What could the Netflix Diablo anime series be about?
We’re probably getting a Diablo anime on Netflix, something we at Blizzard Watch have been thinking about for years now. I personally would love for there to be such a series, and I hope we get an official announcement soon.
But that does lead me to wonder: what, exactly, will a Diablo anime be about? What story will it tell?
With Diablo 4 on the way, with Lilith taking center stage, will we get a story about her? Or will the series instead go back to the beginning and tell the story of Diablo’s corruption of Tristram? Diablo 2 may be the best-known of the series, but you can’t adapt it to animation straight off — you need the story of the original Diablo in order for it to make sense. As for the Sin War, as much as I love those books I don’t think the story of a farm boy discovering he’s a near omnipotent being and taking on both Lilith and Inarius is really going to work as an animated introduction to the setting.
I mean, Castlevania dealt with this property by putting Trevor Belmont’s story up front, but I don’t think Diablo can get away with that, because there’s no Trevor Belmont to be had. As a series, the Diablo games are defined by their antagonists rather than their protagonists, who are usually thinly veiled stand-ins for, well, you. They’re meant to allow you to pretend it’s you up in there smashing demons.
So if we’re getting a Diablo animated series, who should it be about? What should it be about?
Make the Diablo anime about Diablo
The setting and the game series bears the name of Diablo himself: he’s the Lord of Terror, the main antagonist. But we just know the arch-fiend as the reason for things going horribly wrong — we have very little knowledge of what the Lord of Terror thinks.
But we see evidence across the franchise that he does think. The Wrath short shows him outwitting Imperius and the whole plan to deliberately lose the Demonic Civil War and get himself and his brothers exiled to Sanctuary was his. Diablo 3 is all about Diablo using the schemes of others to recreate himself with the power of all the Evils in one being, displaying a level of forethought, malice, and deception that you’d expect from one of the Prime Evils.
So here’s my suggestion — if we’re doing a Diablo animated series, have it be about Diablo. Not in a simple reportage sense — a story that’s just Diablo doing evil stuff would get boring after a while. But a series that jumps from protagonist to protagonist as they react to, attempt to stop, and otherwise deal with the effect of Diablo and the demon lord’s schemes could be very, very cool indeed. Plus it would live up to the games, because that’s exactly what those are.
The first game is the story of Aidan and his companions trying to stop Diablo. The second game shows Aidan’s fate and how Diablo and his brothers wreak havoc on the world. The third game focuses on Aidan’s daughter and her allies, and how they’re used as pawns by the Prime Evil — only managing to stop his plans at a terrible cost.
Getting an animated series that centered Diablo would give us a chance to expand upon the menace and threat that the Lord of Terror poses. How do the three Greater Evils function? How do Baal, Mephisto, and Diablo come to decisions? What are the roles of Duriel, Andariel, Belial and Azmodel and how did Diablo convince them that the Civil War was their idea?
And it would be interesting to see the hosts of the Angiris Council as the antagonists for once, to see Heaven’s terrible wrath and implacable resolve as gleaming armies descend to blot out the skies of Pandemonium.
Make the Diablo anime an original story, not just an origin story
I also think it would be a mistake to adapt any of the games too directly. It would make more sense, in my opinion, to open with Tristram and the rise of Diablo from the perspective of someone we haven’t seen yet.
Maybe do the story of King Leoric’s fall from Lachdanan’s perspective, or even from Bishop Lazarus, and slowly ramp up the terror and insanity as the Lord of Terror slouches closer and closer to his ultimate goal. There’s a lot of story that we only ever get from lore codexes and flashbacks that would be good to finally see. And maybe for once we could get an explanation for why Aidan thought stabbing himself in the skull with a giant evil gemstone was a good idea.
But as cool as I think that would be, I’d want the series to move past just telling us stuff we already know. Perhaps it should bridge the gap, bring us closer to the current state of Sanctuary in some way. The problem there is that we don’t have the latest game — Diablo Immortal is meant to span the gap between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3, and we don’t know what will happen in Diablo 4. I don’t want the animated series to steal their thunder or otherwise spoil the developments of those games, so keeping to the timeline of the previous three games could be the way to go.
One idea that comes to mind would be to have a character who starts out a child in Tristram, survives the events there, goes in pursuit of Aidan, and witnesses the events of Diablo 2 and is an older, experienced adventurer and demon fighter by the time the story of Diablo 3 comes along.
Having a PoV character who changes and grows over time, who experiences Diablo’s actions and the consequences of them over time, could be an interesting way into the series. If the show starts in the period of time during or after Diablo 3 and then shows the events of the series the way the recent Netflix Witcher series did to some degree it could be a really elegant way to introduce the whole setting and Diablo himself.
Or, heck, maybe it should focus on Deckard Cain.
Whatever it does, this could be an amazing series, if handled correctly. While it could look like other successful adaptations — see Castlevania and The Witcher — Diablo is a particularly creepy, demon-infested thrill ride all its own, and I hope Netflix can manage to convey that sense of capering demon destruction.
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