Posted by Lenlo on 30 October 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Finished Series: Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction, Reviews by Lenlo

According to much of the Western Anime community, this series wouldn’t be relevant for a site like this. Being made in the West by Americans, and English being its first language, many would disqualify it from the start. However I name them all fools for Castlevania, Directed by Sam Deats and Ryoichi Uchikoshi is clearly inspired by and modeled after Anime. Just like Avatar: The Last Airbender or the currently airing RWBY, let Castlevania stand as a testament that Anime can be produced beyond the borders of Japan. A damn good one at that.

Lets jump in, and beware of spoilers!

Animation/Art

So since I am calling Castlevania an Anime by any other name, let’s start with the animation. Pretty much any scene involving our lead trio or Dracula looked good. Just like the 1st Season, Castlevania looks phenomenal in motion when it wants to. For proof of this just watch the entirety of Episode 7 again, though I will get to specifics later. It manages to impart impact and weight to Trevor while giving weightlessness and grace to Alucard. The issue comes when the main 4 are either not present on screen, or not moving. A lot of the still shots suffer because of the sometimes simplified designs. The lack of detail in some parts, useful when animating so they can focus on larger movements, doesn’t always fit still shots with detailed backgrounds. This is overshadowed though by the simple fact that every other character doesn’t get the same attention.

What I mean by that is, Castlevania clearly had a B-Team of animators. While the best worked on Dracula, Trevor, Alucard and Sypha, the rest of the vampires got shafted. I can think of maybe a single scene with the new characters, Godbrand’s chase in the snowy forest, that stood out to me. The rest just felt lackluster compared any scene Trevor is in. It doesn’t help that I don’t care about these side characters at all, which I will get into more detail on later. I am still grateful it exists, and its not like the animation is bad. It just doesn’t match up in terms of quality, and its noticeable. It’s like they had the same budget or time constraints they had for the first season, but elected to go for 8 episodes instead of 4.

Direction

Speaking of spread out, lets talk about some of the direction, the choices made during this season. In my opinion, Castlevania Season 2 is by far to spread out. The story is fine and dandy, but how it was presented was just awful. The focus of the series is on our Trio and Dracula, yet what does Castlevania do? Stick our trio in a library for 4 episodes then have us watch Vampire politics with a bunch of new characters. It’s dull! We don’t know or care about these people, yet they are supposed to carry the series? Perhaps had Castlevania done something with them, an extended siege of Braila, it would have been good. But for every episode spent with our Trio in the library, the Vampires spent bickering about how much they hate the war. It’s a shame because it wasn’t all bad either.

As far as actual direction went, it a series of ups and downs. There were some beautiful shots under a red moon, or Isaac performing a funeral on the tower. The standout of the series is without a doubt Dracula and Alucard in his bedroom, realizing what he is doing. These are all great scenes and I remember them vividly because of it. But Isaac killing Godbrand, our Trio just laying about the Belmont library? These are not engaging scenes. They do not spur anything in the viewer, they simply exist. Most of them aren’t bad per se, they don’t detract. They just… are. And that’s Castlevania’s biggest problem in this category, most of the shots just exist, without anything extra presented in them. At least Dracula got a consistent level of quality.

Story/World

In terms of story, the actual concept Castlevania has is good. Expanding on Dracula’s war with humanity, our Trio searches for knowledge to kill him, etc etc. The problem is that it dragged out. In my opinion, episodes 3, 4, 5 & 6 could probably be condensed down into 2. This would up the pacing and still manage to tell pretty much the same story, without boring viewers with constant looks into a library for 4 episodes. If 8 episodes were a must, extending the Siege of Braila and actually showing us the savagery of the Vampires would also be useful. We keep hearing about this great army of the night, yet never see it, and Castlevania suffers for it. Basically, the entire political side story with the Vampires is wasted potential that drags down the central plot.

The only aspect of the Vampire politics story that I enjoyed was Carmilla’s betrayal and Hector and Isaac. Carmilla was fine, while Hector and Isaac were easily the best new characters of the season. Their friendship with Dracula even during a genocide of humanity was intriguing to watch. They humanized Dracula when he was moving to kill off the human species, they gave him friendly characters to bounce off of. Sadly, they and Carmilla seem to exist purely for the already announced 3rd Season. Carmilla as the Dracula stand in with an upcoming army, while Hector goes out to finish Dracula’s mission of killing off humanity. Of the 3, Hector’s story and fall was my favorite. His desire for mercy, love for Dracula and gentle heart make him the most relatable character in the court. Maybe that’s why his story, and tragic end, is the only one I cared about.

