Whilst I know that this review isn’t strictly of a video game, I feel like it definitely has its place under the spectrum of gaming. So with that in mind I’m going to continue along my merry way and discuss, with light timbre in my voice, Netflix’s wonderfully dark and brooding re-imagining of Castlevania.
In the interest of full disclosure before this review gets into full swing, I am by no measure an avid fan of the Castlevania games. It’s not that I don’t like them or that I have anything against them. It just has more to do with the fact that when they were around and enjoying their time in the sun, it was about 10 years before I was born. I know that must sound shocking to you all but there it is.
Which I suppose is why I felt I needed to write this. After finishing this short 4 episode endeavour I went exploring online to get a feel for what the general attitude towards the series was. Without much time passing I found a number of reviews that mostly leaned towards the negative side for seemingly contrived reasons. The most common dispute among these reviews was that the series was drawn out and too long. A complaint I find hard to cop given that there are so few episodes and that during those episodes there is just as much development, if not more, than over the full 25 episode course of Attack on Titan season 1. In fact my biggest issue with the show as it stands, is that it is so very short. 4 episodes for a pilot season seems overly cautious to me. Though I suppose Netflix wanted to see if any negative backlash from the standing fan base would outweigh the influx of positivity from new ones. At this point it’s worth mentioning that the show has been green lit for another season containing 8 more episodes, so I guess it didn’t.
I felt the pacing of the episodes is very well done. The setting and characters are established very well and in such a short space of time. Something I think a lot of animated series could learn from. From almost the time you meet each character you know who they are, what they stand for, where they fit in the world and each has been given a generous amount of room to grow. However that being said each of the main characters have been set up to fit almost perfectly into some pretty common archetypal roles. So if your familiar with any Anime you might think you’ll be able to see where this series is headed. Though I believe that what we have so far is too little to judge and I’m intrigued to see where it goes.
I found the art to be stunning. The colours used are vibrant and varied, really adding to the atmosphere. There is no doubt when things are about to take a turn for the worst and there aren’t any pulled punches. Though not over the top gory, the violence is fairly graphic and not for those who are squeamish. The sound design is also very well done only adding to whatever mood there is in a given scene. I have seen some complaints about the English voice actors and that the animations aren’t exactly synced to the English track. I can agree that there are some parts that aren’t synced very well but it didn’t distract me or detract from the experience. I also personally wasn’t bothered by the English voice cast so I never even bothered to look for any other option.
To the zealous fans of the Castlevania franchise or for anyone looking for a 100% game to series conversion I have this to say: Most of you will probably dislike this series. It doesn’t adhere strictly to the established cannon and it rocks the boat a bit. Though it does stay true to building a fantastic atmosphere and a sense of journey. For those of you who have an idle fascination with the franchise or who just liked the look of the trailer. It’s definitely worth trying. The investment at this stage is low and I think the payoff further down the track will be worth it.
I feel somewhat conflicted trying to give this a numerical grade because as a series there isn’t enough to judge and as an 80 minute movie there still isn’t enough. Based on the first impressions that it’s left though, I’d give it an 8/10. I think that what we have so far is fairly well above average and has a lot of space to grow. I think the building of atmosphere and characters is deftly executed, as well as having stunning art and fantastic audio.
TLDR: If you like good animated art, nice sound design, rich atmosphere, interesting characters, nihilistic humour, satisfying action, and more to come. Watch this.
As always, don’t forget to praise the fun.