Castlevania is an American-Canadian adult animated web television series on Netflix. The series, which is based on Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, only has four episodes that run for about 20 minutes. While the series seems very short, it does make sense considering that the original plan was for a three-part film.
The series is based on the Castlevania games. The video game franchise follows the last surviving member of the disgraced Belmont clan as he tries to save Eastern Europe from Vlad Dracula Tepes.
In March 2007, writer Warren Ellis announced that he was working on a straight to DVD animated film adaption of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse with former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. In August of 2008, an update from the production team confirmed that while Ellis had turned in a draft, there was interest from other studios about releasing it theatrically instead of as a direct-to-DVD title. Years have passed and there was no word about the said project. On February 2018, producer Adi Shankar and Netflix announced that it would be released as a series.
The series opens with Lisa, an aspiring scientist who travels to Castlevania to seek higher knowledge in order to care for the ailing people of Wallachia. The reveal of the keeper of this knowledge is none other than Dracula himself.
Lisa and Dracula work together, but the local bishop finds this an unholy alliance. And when word of Lisa’s healing abilities reaches the locals, he takes drastic measures to purge this perceived witchcraft from Targoviste. This is the inciting moment that causes the hellfire of Dracula’s rage to rain down upon the city, its people, and throughout Wallachia. The opening episode nicely sets the tone for the series. It establishes Dracula’s dark connection to the human world and gives him real motivations for menacing the land of Wallachia.
Trevor Belmont is the last surviving son of a disgraced family. The Belmonts have monster-killing powers that have earned them hatred from religious rulers who think they possess dark magic. When he happens to visit the poor town of Gresit, he’s forced to make a choice. Trevor must either aid a group of Speakers, a group of healers and magicians tasked with aiding the ailing townsfolk, or leave them to the mercy of Dracula’s horde. It’s here that Trevor’s heroic nature and his whip-wielding skills will be put to the test.
Gresit is also the place where other protagonists come together. Alucard is a half-vampire-half-human hybrid torn between his heritage and his human side. Meanwhile, the squeaky-clean magic-wielding Sypha is torn between good or evil.
The chemistry between the three leads to incredibly rich storytelling. Regardless of their impressive skills, Dracula is introduced early on as a very imposing force. He can teleport castles, conjure huge rows of fire, and summon a hellish army of flying goblins, all of which just hint at what the dark lord is capable of. The trio will need to call upon all their skills if they hope to take him out.
The series is not perfect, especially when it comes to the music. The Castlevania series is known to have a spectacular score.
For the story, establishing Dracula’s relationship with Lisa should have been given more time to add some extra drama instead of just burning her alive. The lore is very faithful to the series to the point that it would not look out of place in the official canon.
However, a major protagonist named Grant Danasty was missing in the first series. Grant is a thief who is part of a rebel group that wants to overthrow Count Dracula. The rebels fail, and he was turned into a demon. When Trevor defeats Grant, he turns back into a human and the latter decides to go along with him. Who knows, he might be featured in the next season.
The animation is heavily influenced by Ayami Kojima’s Symphony of The Night and manages to balance the Western look of the 8bit/16bit Castlevanias and anime. The show also seems to be inspired from graphic anime movies like Ninja Scrolls and TV shows like Game Of Thrones.
The violence and gore serve the story. Castlevania’s not simply about the action-packed adventure of three heroes wandering the Wallachian countryside, but the very real battle of complex heroes fighting for what’s right and protecting the innocent from darkness and ignorance.
Beautifully animated, the style of Castlevania is sure to inspire more adult-oriented action shows and movies. It has been awhile since I enjoyed adult-oriented animation. The last one was produced by BONES, a show called Sword of the Stranger. Video game adaptations have never been done as good as Castlevania. Netflix managed to faithfully represent the spirit of the property while also injecting new blood into the material.
While this is an impressive start to the series, it’s also too short, which leaves fans wanting to see more. The good news is that Netflix has officially announced that a second season is coming and it will have eight episodes.
This review was written in collaboration with Turnbased.