Grew up reading comic books in the 90's. Marvel fan at heart. Hulk, the Midnight Sons, and Marvel's cosmic universe are my favorites.
Castlevania, the classic video game franchise from Konami, is coming to Netflix. ComiConverse contributor Mitch Nissen is here with the details along with a look back at the classic video game franchise as well as hopes and expectations for the Netflix series.
Castlevania: A Netflix Original Series
“What a horrible night to have a curse”
Netflix has recently announced a number of projects in the works for 2017. Among the purposed projects is a Castlevania animated series. This news recently dropped and information about the series is minimal at best. Here’s what we do know:
MORE NEWS FROM THE WEB
The title as of now is Castlevania Season 1: Part 1. The series writer is acclaimed comic book author Warren Ellis, and the show’s producer is aiming for a super violent hard-hitting anime approach.
Like I said, there isn’t much information as of yet.
This will be the first time the Konami Castlevania franchise will be adapted for film. A film adaptation is something I’ve wanted for a long time.
But should we be excited?
Video game film adaptations are notorious for failing. They’re also noteworthy for loosely following the video game storylines. Needless to say it’d be good practice not to get our hopes up for Castlevania.
But yet the name Netflix carries with it a certain power. Their list of original shows from House Of Cards to Stranger Things have been well received. If Netflix is wise they’ll have no doubt sensed this opportunity. It’s an opportunity to produce a faithful and truly amazing video game adaptation.
Video game film adaptations need a strong example of what’s possible when done right. The original Silent Hill film from director Christophe Gans came close. Silent Hill is another horror themed Konami title coincidentally. Ultimately what works comes down to individual opinions. Yet symptoms exist that have proven problematic for video game movies. Not following the game storylines for example.
Writer Warren Ellis is no stranger to animated vampire slaying. He scripted the animated Blade series for Marvel. He also wrote an unproduced script for an animated Castlevania film titled Dracula’s Curse. Dracula’s Curse is also the title for the classic Castlevania III game. Ellis is at his best when given free reign. He is the freshest pair of eyes one could ask for to revamp an old property like Castlevania. Unshackled by such things as continuity Warren Ellis soars.
Warren Ellis could produce a faithful adaptation of a Castlevania game though. Or he could deliver something completely new and unseen before. Throwing video game storylines out the window is the long standing tradition after all. There’s no telling which way Ellis will take it.
As long as the spirit of Castlevania is captured it will be fine.
What is the spirit of Castlevania though?
At it’s core it is simply monster hunter versus monster. In that respect this spirit can be readily found. Both the Devil May Cry and Resident Evil franchises have a similar spirit. The Blade films and the Underworld series too. Even animes like Vampire Hunter D and Berserk. Vampire Hunter D is said to be one of the inspirations for the original Castlevania after all. Needless to say, the spirit of Castlevania is quite prevalent.
What differentiates Castlevania from all the rest?
The devil is in the details.
There are 26 games in the franchise not including spin-offs. Of these games the majority maintain 2D gameplay and mechanics. It isn’t a stretch to say that the series chafed in the 3D gaming world. There were still quality of 3D Castlevania games, though not as many. The series high water mark is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Many fans look to Symphony as the finest example of the series. It is also the perfect example of the elements that make Castlevania what it is.
The Art. Ayami Kojima is perhaps the definitive artist for Castlevania. Her images are beautiful and elegant yet frightening and powerful. Her art is what comes to mind when one thinks of Castlevania. Translating Kojima’s art to animation is key. Anime director Yoshiaki Kawajiri‘s style would be an appropriate choice. The look and design of the film Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust would translate Ayami Kojima’s art wonderfully.
The Setting. Not every game in the series takes place in the past. But Castlevania began and, for the majority of the series, remained a period piece. Medieval or Victorian era Europe is the common place and timeframe. This setting reinforces the design and look of Castlevania.
The Music. One of the franchise’s endearing qualities has long been the score. Whether it’s an old Nintendo midi file or a full orchestra, the music is an essential piece. The music is as much a part of Castlevania’s character as anything else.
The Characters. Vampire hunters in media are a dime a dozen. The Belmont clan stands alone by their long and storied lineage. And of course the whip. The Belmont clan spans centuries and numbering many different heroes. From Sonia, Trevor, Simon, Richter, and more. Each from a different era with their own personality. While not every Castlevania features a Belmont they have always been a key part of its success.
The Monsters: Castlevania is a horror fan’s dream come true. Nearly every monster ever conceived has appeared in one Castlevania game or another. If you were to boil together all the classic Hammer Horror films the resulting soup would be Castlevania.
So what ultimately would a fan of Castlevania one day hope to see realized on screen? Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, correct? But that game draws heavily from the stories of other games, Dracula X: Rondo Of Blood and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. And none of those would exist without Simon Belmont’s original tale.
So, if the plan is to do multiple seasons why not this.
Set the stage with a season of Simon Belmont followed by Simon’s Quest. Next the prequel season with Trevor Belmont and introducing Alucard. Follow that by a season of Rondo Of Blood. And ending with a final season adapting Symphony. As a longtime Castlevania fan this is what I’d want to see.
Probably the easiest Castlevania to adapt would be the reboot Lords Of Shadow. However, going that route presents probelms. The bulk of the franchise storylines, including Symphony, don’t jive with Lords Of Shadow’s narrative. Besides, isn’t Lords Of Shadow essentially a Castlevania movie anyway? Isn’t that why Hideo Kojima won’t make a Metal Gear Solid movie either? Adapting a story like Simon’s, Trevor’s, or Richter’s one could be faithful to the game while having latitude to be creative and new as well.
In closing, what should we expect from this Netflix series? Right now it’s anyone’s guess. Elements are in place that could take the show any which way. Warren Ellis could do great things with the show or something completely out of left field, which could work too. Netflix has a tremendous opportunity here though. Video game film adaptations are a largely unsuccessful sub-genre. Nailing Castlevania could pave the way for more long awaited adaptations. And Netflix could show everyone else how it should be done.
Only time will tell. And even in defeat, it is only a matter of time until Dracula and Castlevania will rise again.
For the final word on Castlevania visit The Castlevania Dungeon, vampire slaying for nearly 20 years.
Mitch Nissen is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @NinjaMitche