[Series Review] Castlevania (Episode 1, 2017)

There’s plenty of undeserved hype surrounding the new Castlevania web series, based on the Castlevania videogame series. Even before the introduction concluded, we (Zombiepaper and Agent Bon) agreed the first episode could have been significantly better, and we have specific ideas on what failed. Even though the first season is only four episodes, with such poor storytelling, I know I’m going to have trouble tolerating those remaining three episodes. Maybe it’ll pick up? Could happen…

Zombiepaper’s Rating: ★★☆☆☆ [2/5]
Agent Bon’s Rating: 2.5/5.0
There will be spoilers uncensored below.

Castlevania’s biggest problem is narrative structure.

A woman knocks on a castle door and falls in love with the man who answers in a brief scene. The man returns home to hear that his wife was burned at the stake. This man, Dracula, threatens to kill all the nearby villagers in one year. He violently does.

It’s an emotional cause-and-effect story.

Almost the entire episode is dedicated to the slaughter of the villagers. It’s a gory scene filled with blood and guts. Yet without any context for why we should care about the main characters, and why the death of one person could cause so many deaths, it’s also entirely meaningless.

Editing the 23 minute episode into 3 equal parts could have helped significantly:

1) Background
Castlevania fans should recognize Dracula and maybe the catalyst for the series: Lisa. Otherwise, we don’t even get a 30-second context montage with them outside their first meeting! 20 years happened between then and now? Why is Lisa’s death so important to Dracula? Why does that cause his hatred of humanity?

2) Cause
Arguably the most important scene in the episode is Lisa’s death. Since we’ve become emotionally invested in Lisa with the suggested changes, the scene that drives Dracula to slaughter an entire village becomes tragic, rather than the footnote for a historically accurate conversation about witchcraft between the characters pictured above.

3) Effect
The editing during Lisa’s death is important. Any editing beats during that scene should be mirrored in the slaughter scene. For example, new stills of her screaming could be shown between black frames to juxtapose the church killing Lisa with the demons killing villagers. The audience could then draw parallels.

There’s a laughable scene during the introduction. Lisa stabs a bat with a knife. It’s closely cropped so you barely notice the knife is the only piece that’s animated. Shortcuts like that appear throughout the episode.

Our closing thoughts:

Without the Castlevania name, this series would languish in obscurity. Legend of the Overfiend had a gorier slaughter scene 30 years ago! I don’t see much potential, if any, for this series to improve because the animation quality is poor, the characters are terribly written, and narrative wasn’t developed strongly enough.

Agent Bon
The Castlevania anime appears to be focused on the anti-censorship crowd, such as Game of Thrones fans, as well as Castlevania fans.  It has historically accurate portrayal of a witch hunt, and is mostly accurate about Castlevania too.  Unfortunately, about 75% of the first episode is poorly told.

Collaborative jam between Agent Bon (guest contributor) and Zombiepaper (primary writer). Zombiepaper wrote the majority of the document, while Agent Bon contributed.