Anime is an extremely popular form of content, and has extremely passionate fan bases, with diverse sub-cultures. It can seem very daunting to get into, even if you have friends trying to give you advice.
Well, I recently watched Castlevania, of which the fourth season comes out this week on Netflix, and though it wasn’t my first anime, I felt like it was extremely accessible to myself, as I’m not a dedicated anime weeb. I do want to mention, the show is an American anime, as opposed to Japanese, but that’s why I think it might be better for new anime audiences.
First of all, this show is about evil vampires, and their armies from hell. That’s cool. Vampires are the perfect intersection of crazy combat, and insatiable lust. They are super strong, super fast, and super sexy. Then, you add in their infinite monsters, or “Night Creatures” as the show refers to them as, and it brings about an enemy style where each one fights a little differently, and there are never moral quandaries about destroying them in an extremely over-the-top fashion.
Not only is it a show about monsters, but specifically follows a group of monster hunters. These characters are a motely crew of adventurers who work together in odd, yet exciting ways. One character is the last surviving member of an excommunicated monster hunting noble family. One character is a magician, part of a nomadic group of bardic priests. The last is a dhampir, a half-vampire-half-human offspring of Dracula himself, who is on a mission to kill his own father for dishonoring his mother’s, Dracula’s wife’s, legacy.
Lastly, if you are new to anime, you aren’t yet familiar with how the animation style of the medium allows action to go beyond what you could possibly see in even the most CGI-assisted action movie. The animation style of anime has been practiced and perfected over decades, and this show knows how to play with your own visual understanding to make epic moments even more amazing.
Like I said, anime can be a lot to try to break into. One common argument within anime fandom is Subs vs Dubs. You see, most anime is made in Japan, and thus recorded in Japanese. Therefore, if you want to watch it, you have to read subtitles, which for some can be hard the first few times. Learning to read the subtitles, while also engaging with the action on screen is a back-and-forth that takes some practice. Or, some of the more popular anime have been “dubbed,” meaning English voice actors have recorded the same dialogue in English (or other languages) which was then dubbed over the series, which can sometimes have mixed quality. Well, with Castlevania, the show was actually recorded in English, so we don’t even have to worry about that.
Another block for Western audiences (Americans) might be that some anime rely on a given level of understanding with Eastern culture and geography. If you don’t know the locations the show refers to, or common cultural touchstones, you might find yourself getting lost in moments the show won’t expect. In Castlevania, the show is set in a slightly fictionalized Europe, and a common antagonistic group are priests of Christian faiths. These are locations and stereotypes that are well known for Western audiences, and therefore you can begin to pick up more subtext and nuance that the show’s drama might rely on.
Even the main villain of the show is Dracula, a character that has been characterized in movies and shows more than any other character in history, is one that is ultimately familiar to audiences, while not being entirely predictable. Part of classic Dracula mythos includes a long lost love, a monster hunter, and a large, terrifying castle. This show keeps much of the Dracula lore you are familiar with, lowering the barrier to entry to near negligible.
Overall, Castlevania is a great American anime that might be your stepping stone into this wide fandom that has always seemed interesting, if a little daunting.