It would be a bit of an understatement to say I was excited about the new Netflix anime series based loosely on the events of Castlevania III. I have a deep relationship with this game series and while I have not played a lot of them, it was nonetheless extremely important during my formative video game playing years. The original was the very first game that I saved up money to purchase for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Back then at roughly age 11, it took a long time to scrounge up the money to buy a $50 video game… but that was really only half of the obstacle. To get the game itself required going someplace that had video games… or at least in the case of Castlevania a trip to Toys R Us… the closest of which was an hour and some change away from home. To say I devoured the game is a bit of an understatement as well… there are sequences in the original game that are burned into my brain just as indelibly as the Vampire Killer theme is. I have said this plenty of times… but I count Castlevania Symphony of the Night as my favorite game of all time and consider it pretty damned closed to perfect. When Koji Igarashi started the kickstarter for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night… I threw money at my screen and backed it as soon as I could. Since then I have played through the demo version that backers got a few times… so to say I am the target audience is also probably a bit of an understatement.
The show released officially over the weekend on the 7th but I just finally was able to sit down for a period of time and watch through it last night. Prior to doing so I had been seeing a bit of confusing press floating around with folks generally being unsatisfied with the new netflix offering. Firstly this is probably the most bingeable Netflix “series” I have ever seen… with only 4 episodes weighing in around 100 minutes of total watching. This honestly felt more like a pilot and less like a complete series, but I won’t get hung up on those details. What the season is more than anything is setting the stage for the second season. Since this series is roughly based on the third Nintendo Entertainment System Castlevania game… we go into it knowing some of the major plot points and it seems like the show more or less is following them. During the four episodes we are introduced to a cast of characters that will play out over the series… but I found it curious that at least one major character was completely absent. I am hoping this was just a situation of not having met him yet through the course of the very short few episodes that we got, and will join the team as a later reveal. The show sets up the central conflict between the early science hating church and Dracula… and to a lesser extent the general forces of the enlightenment. For the Christian viewers… I could see some of the dialog being a little hard to swallow. For me personally… it did an excellent job of setting up the central conflict that made Castlevania III so different than some of the others in the series.
One of the complaints that I have seen online about the show is that Dracula is not set up to be a sympathetic character… and frankly I disagree. I found myself sympathizing with Dracula quite a bit honestly, and were I in his position I probably would have wanted to burn everything to the ground as well. As far as matching the tone of the games… you are supposed to hate Dracula because ultimately that is the core conflict. Castlevania more or less is about the central conflict between the Belmont family and Dracula. More or less every 100 years Castlevania materializes in our plane of existence, and the Belmont clan trains to be able to stop him each time. This series has a Belmont and a Dracula… so I feel like it met all of the necessary requirements for being able to call itself a Castlevania anything. I honestly thought all of the character introductions worked extremely well, especially Alucard… who isn’t 100% on our side and we get that impression. The real problem with the series as I see it is that I want more of it. Four episodes was just not enough because it essentially serves as the pregame cinematic setting everything up… and we haven’t really gotten to any of the meat of the game yet… or in this case the series. I mean they had to functionally tell an origin story given that they cannot really guarantee that anyone who is watching the show has ever actually consumed any of the source material. I feel like they did a great job of setting the stage… but I am not really looking forward to the likely two year wait until the next batch of episodes. This time I am hoping they give us way more than four in a single sitting. This won’t be the show for everyone… but I am not looking to nitpick something that I never thought I would actually see in my lifetime. I am more than happy just to sit back and enjoy it.