Netflix’s Newest Animated Series ‘Castlevania’ is Heavy on Exposition, Light on Discretion (Light Spoilers)

Netflix has announced that it will be producing a second season for it’s latest animated series, “Castlevania,” just days after the series premiered globally. The news should come as a pleasant surprise for fans of the property, many of whom likely haven’t had a chance to watch all of season one yet.

“Castlevania” the animated series, is four, twenty-ish minute, episodes based on the hugely successful video-game series, which dates back to gaming’s 8-bit days. Know for it’s difficult game play, haunting soundtracks, and mature and advanced story-lines, not frequently found in 2D side-scrollers of the time, Castlevania was a hit from the first time someone blew into the bottom of the cartridge. The game series has endured more than 3 decades, and ammasing over 30 installments across half a dozen platforms.

The animated series, like the original games, focuses on the last son of a clan of vampire hunters named Simon Belmont. Belmont is armed with a short sword, his signature whip ‘Vampire Killer,’ and a wit that cuts deeper than either.

Opposing Belmont is the vampire by whom all others are judged, Vlad Dracula Tepes. In the show Dracula’s wife has been taken by the catholic church, as they were want to do in the 15th century, and burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft. The church doesn’t seem to recognize the distinction that she was, in fact, just practicing science. The vamprire’s response is about what you would expect from and immortal blood sucking monster with supernatural powers . He summons an army from hell, rains blood from the sky, sends demons to eat babies, and levels entire cities.

Responsibility for the fallout resulting from the church’s actions lands reluctantly in the lap of Belmont. This first season follows him on his demon hunting adventures and shows how he meets his companions who will fight along side him in the war against the Dracula and his demonic hordes.

Netflix’s version of the story feels like a video game. In the series, characters faces the same hurdles they might in the games; a drunken bar fight with angry locals, a locked gate and subsequent alternative entrance, a series of conversations with locals in an attempt to gather information, stumbling across a back alley fight and deciding to get involved, bands of well-armed clergymen, and a series of small side quests, represent just a few video game tropes that made their way into the series. And, while most series try to avoid using such dated cliches, in “Castlevania” their inclusion should give gamers a warm and fuzzy feeling that only boosts the appeal of the series.

The animation style and quality are neither groundbreaking nor innovative, but look fantastic and use established anime visuals with an adeptness that is both visually appealing, and jarring when necessary. The show is hyper violent and over-the-top gorey, which could be gratuitous except that… well it is gratuitous, but in a way that doesn’t get stale or boring like one might expect.

In addition to the strong visuals, the voice acting in the show is top notch. The actors aren’t as recognizable as with other Netflix shows like “Bojack Horseman,” or “F is for Family,” but it really doesn’t matter, because these actors are always on point. Belmont is voiced by Richard Armitage, who is building up his nerd-cred, depending on your opinion of the films, after having played Thorin Oakenshield in “The Hobbit” series. Joining Armitage is fellow “Hobbit” alum, Graham McTavish, as Dracula. Additional performances worthy of note are given by that guy from every ’90s science fiction show whose name you don’t know, Matt Frewer, “Stargate SG:1” regular Tony Amendola, and James Callis, who played the greatest character in science-fiction TV history, Gaius Baltar of “Battlestar Galactica”.

As enjoyable as the series should be to fans of the Castlvania IP, newcomers may be put off by the over-abundance of exposition and cheesy dialogue. The characters are cookie-cutter RPG NPC’s, and often depth. Belmont spends a good portion of the first three episodes alone talking to himself. It’s a hurdle that shouldn’t be too hard to overcome, but could push people on the fence away from the series.

The show plays a lot like a local D&D game with an experienced DM. The world building and story carry the thing while the characters often say and do things that aren’t particularly articulate or logical. If you have ever enjoyed watching a friend or older sibling play through a video game then this series might be for you. If you like cartoon violence, and gore, mixed with a strong story and can forgive predictable and cliche dialogue, all the better. It’s clear why Netflix has already ordered a 2nd season.

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