Monday, August 14, 2017

Castlevania - Netflix Series Impressions

Adapting any video game to film or media has never been a high point. Something goes awry, be it sticking too close to the source material or straying far, far away from it. When a Castlevania anime series popped up on Netflix, I expected to be underwhelmed. Maybe it was going in with such expectations that let me leave the small series arc with a sense of optimism.

The Netflix series opens by doing away with the expectation of a young warrior off to fight an ancient evil. A young woman seeks Dracula's library to learn sciences that would help in healing her village and Dracula, intrigued by her purpose, entertains her and even falls for her. Many in the town see it as witchcraft and she is burned at the stake. Dracula goes from unsympathetic to justifiable as he unleashes his revenge on a town. The one love he had in the world, taken by those who did not understand.

Where do we find our hero, Trevor Belmont? Drinking in the pub far away from the mischief, looked down upon by the locals, his family name disgraced, getting into a drunken brawl before stumbling away to his own devices.

It was a refreshing change of pace, where Dracula would be established as the villain being a villain for villain's sake and our hero having his life together and nothing but praise and adoration from those around him. The story may not make any huge plot twists or devices, but the simplicity of picking the story up at this point was intriguing.

Most surprising is the sheer gore showcased. The games always had such a simplicity to it, that to see guts and body parts splitting apart took me aback, especially when it involved children. The show does not hold back at all. But when you unleash an army of hell on an entire village, ignoring such casualties as a possibility would be unrealistic.

The voice acting is standout. Nothing feels forced or unnatural, even side characters deliver dialogue to the tee.

For four episodes at twenty three minutes a piece, you can easily burn through the series in a day. It also reveals an odd bit of pacing and little payoff. Simon just begins to gain his resolve and assemble his entourage when the series ends. A lackluster but humorous ending battle, an expectant alliance; it all felt a bit rushed.

Animation is alright. Some of it looks great, like the animation of fire. But characters feel a bit stiff, looking more like a 90's cartoon than modern day animation. Growing up with animation like this, it was not a huge distraction, but for the anime junkie I can understand it being bothersome.

Despite having Castlevania in its name and familiar faces like Alucard or Trevor Belmont, this just did not feel...Castlevania. Maybe the atmosphere is all different, or the lack of any real sequences fans could relate to experiencing in-game, but for now it just feels like a new show that I am watching with Castlevania plastered on its surface.

A second season is inbound and I am interested to see where the supposed trilogy arc will ultimately culminate. Familiar names and creatures are fun to see in a Netflix series but hopefully the second season will provide better overall pacing, animation, and incorporation of Dracula's castle with more elements from the game. Given the short runtime, it is worth the watch for the witty retorts from Trevor alone.

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