MUST WATCH: CASTLEVANIA

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I love getting surprised by pop culture. As I’ve gone into at greater length before, I feel that surprise is something that is extremely rare in the media we consume and we’re all the poorer for it. So when something great seemingly comes out nowhere, like last years “Stranger Things” on Netflix, it’s a real exciting treat. Which is why Netflix’s new series Castlevania, which premiered last Friday, is definitely a show to check out.

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Based on the video game of the same name and written by the incredible Warren Ellis (writer of the modern comic book masterpiece Planetary and much more), Castlevania is a spectacular 4 epsiode horror/supernatural adventure, Anime series. The story begins in 15th century Wallachia with Dracula himself, getting a rare visit from a human woman named Lisa, who is a healer and scientist. She thinks she can do incredible things to help mankind if Dracula allows her access to the esoteric scientific knowledge that he’s accumulated over the centuries. She hopes the secret knowledge of the immortals, which blur the line between science and magic, will help humanity and society a great deal. Lisa sees Dracula and the knowledge he holds not as something dark and dangerous, but beautiful and eye opening. Dracula doesn’t have much faith in mankind, but he allows Lisa access to his library, technology, and all the wonders he’s accumulated over millennia.

 

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Time goes by and a little Beauty and the Beast situation starts to develop. They fall in love and Dracula(still a very powerful Vampire regardless of how he lives his life) lives the life of a human with his beloved wife. Many years pass, as Dracula lives happily in the countryside with Lisa. One day he returns home from a long trip to find that that his wife has been taken by the Church and burned at the stake for witchcraft. Needless to say he is fucking PISSED. In very dramatic fashion, Dracula gives the people of Wallachia one year to either leave the country forever or die horribly at the hands of the demon army he plans to summon. A year passes and of course Dracula’s warning wasn’t heeded by the local idiots. Dracula’s demon army descends on Wallachia and it is a fucking blood bath. The demons begin moving from town to town, brutally killing anything in their path.

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From here we meet Trevor Belmont. Clearly a young man who’s seen better days, we find him drunk in a shitty tavern, fighting lowlifes in a town that hasn’t been hit by the demon army yet. Belmont is forced to move on when the locals realize who he is. The Belmont Family were legendary monster hunters for centuries until they were excommunicated by the Church on a bunch of trumped up bullshit. Trevor is the last of The Belmonts and he can still kick ass and take fucking names, especially when it comes to monsters. So when he comes to the next town, already besieged by the demonic hourde, he has to decide to continue on the path he’s on or try to reclaim some of his honor by helping defeat Dracula and his army.

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That’s the basic set up for the show and it is one hell of good watch. At this point I should probably say that I am not an Anime guy and I was not familiar with the video game that this show is based on at all.

IMG_1635This show is an attempt to basically do an American Anime, so the visuals of the show are very much in that style. But even if Anime isn’t for you, the animation on this show is absolutely spectacular. There were so many impressive visuals that stood out as things I’d never seen in animation before.

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The voice cast is very strong across the board. Especially Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy, Hannibal TV Series) as Trevor Belmont. I really liked Belmont as the hero in this story. He has a dry sense of humor that makes him surprisingly funny at times. He’s a great protagonist because not only because of his roguish charm and aristocratic humor, he’s also a person who struggles with morality. The choice between stepping up and helping people versus looking out for number one is a big part of his journey throughout the season. Which gives the character a lot of depth that you may not expect see in something like this.

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Dracula is played here by Graham McTavish (Preacher, Outlander), even though he’s not in in the season a whole lot, he managed to make a big impression with the screen time he had. I’m pretty familiar with this actor’s work and I had no idea he played this part until I looked up the voice cast online. Which definitely highlights his ability as a voice actor. He does a great job of going from someone who could be a very tender and loving husband to a vicious, vindictive killer. Despite the horrific things he’s doing, Dracula is still somewhat sympathetic. I mean, these people burned his fucking wife ALIVE! That’s not something you just let slide. It’s not like it was just the Church either, the whole fucking town came out to cheer it on! Like it was their super fucked up version of the big homecoming football game! I guess when you don’t have TV you have to find different ways to stay entertained…

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There are a few more important characters who pop up that are key to the season and the show moving forward. But I don’t want to go into them too much because the season is so short, I want to leave out as many spoilers I can. I will say that Trevor Belmont will have some interesting allies and enemies going into season 2.

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My only complaint was that the show is so goddamn short. It was only four hours. It felt like more of a movie than a TV show season. Luckily Netflix has already ordered a second season which will have 8 episodes instead of 4. It’s really going to suck having to wait for season 2, because this is hand-drawn animation which can takes much longer to produce than more modern animation styles. So we may not see season 2 for quite some time. Which makes me wish that season 2 wasn’t just going to be eight episodes. If there’s going to be such a large gap between seasons, the more episodes the better.

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Bottom line this is another really strong show for Netflix. The fantastic animation, voice work, over-the-top violence, and the great hero and villain are all huge asset for the show. Also, I’m a sucker for anything with really cool looking monsters and supernatural adventures.

IMG_1625If you’re a fan of horror, fantasy, action adventure and a little comedy this is definitely a show you’ll dig. It’s probably not for everybody, but I loved it and can’t recommend it enough. The whole seasons available on Netflix right now so make sure you go and check it out.

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On a side note, I wanted to mention that I’d love to get some feedback and engage with my readers. So please feel free to leave comments or questions in the comments section below or on our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you! Also, check out the latest episode of “The World’s Best Podcast with Paul and Tim”. You can listen to it here on the site, our Facebook page, or iTunes.

 

As always, thanks for reading everybody.
-Paul

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