Video Game adaptations on film have long been scrutinized for being unfaithful to the source material, having poor writing, and featuring terrible acting. Everyone of these accusations has been true for the most part until Castlevania, Netflix’s newest original series. Hailing from acclaimed comic book author and television writer Warren Ellis, this series is a violent, indulging mini-series that manages to flesh out the series’ deep mythology and provide stunning animation at the same time.
Right off the bat, the mini-series immediately dives into the rich mythology of the long running series and allows for those new to the franchise to jump straight in without hesitation. Castlevania is largely an adaptation of the classic NES title Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. At the forefront of our story are the drunken hero Simon Belmont, the mysterious speaker Sypha, a nameless, corrupt Bishop, and Dracula himself. The plot is kicked into motion when Dracula’s wife is branded a heretic and burned at the stake for accusations of Witchcraft. Inconsolable and furious, Dracula swears to eradicate humanity and all who live in the land of Wallachia. Destined by family fate, Belmont is dragged into the conflict between Dracula’s undead army and the people of Gresit and sets off, unknowingly, on a quest to defeat Dracula. While I won’t discuss the plot any further, suffice it to say, longtime fans of the series will be in for a treat and new elements are even introduced into the series lore.
The voice talent in the show is quite notable. Richard Armitage headlines the series as our gruff protagonist Trevor, whose family’s fate will forever be intertwined with that of Dracula. Graham McTavish portrays big bad Dracula himself in a truly menacing (and fairly brief) performance. Also of note is Matt Frewer as the slimy, conniving Bishop responsible for burning Dracula’s wife at the stake. Some of the smaller players also turn in more than adequate performances and each plays their part exceptionally as it relates to the series structure.
The show takes on an anime style look and the series ends up being better for it. Embracing an anime style for a series set in Eastern, Medieval Europe is a bit of an odd coupling but the series ends up embracing the wacky combination. The show is far more gory than the typical animated show, even for more mature animation standards, but the series embraces this rather than retreating from it. Make no mistake: this show earns its TV-MA rating with the violence, gore, and language.
The most maddening part of the series might just be its length. Clocking in at just four episodes of about 23 minutes a piece, the series can easily be finished in little more than an hour. Moreover, just as it firmly finds footing with all of our main players, it ends. The mini-series clearly started as a movie and was later expanded. The good news is that the series has already been renewed for a second season next year which will have eight episodes. The ending will, no doubt, be maddening to most viewers, especially those unfamiliar with the plot of Castlevania 3, however.
While Castlevania doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel or revolutionize video game adaptations, it does succeed where many have failed before. A way forward is quite clearly paved for a strong series that crafts a blueprint for other shows to follow. Instead of making a campy animated show, Castlevania succeeds thanks to a strong plot, great voice performances, and fantastic animation.
Josh’s Score: 8.5/10