I had absolutely zero hopes for Netflix’s Castlevania anime. None. At all. Whatsoever. I think I only began watching it solely because of my unruly curiosity. So, safe to say my expectations were pretty low.
On which note: provided you are jumping over it instead of playing limbo, it is very easy to clear a bar set so low that it’s actually just laying there on the ground. 😉
I can’t say it’s fantastic or anything, but, somehow, it’s actually… not that bad.
Actually, the first completely objective criticism I have is that the first season is too short. There’s only so much one can do with four episodes instead of, say, a dozen. While there are certainly flaws, it generally says something good when the immediate complaint is, “It’s too short.”
The story follows the most iconic of all vampires, Dracula, as he wages war against the nation, the religion, the people, even the very species which murdered his beloved wife. Or at least, the first episode does.
Then, for the next three episodes, it suddenly shifts to Trevor Belmont, the last survivor of an outcast family of demon hunters, as he tries to mind his own business amidst the nation-wide slaughter which is courtesy of Dracula’s unleashed horde. Unfortunately for him, his conscience isn’t quite dead yet, no matter how cynical, selfish, and disillusioned he is. Over the course of the story, or at least this beginning part of it, he comes to care again, albeit in a somewhat cold, practical way. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say he begins to see what is worthwhile in humanity as he sees the same in himself. Either way, he steps up as a defender of humanity, both the people and the principle, in a most desperate hour.
Joining him, and partially inspiring him, in this journey is the mystic scholar, Sypha. They didn’t throw her use of magic right in our face to start with, but I should have figured she’d be a sorceress of some sort. It’s just how fantasy often works, ya know? Especially in Castlevania, the female heroes are always mystics. But I digress. She provides not only a different skill set but a different perspective to Trevor. She might be a little idealistic and unquestioning in her faith, but she has a determination born of hope, and she’s able help rekindle some hope within him.
Complicating matters for Trevor and Sypha, making things even more difficult in the face of Dracula’s would-be genocide, is the corruption of the local church authorities. Not only are they a disgrace to the name of all Christianity, but they actually believe their own lies and have faith in their delusions of grandeur. It is this bull-headed lunacy which drove them to destroy their most competent allies against the powers of Hell, both the Belmont family and Sypha’s people, crowned with the murder of Dracula’s bride, a woman of science, whom they called a witch. In short, they have thoroughly crafted their own demise, which they blame on everyone else, and stubbornly refuse to listen to their critics.
So, the humans’ side is not so innocent, but still, Dracula’s edict of their destruction is born only of his wrath, his pain. It is without limit, sparing no one, no matter how guilty or innocent. This, not the demons he calls up, is what makes his work the purpose of Hell itself. He is taking his agony and unleashing extinction.
A final member of the cast, classic to the video game franchise the anime is based on, is Alucard, the son of Dracula. He stands against his father not for the sake of the humans, but for his mother’s sake. This destruction, this hatred, this unrelenting bloodshed, this is not what Alucard’s mother would want, not for the people, and not for her husband. So he stands as an enemy to his father’s goal, a move which nearly got him killed the first time around. This time, as he returns from his recuperation, he is bringing along help: Trevor and Sypha.
So, there’s a lot that happens, but it’s only the beginning of the tale.
In fact, I would say too much happens. The dialogue, even in Japanese, felt like it was delivered quickly and without pause, going over philosophy and exposition in rapid fire without really letting the mood settle. It was just like a game, you go, have a quick talk, get a quest, and off you go.
And, again, this is only the beginning of the story. It barely begins before it ends in a mild cliffhanger. They could have taken a little more time and made it a bit longer, ya know?
Still, for rushing, they manage to make an intriguing mess of intrigue. Dracula, his son, the Church, the Belmonts, Sypha’s people, the locals, everyone has their own side in this. The story is both richer and more intricate than I’d imagined.
It looked like the show would basically be a bloodbath. Instead, we got a fairly good story’s beginning. The action was well done too, not nearly so over-the-top and bloody as I’d feared, though, in fairness, it was quite bloody. It strained credulity only a little, and was generally realistic.
I make exception for when Trevor finally rallies the people to defend themselves – oh, what an idea, actually fighting for your own lives with your own hands instead of waiting for someone else to do it for you – and they have everything they need ready instantly, despite how the demons descended on them while they were running around in the form of a mob. That was a detail which made me roll my eyes.
Overall, though, I have to say… I actually want to finish Castlevania, whenever the studios finish producing it. It’s not perfect, and it’s not “great” just yet, but it’s not that bad. Not meant for the younger portion of the audience, of course, but still, not bad.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.
Grade: solid B.