‘Blood of Zeus:’ a contemporary take on ancient myths

November 13, 2020

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers on what happens in “Blood of Zeus.”

“Blood of Zeus” offers a vibrant and new-dimensional take on ancient Greek mythology. The new Netflix anime series stays true to classic Greek archetypes such as “the hero’s journey” and flawed gods and mortals dying at the expense of gods’ selfish desires. Hera, Zeus’s wife, is the classic scorned wife who takes the role as tyrant, while Zeus’s demeanor is much more benign in this rendition, in contrast to his typically merciless tyrrantical figure. 

Playing with visual elements clearly inspired by Japanese animes like “Demon Slayer,” “Blood of Zeus” is contemporary in its portrayal of old ideas, such as the way Hera (Claudia Christian), instead of Zeus (Jason O’Mara), is the tyrant that pushes other characters to suffering and defiance. As a whole it presents very Promethean questions. 

“Blood of Zeus” is a story of love, betrayal and vengeance. It’s the story of two unlikely brothers with different fates. Meet Heron (Derek Phillips), our underdog hero that finds out his true lineage as a son of Zeus. Hera is envious of Zeus’s mistresses. This envy drives her to seek vengeance and kills Heron’s mortal mother. Seraphim (Elias Toufexis), Heron’s half-brother and the demon leader of the Melidoni, has also been manipulated by Hera since birth. Seraphim urges Heron to want revenge against Hera, but Heron resists this urge. This is what separates our hero, Heron, from Seraphim: his principled action.

The show echoes the myth of Hercules, who is also a son of Zeus. Like Hercules, Heron’s way of finding out he is a demi-god sparks his hero’s journey. Heron is tested both in physicality and in principle and is given a series of heroic tasks to prove his worth as a son of Zeus. For Heron, vengeance does not drive him; it’s simply his belief in the possibility of justice and filling the potential of goodness. 

With only eight episodes, each 20 minutes long, the show packs a lot of action in such a short season. Every episode is an explosive yet subtle storytelling that bridges the gap between shell-shocking anime sequences and the understated dignity of Greek myths. Philosophical questions are put to the test allegorically as the fates offer illuminating insights to free will and fate. 

The show centers on a question: is to be the tyrant to be the bad guy? Zeus has arbitrary power that he wields and yet Hera is the malicious antagonist of this arc. Short answer: they co-exist.

They also make these old classic archetypes feel contemporary through this striking animation. Like in the Greek myths, the gods are undoubtedly flawed, but are made more human through the style of animation and the way their moods and personalities are depicted. The animation is vibrant and distinct in its use of bold color contrasts and in the beauty of the characters in all their glory—there is nothing quite like the spectacle of seeing Zeus shoot lightning from his hands. 

While Heron exudes elements of the classic Greek hero archetype, his brother Seraphim, the demon leader, is the most interesting character in the series. He is a demon that we can sympathize with. Even up against Heron, he shows no mercy, even after finding out their kinship. He is the leader of the Melidoni (the demon race), and is a ruthless killer before he finds the truth of his origins. The show is not only filled with great action and animation sequences, but there are real philosophical implications demonstrated.

The fates say, “fate and free will coexist,” and Seraphim’s story is no exception—while he has the freedom to find revenge or seek justice, his choice to avenge is what solidifies his destiny to live in the underworld. 

Somehow, there has been everlasting fascination with Greek myth since the time of their conception. “Blood of Zeus” is able to mesh contemporary anime with lucid depictions of the Greek Pantheon and the mortals they govern. Whether you start watching it because you love anime or Greek mythology, the series will not disappoint.

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