Review of Castlevania (Netflix)

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Greetings and salutations everyone. The Otaku Judge here with another animated series review. Usually I focus on anime from Japan, but this time round my critique is on Castlevania – a U.S produced cartoon based on Konami’s video games. Scripted by comic book scribe Warren Ellis, Castlevania’s four-part first season is presently available to view on Netflix. After finding success with superhero adaptations, the popular streaming service is now tapping into console games for TV show ideas. Whether the experiment works out remains to be seen, but at the very least Castlevania convinced me to finally take advantage of Netflix’s free trial. I like trials… and I’m not just saying that because I am a judge.

A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT

One thing that surprised me about Castlevania is that it dedicates all of episode one to Dracula. The inaugural chapter, of this series, explains why the legendary vampire hates humanity. Years ago a doctor named Lisa Tepes braved the bloodsucker’s mansion in search of medicinal knowledge. She found what she sought and a new husband in the process, as Lisa tied the knot with Dracula shortly thereafter. Unfortunately the couple’s romance ended in tragedy, when the church learned of Lisa’s research. Mistaking the drugs Lisa concocted for witchcraft, she was burned at the stake. Dracula vowed revenge against mankind for his beloved’s execution. The evil clergy have doomed us all! Religious folks may want to avoid Castlevania, as it doesn’t paint priests in a good light.

The only man who can save us from Dracula’s demonic army is monster slayer Trevor Belmont. He has however given up on the family business, after the pope excommunicated his clan. These days Trevor is more likely to fight drunkards than creatures of the night, as he drifts from town to town looking for booze. Episode two for example sees Belmont brawl at a tavern, whose patrons include a family of goat fuckers… I “kid” ye not. Trevor cannot escape his destiny though and eventually gets embroiled in the Dracula conflict. In search of grub our whip-wielding hero stumbles into the city of Gresit, which is presently under siege by Count D’s legion of winged fiends.

DRACULA I AM BACK-ULA TO SMACK-ULA

We don’t get to see Trevor go all out until episode three, when he allies himself with a sect of mystics known as the Speakers. Much like Trevor, Gresit’s religious leadership hounds the spell-casting faction. Although benign, Speakers are reviled by the populace as their sorcery is deemed to be dark magic. One of the group’s members has vanished inside the local catacombs, where a fabled saviour is said to slumber. Trevor enters the crypt in search of the wayward Speaker only to find a Cyclops guarding the mausoleum. A battle ensues between Belmont and the hulking beast, which possesses a petrifying stare. Those unfortunate enough to get caught by the monster’s gaze will get more stoned than Snoop Dogg.

In terms of action, Trevor versus the Cyclops is an appetizer of things to come. The season finale is twenty minutes of non-stop carnage, as Belmont attempts to liberate Gresit from the clutches of tyrannical holy men and protect the citizenry from a horde of gargoyles. Blood and dismembered body parts rain down from the sky, reminding viewers why the show carries a sixteen plus age classification. Once the dust clears one more opponent remains for Trevor to overcome, although I will keep their identity a secret for the sake of spoilers. My lips are sealed, although I will divulge that ladies who admire shirtless pretty boys will approve of the final adversary. Hey can’t you spare some fan service for us guys too? We deserve a consolation prize after losing the gender war for Dr Who.

VERDICT

My rating for Castlevania is a three and a half out of five. Some reviewers are overrating the series slightly, but I can’t blame them given how rare watchable video game adaptations are. Overall I was impressed with the script, voice work and visuals – although the animation could have been stronger in places. The stiffness of Trevor’s cape is especially noticeable in certain scenes. When the end credits rolled I was left wanting more, partly due to the low episode count and partly because of its abrupt conclusion. Netflix are promoting Castlevania as “season one” but they aren’t fooling anyone. This is clearly a movie chopped up into four parts. Based on this impressive showing I can’t wait for season two. Like a Sesame Street vampire I will “count” the days until Dracula return.

30 thoughts on “Review of Castlevania (Netflix)

    • Glad to hear that we are in agreement. Let’s hope Assassin’s Creed turns out as good as Castlevania. Netflix may yet succeed were Hollywood has failed when it comes to video game adaptations.

    • Anime and video games should be a match made in heaven, but it seldom works out. Thankfully this show was entertaining. Warren Ellis did a good job with the script. I sympathized with Dracula and dug Trevor being portrayed as a reluctant hero who possesses a sarcastic wit.

