NOTE: Some small spoilers for the first season of, “Blood of Zeus” may be present in this review. That said, the review is written to accommodate those who have not yet watched the series, and as such, will avoid discussion of major story developments.
It’s been said that anime is the next great streaming frontier, and Netflix very much intends to be on the vanguard of that frontier! After kicking off this initiative with their thoroughly excellent ‘Americananime’ series adaptation of Castlevania, a one-two punch that cemented Netflix as not only a promising platform for original anime productions, but also video game adaptations that are actually good, the streamer has expanded its original anime series catalogue with offerings like Ultraman, the Transformers: War for Cybertron trilogy, and another video game adaptation, Dragon’s Dogma, among others. These original anime shows haven’t fully recaptured the sheer thunder that all three current seasons of Castlevania carry with them, but Netflix may nonetheless be rounding off 2020 with its first serious rival to Castlevania’s sheer badass excellence; Blood of Zeus.
Originally announced as ‘Gods & Heroes‘, before presumably being renamed to sound a bit more interesting, Blood of Zeus is Netflix’s newest original anime series, coming courtesy of Powerhouse Animation Studios, the very same animators who formerly handled the visuals of Netflix’s Castlevania series. Blood of Zeus doesn’t have a video game source to adapt, nor any specific source beyond being themed around deities and creatures from Greek mythology, but it’s nonetheless a flashy, violent and ambitious anime series that should immediately appeal to fans of Netflix’s Castlevania series in particular. Greek mythology enthusiasts will also find plenty to like, since Blood of Zeus effortlessly captures the fickle, petty and tragic, yet also oddly inspiring flair behind enduring Greek myths, even as its finer story details deviate considerably into anime territory.
This primarily comes by way of the main antagonists throughout much of Blood of Zeus, those being the ‘giants’. No, not the ‘titans’, although the titans were once again defeated in eons past by the familiar Greek gods of Olympus. In the Blood of Zeus universe however, the final felled titan uttered a curse that led to the creation of the giants, gargantuan eldritch monstrosities that corrupt mortal men with their mere touch, and are so massive and powerful that even the gods struggled to defeat, and ultimately imprison most of them. Despite that ancient victory though, the giants’ influence returns during this show’s events, after one of their corpses washes ashore, and leads to the creation of ‘demons’ that desire to lay waste to the gods and their creations, including the world of humans.
To some extent, Blood of Zeus is following familiar anime tropes, sometimes to a fault. The story revolves around a ‘chosen one’ protagonist, who rejects the call of destiny, inadvertently empowering the villain in the process, which ironically pushes the hero onto the path of divine providence that they can’t escape even if they wanted to. This kind of story has been done before, especially in this medium, and the Greek mythology-themed exterior doesn’t completely disguise that. Hell, this series even bluntly makes the point that many demigods created by the philandering ways of Zeus, leader of the Olympian gods, are unknown to the modern world, lost from mythological excerpts that survived to the present day, simply because there’s so many ‘chosen ones’ in this world! This handily explains why Blood of Zeus revolves around an all-new hero, Heron, a lowly villager with no interest in war or fighting demons, even when his secret Olympian birth father is eventually revealed to be in his midst.
As familiar as the story foundation behind Blood of Zeus can sometimes feel though, the style and polish behind the series immediately helps it stand out, even while the beginning episodes don’t flex the narrative to its full potential. By around the third episode however, Blood of Zeus catapults forward with virtually non-stop momentum, making it a brisk, but highly enjoyable watch for anime fans that have a taste for violent action and/or Greek mythology. It’s around this point that the storytelling also becomes more distinct and creative, taking the show to some truly treacherous and exotic places, while continuing to flesh out the demons, and their charismatic, yet deadly leader, Seraphim. Seraphim is not only a cool baddie in his own right, but his constantly evolving tale makes viewers think they’ve pegged him early on, only to keep unwrapping increasingly unpredictable dimensions to his backstory that leave you almost pitying him, and wondering whether he’s worth rooting for as much as Heron, in his own strange way.
It’s a shame that I can’t talk about some of the really superb twists and turns throughout Blood of Zeus’ debut season, for want of avoiding spoilers, but it’s also not an exaggeration to say that the real star of the series is its action. It’s also astonishing how well the series manages to balance its sense of character with its action-packed thrills, often presenting truly massive and epic confrontations amid surprisingly human and gripping drama. It all looks stunning as well, with Powerhouse once again outdoing themselves in terms of how this show is presented. Blood of Zeus could have easily been depicted with a gritty, poe-faced colour palette, but its final product absolutely leaps to life with a fantastic array of vibrant, glitzy colours and lighting effects! Blood of Zeus is even among the prestige few Netflix animated shows that are offered in full 4K/HDR on compatible displays, and for good reason! I highly recommend watching Blood of Zeus in that format if you can, where its anime exterior ideally blends with a sublime art style inspired by Hellenistic Greek sculptures, creating a superb look that even rivals the standout visuals of Netflix’s Castlevania episodes!
Netflix has announced that they’re doubling down on original anime productions in the years ahead, and thanks to Blood of Zeus, I have renewed confidence in that initiative. This series easily stands alongside Castlevania as one of Netflix’s all-time best original anime shows! It’s action-packed, beautifully animated, and filled with compelling characters and storylines, at least once it manages to break away from its familiar narrative foundation. Even the more familiar first couple of episodes in Blood of Zeus’ debut season feel highly polished and impeccably thrilling though, making the gradual building of story momentum in later episodes all the more rewarding to anticipate and experience. Round all that off with a distinct, yet faithful take on the grandiose, spiteful melodrama of Greek myths, all realized with epic animated set pieces and riveting voiceover work, and you have an easy contender for one of 2020’s best anime offerings, on Netflix or otherwise!
- Fantastic, violent action throughout
- Epic scope that's filled with imaginative scenarios
- Flashy, vibrant visuals that especially pop in 4K/HDR
- Some overly familiar anime tropes