Castlevania is a game series based around the troubles of the Belmont family, as they tackle the monsters sent by Dracula to torment the people. The animated series brought to us from Netflix and written by Warren Ellis has been adapted from that core concept.
With only four episodes, Castlevania is more of a proof of concept than anything else.
Saying that, It’s compelling, hideous and leaves you wanting more.
The four episodes have a run time of under two hours, and exist primarily to set up the world. The audience is quickly introduced to Dracula,the land of Wallachia and the Belmont family. From there, we see the reason for Dracula’s assault on the land, and then the tribulations of the people within. It’s a fantasy story set in the world of horror, as we see the onslaught of monsters on the populace. The brief introductory episode especially does an excellent job of getting across the rage and power of Dracula.
Richard Armitage stars as our hero, Trevor Belmont. He’s perpetually on the edge of soberness, cynical about people’s intentions and charmingly funny.
There’s a limited quality to the animation that’s being used for dialogue and non combat scenes. However, Armitage imbues our lead with some genuinely complex emotions through his acting that makes up for that.
Otherwise, you’ve got some deeply unpleasant priests, good hearted nomad historians and a whole host of sweary peasants.
The dialogue is trying to get a lot of information across in a very short time. As such, some of this comes across as a little clunky. It’s to be expected when the series has so few episodes and wants to build a whole world quickly. Saying that, there’s just as many witty asides or acerbic lines as duds.
One of the main themes of the series is the interplay of superstition, science and faith.
And how all three can be used to misdirect and persecute people for the worst reasons. There’s a surprisingly solid core thread of plot to the four episodes, which results in a fantastic final episode where everything comes to a head. The final scenes don’t even try to mask that they’re building up to a much more interesting and complex season two.
In terms of the animation, there’s a great deal of grotesqueness to come to terms with. Faces contort and pop with agony or rage. I’ve seen more entrails than I was really prepared to. It’s relatively well done, and definitely gets across the savagery of Dracula’s attack on the land. It’s just also really hard to look at at times.
The colour palette also has some problems. Namely in that the palette is very heavily washed out with reds and dark shades. This is to be expected with a horror story with medieval vampires to be fair.
I wouldn’t mind so much, but there are some scenes which show off colourful sets and locations. They just don’t get nearly enough screen time.
The design work for the characters and locations is nothing spectacular, it draws heavily on the concept art for the games and a more traditional anime style. It all blends together well, but there’s nothing that overly stands out.
Except the blood. The blood is very visceral. And constant.
Again,this is a vampire story, so it makes sense. It is just a little gratuitous.
Overall, it’s hard to fault Netflix’s Castlevania. There’s not enough of it to fault honestly. It’s very clearly setting up for a bigger story in season two. Since that’s been confirmed as commissioned, I’d say the gamble paid off. It’s under two hours, with some very fun scenes.
If you like horror, don’t mind some animated entrails and blood and aren’t overly concerned with following the plots of the games, this is for you.