  1. The episode count does feel a bit…short I agree, especially for what they consider a season 1. It feels like part 1 of a 5 part DVD/Blu-ray series and I am still waiting on the others to release. Fortunately they are getting double the episode count for next season. Also the frontrunner for Castlevania also is showing great interest in a dark Metroid series so hopefully if Assassin’s Creed works as well that Metroid series will not be a pipe dream.

    • I think the series is based on a movie script, which never got picked up, so that may explain the lack of content. Good to hear that season two will be twice as long. Looks like Netflix was dipping their toe into the video game market and after seeing the positive reception are committed to making this a longer project.

      Although I am not the biggest fan of Assassin’s Creed I hope the series turns out well so the makers can leverage the Metroid rights from Nintendo. Those sci-fi games have potential to be adapted into a solid cartoon.

  2. Co-inky-dink! I just saw this listed by Netflix last night. I was going to start it, then realized that I had been browsing Netflix titles for two hours and no longer had time to watch anything.

    • Haha, that happens to me with games. I’ll deliberate so long on what to play that by the time I decide it’s time for bed. You may as well give Castlevania a chance. It’s pretty good and not a big time investment.

  3. Pingback: And a little more Castlevania / Richard Armitage reaction | Me + Richard Armitage
  4. I’ve been dying to watch this, ever since it became available on Netflix πŸ™‚ . I’m stuck watching Durarara but, and have band myself from starting any other series, until I’ve finished with it. It’s been so hard to watch.
    It sounds better, then I could have imagined. I’m dying to watch it, even more now. I might just bend my own, 3 series rule and put this down as a movie hehe.

    • The Back-Ula line is a reference to a music video from Youtuber Brentalfloss. Do a search for “Castlevania 2 with lyrics.” He has done some other funny songs including this one :-

    • That’s pretty much what it is. Netflix probably should have promoted it as a mini-series rather than season one. My biggest issue isn’t with the length per say, but how suddenly episode four ends. Now we have to wait a year to see what happens next.

  5. Okay…you got me, I’m going to give this a whirl. I’ve passed to by more than once as I scrolled in search of something new to strike my fancy. Your amusing, charming way of communicating is very engaging, and I could just enjoy reading your wonderful posts just for the sake of it….your writing is excellent and charismatic….thanks for sharing (I’ll let you know what I think of the show) πŸ™‚

  6. Update….I watched Castlevania a couple hours after reading your review….I really enjoyed it, and all the more for the context you provided. Thank you soooooo much πŸ™‚

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  8. I was VERY happy with episode 4 let me just put that out there (and you kind of spoil the surprise with the linked video, but I severely doubt anyone minds :D). I’d be one of those people to overrate it for the reasons you said, and also because I barely noticed any animation foibles due to the fascinating story and stellar voice acting. When Sypha says, “I could piss in a bucket and tell him it’s beer,” I nearly fell off the couch laughing. I also think I’d be more critical if I’d played the games. The first one came out when I was seven or eight, and the whole concept scared the hell out of me. I’m not afraid to play them anymore, but Metroidvania type games aren’t really my forte.

    • The video is an official trailer so I guess it isn’t a spoiler? People acquainted with the games will know who the final opponent is anyway. Viewers who haven’t played Castlevania may be surprised.

      I have only briefly played Castlevania on the NES. My, what a difficult game. The handheld releases are the ones I know best. Unlike you, I like a good Metroidvania. Wish Konami would make more, but that’s doubtful given their recent disdain for video games.

      • Oh I know I was just teasing :p You’d said you didn’t want to give away who it was, but then the video still showed him. I was hoping Alucard would show up, because (surprise surprise), he’s one of my favorite characters. I have him in my white haired pretty boy collection.

  9. I had a really hard time believing this was going to be any good. With the way Konami’s been lately, the poor showings the series has had when going to other media, and, well, Warren Ellis is a bright spot, but still, this seems outside of his comfort zone. Still, with all that, really glad to hear they’ve put together something watchable.

  10. From what I’ve heard it’s a good setup for what’s to come. I’ll check it out when able. It’s a short 4-part prologue so I just need to be in the mood.

  11. Oh, something you wrote more recently! I can see the improvements in formatting and such πŸ™‚

    Any way, I felt like this was a good start but it was definitely too short. I know we are getting more episode in like a year or two but that is a crazy long wait. Knowing this, I would have rather had all the episodes at once. Still, can’t complain that this adaptation of a video game, and the fact that an American studio handled this and somehow still managed to come out pretty great, is nothing to sniff at.

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