As neither an anime buff nor a video game addict, Castlevania should be a perfect test case for the power of the algorithm.
Supposedly, Netflix, the all-powerful and multinational streaming service, makes extensive use of algorithms to see what subscribers are watching, pausing or switching off. Then it approves "content" to meet the subconscious needs of those subscribers, spending billions of dollars in the hopes of continually growing their audience, and sometime down the road, perhaps even making a profit.
What that means for the average subscriber, like me and perhaps you, is that there's a ton of "content" to sift through in the hopes of finding something worthwhile to watch. Ideally, Netflix would like everyone to binge on something, as opposed to -- horrors! -- nothing, or spending time with family, friends and/or loved ones, or doing something truly outrageous, like going outdoors.
But I'm single and it's summertime, so that makes me, even more so, the perfect test case for Castlevania. That's because the 4-episode series is targeted, beyond all other metrics, at the eyes of male teenagers who are hungry for the simple pleasures of a dark palette, extreme violence, and graveyard humor, as well as older people, such as myself, whose tastes have never really evolved beyond those adolescent yearnings.
Intended only as a teaser for an epic to come, season 1 of Castlevania nonetheless devotes its entire first episode to establishing the stakes involved. Set in a country called Wallachia, it begins with a meeting between a scientist named Linda and a legendary creature of the night known as Dracula (voiced by Graham McTavish). They fall in love and get married, as scientists and vampires often did in the Middle Ages (?!).
Twenty years later, Linda is burned at the stake as a witch while Dracula is safely away, traveling slowly and incognito as a man. Linda's execution has been schemed up by a devious, fiendish, and ambitious bishop (voiced by Matt Frewer), who hopes to tighten his grip on the local population.
When Dracula learns of Linda's death, his fury knows no bounds and he swears vengeance. One year later, after summoning an army of winged demons from Hell, he begins to carry out his genocidal plans.
Our hero, Trevor Belmont (voiced by Richard Armitage), enters the scene in the second episode. He's the last son of the House of Belmont. They have a heritage as vampire hunters, but fell from grace under the disreputable hand of the bishop.
In the balance of the episodes, Trevor joins forces with a group known as the Speakers, most notably Sypha Belnades (voiced by Alejandra Reynoso), in order to combat local people who have been riled-up by the Bishop and his henchmen/priests, all with the goal of somehow defeating the all-powerful Dracula.
Based on scripts originally written in 2007/2008 by the great Warren Ellis, known for comic book classics like Transmetropolitan and Red, the series features explicit violence -- dismemberment, intestines, and so forth -- but also good voice acting, a welcome dose of humor, and clever narrative twists to keep the momentum moving forward. Powerhouse Animation Studios and Frederator Studios combined to produce the series; Sam Deats directed.
Another season has been planned, with eight episodes scripted by Ellis. In a recent interview with Paste Magazine, Ellis described the process and the work required to update his scripts for Netflix, as well as the next season.
Castlevania is the rare streaming series that left me hungry for more, which is a very good thing.
The series is now available to stream on Netflix. Notes on Streaming is a regular feature on streaming services and shows.