The first “season” of Netflix’s Castlevania stretched the word to the very limit of its meaning, being little more then an introductory film to the main event. Major characters such as Dracula and his son Alucard were barely introduced or left purposefully vague. It was clear from the limited run time there was more to this story. As such a lot was riding on its sophomore season to make up for its unconventional start. Luckily, the series managed to deliver in surprising and interesting ways, though flaws remain, the second season is much improved on the first and finally feels like a fully realized television production.
What is most surprising is the depths the series is beginning to mine with its source material. Originally a loose adaptation of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse Netflix’s production has taken on a life of its own. Boldly walking its own path, while still guided by the Konami video game series, it is clearly its own entity now which is an undeniably good thing.
One brilliant way it achieved this was to virtually abandon its main cast for the majority of the series. In fact one could argue the core trio was relegated to supporting cast members as the vampires and their allies takes center stage. Which honestly, was an amazing choice as many of these new characters are funnier and more dynamic then our heroes. In fact I’ve found myself more then once rooting for the villains.
From the first season it was clear Dracula was not going to be a by the tropes villain. As he was granted clear motivations namely revenge for the loss of his wife, he took a back seat as the series set up Trevor Belmont. Due to this while we knew why he was acting, his inner feels on it as well as his mental state was left undefined. A large part of the second season is spent rectifying this issue to great effect. As Dracula himself is elevated to co-star of the series and one could even argue the protagonist of the second season.
However, he is not alone in Castle Dracula. With the cast expanding to include an entire menagerie of villains each with well defined motives and personalities. A personal favorite of mine was Carmilla; a stand out if there ever was one. Introduced in one of the most memorable scenes of the early episodes, she is clearly somebody not to be trifled with. This is confirmed as her backstory and motivations become clear. At times both subtle and wild, it is actually impressive at how fleshed out and (ironically) alive she feels with so little actual development, a testament to the writing she and other villains received.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for our main trio as mentioned above. As the core cast of heroes especially Alucard suffers in character development early on. While the improved writing helps alleviate this somewhat by the end Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard are much the same as when we met them. That being said the group actually traveling together is a highlight as their banter is priceless. Alucard and Trevor especially are like oil and water and play off each other quite well.
As for the plot itself where the first season was short and bloody, the second season is more conservative in its action. In its place is copious amounts of political intrigue and personal drama, which fits surprisingly well in the world Adi Shankar and Warren Ellis. There is even a slight undercurrent of real world messaging thrown in. However, it is so slight as compared to almost moralistic take other series have taken in recent years one could potentially miss it. That being said it remains a fantasy series first and foremost and the central narrative of the Vampire-Human war is very much at center stage.
With all that being said another thing has stood out for me and that is the blending of anime style artwork in western productions. While shows like The Legend of Korra did it well the anime inspirations for Castelvania are undeniable and quite well done. The action, character designs, lighting, all reminds me of a late night anime and I love it. With more productions like Castelvania the age old question of “what is anime” will become more and more moot as the differences are falling by the wayside. Hell one character is even beginning to exhibit classic signs of tsundere.
If I had any major complaints with the season its that much like the first it merely sets up the next chapter. Considering the series was originally conceived as a trilogy of films it is likely the scope of the production was expanded as higher episode counts were ordered. However, I will be blunt this is a little bit of nitpicking as I am really enjoying the place Castelvania is taking us.
In recent weeks Netflix has seen a surge of high quality content for fans of fantasy, especially that of the Gothic and horror genres. As such a semi-anime video game adaptation may not be too high on your list. However, I am confident enough to say for a fan of the genre and medium Castevania is a very enjoyable time. With only twelve episodes in total it is also a very easy watch and well worth it.
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