Castlevania: Season 1 Review

Hell hath no fury like a vampire scorned…

 

Castlevania was an unknown world to me about 12 hours ago. To speak bluntly, I think vampires are dumb and castles are dated, but I’ve always viewed the franchise as something iconic. Thing is, to me, iconic don’t mean a damn thing. I still never touched the games because everyone looked too Victorian-y. I regret that now. For so long, I’ve stuck my tongue out at something that went on to be the source material for the fantastic story I watched unfold on my laptop tonight.

Netflix’s Castlevania was an excellent start to something that could end up being big. What I watched for eighty-odd minutes was enthralling and entertaining, and the hybrid of Game of Thrones and Attack on Titan that I never knew I wanted. It wasn’t perfect, but it was an adventure that deserved your focus, and sometimes that’s enough. Be it the characters that compliment each other like poison to a blade, or the origin as to why everything went to shit, everything was well told, just not told for long enough.

While it’s only been out for a weekend, the show has gained mass appeal and Netflix has already confirmed that it’s coming back for round two with double the episodes. Why have they already doubled down on the number of episodes? Because, as you sit there watching what may be your new favorite show of the summer, it’s pulled out of your embrace at the end of episode four.

Seriously, they roll the credits right as you meet the third member of the team, a ragtag medieval strike force that’s assembled to take down fucking Dracula and we’re supposed to just be cool with it. You can’t just do that! Right as you had everyone hooked, you reel in?

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I was disappointed when things came to a swift, four-episode conclusion, but I can only imagine there were larger puppet strings being pulled at Netflix. It’s a scary thing, someone saying they want to make an anime adaption of a video game series. Video game adaptations have enough stigmas as is, turning it into an anime may have really gritted some teeth in the boardroom.

Season length aside, I’m glad that Castlevania is getting the recognition that it deserves. In the four episodes that it devotes to its more-or-less prequel story, we’re presented with some well-written dialogue that’s performed incredibly well by the voice talent, all around making for some kickass characters that do just that: kick fucking ass.

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I don’t know how true this is to the source material, but the main protagonist, Trevor Belmont just barely gives a damn about saving the world. He’s standoffish, and a bit of a drunk asshole, but only because of the convictions that the world has put upon his family name. While this mindset directs most of his behavior, he doesn’t allow all of his humanity to be devastated in this world where so little of it is already left. We see him carry the weight of his excommunication like a curse, but we see him strike back at the true evils of Dracula’s army to defend those that would call him the monster.  Trevor Belmont is a great protagonist in that he’s not a good guy, but a guy who doesn’t want to be bad.

The origin of Dracula’s hate for mankind is given a face, and it allows for a story in which Dracula is sending bat-people to cut farmers in half, but we still can’t help but feel for the guy. Like Frankenstein, a monster is made in Dracula, not born. He’s almost unseen in the latter half of the first semi-season, but he was our first true protagonist in a lot of ways. We rooted for him, even as he was burning mankind to the ground. It’ll be very interesting to see if his reign is all-consuming, even of himself.

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Castlevania’s animation is a weak element, but it’s stylistic. The voice acting and set design make up for the world where otherwise you’d think it felt weak. There’s a good bit of violence and gore, which I don’t know how normal that is for an anime. I, uh, don’t watch too many, so it felt jarring in all the right ways to see violence portrayed in that kind of medium. I don’t know, maybe I’m a weirdo.

I highly recommend the first season of Castlevania to anybody who may be looking for a taste of epic, gut-covered adventure before Game of Thrones returns. While I have minor complaints, my biggest irk is in the poor structure of the season. I can’t seem to shake it. Instead of our three heroes walking into the sunset after a climactic victory, they walk forward, onward to the fight that hasn’t even begun yet. There’s a fantastic story here, we may just have to wait a bit longer to begin to enjoy it.

Oh, and I still think vampires are fucking dumb.

Castlevania: Season 1 — 8/10

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