Castlevania is a Netflix original series adaptation based on the famous video games series with the same name. Before continuing this review I would like to point out that, somehow, I never got to play any of the Castlevania games. So, for the better or worse, this review is not influenced by nostalgic memories. Castlevania’s story centers around Vlad Dracula Tepes (yes, The Dracula) and his plans to end humankind. Season 1 contains four episodes while season 2 spans eight, and at the time of this writing there are plans for a third season.
Warning: The rest of this article contains spoilers about both seasons.
Vlad Dracula Tepes, the most powerful vampire the world has ever seen falls in love with a human physician and through her eyes he (re)discovers the meaning of life. Unfortunately, this is the dark ages and people (mostly driven by the Church) consider knowledge and technology the tools of the devil, especially when they are practiced by women. The result: Dracula’s wife is burned at the stake accused of being a witch. And that’s the final straw. Dracula, enraged and grieving, swears to destroy humanity. And this is where our heroes comes in. Enter Trevor Belmont, the last of the best monster-hunting family. Trevor, who is the traditional archetype of antihero, joins forces with the Speaker Sypha and the [spoiler] Alucard, and together decide to stop Dracula once and for all.
Season 1 operates as an introduction to the series both in terms of plot (Dracula vs Humankind) and characters (Trevor and his companions). And in fact, the first season is truly awesome. Castlevania feels like a breath of fresh air. From the very first episode we feel sympathy for the arch-villain (and how could we not?), we are introduced into a (seemingly) carefully crafted lore, we get to watch magnificent action scenes, we are (pleasantly) shocked by the juicy gore, and we are introduced to a trio of interesting anti-heroes. Surely, this can only get better, right?
Sadly, no. Although Season 1 is truly a masterpiece, Season 2 fails in almost every level. In the second season we are introduced to several new characters surrounding Dracula, most of which being the generals of his hellish army. At first glance, these characters are intriguing because each one carries their own agenda, bringing a Game-of-Thrones-esque feeling to the series. Unfortunately, all of them are proven to be completely two-dimensional by the end of the season. We get to see the backstories of three of them, which are mediocre at best, and we learn nothing of the rest. Meanwhile, the once ultra cool Dracula of the first season has transformed into a annoyingly depressed old man who does not care about anything. To make things worse, the trio of (anti) heroes we met in the first season appear to have not grown at all. Trevor is a total edge lord, Alucard is an emo teenager, and Sypha is forgettable at best.
Similar to the story, the art style also paints a confused picture. One the one hand we get to watch truly amazing background visuals and superb battle scenes. On the other hard, in many scenes the characters appear two-dimensional and have different color pallets compared to the background. The worst however is how lazily certain characters are drawn. The best example is Trevor whose beard consists of 30 lines (literally).
Overall, Castlevania left a bad taste in my mouth, not because it is bad — as a matter of fact it is decent — but because it could have been so much more. In my opinion, Dracula’s story arc should have spanned three seasons of 8 to 12 episodes each. We should have been introduced to more characters in Dracula’s army who would have an active role in the story. Furthermore, Trevor’s, Sypha’s, and Alucard’s characters should have been developed slowly but steadily throughout the seasons. But most importantly, Dracula should have never been degraded from the awesome vampire he was in Season 1 to the pitiful old man he is in Season 2.
Nevertheless, I believe that Castlevania is worth your time, because despite its flaws it feels fresh, and, according to most people out there, it is the best video game adaptation we have so far. Hopefully Netflix (and others) will support more in the near future.