Where to watch: Netflix exclusive
Best for: Fans of the video game series, people who regularly watch anime
Based on the long-running video game series by Konami comes Castlevania, a gruesome and dark animated show for adults that is currently a Netflix exclusive. The story takes place in fifteenth century Romania and begins with a story of Dracula’s love for an intelligent young researcher named Lisa who comes to Dracula’s castle seeking advanced scientific knowledge. They are eventually married but when church officials find science equipment in Lisa’s home they accuse her of witchcraft and burn her at the stake.
Dracula in his anger warns the townspeople that he will unleash an army of demons to kill them in one year. The townspeople remain undeterred and a year later celebrate the death of the “witch” rather than flee, so as promised Dracula unleashes his wrath. The rest of the show follows Trevor Belmont, the last son of a noble family the townsfolk blame for Dracula’s wrath as he teams up with a group of mystics that have been demonized by the church called the Seekers. The Seekers believe they can find a legendary “sleeping solider” that can defeat Dracula and his army.
The animation itself is skillfully done and is on par with what one would expect from a popular anime series or perhaps the direct-to-video DC Comics films. One should approach the series with an expectation that much like the video games, there will be a gratuitous amount of violence- there’s blood raining from the sky, mutilated bodies, gouged out eyeballs, and the like throughout the show’s four-episode first season. While I was never a huge fan of the Castlevania series (but am still keeping my fingers crossed for the rumored Legend of Zelda Netflix show), I’d imagine this works well as a supplement to the video games and will perhaps satisfy the diehard fans of the series to see their beloved characters in animated form.
For everyone else, however, there is little to offer in the way of engaging plot lines or characters to empathize with. At no point did I feel seriously invested in any of the character’s wellbeing. The show seems reliant on pointlessly unsettling imagery that has no redemptive qualities. The downside of adapting video games into films or TV shows is that while they appeal to a highly devoted fanbase, they offer very thin storylines when you take out the interactive action sequences from a game. Castlevania, unfortunately, fails to reverse course in what has been an endlessly disappointing line of video game adaptations.
While the quality of animation was at times very impressive, I can’t recommend the show to anyone outside of the most loyal base of fans for the Castlevania games. Even among those devoted masses, however, this series might feel like an overlong, bloated cutscene that you wish you could press “a” to skip so you can get on with your button-mashing video game adventures.
I give it: 2 stars (out of 5)