In 1986 Konami released Castlevania in Japan and the following year it was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System and released in America. Castlevania introduced the world to Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter, hell bent on killing the ultimate vampire, Dracula. It was an instant success and spawned over two dozens sequels and spins-offs!
In 2017 Netflix began producing Anime style series and one of the first they ordered was an adaptation of Castlevania. The first season, released on 7 July 2017, was a mere four episodes. According to Netflix it was the most watched show on their service the day it was released and into the weekend. Netflix ordered an expanded season two, eight episodes, the same day.
Season 2 Trailer
After the release of Season 2 in 2018, Netflix again ordered another season immediately. Castlevania Season 3 appeared on Netflix earlier this year. Castlevania Season 1 and 2 is a loose adaptation of the video game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and includes characters from other games in the Castlevania universe.
Castlevania Season 1
Season 1 is way to short but serves as a good prologue to Season 2. Dracula(Graham McTavish) vows to kill all humans to avenge his wife’s murder and Trevor Belmont(Richard Armitage), a descendant of Simon, is caught in the middle. Along the way, Trevor rescues Sypha Belnades(Alejandra Reynoso) and the two of them encounter the “Sleeping Soldier,” who turns out to be half-vampire Alucard Tepes(James Callis), the son of Dracula!
Together the three of them form an unlikely alliance to hunt down and destroy Dracula, each for their own reasons. And that’s where Season 1 ends. Leaving a nice cliffhanger for an adventure yet to come. Thankfully it was well received and Netflix ordered Season 2!
Castlevania Season 2
Season 2 checks in at eight episodes, which is much better for telling a complete story. The series is written by Warren Ellis a comic book writer and screenwriter (Hellstorm, Excalibur, Hellblazer, Iron Man Extremis) which gives him the experience to write a full story arc in episodic format. Season 2 introduces a whole new cast of characters from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness as well, which was released in 2005 but takes place three years after Castlevania III.
Season 2 picks up where Season 1 left off. Trevor, Sypha and Alucard begin their quest to hunt down Dracula. While Dracula gathers his war council, a group of vampire overlords from across the world, to get his revenge on humankind. Castlevania could easily relay on worn out ideas and have Trevor and company invade the castle and fight a vampire overlord each episode until they reach Dracula, reminiscent of the video game.
Instead it focuses on the vampire overlords as much as the heroes and delves deeper into their backgrounds and how they aren’t all in support of Dracula’s mission to wipe out the human race. Mostly because they don’t want to survive on pig’s blood for the rest of eternity.
The first half of Season 2 does a great job of bringing the new characters to life. Delving into their history and back story. Dracula’s war council consists of several vampires including Carmilla (Jamie Murray) and Viking warrior Godbrand (Peter Stormare). It also introduces us to two humans in Dracula’s service.
Two of Dracula’s most trusted generals, are the human Forgemasters, Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) and Hector (Theo James). The Forgemasters use dark magic to imbue life into the dead. They are the key to building Dracula’s demonic army and fulfilling his plans to kill all humans. (Does that mean Issac and Hector are doomed?) The back story of both men are explored, giving a great explanation on why they hate humans and work for Dracula.
While Dracula is brooding and his generals are scheming, the trio of heroes are busy learning how to defeat the vampire. Trevor, Sypha and Alucard travel to the Belmont estate, or what’s left of it, to learn any information on defeating Dracula.
Once they reach the estate and open a sealed door they discover a massive library. Sypha is fascinated with all the books, Trevor finds new weapons, including the iconic Morning Star whip, while Alucard is troubled with all the preserved vampire remains.
The trio find what they are looking for which sets up the last half of the season. Where the first half is filled with a lot of back story and exposition the second half makes up for it in pure, unadulterated, demonic action!
As good as the writing and dialog is in the series the action is even better. Trevor uses his whip in true Castlevania style. Killing a bad guy in the video game is a quick crack of the whip. In the series it’s much more like I envisioned when playing the game. You see the carnage from the whip, ripping the flesh from the bone and the skulls exploding on impact. Drawn with such vividness you can almost smell the hellfire on their breath.
The battle scenes are the highlight of the season. They draw you in and leave you breathless. Filled with the gruesome goriness you’d expect from a vampire movie, only in animated form.
The voice acting in Castlevania is top notch. Graham McTavish is exceptional as the sulking Dracula, Richard Armitage brings Trevor Belmont to life in a way few others could and Alejandra Reynoso is great as the lighthearted, yet fierce Sypha. Jaime Murray is superb as the manipulative vampire Carmilla, while Peter Stormare is the perfect choice for a crazy Viking vampire.
If you’ve played any of the Castlevania games beyond the first one the the characters will be familiar. Season 2 also delves into vampire lore and the history of Castlevaina. The war council debates whether vampires can cross running water and if doing so will kill them. While Sypha asking Trevor about his name and family is a good way to explain the history of the Belmonts and other characters in the Castlevania universe.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse has a nice, satisfying ending, as any game should. The ending of Castlevania Season 2 is more shocking than satisfying, it’s a gut punch that leaves you reeling. And I was completely enthralled! I won’t spoil it here, but the final episode is worth the entire ride from start to finish. And I wish it didn’t end!
Castlevania earns its TV-MA rating, from its salty language to the gruesome and gory visuals. It is most certainly not intended for a younger audience. They’ve taken a video game made for all ages and added the right amount of horror to capture an adult audience.
If the final episodes of Castlevania Season 2 are any indication of what’s in store for Season 3 than we are in for a real treat! Stay tuned for the Season 3 review!
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