Hello again, Lusites. Today, in honor of its release, this week’s anime review will be focused on the all new Castlevania series. Castlevania, for anyone who has spent the last few decades under a rock, is a video game series created by Konami in the days before all they created were pachinko machine games for mobile phones, dating back to 1988 in America on the NES. The series focuses on the rise of Dracula, who apparently is unkillable as each game sees him (and his castle) inevitably rise again. In February of this year, the streaming service Netflix announced plans to turn this popular and relatively successful series into an animated program, consisting of four episodes and set loosely around the events of Castlevania III, the last title on the Nintendo Entertainment System released in Japan in 1989. News of this was met with speculation, and some hope, from a generation jaded by such fantastic video game adaptations as the Super Mario Brothers and Double Dragon movies. Even outside of movies, Nintendo shows have not always had the strongest of showings in the animated universe, with Zelda and Mario each having their own outings that were met with an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Is this really what the games of our youth translate to outside of games? Could anything successfully be converted to animation from the Nintendo? Is there a future for adaptations of games, or are they doomed to be giant steaming piles of pixelated excrement in a flaming bag on the doorstep of people’s childhoods?
Once it was announced who would be working on the project, the feelings of hope and nervousness grew exponentially alongside each other. Adi Shankar, most well known for his “Bootleg Universe” short films, which take popular series and turns them on their heads in a darker sense more often than not, was set to head the project. This could be a very good or very bad thing, based on his previous work. Most notably, his short Dirty Laundry based in the Thomas Jane Punisher universe was quite great, but that is a work that lends itself to a dark tone quite well. His Power/Ranger short film was met with praise and hatred both, depending on who was asked. The biggest fear would be that Adi would decide to follow the current trend of Hollywood and making this adaptation nothing but dark and edgy nonsense with no story. Fortunately, Castlevania is a universe already steeped in many dark and edgy tones, So perhaps this would be the perfect project for Adi?
The series itself is only four episodes long, with the first episode being focused on the events that lead Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, To deem humanity no longer worth allowing to scurry along his city. Giving Dracula a reason to actually hate humanity, instead of just wanting to destroy or rule it for no reason, was a pretty smart decision, even if it was a bit cliche to paint the church as the enemy. In this case, not even the right church. If there is one thing people will probably not expect from a Castlevania series, it is to sympathize with Dracula, but there is definitely reason to his madness. After the introduction of Dracula, the rest of the cast is slowly introduced, with the focus being on Trevor Belmont, the last surviving member of the Belmont Clan, and ancestor of the original Vampire Killer, Simon Belmont. Another thing handled very well in the series is giving each of the characters the story will be focused on depth, fleshing them out in their own ways and making the viewer care about them beyond just seeing them kill vampires and monsters.
The two most important aspects of an animated series doing well are the story and animation quality. Mediocre animation can be saved by a great story, and people will watch even dumb things if the effects are flashy enough. Some directors have made a career based solely around this. Surprisingly, Castlevania delivers in both story and animation quality. Shankar apparently has his own animation studio, Shankar Animation, so maybe he had a big part in making sure the animation was done well. The final stake to the heart that could possibly ruin the show would be poor voice acting, but luckily some pretty big names were reached to play the main characters. Voicing the lead of Trevor Belmont is Richard Armitage, probably most well known for his role as Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit movies. The rest of the cast shines just as bright, even the names that have a lot less work under their belts. All in all, the series as a whole is animated well, acted well, and the story is told pretty well. The biggest flaw the series has is that it is only four episodes long. Castlevania is definitely deserving of its place in the universe, and also deserving of the big shiny A graphic in this post.
There it is, dear readers. Yet another in a long string of anime reviews. This was to be the first week of the summer season, but as Castlevania had just been released and it is one of this writer’s favorite game series, it was deemed that this would be more important to cover. Which is all well and good, as it just means that the next post will have more episodes to cover. Look forward to seeing the shows chosen for the summer season, as well as watching this reviewer have a mild meltdown having built up three episodes (at least) of each show to review in the first post of the season. Are there any anime coming soon that you would like to see on the list? Have you seen Castlevania yet? Do you agree that Adi Shankar took a fat dump on Power Rangers with his little “dark universe” edge-fest? Please leave a comment voicing any suggestions, concerns, or requests. Until next time, dear readers, thank you for reading and keep on watching.