By Chris Zuver, A & E Editor
What do the Mario Brothers, “Assassins’ Creed,” and “Resident Evil” franchises all have in common? Each has had a film or television release that was criticized-and I use that last word in the most negative sense. In fact, there is still a stigma behind film and television adaptations of video games and it dates back to the early 90s. However, there have occasionally been exceptions to this stereotype. One is the recently-released “Castlevania” animated series which debuted on Netflix earlier this summer. The first season, though only consisting of four half-hour episodes, is well-designed with memorable characters, a gripping plot, and even a sense of humor.
The story, based on the Konami game “Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse,” takes place in the nation of Wallachia, where the notorious vampire, Vlad Dracula Tepes is approached by a woman who asks him to teach her his vast knowledge of science. Dracula, though distrusting of humans, agrees to this request and eventually, they fall in love and marry. Years later, however, Dracula, after spending time traveling the world as a human, learns that his wife has been accused by the church of practicing witchcraft. In the wake of his heartache, what little respect Dracula had developed for humans vanishes and he unleashes an army from hell upon the people of Wallachia to exact his revenge.
Meanwhile, during all of this unfolding chaos, Trevor Belmont, descendant of the Belmont clan, whom had fought Dracula in the past, travels from town-to-town, drinking his problems away. However, he soon learns of Dracula’s roving army of demons and, through a series of events, realizes that he must take action.
One of the most intriguing aspects of “Castlevania” is that not all characters can easily be labeled as good or bad, inherently, but rather through their actions. Dracula, in the beginning, is an outcast and distrustful of humans. Yet he tries to somewhat extend the olive branch through the woman he marries and accepts her request to “walk the world as a man.” Though it is easy to say that he crosses the line when he orders an army of demons to attack the country, this act of murder is in response to a love that was taken from him by a group of humans who have never held anything but contempt toward his existence.
Meanwhile, the church, led by a corrupt archbishop, not only wrongfully accuses the vampire’s bride of casting spells of the devil, but also acts as a group of thugs throughout the story. Trevor Belmont is a social outcast because the church excommunicated his family, yet the bishops and clergy continuously stand opposed to him and those who challenge their authority of righteousness.
The animation style is based off of the artwork of Ayami Kojima, who did the design for the series’ game “Symphony of the Night.” The roots of the art are heavily Japanese with a dark streak. You will not see sloppy overdubs here, as the series was initially designed with spoken English in-mind.
The first season is exclusively on Netflix, which means you will need a membership. The benefit is that you can see everything at once, of course.
I would recommend “Castlevania” to fans of the game, but also to fans of horror, anime, or anyone who has two hours available and loves some good ol’ Bram Stoker-inspired action.