Sunday, August 20, 2017

Castlevania – season 1

Directed by: Sam Deats

Release Date: 2017

Contains spoilers

The Castlevania series is a computer game series by Konami. I have played a little of it (mostly Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, which I abandoned eventually as the ported keyboard controls for PC were, quite simply, horrendous) and have also given an Honourable Mention to the live action fan film, Hymn of Blood.

This anime production of the story was a short, four-part series based on the 2008 game Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. I’ll say at the outset that the short length of the series did it no favour in developing the characters as it whistlestopped – though there was good characterisation through voice acting.

Vlad and Lisa
The first episode starts in 1455 (which, historically was the year before Vlad Ţepeş' second, and longest, reign and therefore ignores entirely any attempt at historical veraciousness) and sees Lisa (Emily Swallow) approach Dracula’s Castle. She walks through fields of the impaled, now skeletal, and rendered in cgi on which the 2D animation is imposed against. She gains entry to the castle and suggests that she has come to learn. Dracula (Graham McTavish, Preacher) is impressed by her and allows her to study. We should note that the castle is a home of advance technology (including electric lighting and a mechanism that allows Dracula to transport the giant edifice). Later talk about lore/prophecy coming from the future might suggest an element of time travel (and the games did have time controlling characters).

wrath of Dracula
20 years on, in the town of Târgoviște, Lisa has been taken from her home by the church and sentenced to be burnt alive as a witch. She implores Dracula not to take revenge (they assume she is imploring Satan). Dracula, meanwhile, is walking (at her behest) to her home and hears of the execution – arriving too late. Lisa and he had married and in his wrath he tells the town they have one year before he razes the town and then wipes humanity from the face of Wallachia. He needs a year to summon a demon army. At the end of the episode, with the demon army spreading, we briefly meet Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage).

The next episode concentrates on Belmont, a drunkard and excommunicant as all the Belmonts were excommunicated despite the fact that they fought monsters. The peasants are blaming the noble families for the attacks and he gets into a bar brawl. He sneaks into the town of Gresit, which is under siege by Dracula’s night army. In there he saves a Speaker, a group of nomad scholars, and discovers that one of them is missing, assumed dead, in the catacombs under the town as she searches out the sleeping soldier. This is a legendary warrior said to be beneath the city who will awaken and defeat Dracula – or so the story (claimed to be) from the future says. He agrees to find the scholar in return for a promise that they will then flee the city.

field of the impaled
Each episode is in the (roughly) 22 minute range and as such don’t build too much story (being that there are only four of them). However the action is fun, the story is kept simple but mention must go to Richard Armitage whose voice acting is superb and who makes the character of Belmont wonderfully dour and jaded, with just a glimmer of the hero he is underneath. The dialogue, and the gore in the animation, sets the series directly towards a more mature audience. All in all, it’s not bad but could stand a lot more depth. However at 4 episodes it won’t outstay its welcome and perhaps should have stayed longer. 6 out of 10

The imdb page is here.

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