Love and revenge. Hunger and blood. Castlevania brews a stew of emotions in a way that leaves you both terrified and exhilarated. Thanks to positive reactions from my peers on Twitter and elsewhere, I picked up the show with very little background knowledge and watched all four episodes in one sitting. The urge to continue the next episode after finishing one was irresistible. Through a combination of atmosphere, story building, and characterization, Castlevania the television series—a Western-made product that pays respect to both the original games and Japanese animation—succeeds in reasserting the charm of 2D animation and its place in adult media.
As a 2017 Netflix show, those with a subscription can easily watch all four of the first season episodes. Written by English writer Warren Ellis, directed by Sam Deats, and produced by Adi Shankar, the production came about under the combined efforts of original studio Frederator and later Powerhouse Animation Studio under a Netflix deal (there are a few really interesting articles and interviews from Destructoid and Engadget regarding the ten-year production of the show and their plans for a second season that I highly encourage you read). Konami, the game franchise owner, also provided feedback. Dracula and Trevor Belmont populate a story inspired by events in their 1989 Nintendo game, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. With zero background in the game franchise, I still fully understood and enjoyed the television series.
When I first glanced at the promotional artwork, I assumed this was an anime produced in Japan. The art shows influences from several sources, including the game series and various anime, like Berserk and Vampire Hunter D. There was also nothing to convince me in my first watch through that the Japanese audio I listened to was the dubbed version since it sounded just as good as expected. Okiayu Ryotaro as Dracula is just as condemning as I would hope for a man of his history.
On my second viewing, I quickly came to appreciate the original English voice acting, which isn’t something I can say often regarding dubbing of anime. Matt Frewer as the fervent Bishop especially shines among the cast. Even if I were to close my eyes and simply listen to his voice, I would still tremble at the unnaturalness of his self-serving devotion.
Another one of the main aspects that jumped out to me was the hand drawn art and animation. With modern animation pushing towards CGI, and plenty of shows wholly in the form, Castlevania sticks to a classic design that does not detract from the characters and their stories. Character design takes a bit of a back seat with flat coloring in comparison to the sharp and shadowed architecture and haunting scenery, but is by no means unpleasant. Their facial structures and expressions look hardened by the reality of their experiences. The style reminds me a lot of ufotable’s work in the Fate series—they, too, hold a torch for slick settings and lighting.
Netflix’s openness to the desire to create an authentic story for the Castlevania franchise gives me hope for future projects like this one and its sequel. The argument about whether or not this series qualifies as anime (which it doesn’t) does not matter to me. Setting aside my dissatisfaction with their method of releasing currently airing anime, their inclusion of anime-inspired series like Castlevania and Voltron: Legendary Defender, older series like Death Note, and funding originals such as A.I.C.O. Incarnation prop up the medium as one that can be enjoyed by not just children, but also by adults of all interests. Netflix can do much to familiarize and re-educate new viewers on anime who would not otherwise seek it out from preferred sources like Crunchyroll or Funimation. Even my Mom can stumble across Knights of Sidonia now in her quest for a good sci-fi binge.
If you’ve seen Castlevania, what do you think of the series, and do you plan to watch the second season? I would also be interested in your opinions on Netflix’s participation as both supporter and distributor of anime and anime-inspired works.
Rating*: 1 dango
- 0 dango – average and forgettable.
- 1 dango – very good in its category.
- 2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
- 3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.
Barder, Ollie. “New Netflix ‘Castlevania’ Animated Series Goes Full On ‘Vampire Hunter D’ And Looks Suitably Great.” Forbes, 25 May 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2017/05/25/new-netflix-castlevania-animated-series-goes-full-on-vampire-hunter-d-and-looks-suitably-great/#4a9662841a36. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.
Glagowski, Peter. “10 years of purgatory wasn’t enough to keep Netflix’s Castlevania down.” Destructoid, 10 July 2017, www.destructoid.com/10-years-of-purgatory-wasn-t-enough-to-keep-netflix-s-castlevania-down-447906.phtml. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.
Green, Scott. “Ryotaro Okiayu And Shinichiro Miki Lead Japanese Dub Of Netflix ‘Castlevania.'” Crunchyroll, 05 July 2017, www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2017/07/05/ryotaro-okiayu-and-shinichiro-miki-lead-japanese-dub-of-netflix-castlevania. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.
Lumb, David. “Netflix’s ‘Castlevania’ showrunner Adi Shankar on nerddom and season two.” Engadget, 29 July 2017, www.engadget.com/2017/07/29/netflix-s-castlevania-showrunner-adi-shankar-on-nerddom-and-se/. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.
Shah, Saqib. “Netflix reveals new slate of anime originals.” Engadget, 02 Aug. 2017, www.engadget.com/2017/08/02/netflix-new-anime-shows/. Accessed 13 Sept. 2017.