describe the tragedy of a love lost, or the void of hatred that can take its place. For Vlad Dracula Tepes, the infamous vampire of legend, he has come to know this pain for the first time. A mortal women who he had come to love is mistaken for a witch, and burned at the stake. In his wrath, Dracula unleashes a horde of demons on the country of Wallichia. Murdering everything in their path. However, it is only when things are at it's bleakest that the heir to a long lost family of monster hunters, Trevor Belmont, is thrown into the fray. With the aid of the magician Sypha and Dracula's own son, Alucard, Trevor sets out to bring back honor to his family name and bring an end to the mighty vampire's rampage.

Castlevania is an adult animated series based on the Konami video game franchise of the same name. The plot and characters based on the third video game, known as Dracula's Curse. The first four episodes were directed by Sam Deats, and written by Warren Ellis. The show's production was handled by Frederator Studios and Powerhouse Animation Studios. Notable cast members include: Graham McTavish (Dracula),  Richard Armitage (Trevor Belmont), and James Callis (Alucard).

Despite having a firm foothold in the world of video games, I unfortunately never had an opportunity to get into or fully experience the Castlevania series. Possibly due to the fact that the games came out at a time when I was too young to appreciate them. However, while I have never played Castlevania, I am more than aware of its reputation in the industry and understand why it has such a large fan base. Enjoying it not just for the challenging gameplay but the dark atmosphere and the unique method in which it tells its story. Castlevania 3 Dracula's Curse, in particular, is a title that I have heard many fans consider to be the best game in the franchise's history.

It would only make sense, when Netflix announced they would be making an animated series based on Castlevania, that they would choose one of the most well-loved titles to adapt to animation. The big question was, how would a popular interactive experience be adapted into a non-interactive/serialized narrative format? Would it share the same fate as other infamous video game film adaptations, or would it be the series to finally break the mold and provide entertainment to both long time fans and newcomers like myself?

As of July 7th, we finally have our answer.

One thing this series gets right, even in the first few minutes, is the dark and gritty atmosphere that has always been present in the games. The setting of Wallichia is clearly not a pleasant place to live, even before the horde of demons starts wreaking havoc. Reflecting a period of time were superstition reigned supreme and any who dared to contradict the status quo were dealt with severely.

It is this status quo that causes the death of Dracula's wife and thus kick starting the rest of the narrative. Portraying the vicious vampire as a more sympathetic character. A large contrast from his game depictions where he was more of a, 'do it for the evils' type of villian. This is a welcome alteration and gives great emotional weight to following events.

It is not long after that the audience is introduced to the main protagonist, Trevor Belmont voiced excellently by Richard Armitage. It is at his introduction that the story seems to slip into the, 'reluctant hero who is forced rediscover his desire to help people' cliché. However, that isn't to say that Trevor himself, or his personal journey, is not still fun to watch unfold. His nonchalant attitude adding a bit of levity to the heavy atmosphere.

Levity that is certainly welcomed on a journey packed with demons, magic, corruption of the church, and of course lots of medieval violence.

Castlevania does a good job of earning that R rating. Everything from visceral killings courtesy of Dracula's monsters, a depiction of a woman burning at the stake, and quite a bit of brutality from the main protagonists proves that this series is not messing around. It may not be as brutal as other vampire related media (I'm looking at you Hellsing) but be prepared to see some unpleasant images. There is also a good deal of foul language but it is used to more accent the situation, not a crutch to facilitate the rating.

Still, as violent as this show can be, the animation on display here is impressive to say the least. Not only are the backgrounds detailed and grand, selling the audience on the Castlevania grim tone, but the fight choreography was also a blast to watch. My personal favorite example of this can be found in the one-on-one duel displayed near the end of the final episode. The editing was excellently paced and the detailed fight choreography made this single duel into a spectacle. The design of the characters is clearly inspired by Japanese animation, much like Voltron: Legendary Defender and Avatar: the Legend of Korra. However, whereas those shows took advantage of the animation style to balance out both serious and comedic moments, Castlevania takes a more down to earth approach on its design. Never daring to try and break the established tone. What little humor there is mostly comes from Trevors 'devil may care' attitude as he finds himself in one problematic situation after another.

Though Castlevania seems to be riddled with cliches, it was still an exciting watch and has set up the game's story extremely well. Even though I am not a Castlevania fan, it is clear that the people working on this project are. Or at the very least, they respect the property enough in order to paint the narrative as the grand tale it deserves to be. If you're looking for a dark, macabre, tale of vampires and monster hunters, Netflix's Castlevania is definitely a series worth your time. Trevors story has yet to reach its conclusion and, I for one am eager to see where it will go from here.

FROM Netflix
4 Episodes