» Blog Archive Review: Netflix's Castlevania Season1 -
Evan Conway Animation, Anime, News, Streaming, TV

castlevania 1 There was a point in the first episode of Netflix’s Castlevania where I saw a dead child, torn up by demons unleashed upon the Earth. Going in nearly blind to this new series and knowing the property based on the name alone, that was one of the few surprises to be found in this short season, meant to show that this wasn’t an animated show that was going to hide away from going to dark places: the show is the dark place and you’re in it nearly right away.

Castlevania is a dark and highly violent show that, while it has its shortcomings, draws you in right away. Better yet, it comes for you like the demons in the show, and digs its claws and teeth into you so you can’t get away for its short length.

As previously said, my knowledge of the series is limited to very few aspects. I knew prior that Dracula was a figure in the Castlevania series, that the Belmont family is a bunch of monster hunters, and that there’s spooky monsters running around everywhere. To say I was pleasantly surprised to see all of that, unhinged, within the show’s first episode was educational to say the least. Doing some research, I found out that the Castlevania series in question is based on Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. While not the first in the series’ chronological history, it’s close enough to be a perfect starting point for a TV series.

castlevania 3Video games being adapted into a different format, however, generally go south in terms of quality. Somehow we managed to get six Resident Evil movies, none of which were that good, and they still keep trying to make them happen. Castlevania, thankfully, breaks that streak of bad luck. From the opening shot of the show, you know this isn’t holding back. By the time you see comic book writer Warren Ellis’ name in the open credits, you’ll be able to sit back and relax knowing you’re in good hands. Ellis has made his presence known on the show, with the pacing, the dialogue, and world itself coming together nicely to feel alive is proof enough that Ellis was a perfect match for Castlevania. His handling of protagonist Trevor Belmont is leveled and dynamic, while the show’s opening moments with Dracula are humanizing, to say the least, which is what helps make this show so likeable right away.

castlevania 4Accompanying the  all-star writer is animation that is stylish and colorful, all the while being dark, foreboding, and disturbing all at once. Action sequences are present throughout the season, and each one manages to be made memorable by the consequences and  gravity of each action performed. It’s made obvious in his first proper fight that Trevor is a dangerous fighter and shouldn’t be underestimated, but it’s his attitude outside of the fight that makes these even more meaningful, knowing he’s constantly trying to stay out of a conflict due to his laziness and drunken nature. Castlevania is a perfect example of when flawless animation and great characterization can come together and make the final product work.

At four episodes, however, the show presents some shortcomings. As such, its short length feels more like a prologue than a proper season, viewable in under two hours. This, ultimately with Ellis involved, makes the show feel like a comic book at times, with this story arc rounding out the first volume from a new series by Image. While that’s hardly a complaint  by any stretch of the means, it essentially comes down to “This show is so good, but I wish you gave us more at the start.” Even with the promise of eight more episodes in the next season, it’s still a bit of a tease at the end of the day rather than a proper season.

Castlevania 2At times, as well, the story ends up feeling like it runs of cliches to progress forward. While likable, Trevor is your typical drunk protagonist who goes through a short amount of character development. The church figures are evil and can’t accept the blame for Dracula’s curse upon the land. It’s simple stuff, really, and while that’s what helps make the show easy to digest, there’s a little of bit of a “I’ve seen this before” present. Castlevania’s strength lies in its genocidal first episode and all of the fantastical and horrific moments that come with each episode. That being said, the fourth episode of the series, cliches and all, sets up the remainder of the series perfectly, and promises plenty of excitement to be found coming forth.

While video games are usually best in their original format, Castlevania breaks the mold and conjures another fantastic series from Netflix. While falling for cliches and at times relying on simplicity, Castlevania excels in its action, characterization, and horror all while being a glorious product of top-notch animation and some of the best writing today. Despite being four episodes long, it’ll invest you in everything that it promises to come with its closing moments.

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