While the famous “curse of the video game” is still prevalent today in modern adaptations, Netflix Castlevania The anime series was arguably the first to break this pattern. It originally premiered in 2017 with a brief four-episode first season, but the impact it had seemed to finally tap into the potential of video game series being adapted for TV and/or film.
The jury is still out on whether live-action productions could do their source material justice – though, maybe HBO The last of us might produce that first major change – but animation support seems to have unlocked something. With fantasy cemented as a pop culture staple thanks to the likes of Dragon House and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Castlevania is an excellent dark-fantasy animated series to gorge on. From its stylish anime inspiration to its amazingly animated sets, it pursues this high genre.
The perfect blend of western style with Japanese anime
Overall, the animation format is still criminally underrated despite the incredible depth of possibilities it offers, but it’s still made impressive strides over the past decade. This includes the Japanese anime genre, which has effectively grown from a whispered-about form of niche entertainment to a viable global juggernaut.
And while Castlevania itself isn’t anime in the strictest sense of the word – as much as Netflix likes to capitalize on the word for marketing purposes – it certainly takes all the best stylistic flair from the genre as an influence. There’s not a single character design in the series that doesn’t drip with a goth style that brings the best of both worlds when it comes to Western animation and Japanese anime – courtesy of Powerhouse Animation studio based in Austin.
In addition to Powerhouse Animation Studios’ fantastic character designs, the team’s overall art direction for the show and the animation itself is a sight to behold for longer. Castlevania keep on going. As of the final season, nearly every frame is a hit, and the action sets are nothing short of visual spectacles.
Everything depicted onscreen looks meticulously crafted, with each combat sequence pushing animation capabilities to the absolute limit. That doesn’t mean that Castlevania lacking in the narrative department, but would-be fans coming from a live-action show to animation certainly won’t be short on visual candy.
An immersive dark fantasy world and a unique cast
The fantasy genre generally lives or dies based on the strength of its world, and Castlevania portrays one that is more than worth investing in. Between the aforementioned cocktail of gothic and anime-inspired art direction, the series establishes an interesting universe ripe with a dark atmosphere.
While not the live-action locations seen on HBO’s fantasy shows, fans of dark fantasy on the whole should feel right at home with Castlevaniahis style and brooding nature. A fantasy world, however, is only as good as the characters that populate it. Fortunately, this series has a wide cast of characters with unique personalities – it’s not hard to get attached to the heroics of Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades and Alucard.
With Trevor playing the delinquent with a heart of gold, Sypha playing the determined and righteous heroine who holds the team together, and Alucard playing the moody, prophetic hero in search of purpose, Castlevania creates an emotionally invested trio with distinct motivations that make them intriguing.
The show does an equally terrific job of both creating compelling villains and anti-heroes, from the heartbroken and vengeful Dracula to his emotionally traumatized underlings Hector and Isaac. From season 3, Castlevania even inspired by game of thrones in terms of narrative structure, as old and new cast members embark on branching storylines to sow the tantalizing seeds of the breakthrough fourth and final season.
A loving tribute to its video game roots
Part of the reason so many live-action video game adaptations – and the same could be said for anime adaptations – fall flat on their faces critically is what can only be described as the studio feeling embarrassed to acknowledge that the source materials are, in fact, video games.
Seeing these beloved franchises make money in this medium seems like the only motivating force for adapting them elsewhere, but Castlevania feels like a labor of love and respect for the game from top to bottom.
As it concerns Castlevania specifically goes, the series strikes the perfect balance between paying homage to its gaming roots while tastefully making creative changes to better suit a serialized story for TV.
Even the choreography of the fight scenes and the pristine animation that brings them to life feels like a dynamic video game boss fight scripted for this medium. Not to mention the macabre creatures of the night, weapons, and magic on display, all of which are complemented by the RPG-like party motif that Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard embody.
The critical success that Castlevania won didn’t go unnoticed – it even escaped Netflix’s cancellation trigger – with a series of subtitled sequels Night currently in development. But if this series has still gone unnoticed by some for one reason or another in the midst of this revival of the fantasy genre, CastlevaniaThe sense of visual style, characterizations, and adherence to its roots make it an engaging watch even for those uninitiated to the Konami video game franchise.
The four seasons of Castlevania are available to stream now on Netflixwith the Night sequel series currently in development for the streamer.
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