Castlevania is a gothic horror action series directed by Sam Deats and written by Warren Ellis. The series is based on the popular Castlevania video game franchise. Heavily influenced by the artwork in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and anime like Vampire Hunter D. The story begins with Count Vlad Dracula Tepes who begins his extermination of the people of Wallachia as they burned his wife falsely accused of witchcraft. His destruction starts with a horde of demons terrorizing and murdering cities across the land. The last living member of a disgraced family of monster hunters, Trevor Belmont, enters the fray in the fight against Dracula’s menace.
Before watching I had mixed feelings about the series. The short number of episodes, overall lack of promotion, and history of bad adaptations of video games left me uneasy. For good reason, it’s cliché riddled, bad dialog and the pacing was all off from the beginning to the end. Whatever the reasons, there just isn’t any good excuses to not make this series a home-run. There are only a handful of video game franchises that seem like they would be adaptable into this medium to create something great and Castlevania franchise is one of them.
The pacing kicks off slowly and eventually is forced to ramp up because by the 4th episode they realized there was no momentum. When you have a short order, things need to happen fast without feeling rushed. Instead the pace matched that of an anime series of 24 episodes. Some of the humor dragged down scenes to the point it started to feel idiotic. The bar scene is one of these moments that use unnecessary violence, bad dialog and overall pointless in the story. Fair enough if you have a bunch of episodes to leave this sort of filler moments but they only had 4 episodes. Ten minutes gets spent to set up the Trevor Belmont character and by the end of the 3rd episode you are left wondering when is shit going to happen. Trevor Belmont who I want to root for as he comes off as a badass with attitude, sometimes comes off as a bro with too many cheesy lines and never ending pointless swears. It’s not until the last episode that the series begins to finally shine.
Aside from the pacing, bad writing and 6 grader humor , the artwork felt off. I believe it was the animation frame rates as movements looked jarring. The artwork looked worse than it was was but got better each episode and started to appear with more fluidity. Some of the voice acting could have been better, but for most of the cast it was okay in terms of an English voice cast for an anime.
The best moments were the fights scenes that you see glimmers of legit action, but doesn’t show how good it can be until the 4th episode. Again, left wondering why for such a violent series why that isn’t being shown more instead of long speeches being given by pointless characters. Too many moments of religious exposition and pointless use of bad language. Almost everything that happens in the 4 episodes, could have been better condensed into 1-2 episodes instead of slogging through the boring scenes.
Castlevania deserves a better adaptation of the classic vampire-hunting adventures of the Belmont Family. There are flickers of hope from the action scenes, music, beautiful artwork, but if the writing and pacing continue to bog it down next season the series will be doomed to be another failure in adapting video games. In comparisons to other great anime in similar genres this is not all that great, but the potential is there. The series needs more whips, smarter dialog and less soapbox ranting from meaningless one-dimensional characters. Here’s hoping an 8 episodes order will help parse out the exposition and increase the action to create a Castlevania series we all hope it can be.
Episodes: 04 (1st season)
Director: Sam Deats
Writing: Warren Ellis
Cast: Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont
James Callis as Adrian Tepes also known as Alucard
Graham McTavish as Vlad Dracula Tepes
Alejandra Reynoso as Sypha Belnades
Tony Amendola as The Elder
Matt Frewer as The Bishop
Emily Swallow as Lisa Tepes
Producers: Toshiyuki Hiruma, Brad Graeber, and Jason Williams
Music: Trevor Morris
Studio: Frederator Studios and Powerhouse Animation Studios