When I initially heard the news that Netflix was making Castlevania into an animated television series, I was skeptical. Video game properties rarely transition properly into a televised or theatrical format, though there are a few exceptions I’d make. Nevertheless, it being an animated series instead of live action gave me ease as it’s definitely easier to pull off and who doesn’t love some anime? Another thing that caught me by surprise was how under the radar this release was. I didn’t know it came out July 7th until I saw some forum chatter about it, so I quickly sat down and ran through the very short 4 episode season.
The series decides to go chronological order in the Castlevania universe, opting to cover the events of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, which was a prequel to the first two entries in the video game series. Before this though, the entire first episode is dedicated to establishing our villain, Vlad Dracula Tepes, and just why he has tore apart the land of Wallachia. It’s actually a pretty convincing backstory, which caused me to side with Dracula for a bit until he took things far into the dark side. Lisa Tepes was the only person who had encountered Dracula and treated him fairly as a human rather than a monster. Dracula and Lisa fell in love and he taught her of the ways of science, but upon returning to her land and treating the ill, Lisa was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. In a fit of rage, Dracula gives the people of Wallachia one year to prepare for his reckoning. His plan is to unleash the demons of Hell upon the world for what they did to Lisa and figures even those that are innocent are responsible as they stood by idly. The last part is where Dracula lost me and it’s also where his son, Alucard, draws the line. The first episode ends with Alucard attempting to stop his father, but falling short.
The following three episodes of the season follow the events that occur a year later, just as Dracula promised. The demons of Hell have infested the land of Wallachia and are slowly wiping out city after city. We enter Trevor Belmont, a member of the legendary monster hunting noble family, who is down on his luck. After his family was excommunicated by the church for their practices, the Belmonts have been wanderers to the land, struggling to make a living. Trevor at the onset of the season is worn out and out of practice, but after making his way to the city of Gresit, he soon comes into contact with Dracula’s demons and is forced to take part in the war to stop them. This comes as a result of his siding with the magic users known as the Speakers, who had come to the city of Gresit to help combat the demons. The corrupt church, on the other hand, believed the Speakers to be the reason the demons keep attacking and plan to execute them all.
It is here that Trevor begins to live up to the Belmont name instead of moping around drunk. After saving the Elder Speaker’s granddaughter, Sypha Belnades, from a cyclops under the city, Trevor learns that Dracula’s teleporting tower is actually residing under Gresit (inverted castle reference?). His duty and resolve returns to his being and he assists the Speakers in hiding as he takes on the corrupt members of the church. After succeeding in the fight, Trevor teaches the locals how to properly fight against the demons, but in the onslaught, the ground collapses, causing Trevor and Sypha to fall into the depths of Dracula’s castle. It is here that they learn a urban legend known as the Sleeping Soldier actually is true and that Alucard is that soldier. Being a Belmont, Trevor takes on the vampire in a stylish duel, but it’s revealed to simply be a test from Alucard to make sure Trevor and Sypha are capable of assisting him in taking on his father, Dracula. Just as the trio starts to march off to ascend the castle, the season ends.
It’s easier for me to call Season 1 of Castlevania a prologue rather than a proper season. I’ve seen comparisons that it seems like something similar to Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV, a prologue series that comes in anticipation of a game release. Except in this case, there isn’t a game to go along with the prequel. That’s not to say that Castlevania is bad, however, but it definitely ends right as it’s starting to pick up. The first three episodes of the season serve as introductions to three of the main characters of the series: Dracula, Trevor, and Sypha. We then get one more episode of some good action sequences and a reintro to Alucard and…we’re done. It’s satisfying in a way of keeping things short and sweet, but also leaves more to be desired. Luckily, a 2nd season with a extended order of 8 episodes has already been confirmed right as the series debuted. It wasn’t stated when the next season should be expected, but seeing as it’s an animated series rather than live action, it shouldn’t be too far off.
Going into more details of the series, I found the voice acting to be solid. I enjoy some Graham McTavish and he does a fantastic job of portraying the menacing Dracula here. I wasn’t familiar with Richard Armitage before this, but his snarky British voice serves Trevor Belmont well, showing a range of comedic moments and seriousness. The animation is solid for the most part, with locales and action scenes looking crisp and elegant. The one thing I have a issue with is some of the character art can get bad in certain frames, but that is typically a common issue in animes. Trevor’s minimalist beard leaves a lot to be desired though as do other portions of the character designs. Powerhouse Studios employs 59 people, but I’m not an expert on if that’s a lot or not in regards to an animation studio, so I’ll hold my thoughts. I just hope with more time, the animation can improve in the next season.
So, Castlevania has definitely piked my interest with this prologue of things to come and I’m excited to see if other games of the series will be covered after the events of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse are over with. Also, where’s Grant Danasty?
Castlevania Season 1 – 4 out of 5
- Dracula’s backstory
- Trevor Belmont’s personality
- The fight scenes
- Short, can finish the season in less than two hours
- Animation is spotty at times
- Ends right as it’s getting good