When it comes to translating video game properties to other forms of media, there haven’t been too many success stories. To be fair, most video games don’t have the necessary plot to actually fill out an entire film, let alone a TV series. However, “Castlevania” is one of those few properties that has enough lore to stand a chance. But is that enough for an Netflix animated series?
If you’re familiar with the Castlevania games then you’ll know what I mean when I say that this new series is an adaptation of “Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse.” A lof the major bullet points remain the same, but the animated series does a good job of fleshing things out. Dracula has been living life as a recluse who only has complete disdain for humanity. However, when a brave villager comes to his castle seeking knowledge and the secrets of science, he learns that their might just be hope for mankind after all. In fact, Dracula is so changed by this person that he marries her and attempts to live the life of a normal man. Dracula’s new life doesn’t last long, though, as he comes home one day to find his wife burned at the stake for being a heretic. This transgression leads to Dracula vowing revenge on the world and raising an army of darkness to wipe the planet clean. Now the only one standing in his way is vampire hunter Trevor Belmont.
Right off the bat this show does all the things you need to do with a Dracula story. Dracula himself is a terrifying character, but there’s also a tragic element to him that makes him sympathetic. He’s obviously a monster, but his actions are logical and fair. When he learns of his wife’s death he doesn’t immediately set out to kill people, instead he shows up and tells everyone they have a year to get as far away as they can before he unleashes hell. He’s set up to be a potentially complex and interesting monster. Unfortunately we don’t spend too much time with him this season.
In fact, we don’t get to spend very much time with any of the characters this season. With only four episodes at about 20 minutes each, I have a hard time calling this first outing a “season.” It’s more of a pilot episode if anything. Thankfully Netflix has announced that there will be a longer second season, but that doesn’t do anything to help resolve the disappointment I feel with this season’s length. By the end of the last episode we barely meet all of the main characters before it comes to an end. That’s where most first episodes stop. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but thankfully it’s a quality pill so far.
The animation in “Castlevania” is beautiful and the fight scenes are very fluid and incredibly brutal. I found myself yelling “Oh shit” out loud more than once. And it’s not like there is constant violence, but when things pop off you know someone is going to get seriously messed up. There’s a whole sequence where demons are sweeping through a town and people are just being ripped in half with intestines and organs flying all over. Hell, even a baby gets eaten! It’s really intense. So if you’re thinking “Cool, a cartoon I can watch with my kid” you might want to consider that.
And when people aren’t being brutalized the show has a fair bit of dry humor in it. Trevor is your typical scoundrel, full of wit and charming one-liners. He’s a solid lead character, if not a bit one note so far. Perhaps with a second season he’ll get more flesh, but for now he does the job of being entertaining.
It’s really unfortunate that they decided to start this thing with only four episodes. There isn’t a whole lot more that I could really get into without just spoiling the whole season. At first glance it looks like they nailed the look and feel of a Castlevania themed show. It’s really too soon to say it’s a perfect adaptation as we’ve only got a taste of it, but I do know that by the end of the first season I desperately wanted more.
If you’re on the fence about watching this because you don’t like “anime” or “videogames” I say take the risk. It’s only four very short episodes, so at worst you’re looking at a little over an hour. That’s a pretty safe risk to take. At the very least, if you don’t like it, you won’t have to worry about the year long wait for more that the rest of us have to face. If you’ve ever had any love for the “Castlevania” series this is a most watch. Go check it out right now on Netflix.