Characters 

Onto the characters, whom I have mentioned numerous times already I know. So for this I will split it up, into new characters and old. In terms of new characters, I already gushed about Isaac and Hector being the only ones I well and truly liked. The reason for this is simple. They are the only two, excluding maybe Carmilla, who get any sort of meaningful story. Everyone else, all the intricately designed Vampire Generals from other nations, might as well not exist. Take Godbrand, their virtual spokesperson, as picture proof of this. He remains unchanged through the whole series, and while he is amusing and well voiced, he really doesn’t serve any narrative purpose. Remove him and our Trio will still do the same things, Carmilla will still plot and Hector will still doubt. Godbrand exists for no real narrative purpose. And that is Castlevania’s problem IE characters.

You need only look at our original 4 to see how outclassed the new characters are. Alucard and Trevor’s banter for instance, or Sypha’s gradual infatuation. But the best scene in the entire season, with the most fantastic characterization, was without a doubt Episode 7, Dracula’s defeat. The entire season his depression, the emptiness of the world without his wife, was hammered home. So to end the series with Dracula being defeated not by brute strength, but his love for his son? His realization that he is destroying the only thing left of his wife, whom he has shown he loved so much? It was the single best moment of characterization in the entire show. And it didn’t just affect him, but Alucard as well, this stoic Vampire crying alone in his castle. This is what the Vampire Generals had to compete against. This is Castlevania’s strongest aspect.

Voice Acting

It no doubt helps that the Voice Acting was on point. Graham McTavish as Dracula, Richard Armitage as Belmont and Alejandra Reynoso as Sypha all knocked it out of the park. Each of them just nail their character, and once again I have to point towards Episode 7 as prime material for this. I have re-watched Dracula’s realization of what he was doing to Alucard multiple times, I love it so much. You can hear despair in his voice as he gives up, as he lets Alucard finish it. Sypha’s voice, an accent I can’t quite place, also really sold her scenes. I normally don’t enjoy dubs, because I find listening to English speakers attempt to pronounce Japanese very awkward, and the same in reverse. It’s just not pleasing to the ears. But for a story set in fantasy Europe, Castlevania found the sweet spot for voices.

Now, I know that this is supposed to be the section for Voice Acting, but I can’t help but mention the music as well. It’s all sound, so it counts! It’s hard to hear in some places, but Castlevania successfully brought in some of the video-game soundtracks. Specifically, Bloody Tears during the episode 7 intro fight. No one can deny, the original video-game Castlevania soundtrack is one of the greats. That’s why it is a shame it is so underutilized in this series. When it’s there, you love it and everything is right with the world. But you have to notice it in the first place to get that joy, and it is a damn shame.

Conclusion

So all in all, what do I think of Castlevania. Well, I think that it’s highs are incredible and its lows are dull drums. It wasted a lot of it’s potential and could have been a Masterpiece. As is? It’s one of the best Videogame adaptations out there. It’s a fun short 8 episode Vampire fueled adventure. I personally love Castlevania, and re-watch episodes of it constantly. But that’s the thing, I re-watch specific episodes instead of the whole thing. For such a short series, it fail’s at making me want to come back time and again for anything more than the highlights reel. A damn shame in my opinion. I don’t see how Netflix is going to make Season 3 any better, with the titular Dracula now dead. But at the very least, I heartily recommend you sit down and watch Castlevania. It will not waste your time.

I could nitpick it to the ends of the earth. How the power levels of various vampires make no sense, to the oddly modern choice of dialogue for multiple scenes. But at the end of the day, Castlevania has heart. The creators cared. If they didn’t we wouldn’t get Sypha speaking to Trevor in the library. We wouldn’t get Hector’s naivety and cruel fate. We wouldn’t get Episode 7 and its heartfelt finale. And you know what?

That’s what matters.

