Remember when you first played Castlevania and you had to deal with the Catholic church persecuting you and then, after completing that two hour introduction, the game finally gave you your first and final boss fight for about ten minutes?
You liar. That never happened. You don’t remember anything!
I’d call myself a fan of the Castlevania games without having played all of them. Under my belt, I have the first three games from the NES, the first two Gameboy Advance titles and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence for the PS2. I like the series and if more was available for the PC, I’d play it. All of which to say, I was excited for this Netflix-produced anime.
This show is four episodes, making for a less than two hour movie in actuality. The first episode starts off well enough. We meet Dracula, who is smitten by Lisa, a local doctor looking to learn more from the Count’s library. The two get married and things don’t go well, sending Dracula into a rage that kills the population of the countryside. Episode one, check.
The next three episodes follow the unwilling savior Trevor Belmont, last surviving member of a vampire hunting family. As it turns out, his family was driven out and killed by the Catholic church, the same church that made Dracula so angry. While I came in hoping for some fun, vampire slaying action, that’s not what I got. Castlevania, instead, holds back the action in exchange for non-stop monologues from priests, drunks and Belmont. The church is bad, Belmont is afraid, people suck, etc.. That’s what we get for two and half episodes.
It’s only in the last fifteen minutes, when we meet Alucard, does the series have any momentum. Sure, him and Belmont have a classic battle of misunderstanding, but it took too long to get to that point. The last minute teases what I wanted all along, characters from the game declaring war on Dracula.
Season two has been confirmed by Netflix and will have eight episodes, which is great, since combined with the first we’ll have a full season between the two. If the show had been more episodes, maybe I wouldn’t be so annoyed. It feels like we got a show that was unfinished, more of a proof of concept than a complete work. On the other hand, maybe if the show was twelve episodes, I would have tuned out after the first three, not having the patience to keep going much longer.
I was worried that this show would be too similar to the fantastic Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and, boy, was I wrong. That movie hit the ground running and had some amazing set pieces and action. Castlevania has animation that looks low budget, with a high bloom effect hoping to hide the cheap quality of the show. There’s a focus on the gore, showing us how brutal demons are and how squishy humans tend to be. But, to me, it all felt gratuitous and unearned, considering how underwhelming the plot and action were in general. The only time it felt right was during a fight with a cyclops, which was a brief respite from ecclesiastical soap boxes and self-doubting. It wants to be an anime for grownups, but it forgets to be an anime for the people that are actually watching the thing.
Also, there’s no music from the games in the show. Not a “Vampire Killer” or “Bloody Tears”. Nothing. Instead, we get forgettable orchestral pieces that serve to prove my point about video game music. It boggles my mind that they would make an anime based on a game that has some of the most memorable music and not use it. Part of the what made Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children so enjoyable for me was the use of classic tracks from the game. I don’t know if it was a copyrights issue or the show thought it was better than the games, but it’s a heavy mark against it.
I didn’t like the show, in case I didn’t get that across. It spends two hours making Catholicism the villain without having anything new to say about the church or religion. We’ve seen these stories before and done better elsewhere. Heck, Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame tackles that issue and has better animation (and is shorter too). Dracula and his castle is on screen for all of ten minutes and Belmont doesn’t take action until the very end. I came in wanting to see Belmonts fighting Draculas and I got Warren Ellis’ Sunday school report card. If it had been an actual adaptation of Castlevania, it might have stood out among the hundred other options I have for anime. As it is, it’s forgettable, an example of what I don’t want in a Castlevania game. Haven’t the Belmonts been through enough?
This was the first video I made when I upgraded my editing program back in 2005. I’m still proud of it, all these years later.
The wife and I just finished watching Attack on Titan last night. I think it’s the first new anime we’ve completed together. We also finished it in record time when compared to how long we’ve been trying to get through Arrow and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m a lucky guy to have a wife that gets excited about anime with giant people/monsters and zipline sword fighters.
Kendra loved the show. I liked the show. You wouldn’t think that would be a big difference in opinion but I’m learning that it is, in fact, a large gap. To love the show the show means to have no complaints. To like the show means those who love it think I hate it. Which isn’t true.
First, the good. The animation is great and probably got me most excited about the show in the beginning. It’s smooth and fast, with perfect coloring and neat designs. The music isn’t overbearing and blends well into the background. The voice acting is good and no one has an annoying sound like Naruto. It’s all played straight and I like that.
The action, when it comes, is great. It’s the kind that I watch anime specifically for, fast and out of this world. The 3d manurvering is one of the coolest things I’ve seen and I wish I could get a set. Flipping in the air like Spider-Man, swords spinning and Titan’s above and below. How can you not feel like a superhero?
Oh boy, and the Titans. They are never not creepy. The big ones are menacing and grotest and they’re like running into a T-Rex. The smaller ones are especially disturbing. They’re fast, they have giant smiles and they only want to eat you. The move sparaticly, have eyes that are focused but vacant…man, I’m creeping out just writing about them.
There’s also some great twists in the story, especially some character ‘fate’ reveals. There were plenty of times Kendra and I looked at each other saying “Holy crap!”
Okay, so that’s why I liked the show. Now on to why I don’t love it.
First and probably the biggest, are the characters. They are all useless. Skill wise, they all fall short of a standard the show sets for them. They’re supposed to be able to kill Titans? They act like they haven’t had years of training and expectations before the first battle. Only one or two characters ever succesfully kills a Titan and the rest end up running and dying. This is the city’s defense? They’re also all stupid as all get out. Characters are supposed to make bad decisions once or twice, but not when the right answers are so obvious. In one instane, a group of characters refuse to let a certain character use his power that would save them, because they want to prove how strong they are. Then, they all die because they’re have zero skills. Then, the character uses his power anyway and feels guilty about letting the others die. Because they made him. This is dumb characterization by way of Smallville.
The main character is as whiny as Shinji Ikari was, except he’s addes angry screaming to the mix. It’s rough when the character you’re supposed to be rooting for is one of the most annoying. By the end, I was actually more interested in Armin, because he’s had the most growth. Or Mikasa, because she’s the only smart, capable character on the show.
The second problem I had is the pacing and it seems to be an issue a lot of people have raised. During the beginning, during the big attack on the city when everything should be hectic and insane, characters just stop and talk for half the episode. Now, I understand long conversations that seem to only take a second in the show’s timeframe are a trope of the medium, but not every one has to be as dull or pace-killing as this series would have you believe. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood had long talks but they were always made to hold the viewers interest and push the story foward. Here, on Attack on Titan, they just seem like ways to stretch episodes out for time’s sake. Fortunetaly, this problems seems to resolve itself near the end, but not before it severly damaged my interest in the show as a whole.
Also, twenty-six episodes and no ending? How spoiled did Trigun and Cowboy Bebop make me!
But, you know what? It’s still a pretty cool show. The concept might be stronger than the execution and I might fall into the catagory of people who see the show as a little bit overrated, but I had fun watching it and it was nice to watch it with my wife. Being able to relate to people about having to check under the bed for Titans is great and I love the pictures online of people recreating the attacks. I also enjoyed how much of a giant mech show it was in disguise. I’d never not suggest the show to someone but I think the love one feels towards it will vary from person to person depending on patiance.