Sunday, July 09, 2017

'Castlevania' Is Gratifying with Its Quality, Dissatisfying with Its Quantity

I’m not a big fan of the game, but I’m familiar with its mythology and I found its protagonist, Simon Belmont, a unique vampire hunter.  So I got curious about this new Castlevania animated series from Netflix and checked it out.  And, by Hellsing, it’s fantastic!

The featured main character of the series, however, is not Simon, but his ancestor, Trevor Belmont.  It’s because the series opted for Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse as source material.  The four-episode debut season tells the story of how humanity earned the wrath of Dracula, prompting him to unleash Hell’s forces into the world, and how the apathetic Trevor’s visit to the city of Gresit, which is besieged by demons, stirred him to take upon himself to stand up for the people and save them from Dracula, while also meeting an unlikely ally secretly hidden below the catacombs of the city.
The first thing I noticed in its opening credits is that it’s written by Warren Ellis, one of the most prolific and talented comic book writers working today.  I was immediately optimistic and excited since, after all, this is the guy who created The Authority and Red (which has had two film adaptations) and who did really well with his runs in titles like Hellblazer, Iron Man, and Nextwave.  And, indeed, the writing of this show is topnotch.

Castlevania is an adult-oriented cartoon.  It doesn’t shy away with the violence and dark themes.   It wouldn’t work any other way.  Hence, by understanding the demands of adapting such source material, it succeeds in being a very enjoyable animated show.
From the opening scene of the first episode, it’s immediately engrossing, and the complex characters, great pacing, and immersive storytelling then keep it that way until the final scene of the last episode.  The gothic atmosphere, the ever-present charm of a fantasy adventure, and cool action sequences also help in sustaining thrill and interest.  It even has a bit of Game of Thrones vibes going for it.

Meanwhile, the anime-inspired animation is excellent.  Its aesthetics and feel remind me of the gem Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust.  It’s a perfect visual medium for its premise and plot.  In addition, the sound design is effectively complementary to it.
My only problem with Castlevania is its too short.  Again, it’s only four episodes long.  With each episode only around 20 minutes, the entire season is watchable in one sitting.  I would have preferred if all episodes of the series have been finished first before being released instead of doing a four-episode debut season.  This only leaves a feeling of “wanting for more and being disappointed that there won’t be more for a long time”, which is quite annoying.

In other words, Castlevania gratifies with quality, but dissatisfies with quantity.

Between this and Voltron: Legendary Defender, Netflix has been nailing it with original animated series and I believe they should do more.

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