Halloween seems to be the season that keeps on giving, gifts the likes of scary specials and spooky shows! Recently, Netflix has released the second season of their video game adapted web series, Castlevania. The first one made big waves with franchise aficionados and newbies alike, giving them a brisk, thrilling glimpse into its world of Belmonts, vampires and sorcerers. And though we thought the series’ first foray has a little more style than substance, its follow up adequately redeems its previous shortcomings. Season 2’s longer series format makes good on its promise on a fuller narrative, better visuals and a lot more vampires! Grab your consecrated whip and jug of holy water because we’re sinking our teeth into the second season of Castlevania.
Since his siege on Gresit, vampire lord Dracula Tepes has expanded his genocidal campaign to wipe out all humanity for the loss of his lady love. He raises undead night hordes, gathers vampiric armies and heads a council of powerful generals. Most deadly among them being the beautiful and scheming Carmilla. At his side are also his two human aids who hold equal contempt for mankind. Our trio of heroes: the reluctant Trevor Belmont, inquisitive and motherly Sypha Belnades and Dracula’s dhampir son, Alucard are on a mission to put an end to the slaughter. They must unlock family secrets, both Belmont and Tepes, to find a way to defeat the Lord of Night. Night has fallen over Wallachia and it is now time for these three to ensure there is a still a dawn left for the human race.
If the first season was an appetizer, then this was a bloody buffet! I’ve been a big fan of writer Warren Ellis for quite a while, specifically, his two seminal comic book runs of Transmetropolitan and Planetary. He always manages to weave big ideas with genuine moments of character growth and his fingerprints are all over Castlevania. His delivery of a sharp diatribe on the evils of religious dogma and the human condition comes in the form of Dracula’s aids, Hector and Isaac. Each of the two has their own reason for hating humanity and siding with the undead. Injecting a good dose of tragedy and empathy into Dracula’s “culling” without ever making it seem more palatable. I did find the segments in which Dracula deals with his generals as a lull in the wider plot. Beyond some development with Carmilla and Godbrand, it should have been truncated into a few episodes.
Dracula is even more ferocious and melancholic than he was in the first season. His passion project has since soured into a chore he delegates to Hector and Isaac. The man never truly comes to life till the second last episode when shit properly hits the fan. As for the trio, Alucard is learning to cope with his family legacy and Sypha and Trevor begin to form a romantic relationship. Alucard’s journey is the source for a lot of the emotional highlights in the series, breaking past the character’s stoic demeanour. Sypha and Trevor have fun chemistry together likened to that of a buddy cop duo, even if their relationship doesn’t feel quite earned. Maybe it does in the context of the two seasons, for me it felt rushed.
One thing I am not particularly fond of is Alucard and Trevor’s tit-for-tat arguments. I get what Ellis is doing, trying to forge a friendship out of a place of begrudging respect but sometimes it comes off as meandering. Voice actor Graham McTavish’s grizzled vocals continue to invigorate his animated counterpart. When Dracula explodes into anger, there’s a genuine sense of wrath in his voice, at times cracking under the strain he places on himself. We also get to experience Alucard’s journey audibly through James Callis, making fuller use of his character this season.
If you thought the fight scenes in season one were impressive, then get ready to have your jaw hit the floor. From the second episode onward, we’re treated to spectacular fight scenes and I’m not just talking about some fancy light show with magic effects. Frederator Studios and Powerhouse Animation under the direction of director Sam Deats gives us gorgeous multidimensional battles. Strokes and movements bear a rapid-flipbook speed that makes engagements look impossibly quick. Think of the anime Vampire Hunter D with better facial diversity and a greater emphasis on details.
The moment I saw the fur effects in the trailer, I was sold. By the time you finish the penultimate episode, you’ll be gasping for air! I’m telling you, Castlevania has plenty of style, gore and solid choreography to keep any gamer’s bloodlust satiated. Fun little side note, some of the battles here are lifted right out the games and there’s a pretty sick soundtrack cameo that’ll have you weeping “bloody tears” of joy.
The curse is broken. What major studios like FOX and Warner Bros. have tried and failed, Netflix has delivered. We finally have a great video game adaptation! I mean sure Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was pretty good and Halo’s Forward Unto Dawn was serviceable but this is in a league of its own. The true mark of a great video game adaptation in any medium is its ability to garner new fans while still honouring the spirit of the property. After binge watching this with some diehard nerds of the franchise, I can say with all confidence that Castlevania has my seal of approval. Barring minor dialogue issues and certain slow subplots, this series is a must-watch in my book. Its story dramatic. Its action eclectic. It’s charm absolutely vampiric! What are you waiting for? Sit your friends down, drink up some Strawberry Fanta and have a proper binge session today. You can catch Castlevania today on Netflix!
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Castlevania Season 2
Netflix's Castlevania is back with bolder storytelling, better character development and bigger battles! There's a ton of fun to be had, even if the plot meanders a bit from time to time. If the night looks this good on Netflix, then I hope the sun never rises.
Castlevania Season 2