Despite feeling like I’d dodged a bullet when Paul W.S. Anderson’s Castlevania movie fell through years back, I’ve held out hope for an adaptation of the series while being afraid that it’ll be terrible. Along comes Netflix, announcing an anime based on the series and I was tentatively excited. It could go wrong in so many ways.
But it didn’t.
In fact, my biggest complaint is that there isn’t MORE of it. (thankfully, the Dark Powers have announced that it’s going to get a second season with double the episodes)
My biggest worry was that the visuals wouldn’t be on par with the video games. Even at the beginning they had a certain dramatic flair that just got more decadent and gothic as it went along. I’m happy to see that the anime ran with this, there’s an over saturated look to even the basic towns. Purples and oranges really pop, there’s often snow or embers in the air to keep the eye occupied. The character designs are a pleasant surprise as they manage to feel very true to the source material, but don’t make the jump into XtrEEme territory (cough Castlevania: Judgement). They feel like they’d be able to exist along side the characters in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, while also being very evocative of the gorgeous painted artwork from Symphony of the Night or Lament of Innocence. It looks great, the animation is pretty fluid, I’m not disappointed in the look at all.
The next issue with adapting Castlevania is that it’s not a series of games that’s known for intricate or detailed story lines. It never needed them, Konami knew what you were here for. It doesn’t quite work that way for a series though. Sure, you could have a show that’s just action scene after action scene, and it might even be fun for a bit. But it won’t be memorable. This anime, smartly, added a few groups to the mix that can play off of each other. They’re somewhat broad strokes right now, but there’s room for more story, and we spend a good amount of time with the characters and the world that they stick with you. It doesn’t feel over-complicated, which is a trap that some anime falls into, but it’s also not just Belmont is all stabby and sometimes there’s a woman.
One thing I think that the show may get some complaints about is that it barely spends any time *in* Dracula’s Castle. While I feel like they perfectly reproduce the spooky, violent, decadent feel of the series, some may be disappointed that there’s very little time in the castle that the series is known for. This is something that’ll likely be fixed as the series progresses, but for now they’re going with a bit of a slow burn.
Fans of the games will notice some pretty great nods int he anime. I let out a chuckle as Belmont jumped across some logs and debris over a body of water like he was platform jumping, and I definitely squealed when a certain person did a certain thing from a certain game (I’ll say it below if you don’t care about spoilers).
All in all, I’m very impressed with it, and I highly recommend it to fans of anime, the video games, and even those with very strong opinions on the dark underbelly of religion. So watch it because good things deserve to be seen, and I’ll forgive you if you can’t watch the first 5 minutes without thinking, “Bitch, I’m Dracula!”
Spoiler: If you’ve played Castlevania Symphony of the Night, you’ll recognize the after images as Alucard zooms around make a fun appearance here. Fantastic attention to detail there.