Review: Blood of Zeus (2020)
That movie poster justs screams 'Castlevania, but Greek', mostly just because both projects involved Powerhouse Animation Studios. But man, that sure does look like a great Metroidvania type of game.
For no particular reason other than I am not a big fan of Greek mythology (far too much of it revolves arounds Zeus' dick for my liking), I didn't really have high hopes for this when it popped up on my dashboard. I will say though that there is a moment later in the season where a tertiary god can be heard muttering about Zeus not being able to keep it in his pants, so I appreciate that there's a consensus on the subject.
But yes, that asshole couldn't help himself and this is essentially just another Perseus situation all over again. The poor bastard's name this time around is Heron, and basically the show goes on the concept that this is a lost tale of Greek Mythology, presumably taking the place as a sort of twilight of the gods situation.
The series starts when Heron and his mum, essentially pariahs in their local town, are drawn into a conflict as a soldier named Alexia is hunting down some demons. Heron is attacked and can not only hold his own but also displays some superhuman strength that neither he or Alexia ever talk about and what the hell, the subject becomes moot later anyway.
For the most part everything's interesting enough so far, but the show didn't really start to pique my interest until they brought in the mythology revolving around the Giants. In a nice flashback revolving around the Gigantomachy, we get some really interesting monster designs and I am definitely down when a show invests the time and effort into making great creatures.
The real push of the series doesn't really manifest until the core villain, Seraphim, fully pops up in episode 3. Seraphim is easily the best character throughout, which is also a bit of a problem. While Heron is a sympathetic character, he's also plain as hell. Everything about him follows the usual Hero's Journey schematic, and while we feel bad for him considering the crappy existence he's lived he's still just a bit boring. Seraphim also lived a life of hardship and pain, and while his motivations are fairly narrow and damning (horrible bloody vengeance, natch), at least he follows them with a highly enthusiastic passion. Plus he has a cool flying chimera steed and a wicked bident.
The problem with Seraphim being one of the strongest characters is that it means everyone else is fairly lacking. The soldier Alexia is arguably the female lead, but besides being a tough warrior she has no real personality. We get a couple quirky sidekicks later on with the smugglers Evios and Kofi, but all we get from them is that they are the token rogues who want some form of redemption. The token nature of so many of the characters highlights the show's dependency on the world and myth building, which are both nice things to have but I always feel the world building should support a richly developed cast of characters, not the other way around.
In the later episodes we get plenty of cannon fodder soldiers to join in Heron's quest, and even some fake out unique design characters. Which, can we talk about that for a second?
I've noticed this happening in some shows over the past couple years where towards the latter half of a show they'll introduce your usual cannon fodder but sprinkle in a few character designs that stand out a bit more. In this case it's a roguish knife lady and a blonde amazon, who stand out quite a bit from all the straight up normal soldier dudes. Of course these ladies aren't given any characterization, but neither do most humans in the series, so I was kind of hoping they might, I don't know, develop into real characters? My best guess is that it's a trend of creators who know that the audience is used to the trope of cannon fodder soldiers and that they are intentionally trying to fake us out just a little bit. It's a bit frustrating though because honestly, with the general blandness of our overall male dominated cast, please give me some more amazonian warrior ladies.
Sadly, Zeus is really the only character who has an arc. Due to the nature of the show being like 40% flashbacks and the fact that almost everything happening is a direct result of his douchiness, I think he may have more screen time than the actual hero. As such, you actually get plot beats where he's trying to be some sort of father figure, he deals with the guilt he feels for his actions, and he makes actual sacrifices.
Hera also gets a pretty decent chunk of focus too which is sorta nice, and you also feel a tad sympathetic to her as she's continually wronged by Zeus. She's also a core villain with an unwavering hatred for people who never wronged her and a major traitor streak, so maybe not too sympathetic. What's less than a tad? A skosh? Hera gets a skosh of sympathy.
As far as the animation goes it's pretty solid with the exception of the occasional odd moment where the quality seems kind of sketchy. It excels in many of its action scenes, but really shines when it comes to its design elements. There's a fun inclusion of many mecha-warriors as Hephaestus pops up from time to time to infer a need for robots in Olympus, and there's an interesting battle between Seraphim and the guardian of an ancient relic as Seraphim has to go on sort of an evil variation of the Hero's Journey.
There are some elements of the show that for want of a better word I would have to call a bit vapid. Perhaps it's the pacing, stressing action and myth over characterization. Perhaps it's the the video game-esque tone the entire production had. Hell, maybe it's just my own biases I brought with me. It's not like this had to be anything more than a fun action romp through some Greek mythology, and expecting anything else may be unrealistic and unnecessary.
In the end, it's not like I disliked the overall final product. I think I just liked the individual elements more than the whole, and it would have been nicer if it came together a bit stronger. Regardless, it engaged me enough that I binged all eight episodes within two days, plus there were a couple unresolved elements that I imagine will be handled in Season 2, so it still maintains my interest.