What is the difference between cartoons and anime? I used to watch cartoons as a kid (Sponge Bob, Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Courage the Cowardly Dog) and then when I got older I started referring to animated shows as anime (Kill la Kill, Attack on Titan). I guess the difference is the subject manner and intended audience. I have a weird relationship with anime as the pop culture circles that I reside in feature a lot of anime discussion. Most of the critically acclaimed anime look great on paper, but when I actually watch them I am reminded of how spoiled I am by big budget movies and HBO shows.
Anime is very sporadic in it action scenes for budget reasons as ambitious action requires a lot of effort and money. This leaves a lot of anime that I have seen being split up into two different kinds of scenes, practically still images with lots of dialogue and then then unbelievable actions scenes with smooth animation.
I have zero ties to the Castlevania video game series only playing a little bit of the Lords of Shadow game and as I just explained, I am not too fond of anime, so when Netflix released a Castlevania anime, I had zero intentions of watching it.
The praise for the series was unavoidable, podcasts, videos, and friends all raved about it. Learning that it was just 4 episodes combining for a run time of less than 2 hours, I decided to watch.
This show is awesome. It is concise in its story arc which is free of filler and unnecessary plot. Within the first few minutes you know what the show is going be about and the main character, Trevor Belmont is introduced perfectly in the first episode.
The story is based on the events of the NES game, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. A woman names Lisa Tepes find Dracula in his gnarly floating house. She wanted to learn about science and uncover the mysterious of life through Dracula’s knowledge. Dracula falls in love with her, marries her, and teaches her about the wonders of science.
Jump forward 20 years later and Lisa is being burnt at the stake for practicing witchcraft. Her experiments and talk of science (especially as a woman) were shut down by the church and she was brutally killed. When Dracula learns of her death, his hatred for the human race reaches a level where he spends a year summoning an army from hell to eradicate the human race. Trevor Belmont, a drunkard heir to a family of vampire slayers, encounters this eradication and helps fight the demons off as the likeable anti-hero.
I won’t spoil any more than that synopsis of the series as the underlying plots aren’t as interesting as the revenge of Dracula. What makes this show stand out is its animation and tone. This show is fucking dark and brutal. The violence is beyond what I expected and there were several moments where I gasped and said profanities out loud. Watching this show on mute with a metal record playing the back ground is probably a great time.
The animation is good especially during the complex action scenes. There were still a few jittery wonky anime moments, but in my ignorant opinion, the animation looks top notch.
Religion is not shown in a positive light in this movie. I was rooting for the demonic creatures from hell killing innocent people as the priests and bishops were so deplorable. In the war between corrupt religion and Dracula’s revenge, I am definitely on the side of Dracula, but I also was rooting for Belmont who was caught up in the middle of the carnage.
For such a brutal and dark show, there is a lot of comic relief and smart writing. Belmont is a drunkard who reluctantly helps out a group of outcasts and is always spouting one liners that don’t come off as corny. His introduction to the show was well done in establishing his character for the 4 episodes. At the end of the first episode Belmont is drinking in a bar where two farm hands discuss fucking goats and how they hate rich black magic practicing families like the Belmont’s. When confronted by these men I figured Belmont would fuck them up and his bad ass-ness would be revealed, but the opposite happened. Belmont was so wasted he could barely talk and he got obliterated in a funny bar fight scene. Belmont is a skilled monster fighter but he is also a snarky alcoholic.
The voice acting of Richard Armitage (Trevor Belmont), Graham McTavish (Dracula), and Alejandra Reynoso (Syphia Beinades) adds to the quality of the show. None of the voice overs felt out of place, they were perfect for the emotions the characters where showing on screen.
I know nothing about the respected creators of anime other than there are just a few respected ones out there, almost all of which are Japanese. This show is mostly a western production created by Powerhouse Animation Studios whom has worked on both video games and TV shows in recent years. Warren Ellis is credited as the writer for the show who has also worked in comics for a long time (also wrote the story for the video game Dead Space, a favorite of mine).
The Netflix Castlevania series is surprisingly good. It isn’t the best Netflix show I have ever seen, but it is probably the first good video game adaptation. It forced me to raise my eyebrows and I will no longer scoff at rumors surrounding Netflix animated shows based on video games anymore.