The highly anticipated Netflix production of Castlevania is finally here, and it’s pretty damn good. There are some rocky moments with pacing, as the first episode feels very disjointed from the story. Through episode 2-4 however, I was hooked and loving nearly every minute.
The animation is a slightly western take on Japanese anime, but the depictions of demons and imagery of the time steal the show. The music nimbly leaps from classical to ’80s techno like Belmont on the video game’s platforms. The genre-bending sounds were perfect, suiting the classic era while paying homage to the decade that spawned the NES into pop culture.
You might be expecting ten episodes of 40 minutes, but there are just four, each under a half hour. Word on the street suggests this ‘season’ is actually an animated feature film hacked into episodes. It certainly feels like that, as very little time passes between most of the episodes (save the first). This didn’t affect my enjoyment since I was able to binge watch, but if I had to wait a week or more in between I might have found it frustrating.
The first episode focuses on giving Dracula the fastest-possible-sympathetic-love-interest. He soon finds a reason to hate humans and begins a demonic reign of terror. I would have appreciated more time spent on Drac and his lady, as there was ample time to cut from the redundant ‘demons demons hell’ section.
Once ‘episode 2’ starts however, my ears perked up. The perspective is shifted to commoners in a common bar. We may be several hundred years back, but these people speak with a weight on their shoulders I can easily relate to.
If the first episode was the setup to the unbeatable evil horde, the second was an introduction to the unlikeliest of heroes.
Enter Trevor Belmont, and I was really interested. In the games I’ve always thought Belmont was a bland choice compared to the dashing Alucard, but this Trevor B won me over. He was written and played like a refined Jack Sparrow. A charming drunk drifter with depths of skill and knowledge hidden under an unassuming ease. A blueblood with a farmer’s mouth and the skills of an elite killer.
The dialogue throughout the series is a highlight, lending a legitimate weight to the world. Characters converse believably, and I found Belmont’s morning market conversations fascinating as he ingested the local gossip.
Once established, Belmont heads right into danger. We’re treated to a great fight scene involving re-imagined monsters, and meet the unlikely hero’s unlikely companion.
The Bishop is the final important character I’ll speak about, and appears more evil than Dracula. Again, the dialogue masterfully portrayed the authoritative weight of the Bishop and Church’s power. The philosophical discussions of religion, right, and wrong are brain-tickling fun and you probably won’t guess who gets the best lines.
The final episode brings the pieces together for a final confrontation and revelation. A particular moment took an element from the games in a way I loved. The adaptation was accurate, honorable, and creative all at the same time.
Although it leaves on a cliff hanger, I felt content with the first circle that has completed. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next.
Highly recommended for fans of the games, violence, and dark themes.