Mr. Horne's Book of Secrets

Netflixing: Castlevania

This post was originally published at my account on Steemit.com.

 

It finally happened.

After decades of languishing, dealing with countless setbacks, and a number of different approaches it finally got made.

At long last, we have a screen adaptation of Castlevania.

Congratulations are in order. This thing has been in the works for decades. After the million-plus attempts to turn the property into a movie, and the short-lived conjecture of turning it into a live action series, the Castlevania franchise is now on Netflix as a western-made anime TV series.

And, after so much waiting, we’re all asking ourselves the big question: who’s going to be the villain? Which of Castlevania‘s copious selection of prime villains is going to be the focus of this show? Out of so many, who will the showrunners possibly pick?

It’s Dracula. It’s always Dracula. SHEESH!

But that’s no reason to count this series out, as a lot of people have been waiting for it for a long time, and it may open the door to future video game adaptations (the producer has even admitted that he wants to do Metroid next).

So how did it pan out? Let’s take a look.

The Story

Once upon a time in late Medieval Europe, a woman named Lisa decides to become a physician. But instead of dealing with the whole ordeal of medical school—the student loans, the grueling tests, the sleepless nights, and the fact that as a woman she is not allowed to become a doctor in late Medieval Europe—she decides to get her some sweet, sweet forbidden knowledge from good ol’ Count Dracula.

Naturally, the count asks her what she can possibly give him in return, and she replies, “Eh, I can think of one thing.”

And nine months later, they welcome their brand new vampire baby into the world.

But not all is right in superstitious, burn-at-the-stake-first-and-ask-questions-later Medieval Europe, as the Catholic Church finds out that Lisa is healing people with some crazy science that doesn’t jive with their sanctimonious Feng Shui, so they take that lady and give her the worst burning of her life, which, incidentally, kills her.

This of course does not go down well with Dracula…

…who is so incensed that he…decides to give the entire country a grace period of one year. (Huh?)

After which he will raise the armies of hell to destroy all of Wallachia (which is, apparently, the name of late Medieval Europe).

Instead of using that year to flee to other lands or try to make peace with their new friend, the lord of evil, the people go about their business and even celebrate the one-year anniversary of Lisa’s death.

Still angry about the whole “we killed your wife” thing, Dracula…

…finally loses his cool and decides to go Medieval on their butts (which are also, technically, Medieval). He destroys the capital of Wallachia in no time flat and sends his innumerable army of monsters out into the countryside to hunt them some humans.

Not long after that, we encounter Trevor Belmont, who comes from a family of vampire-hunting super studs that was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for being too mind-blowingly awesome. And, in case you know nothing about the Castlevania video game series, the Belmonts are a family whose history and destiny are forever intertwined with that of Dracula…

…as they are eternally tasked with killing him every time he comes back to life.

Trevor, however, is not too keen on the whole vampire-slaying thing, only because he is not an idiot. And he realizes that it is one million times easier for everyone to just flee the country and not do anything else to make Dracula…

…mad.

But destiny has a strange way of bringing people together, and when Trevor ends up saving the life of a pagan mage named Sypha, who has mad skills when it comes to elemental magic, they end up embarking on a quest to end Dracula’s…

…reign of terror.

Along the way, they pick up a third party member, in the form of Alucard, the son of…well, you know who. Together, they are the only hope to save the late Medieval European society that unrighteously killed Lisa and, honestly, wouldn’t be a great place to live, even if it wasn’t crawling with monsters.

Can they do it? Well, we won’t know for a while, because the first season is only four episodes long, and it ends right when the three companions get together.

Wow, what a way to build hype for season 2, eh?

What Works

Castlevania, the Netflix series, is the best video game adaptation ever made.

I am not exaggerating.

But that’s a low bar to leap, considering how lackluster all video game adaptations in the history of ever have been.

No, don’t make me remember! I was so young, so vulnerable. And even now, I am not strong enough…to walk the dinosaur.

But Castlevania works not only as a video game adaptation—it is a great show in its own right, regardless of the source material.

  • The animation is immaculate. Every frame is beautiful.
  • The characters are well written, multifaceted, and engaging.
  • The story is well layered, with just enough mystery to keep things interesting.
  • The dialogue flows naturally, without becoming disjointed or hokey or bogged down in exposition. These people don’t behave like they’re on some amazing adventure to save the world. They are highly flawed human beings, and that shows in the way they speak.
  • The fight choreography is perfect. It is the ideal mixture of true-to-life motion with high fantasy acrobatics. You will love it.

All in all, Castlevania has a boatload going for it. And it’s highly satisfying to see something that has been brewing for so long finally get released and then shine like a star.

This was almost the perfect show.

Almost.

Unfortunately, it suffers from two tremendous flaws.

What Didn’t Work

One of the most amazing things about Netflix is how it pushes boundaries. It is not broadcast like traditional TV, and it is thus not bound by the same rules that the world’s governments have set on broadcast TV.

As such, it can take the content of a series to new heights…and depths.

Ultra violence is certainly a way to get an audience’s attention, controversial as it is. But if it is seen too often, or reaches too far, then it can come across as downright ridiculous.

And that’s what Castlevania has done. The level of violence in this show is so over the top, so explosively implausible, that it becomes unintentionally funny.

And that’s a bad place for this series to be in.

In one scene, Trevor flicks his whip into a man’s face so hard that an eyeball flies out of the victim’s head, hits a wall, and dangles there by a thread of connective tissue. And it’s not even horrifying because a.) It was done with such nonchalance, and b.) the audience had already been witness to a ton of ultraviolent images in the show.

I actually laughed when I saw that happen, even though there was no cue or hint in the scene that suggested this was supposed to be funny.

There is another scene where a demon literally eats a baby. And the show tries to play this up as if this is supposed to be the scene that blows the audience’s collective mind.

But rather than recoiling in horror, all I could do was roll my eyes and say, “Really? You’re that desperate to make yourself seem edgy?”

Honestly, the series would have been one million percent better if it wasn’t trying so hard to be Game of Thrones. It gains absolutely nothing from all that gore. And if you strip away the gore, then you still have an excellent TV show.

The one other flaw this series has is the copious use of the F-word.

I understand that writers want to push boundaries, and don’t want to be limited in what words they can and can’t use, but when your characters spout the F-word at ten times the rate that people do in real life, it gives the impression that the writers are trying too hard. The characters do not have to use the F-word every time a swear is needed! There is an entire rainbow of swears in the English language. USE THEM!

And, as one final complaint, if you’re going to use the F-word to talk about actual sex, then I’d rather that sex have nothing to do with bestiality.

Sheesh!

My Judgment

Castlevania is almost perfect. And, despite its glaring flaws, it is certainly a step in the right direction for video game adaptations.

It lacks none of the essential qualities of a good show. But it also includes a few superfluous elements that detract from the overall effect. During those rare moments when it kept its violence subtle, it was perfect. Just don’t include those same elements in season 2, and it will be perfect. Please!

Season 1 is now exclusively on Netflix, but it is only four episodes long. Season 2 has already been announced, and it will be twice as long, with eight full episodes.

I would not recommend it for children or even the more enlightened adolescents. The show has made itself very clear about what kind of audience it wants, and we shouldn’t give it any more than it asks for.

But if you are an adult, and are mature enough to shrug off the transparent attempts to generate violence-hype, then you will find a gem of a show.

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