10 Responses

  1. Avatar Vonter says:

    I like to add, that while narrative dragged, I think there was a consistent theme in this season and that was about growth. Trevor being unfocused on what he’s doing with his life frustrating his companions in that he’s like a petty child. Alucard trying to do what he thinks he’s right but being selfless to a fault, until the end him realizing if what he did was the best for himself.

    Dracula is interesting because it’s a kind of mid-age crisis, thinking he lost everything and thinking he could never regain any joy, acknowledges his son in his last moments making him feel blind to what his wife probably would have wanted him to do.

    Hector and Isaac will likely be different characters next season, with Hector having a rude awakening that his world view is a bit childish and the ruthlessness of both people and vampires is something he’ll need to adapt. Isaac will probably be like a missionary wanting to accomplish the thing his master could not.

    Finally I don’t know if it’s politics or a writer’s thing, but is curious how Sypha and Carmilla acted like the more mature individuals constantly pushing the other characters around and either motivating them or manipulating them. Both seem in control of their own selves, even the little glimpses at Lisa. It’s a nice contrast in comparison to japanese series that frequently make their female characters very childish.

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      Once again, I love your comments.

      I hadnt noticed it, but your right. The female characters are often the most adult, herding the male characters around. I like it, I think strong female characters are a plus. Its just not something I had noticed.

      As for Hector and Isaac, they will no doubt be the main villains or leads of the next already announced 3rd season. Its possible Hector will become like Alucard, a hero or sympathetic character, but we will have to see.

    • Avatar Tayo Jones says:

      Here is a list of anime where the girls are certainly not childish:

      Ghost in the shell

      Berserk

      Baccano

      Durarara

      Monogatari

      Perfect Blue

      Paprika

      Steins gate

      Also, i have no problems with strong female leads, but not to the point where they come off as overbearing and constantly cutting off the balls of the male leads.

  2. Avatar Firechick says:

    Yay, a review of the series that isn’t pretentious and solely “Ewww it’s all Netflix and dark and edgy grimdark and I hate it!” I haven’t seen it myself nor do I want to, as vampires really aren’t my thing, but I do like the idea of Netflix giving more opportunities to creators and animators to do their own thing without the constraints that TV has, and I want to be able to support that. Good thing I have a Netflix account!

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      Haha, is that really what most of them are saying? I have nothing againts Netflix, though their release schedule could use some work. And I love that they are branching out with their originals.

      • Avatar Firechick says:

        Unfortunately, yes. They’re doing the same thing with Devilman Crybaby too (I haven’t seen that one, either). Personally, I don’t have a problem with dark shows, or even grimdark, as long as the execution is good and the characters are interesting to me. I love Madoka Magica because of its premise and interesting set up, but I hate Made In Abyss because I don’t like how it shows children being nude. I really like this one Netflix show called Anne With an E, even though it tries way too hard to be serious and dark and is not even remotely faithful to the book in some areas. But I’d MUCH rather watch that than, say, crappy “reality” TV shows or any ecchi/incest anime or…anything starring Tyler Perry or the Kardashians.

        Plus, even without that, I’ve heard people claim that Netflix keeps pushing agendas in every show they make (Usually by having homosexual characters), which I think is bullcrap because there’s a difference between giving characters an orientation, trying to give a message, and pushing an agenda. “Ewwww, I hate this show because it has two gay characters, so that means it’s pushing a gay agenda and think of the poor children!!” Yeah, I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

        • Avatar Lenlo says:

          Wow. I completely agree, grimdark isn’t for everyone. I personally prefer it, I have a dark taste in humor for instance.

          But I wouldn’t say Netflix is being edgy or anything. Like Devilman Crybaby, I thought was pretty good even if it ended in a crazy manner.

          I don’t think they are pushing any agenda’s either. That’s just how Devilman was written, and with Castlevania they had to come up with a full story from a 1990’s videogame with lines like “But alucard felt guilty because he killed his real father”. Im glad Netflix is making these, because like it or not, these are pretty high quality productions at times. I think its valuable to the medium.

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      My issues with Netflix original shows so far aren’t from its edgy grimdark, it’s more about their aesthetic feel pretty old-fashioned so far. “Retro” might be a better phrasing but for now I feel like all their shows could have been made a decade ago.

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