The 2020 American anime “Blood of Zeus” breaks boundaries for what the genre can mean within western culture. The beautifully gruesome show blends three cultures with a unique perspective on Greek myths thousands of years old through a medium that is an artful blend between American art and Japanese influence in expressions, camera movement, and character design.
“Blood of Zeus” lives up to its name in the literal and figurative sense.
Heron (Derek Phillips) grew up believing he was a mere outsider in a town that despised him and his single mother but soon comes to realize the truth of his father’s absence and his true purpose in life. He is the son of Zeus (Jason O’Mara) who will lead the mortals to victory in a war against a demonic army.
More so, the dark fantasy genre uses gore to elevate its setting. Greek epics are known for their dramatics, but translating written words into a visual landscape isn’t always easy. The bloodiness of battles transport the audience into the heart of mythology.
There’s a surrealism to the creature that exists in this world that simply couldn’t be captured any other way.
For those wondering what Greek myth this story is following, it isn’t following one. The show is uniquely based around the idea that this could very well be a version lost throughout the thousands of oral translations considering much of the ancient civilizations were never fully recorded.
Still, creators Charley Parlapandies and Vlas Paralapanides put forth the effort needed to truly immerse their viewers in ancient Greece based on whatever records are available. Every scene is emphasized by the soundtrack, whether that be a dramatic Greek chorus or a heroic swell at the height of a battle.
The pacing is quick, which is fitting considering the events of the eight episodes happen with a matter of days. I binge-watched the show, finding it the perfect background to have while I was taking notes. However, I found myself going back to rewatch it and appreciate all the little details that made this retelling of Greek mythology so much more special than others.
One area the Parlapanides truly excelled in was bringing background characters of mythology to the forefront.
They kept true to many natures of the gods, such as Apollo (Adam Croasdell) waking with both a male and female partner or the Amazonian weaponry and armor Alexia (Jessica Henwick) is illustrated in.
Bigger roles are given to lesser represented gods. Hermes (Matthew Mercer) has a huge role in the show, including sticking true to his lore of leading spirits to the underworld. He’s easily one of my favorites within mythology, but many modern reinterpations choose not feature him in noteworthy roles.
Even Hephaestus (also voiced by Adam Croasdell) receives more screen time than more well-known gods like Aphrodite or Athena, both of whom are only recognizable through background images by their character design.
Small mentions of lore that has been recorded even make it into the series, which only adds to the cleverness of this setup. Hearing the tales of Perseus and Hercules remind viewers that this exists in the same timeline of events of great tales within our history.
Having Heron’s origin story where Zeus pretends to be his mother’s husband to get close to her echoes the original tale of Hercules, making the “lost in translation” arc all the more interesting. Zeus has been known to behave like this before, who is to say that this plotline is not a part of that history as well.
Granted the creators still harped on traditional cliches, like Hera being a vengeful wife as well as the tired role of shaping Hades to be an antagonist. Though I did like how they shifted the perspective of Zeus to be something completely different than the original lore.
It was odd to be rooting for Zeus as he interfered with the lives of mortals, actively working to save them from Hera’s wrath rather than going through great lengths to disregard them as is depicted throughout history. A compelling character arc for sure.
Nothing goes unnoticed, especially not the small details they put into the title sequence that set the tone for each episode. However, I wish they would have put the same amount of work into developing secondary characters.
Companions Heron makes along the way feel flat. That may just be due to the fast pacing and having to leave certain elements out of the plot, but a lot of potential is wasted in not deeply developing relationships between characters. A new level could have been added to make the viewer hope these select characters make it through.
Alexia in particular feels like wasted potential. Hopefully future seasons can make her out to be more than a capable sword and give representation to what the Amazonians were really about.
For those that grew up reading the Percy Jackson books, enjoy animes like “Seven Deadly Sins,” or have a deep affinity for Greek mythology; “Blood of Zeus” should be added to your to-be-watched list as soon as possible.