I love Castlevania. Ever since I played Super Castlevania IV on my cousin’s SNES it’s a series that has been close to my heart. And it has also given me my favourite video game of all time, Symphony of the Night.
So, when Netflix announced that they were producing an animated series with Adi Shankar and Warren Ellis on board I lost it. That announcement was made in February, and five months later season 1 of Castlevania is among us. Was the wait worth it? Short answer, yes.
And if I could I’d finish this review here. Go watch the show now, you don’t even care what I might think.
You’re still here? Fine then, I’ll try to form some coherent thoughts about this show.
“She said to me ‘If you woud love me as a man, then live as a man. Travel as a man.”
This series adapts Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. It’s the a good starting point because Trevor Belmont was the first member of the Belmont clan to ever face Dracula. Also, the game introduced the Belnades family and Alucard to the series, and these two things are very important to the Castlevania mythology.
The story is greatly expanded in comparison to how it was in the game. Dracula starts attacking cities in Wallachia as he takes revenge on mankind. The only person who could stop him is Trevor Belmont, the last of the Belmonts. The Belmonts were a family that fought against supernatural things, until they fell in disgrace and ended up banished and excommunicated.
In the game, people feared the Belmonts because of their power, so they lived outside society. Here the Belmonts are banished and excommunicated by the Church, who considers them heretics. And that’s done with Dracula too, he’s a monster and he’s doing terrible things but the series humanizes him and shows that some of the supposed good guys are even worse than Dracula himself.
“I’m Trevor Belmont, of the house of Belmont. And dying has never scared me”
This season is only four episodes that are between 23 and 25 minutes long. Great for binging, but when it finished I wanted more. Especially because the show lives up to the hype.
Adi Shankar made big promises about how this would be the first good videogame adaptation of the western world. Big words, but in the end he was right. And the best thing is that this show doesn’t cater exclusively to fans of the games, anyone can sit down, watch it and get a kick out of it.
And the talent gathered for this show is just out of orbit. Warren Ellis wrote all four episodes (and will write the ones in season two as well) and as usual he’s great. The animation is good too, and in the end I liked the character designs, especially when we fully see Alucard wearing his usual outfit. But the voice cast is amazing. But with the names involved that was the only possible outcome. Graham McTavish is great as Dracula, and so is Alejandra Reynoso as Sypha but there are two names that stole the show for me.
I absolutely loved Richard Armitage as Trevor. He starts off as being very sarcastic but as the season progresses his voice gets a certain steel to it as he embraces what being a Belmont means. But my favourite is James Callis as Alucard. When I saw the cast and saw his name I thought of my favourite Battlestar Galactica scene and saw he was the best possible choice. His Alucard makes me hope that Castlevania goes beyond these two seasons and that they tackle other games, like Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night.
“The Sleeping Soldier will be met by a hunter and a scholar.”
There are only two things I didn’t like about this show. One is how short it is, though I understand the logic. Ages ago Warren Ellis had written what was going to be a direct to DVD animated film. The project fell through so it’s quite possible that this season was made from that script. Especially because Ellis talked about that film as being about 100 minutes long, which is how long this season is. Still, twice as many episodes for season two, so I’m happy with that.
The other aspect is the music. It’s not that it’s bad, it does the trick but it’s not particularly memorable. It just lacks a punch for it to be what I expect from Castlevania. Konami shoud’ve let them do rearrangements of music from the game, it’s not like they’re doing anything with the property, other than pachinko machines!
But these two things are minor. I absolutely love how this show turned out. They made justice to the story and the characters. Waiting a year for season two is going to suck. No pun intended.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.