The newest edition to Netflix’s lineup of original anime, “Blood of Zeus,” took the streaming service by storm this past October. That being said, the show’s debut wasn’t just any storm, but one with the strength of having been conjured by Zeus himself. Within the show’s first week of release, the series became the first newly released original anime to rank in Netflix’s top three shows globally. Such a victory is a major one for Netflix, but even more so for the series' creators, Vlas and Charles Parlapanides. The series itself follows the ventures of Heron (voiced by Derek Phillips), the demigod son of Zeus (Jason O’Mara), on his quest to save both Earth and Olympus from a malevolent force of demons. Though Heron himself is not a staple of Greek mythology, the show finds itself deeply rooted in myth, with many of the series regulars being gods and entities from the stories of old.
The mythology of the series is something that’s always been important to show creator and Villanova Class of 1993 alumnus, Vlas Parlapanides.
“The very first stories we ever heard were the Greek mythological tales,” Parlapanides remarked, when asked about his past with the content of the series. “I heard them from our grandmother and our mother. And when we were kids, they told us these fantastic Greek mythological tales that were so exciting, and I remember that sense of wonderment I had when I first heard them.”
That very same sense of wonder is the factor that the Parlapanides brothers sought to bring to, “Blood of Zeus” and even more importantly, to the show’s audience. Though familiar with the myths that inspired “Blood of Zeus” from childhood stories, a great deal of research went into properly shaping the series’ narrative.
“We read as much as we could, we got all these different books on Greek mythology,” Parlapanides said. “We were obviously familiar with many of these stories, we were Greek-Americans...but then there’s a second type of research. Thinking about the characters: what was their life before the show begins, before this story begins?”
Through speaking with him, it’s clear that Parlapanides knows the characters he writes for the show as thoroughly as he knows himself. When asked about his favorite character in the series, Parlapanides joked about his past, avoiding the question and his struggle to single out one character in particular. He does, however, offer insight into utilizing his characters as vessels for expressing the themes of the series.
“We explored anger through three different characters,” Parlapanides said. “In one character, that character is able to let go of his anger, and in doing so he is able to overcome the adversity he is pitted against. Another character is not able to let go of their anger and their anger destroys them. The third character, their anger forever changes them in an entirely different way: they permit the anger to get the best of them.”
As he continued, Parlapanides decided to offer a window into his favorite scenes as a substitute for the lack of providing a favorite character.
“I have favorite scenes,” he exclaimed. “I don’t know if we’re talking about spoilers or not but the ultimate confrontation at the end is a good moment, the big moment that Zeus has is another moment that I love.”
When asked about aspects of the show’s final product that turned out better or worse than anticipated, Parlapanides says that there are cases for both.
“Charley and I have a saying, ‘sometimes you slay the dragon and sometimes the dragon slays you,’” he said. “Oftentimes we’ve gotten slayed, but every once in a while, you get it to work and that’s very gratifying.”
He went on to attribute the show's success to everyone involved.
“One of the pleasures about working on this project was that everyone involved made it about the best interests of the show,” he said “There wasn’t any ego involved. Spielberg always says, ‘best idea wins.’ It wasn’t about ego, it was about ‘best idea wins.’”
Of course, such a statement was followed by a surplus of examples.
“In episode one, there’s a nice little moment between Hera and Zeus when they fight the giants,” he explained. “He kind of swoops in and he saves her and there’s that little eye-wink. That’s a moment that the director created, and it’s a beautiful moment and a beautiful surprise.”
The animation style of the show, which is very unique at times and yet familiar, is another area that Parlapanides attributes to others working on the series.
“We worked with a brilliant director, Shaunt Nigoghossian. He was instrumental in regards to the look of the anime,” he said. “I would say he, and the animators at Powerhouse Animation in Austin… there was someone who worked on this, Katie Silva, she was the character designer. So she basically drew all the iterations of the characters and she would show us those characters and we would weigh in... I think they did a great job.”
When asked about his own animation influences, Parlapanides joyously remarked, “I love that question. My favorite is ‘Cowboy Bebop,’ when I saw that, that was so cool. It’s not fully reflected in our show but there’s something about it that’s kinetic, and cool, and it really brought you into its world.”
Speaking about his other influences for the series, Parlapanides delved into his time at Villanova when students and staff knew him as Wally rather than Vlas.
“I was very influenced by Dr. Shyles, he taught us how to frame a shot, and that was very influential,” he said.
Parlapanides paused for a moment to reflect before continuing.
“In fact, the reason I consider myself a storyteller stems from my experience at Villanova,” he said. “I was an economics major…I felt like I had to major in something that was more laudable. Deep down, I knew I always wanted to pursue a creative endeavor.”
As he continued, he joked that he had an epiphany in his senior year, which is something that had never happened to him before. A switch in room location for two different acting classes resulted in Parlapanides having to write and produce a one-act play.
“Long story short, it moved me emotionally and it felt really good... Immediately after I performed it, my professor came up to me, and grabbed my arm and said, ‘if anybody should be in this business, it’s you,’” he said.
Looking back on the experience now, I’m sure to Parlapanides, it seems as if those words were a prophecy like those from Greek myth itself.
Like the one-act play he put on during his time at Villanova, “Blood of Zeus” created a similar feeling emotionally for the show creator. For fans who feel similarly about the “Blood of Zeus,” I tried to get in a tease for things to come as the interview began to wrap up.
The season two plot thread came in the form of Parlapanides discussing content that there was simply not enough room for in the initial eight episodes.
“We had the backstory for Alexia in the show, and it got cut out because we just ended up running out of time… it’s something that we’re going to explore in, god willing, season two,” he said.
Though the series has yet to be renewed for a second season, the first season is streaming now on Netflix, and “Blood of Zeus” is a storm that doesn’t show any signs of stopping.