Four Things Netflix’s Castlevania Series Must Get Right

Four Things Netflix’s Castlevania Series Must Get Right

Game to screen adaptations don’t exactly have the best of reputations. Adi Shankar, producer of Netflix’s Castlevania series promises us it’ll be ‘the best fucking video game adaptation ever made’, it’s hard not to be skeptical. While there have been some good attempts at cracking the video game movie curse; Takashi Miike’s Ace Attorney sitting at the top of the list and Silent Hill being a decent effort, the bad certainly outweighs the good.

While the choice of studio in Fredetor Studios gives me pause, Adi Shankar’s track record with Dredd and Killing Me Softly combined with eyeing Castlevania 3 as the best option for adaptation does give me some hope. That aside, what exactly is it that Netflix’s series needs to get right for a chance at being a successful Castlevania adaptation?

There Better Be A Vampire Killer In There Somewhere

If DC’s TV universe or the ‘Arrowverse’ has taught us anything, it’s that licensing is a tricky thing. Obtaining the Castlevania license without also securing the rights to the music would be a blow to the Netflix series right off the bat. Just as John William’s music is the oxygen of Star Wars, the music created for Castlevania by the likes of Michiru Yamane, Kunio Yamashita, etc. is the lifeblood of the series.

Of course it wouldn’t be impossible to create new music that successfully fits with the franchise. You only have to look at Bloodstained or the music of Malice Mizer to see that, but it certainly would be an uphill battle.

Don’t Make It Authentically Gothic

Despite borrowing characters from all over horror literature and cinema Castlevania has such a specific tone of its own that it’s unmistakable. As a franchise that’s effectively Japan’s own Kill Bill or Pacific Rim, Castlevania is an example of Japanese creators working with Western stories and mythology in a way that boils down to such specific, superficial aspects of the fiction that as a ‘gothic’ product it almost feels inauthentic. Yet ironically its influences are distilled to such a degree that it becomes almost prototypically gothic, creating the contradiction at the heart of what makes Castlevania what it is.

Being produced by a Western studio is something of a dangerous thing for what must feel like a contradictory reason. Westerners are too aware and too educated on the history and baggage of the fiction they’re portraying. Don’t get me wrong, the Castlevania games are incredibly well informed, but it’s this foreign interpretation of Western mythology and literature that keeps Castlevania from being simply another Van Helsing, Dracula or Frankenstein product. Bringing these characters back to the West runs the risk of removing a big aspect that makes Castlevania different.

Don’t Go Too Heavy On The Anime Aesthetic

Ok, so this one is somewhat less of a requisite and more of a personal preference… it’s also a long shot. The years 2005 and 2006 saw two of my favourite franchises take a step away from their darker edged aesthetics in favour of a more standardized anime look. Yes, I’m talking about Persona and Castlevania. While the shift didn’t really change the content of the games in any meaningful way outside of box art and character portraits, the art of Ayami Kojima in Castlevania specifically is what comes to mind when I think Castlevania.

Left: Dawn of Sorrow, 2005 Right: Aria of Sorrow, 2003

How would this look in motion? Something along the lines of Belladonna of Sadness or the closest we’ve come to a Castlevania movie thus far, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Would creating a cartoon based on Ayami Kojima’s art be prohibitively expensive? Yes, but a guy can dream…

What is a man?!

Lastly, don’t be too scared to have some fun with it! Castlevania is an action franchise at its heart and has certainly had its own share of clunky dialogue so there’s no need to take it too seriously. That’s not to say it should parody the series (which it certainly could do), but there’s no need for it to be too cool. The Resident Evil movies thought themselves to be more hip than the games and have aged horribly in a mere fifteen years.

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Craig 41 posts

Horror Japan is Craig Hatch, a Brit currently living in Tokyo, Japan. Horror Japan is a project that aims to review and collate media from all aspects of Japanese horror culture.

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