[There will be minor/major spoilers in this review]
Castlevania is a name that meant a lot to me in middle school. Back then I went out of my way to play as many of the games as I could. I poured hours and hours into the first game. Many of those games still stick with me to this day, I even recently completed Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night for the first time. Castlevania as a series holds a lot of value to me so when I first heard that Netflix was making an animated adaption I was…skeptical to say the least. At the time I was burnt out on a lot of stuff Konami was pulling at the time and television adaptions of video games are usually pretty…..
…messy. But I can say with full confidence that not only is Netflix’s Castlevania a great show in its own right, it is also the best adaptions of a video game I have ever seen.
Castlevania, which is an adaption of the third NES game Dracula’s Curse, tells the story of Vlad “Dracula” Țepeș (Graham McTavish) klosing his human wife after a church bishop deemed her a withc and burned her at the steak, causing Dracula to summon an army of demons, vowing to wipe out the people of Wallachia. He is eventually pursued by Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), a disgraced demon hunter whose family was exiled by the church, Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso), a spell caster from a nomadic tribe known the “Speakers”, and Adrian “Alucard” Țepeș (James Callis), a dhamphir and Dracula’s son who was scarred by him and put to sleep in a tomb a year prior to the main story. These three are the main focus of season 1’s story while season 2 has a more primary focus on the villains, who are just as entertaining to watch.
Season 1 of Castlevania is extremely short, only consisting of 4 22-23 minute episodes and while that seems like that would be too short to gain any real content from it, it’s actually perfectly paced and gets a lot across. You learn everything you need to know about Dracula from the very first episode of the series and it’s kind of amazing how they’re able to cram in so much story in such a small amount of time. It’s also an extremely good first impression as the first episodes shows off a lot of stunning background artwork and masterful animation. Every frame has so much detail and personality that it really is a sight to behold, especially the gruesome attack on Târgoviște. After that it starts to slow down, focusing on Trevor and Sypha and both characters are really good. They’re witty, they’re likable, they bounce off each other a lot and it’s only amplified by their actors voice performances. Every voice actor in this gives it their all and they lent themselves to their characters very well (I can’t stress enough how good Graham McTavish is oh my god). The first season eventually ends with Trevor and Sypha finding the tomb of Alucard and this fight? It. Is. Stunning. There are so many intricate motion shots during this confrontation and the fluidity with each frame is exquisite. Overall season 1 of Castlevania is an extremely enjoyable, if not brief ride. It really leaves you wanting more, which we eventually got with season 2.
Season 2 begins with something season 1 actually lacked, scenes with the main villain. We see Dracula talking to his army of demons and with his vampire generals. This is where we’re introduced to Dracula’s human Forgemasters, Hector and Issac (Both played by Theo James and Adetokumboh M’Cormack respectively), both of these characters origination from the PlayStation 2 game Castlevania-Curse of Darkness. They both take the role as Dracula’s commanders and while many of the generals have their grievances with this decision, Dracula makes it very clear that he trusts them. This causes dissention in the ranks especially when a female vampire by the name of Carmilla (Jaime Murray) comes in and starts intentionally antagonizing Dracula and even tempting Hector. I honestly really liked that this season focus on the villains a lot more as we got to learn more about how Dracula acts along with his true motivations. I also really liked the new characters, especially Issac. His cold, mono toned demeanor really stuck with me and it was nice seeing the actual friendship he had with Dracula. However with this comes an issue as well. We barely get to see Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard.
As much as I enjoyed seeing the drama with the antagonists I couldn’t help but miss our main 3 heroes. Alucard does get plenty of development this time outside of the two scenes he had in season 1 but Trevor and Sypha weren’t really…there. They mainly existed to give the show a lighter tone and to show a romance sub plot, and while all of it was good it really did leave me with wanting more. Another thing is that the show couldn’t really decide if they were a well oiled machine or a team of bickering children. Like I said, the comedy in this show is great, but the fighting between Trevor and Alucard never felt genuine. They never seemed like they truly liked each other, or even truly despised each other, they bounced back and forth between the two up until the final fight/episode and it didn’t really sit well with me. I’m sure this will be fixed with later episodes and it really doesn’t hurt the show in a negative way or anything, it was just a thing that bothered me. peaking of the final fight though HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO BOY. The final fight with Dracula was stellar in almost every way. Each character got their own chance to shine individually and it ends with such emotionally intensity that it was perfect (And it also had an AMZING remix of Bloody Tears from Simon’s Quest). Season 2 had a few more problems than season 1 did but it was still a lot of fun and a great end to the first main story of the series.
Castlevania perfectly captures the spirit of the source material without relying on prior knowledge of the series to do so. ANY person can enjoy this series even without any knowledge of the original games and I think that speaks volumes for its quality. The atmosphere, the art, the music, the characters, all of it blends into an immensely enjoyable program that I think everyone should see. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the show and I’m glad Castlevania is back to getting the respect it deserves.