Written by Steve Luzader.
*Writer’s note: it’s been quite a while since I’ve done any kind of creative or journalistic writing, and this is my first foray into what I’m hoping may be several forays into blogging. How will this go? Well, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I won’t know until I give it a try. So let’s get started, shall we?*
I’ve bore witness to the amazing new Castlevania series on Netflix. You’ve probably heard many people, animation nerds and gaming geeks alike, praising it. So, we’re going to get into Spoiler Territory. In fact, I think we’re going to end up somewhere in the heart of Spoiler Territory, establish myself as sheriff, and bring law to this lawless land. Fair warning.
Castlevania (obviously based on the insanely popular video game franchise) takes us to the fictional country of Wallachia, and the ongoing battle between good and evil. We see the noble and heroic Trevor Belmont battle Dracula’s evil hordes for the fate of humanity.
Or so they would have you believe.
Over the brief course of four episodes, we get a glimpse of the battle to come, and a nice breadth of the overall plot. The character development is minimal, but enough to get to know exactly where all our characters fit into the puzzle. Dracula is not initially portrayed as evil, but simply a vengeful lover wanting justice for the wife he lost to the Church. Granted, he wants to use hordes of demons to wipe out all of humanity, but who wouldn’t in his shoes? Trevor Belmont begins the story as an aloof, uninterested drunkard wallowing in his exile from his family’s namesake and birthright by the Church. What is the Church’s role in this? The answer is making the lives of everyone miserable. The Church and its parishioners are portrayed as manipulative, self-righteous, judgmental, and hypocritical. They spend the initial episodes trying to deflect all of the blame they incurred for their damnation by Dracula. They try to save humanity through their words and ineffective means, but not the means that are necessary to survive. They claim to be men of God, but are willing to use violence. Is this whole thing a cleverly disguised socio-political commentary about the evils of religion? Could this story have been told without having to drag an evil church into it? I’m not entirely sure, and the answer can certainly be debated. It does, however, make a mighty fine plot device for the series.
Trevor eventually embroils himself into the matter by meeting up with a group of nomads called The Seekers. They render aid to a town suffering casualties by Dracula’s hordes. We see him rescue a Seeker named Sypha from the catacombs beneath the city, as she pursues the legend of a “sleeping savior.” Sypha is the same Sypha Belnades from Castlevania III fame. In fact, as we progress, the Castlevania III ties don’t stop there. We already have Trevor and Sypha and… well, let’s leave a little bit of mystery here, shall we? We ultimately see the summation of the story with a final siege on the town and a conclusion with the “sleeping savior.”
The series doesn’t shy away from the action or the gore. I’ve seen my fair share of violent films, a few God of War games, and many Mortal Kombat fatalities, but I wasn’t ready for this level of evisceration, dismemberment, and intestines. Once I knew we’d be up to our knees in viscera, I was okay with it. The early action consists of a brief bar fight, and Trevor slaying a cyclops in the catacombs, and finishes with the townsfolk against a demon horde. The animation is done more in the Western style (meaning it’s not dubbed and the lips read along with the English dialogue), and will probably have some fans drawing similarities to the Aeon Flux series. Another dated reference, you say? Well, go watch a YouTube video or something. The visuals are dark and drab, as to be expected for a tortured medieval European country, but do a great job of immersing you in the atmosphere, and letting you feel the hopelessness of their plight. I had no major qualms with any of the voice acting, but the dialects took some getting used to. These dialects are varied, and from different regions of Europe, but given which characters are speaking the different dialects, it actually doesn’t feel so incongruous.
Many people (myself included) will probably complain that the initial series is a mere four episodes and yes… when you get to the end, it leaves you wanting more. Netflix has already confirmed a second season, but be warned: if you’re the kind of person who can’t stand waiting for the next season of a show, you should wait until more seasons are added.
Castlevania succeeds in giving you an appetizer of what will hopefully be a buffet of action, drama, and gore. It’s a slow burn that ignites in a blaze of whips, swords, and fire. At four 23 minute episodes, it’s enough to binge in a single evening, and binge you will.
Final score: 4 whips out of 5.