Stylus

Castlevania

Jon Hokenson, Entertainment Editor

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Rescheduled release dates are always frustrating, especially multiple ones. But if Hieronymus Bosch was taking longer than expected to paint “In the Garden of Earthly Delights,” no fan would hover over his shoulder asking if he was done yet. Masterpieces take time. The Netflix original animated series “Castlevania” is a masterpiece and season two should be coming October 26, 2018.

Inspired by a video game first released in 1986 by Konami on the Family Computer Disk System, the game has spanned generations and no fewer than ten game systems. It sports a story that spans around 700 years.

In keeping with this varied past, the Netflix series covers 22 years and three locales in its first ten minutes. Rather than relying on overly specific title cards or clunky character dialogue, the cartoon makes these different times and places immediately clear with music, ambient noise, location design and animation. Characters refer to various towns like Targoviste, Gresit or the entire country of Wallachia with a casual and interchangeable indifference, not unlike a Kansas Cityian telling a New Yorker they’re from Kansas City, and someone from Parkville they’re from Raytown. The effect is a world that feels huge without hours of torturous backstory. “Castlevania” excels at using the characters vision and knowledge to tell you there’s more going on in this world than the tiny bit the viewer can see.

The title cards give minimal information; the date markers serve only as a reminder of the sweeping gaze of the immortal antagonist, Vlad Dracula Tepes, voiced by Graham McTavish.

This perspective is another example of “Castlevania’s” top tier storytelling. Opening with the tale of Dracula’s hatred for man shows a villain who isn’t without reason. Nothing in “Castlevania” is that simple. Except the roving demon horde. That’s pretty straight forward. The heroes, on the other hand, are complex.

In the case of Trevor Belmount, voiced by Richard Armitage, a drunken, foul mouthed, apathetic, smelly kind of complex. Fans of the games series will recognize Belmount’s namesake as the legendary house of monster slayers players have controlled over the years. Seeing the contrast between Trevor and those heroes gives a stark illustration of the paraphrased Nietzsche, “when fighting monsters, beware you don’t become one.”

However, when Trevor desperately flees a murderous mob through what turns out to be a gauntlet of improvised traps, it was the first time, out of a 25 year cavalcade of failed attempts, I felt the thrill of a video game while watching a show.

The other heroes are slightly less fleshed out, due mostly to the only legitimate complaint that can be proffered against “Castlevania.” There isn’t enough of it. The first season was four episodes long at about 22 minutes apiece. With luck, the release date will stay put this time and the shows success will have translated into more content. If no, well; no one would tell Bob Ross, “Knock it off with the trees, we’ve got a schedule to keep.”

With Halloween right around the corner, assuming the corner was 2 months away, you owe it to yourself to take about 90 minutes and check out this excellent work of gothic, brooding, introspective art before the second installment hits Netflix next month.

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Castlevania