Bloody Mess of Zeus
Anyone even remotely familiar with the greek myths is already scratching their heads when the concept of a demon is introduced as a major part of Blood of Zeus. By the time the war between the titans and olympians is described as a battle between "dark and light" you’re burying your face in your hands and groaning and when Ares refers to Zeus as "king of kings" you’re shouting at your screen. Congratulations, you still have 7 episodes to go!
In their newest show, the animation studio that produced the animated series Castlevania brings us an 8 episode long tale of Greek gods that makes one question if the writers have ever heard a greek myth in their lives. The same animation style which brought the spooky, medieval fantasy world of Castlevania to life in such a spectacular way often falls flat in the realm of the Olympians. The underworld, the fates, and the giants are the designs that truly stand out in this show where the rest of the choices are hardly noteworthy. Thankfully we get to see a beautiful panning shot of the Underworld which shows interesting color choices and imaginative landscapes. Though we only truly see it once.
I could go on for ages about the innacuracies of how the greek pantheon is portrayed in this show but I would rather discuss what dragged the show down most: the writing.
Most of the episodes rely heavily on flashbacks to previous episodes. It’s difficult to tell if the writing team was experimenting with how much they could beat a dead horse before scenes no longer had any emotional impact or if they thought their audience had shorter memories than the proverbial goldfish. Either way, it comes off as though the writers simply didnt know what else to write about, making one wonder if they could have used a few more rounds of editing.
When telling a story about the greek gods, there’s a plethora of characters at one’s disposal to work with: all of them exaggerated, complex, and flawed in their own interesting ways. As is to be assumed, Blood of Zeus mostly focuses on, well, Zeus. In fact, the only gods we get significant time with are Zeus, Hera, and Hermes. Apollo makes the occasional appearance to bond with the hero--Heron, if you can believe it--about being Zeus' bastard for about a second and a half at a time. Ares shows his face a couple times to basically be an unspeaking war hammer, while Haephestus is utilized mostly as a guy to tell Zeus to be a better father, and Poseidon spends most of his screen time silently bobbing up and down in a fountain. This feels like a real missed opportunity, particularly since when other gods are on screen they’re mostly used as unmoving, unspeaking furniture. In one scene, Zeus mentions that Hera is meeting with Hades (who doesnt want to see Hades?). Unfortunately, we dont get that scene at all. Blood of Zeus often foregoes potentially interesting scenes in favor of minutes and minutes of flashbacks from episodes that--just in case you forgot--you’ve already seen.
You’ll notice that the only female god with lines is Hera, who is portrayed as a violent, angry, overreacting woman--compared to the calm demeanor of the male gods in the show.
The gods--though being the reason I watched the show at all (because I love seeing different character designs for them)--are only about 1/2 of the story; the other half revolves around the characters Heron, Alexia, and Seraphim.
Heron is our hero: a demigod and the son of Zeus. He’s on a journey to...avenge his mother’s death? Rid the world of demons? Bond with his dad? Avoid his dad? It’s somewhat unclear since for much of the show things sort of happen to Heron without him having any clear goal or impact. In fact, the first impactful decision our hero makes is about 2/3 of the way through the show.
Alexia, an amazonian warrior battling the demon armies, has much more presence than Heron does. Her moments with her family are short but heartfelt, her goals are clear, but unfortunately she doesn’t receive enough in depth character moments for her to be given a fulfilling storyline. Speaking for myself, I would have liked more time with this character.
Seraphim is the tits-out, spikey leader of the demons. He rides a very cool griffon-adjacent creature and enjoys killing nobility. All in all, he’s an entertaining character with an interesting backstory and your traditional villain role. Unfortunately, Seraphim’s big character moments suffer from those nonstop flashbacks that make one almost entirely numb to any emotional gravity in scenes which they’re apparently meant to enhance.
It's important to note that these writers are the geniuses who brought us the 2017 Death Note movie. Why these scripts get picked up when there are so many better stories waiting for their chance in agents' neglected inboxes I will never fully comprehend.
Blood of Zeus is ultimately a misguided attempt to push harsh dualities of good and evil onto the Greek mythos that clearly displays a lack of understanding of polytheistic traditions. The writers were obviously out of their depth with this particular topic. This is unfortunate as there are many volumes of easily accessible information on greek myths carried in most USA libraries which the writers seemed to make no use of. Nor, apparently, did they attempt to even read Wikipedia for their research.
Though the show has moments of gorgeous landscapes and visually interesting animation, it was a real missed opportunity for the animators to experiment with something their audience hadnt seen from them before. A style that was refreshing in Castlevania quickly loses its appeal in other settings.
All in all, Blood of Zeus is disappointing and feels rushed to completion. Hopefully this is only an unfortunate folly for this animation studio and they have better stories in coming years.
1.5/5 stars: centaur village is very cool and Apollo is bi. Why are the gods british?