New animated series 'Castlevania,' streaming on Netflix - Catholic Courier

New animated series ‘Castlevania,’ streaming on Netflix

NEW YORK (CNS) — A negatively portrayed Catholic Church is the main antagonist in “Castlevania,” a new animated series on Netflix. With its twisted presentation of the faith and of history, the show, based on a video game, is obviously not for children — nor for any but well-grounded adults.

Drawn in the kinetic anime style popular in Japan, the program also features graphic, bloody violence. Characters are disemboweled, stabbed, burned at the stake and dismembered.

There is no nudity. But there is crude and vulgar language, including an anecdote about bestiality, as well as frightening gothic and demonic imagery.

The central premise of the first four episodes of “Castlevania” — season two already has been ordered — is that the church is corrupt and evil.

The year is 1455. A fictional character, Lisa of Lupu (voiced by Emily Swallow), pays a visit to the castle of the part-historical, part-legendary Dracula Vlad Tepes (voiced by Graham McTavish). Lisa wants to be a doctor and, unlike the superstitious villagers nearby, she knows that Dracula is more a creature of medicine than menace.

In keeping with this notion, the interior of Dracula’s castle is shown to be filled with graphs, charts, beakers and other scientific tools. The undead, it turns out, are really just advanced thinkers.

Quickly cut to Lisa 20 years later. She is being burned at the stake amid cries of witchcraft while priests and bishops say prayers and mumble about “the chemical sciences.” It’s the all-too-familiar pop culture trope of the medieval church as oppressor, attempting, as one priest says, “to burn out all the evil that hides here.”

A character known only as “the Bishop” (voiced by Matt Frewer) wants one thing: power. In pursuit of it, he is anxious to send everyone, particularly scientists like Lisa, to hell.

Lisa’s death triggers Dracula to take action. He wages war on the Principality of Wallachia (today a region of Romania). Dracula dispatches an army of monsters and demons. The streets run red with blood, including that of a child, who is shown lying lifeless. 

The chronology then shifts again, this time to several years in the future. Vampire hunter Trevor Belmont (voiced by Richard Armitage), aided by the magician Sypha Belnades (voiced by Alejandra Reynoso) and Dracula’s own son, Alucard (voiced by James Callis), mounts a counteroffensive against the invader.

So, does the Bishop cooperate with Belmont to deal with Dracula? Of course not.

Belmont, the handsome antihero, was excommunicated in the past. And besides, the people in the town are not pious enough — which is what, accord to the Bishop, is causing all the supernatural horror. Priests and archbishops have to stay busy mechanically murmuring prayers and declaiming, in an over-the-top way, lines like “I work in the light of God himself!” 

Grown Catholics are likely to be more amused than offended by this ridiculous caricature. “Castlevania” puts forward nothing more than a childish cartoon of the church.

Written by comic book veteran Warren Ellis and directed by Sam Deats, “Castlevania” is the product of a joint effort between Frederator and Powerhouse Animation studios. The fantastic visuals on display contrast with the script’s lazy twisting of history. It’s unfortunate that such a graceful and fluid style has been put at the service of misrepresenting, so egregiously, the facts of the past.

“Castlevania” is rated TV-MA — mature audience only.
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Judge is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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