Over the last few years, Powerhouse Animation Studios has shown that adult western animation can be more than just pure comedic shows like Family Guy or Rick and Morty. Their animated adaptation of Capcom’s Castlevania is one of the best animated series I have ever seen, so I was incredibly excited when I heard they would be tackling Greek myth with Blood of Zeus.
Written by Charles and Vlas Parlapanides, Blood of Zeus follows Heron, the demigod son of Zeus, as he is caught in a war between human and demons indirectly caused by his father. Upon learning that Zeus is actively protecting Heron, Hera chooses to aid the demons in an attempt to undermine her husband. To stop the war, Heron must prove himself worthy of his father’s blood. Along the way, he meets the Amazonian Alexia and criminals Evios and Kofi. Evios and Kofi bring levity to the dark nature of the show. Together, they work to defeat the demons and redeem their past sins.
If you’ve seen Castlevania, then you know how spectacular Powerhouse’s animation is. Blood of Zeus is no different. This series is incredibly dark and not for the faint of heart. The animation showcases each of the gods’ respective abilities distinctly in ways unmatched by any other adaptation of Greek mythology. The best example of this is how the animation team depicts Hermes’ incredible speed, particularly in the opening scene of episode 4, “A Monster is Born.” The power held by the gods feels unstoppable, but it never outshines their flaws.
Like in Greek mythology, the gods of Mount Olympus are far from benevolent. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and Ares each have deep flaws that affect the world. Hera’s jealousy leads her down a dark path, with Poseidon and Ares following her as they dare not encourage the wrath of Hera. Comparatively, Hermes and Apollo choose to follow Zeus, believing that her path is not a righteous one. Apollo even goes so far as to sympathize with Heron, as he too was born out of one of Zeus’s affairs. The way the gods are written make them feel grounded despite their omnipotence.
Heron feels like the bridge between the humans and Mount Olympus, both in his own physical strength and the way he views the world around him. He begins the story as a peasant, living on the outskirts of town with his mother, Electra. The two are constantly persecuted because of his mother’s past, forcing Heron to work hard for their livelihoods. Similarly, Blood of Zeus‘s main antagonist, Seraphim, harbors a deep hatred for the gods because of his tragic past. The duality between Seraphim and Heron, both being humans with the power given to them by the gods, creates an understanding between the two despite their diametrically opposed positions. Seraphim is the leader of the demons, forcing Heron to defeat him to restore order to the world.
The tense moments between Heron and Seraphim are built, not just by Powerhouse’s animation team, but by their amazing voice actors. Derek Phillips and Elias Toufexis bring so much emotion with their performances, making it hard to imagine these characters without hearing their voices. Jason O’Mara brings this brokenness to his portrayal of Zeus that I haven’t heard or seen in any other version of the character. Despite his disloyalty, Zeus is still a tragic character. Claudia Christian’s Hera plays off of that tragedy perfectly, making the gods’ fear of Hera understandable. The rest of the main cast, whether it be Jessica Henwick as Alexia, Mamie Gummer as Electra, Matthew Mercer as Hermes, or Adam Croasdell as Apollo, are brilliant as well.
Blood of Zeus is a violent story about what it means to be human. Each character exemplifies this core theme. While not as strong as Castlevania, Blood of Zeus certainly has room to grow and match it in quality. With a second season already greenlit by Netflix, Blood of Zeus can only improve from here. This is easily the best western animated series to come out this year and I am excited to see where Powerhouse takes the story in future seasons.