As part of Netflix’s campaign to control all TV they have dipped their toes into the treacherous waters of an original animation series. Inspired by the endless parade of vampire hunting games, Castlevania is a promising if flawed start to the streaming titan’s media conquest.
Castlevania follows Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), a disgraced vampire hunter, in his quest to find and destroy Count Dracula (Graham McTavish) before the vampire destroys all of Wallachia. Accompanying Trevor are magician Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso) and Dracula’s son Alucard (James Callis). Of course, Dracula has his reasons for this genocidal campaign. He seeks revenge for the death of his wife twenty years before at the hands of the clergy. Blaming an entire country for this event seems like overkill but it is Dracula.
Speaking of Dracula, we see very little of him. In fact, we see very little of anyone. Castlevania is only four episodes long at the moment (a second, eight-episode season is due in 2018). This leaves very little room for character development or much of a supporting cast outside the main trio. Alucard is only seen at the beginning and end of the series and other characters appear and die faster than it takes to say: “Anime inspired western series”.
Speaking of anime inspiration Castlevania takes a great deal of inspiration from the likes of Attack on Titan as well as gothic architecture and many other modern anime fantasy series’ such as Berserk and Akame ga Kill. There’s even a little bit of Judge Frollo (from The Hunchback of Notre Dame) in the Bishop character for those Disney fans out there. Castlevania wears its influences on its sleeve which tends to drown out all but the series’ best bits.
Trevor Belmont is the beating heart of the series. Played with a tongue-in-cheek intensity by Richard Armitage, of Hobbit fame, Trevor is the best part of Castlevania. He is a hard-bitten vampire hunter who is very much out of practice. He is haunted by past trauma but he brings moments of great levity with his sarcastic observations. He has the basic design of all anime heroes but his personality shines through nonetheless. Also worth mentioning are the background animations and how well celluloid animation slips in between the CGI action sequences.
Castlevania has a great deal of potential but it has a long way to go before it can even attempt to bring the crown home to Netflix. Netflix should be commended for going with such a left field choice in terms of their first original animation series. With an anime adaptation of Godzilla on the way it’s clear what direction Netflix have chosen to take. Choosing anime over something closer to Adventure Time or The Regular Show which would be more familiar to western audiences was a brave decision. With that said it’ll be a long time before Netflix can topple the likes of Cartoon Network or Toonami from their thrones. Andrew Carroll