I binge-watched two animated series that were both similar and different. ‘Castlevania’ was the fourth and final season of a horror/fantasy adventure based on the video game series. ‘Invincible’ was the first season of a superhero/coming of age story based on a comic book series. One had vampires and demons. The other had aliens and supervillains. Both had gore, slow builds, and a lot of character introspection. So, it was an odd, but functional pairing.
I’m probably biased here because I played several of the games, read a comic version at one point, and have loved this series since the start. That made the viewing rather bittersweet since it was the finale. What is the story?
Trevor Belmont is the last of the Belmont clan who hunt vampires and the monsters that they control. Sypha is a sorceress who he travels with and has the best one-liners of the entire series. Alucard is the son of Count Dracula and Lisa Tepes. There are other characters, but those are the main three. Dracula has declared war on humanity for burning his wife at the stake and his vampire court is causing trouble too. I really can’t go into details without ruining Seasons 1-3.
I enjoyed how all of the characters had their own stories and evolutions. Though, I was annoyed a few times when characters I truly wanted to despise gained my sympathy. Says something about the storytelling. This also ended up being a downside for a bit because it meant the first 5 of the 10 episodes was primarily set up. Each one focused on a character or group to show what they were doing then episode 6 is where the action explodes . . . I mean, it really just hits the gas and continues barreling ahead. You will start to question how things will tie up, but it all comes together fairly neatly. The series certainly ended on a high note.
I really recommend this series, but it does have a lot of gore, monsters, and season 3 added sex to the mix. Surprisingly, no sex scenes in season 4, but I’m okay with that.
I never read the comics, but I knew of the character for a while. Still, it meant I was coming in with no pre-existing knowledge. I’d heard a lot of good things too, but nothing specific. A few people told me it built up speed slowly, which is what I thought about ‘Castlevania’. That’s another reason I jumped to it so soon.
The story is about a teenager whose father is a superhero. He gains his powers and becomes the superhero known as Invincible. He battles various villains and works with other heroes to show how this work operates. There’s also a lot of normal life drama he deals with such as bullying, dating, school, and a part-time job. This reminded me of Spider-Man in the earlier comics. Not to mention Invincible looks like Peter Parker when he’s not in costume. Anyway, big things happen that tests his limits and shakes his life to the very foundation. That’s all I can say there.
As much as I enjoyed this series, it did have moments where I let it be background noise and did something else in the room. The episodes were around 45 minutes each (Castlevania ranged from 23-31/32) and that felt like it was about 10 minutes too long for the story. The action would be frenetic and then it would drop right into a talking period for a while. It’s not necessarily bad, but it was jarring at first. Later episodes had better transitions. I also found myself getting bored with the love life chaos and figuring out his path subplots. They seemed to get reset for the sake of creating evolution instead of letting him explore his choices to their furthest extent.
Maybe I’m nitpicking because I watched it after the finale of a series I really liked. I’d still recommend this to anyone who likes violent superhero shows. Almost like an animated version of ‘The Boys’ . . . Which brings me to a sticking point.
It was funny. I could eat while watching ‘Castlevania’, but not with ‘Invincible’. Both were really violent with blood and guts everywhere. It took me awhile to figure out why I was okay with one and not the other.
‘Castlevania’ had monsters know for eating flesh and drinking blood. The setting and tone is very dark, which matches the color palette. It just felt like the citizens of this world knew how deadly it was and the violence felt natural. There was never a point where I thought it went over the top for shock value because it always seemed to fit. I think the violence and gore was also continued. You could see it coming and knew that it was happening to further the plot along. Monsters pounce and drive the heroes to fight, which directs the overall plot. The gore was a device that you don’t really notice unless it’s a big scene that fixates on it.
‘Invincible’ had people and humanoids who weren’t monsters. They ate burgers. They lived in cities and the colors were vividly bright. So, the gore was impossible to let fall into the background. You saw people pop like red paint filled balloons. The camera would linger on entrails and corpses for no other reason than to make the audience squirm. It was the brutal death that showed how violent the world was instead of the guts being highlighted. The citizens of this world were getting butchered left and right, but there was never a point where it felt like they knew it was possible. They went about their lives like they couldn’t be splattered by an alien invasion, superhero fight, or villain.
It felt like death had no effect on the average person here and only a momentary one on the main characters. This made the extensive use of blood rather strange to me. I became numb to it all by the 6th episode. Half a city has been wiped out? That sucks. That hero is covered in blood? He’ll be fine. That man’s head exploded? I guess we’ll have to stare at the detailed corpse for a second or two.
Look, I still recommend both, but I will admit that they use violence and gore in different way. That really struck me by the midpoint of ‘Invincible’. That’s just me though. I’m sure other people will think differently.