Disclaimer: Unfortunately, this reviewer is a plebeian who hasn’t played a Castlevania game—but as a fan of anime, watched this series with interest in the Castlevania lore. This review will also go into SPOILERS and discuss character reveals and the final scenes of the season.
The long-rumored Castlevania Netflix series has finally arrived with all the blood, gore and demons you could ever ask for. This first season comprises four action-packed episodes, serving as a breezy introduction to Castlevania‘s mythos and characters (and setup for next season’s rumored retelling of Castlevania III). Within minutes of watching, it’s clear this Western anime was made for mature audiences; the dark, solemn narrative is frequently punctuated with action and Gothic violence. But with real character development and some superb voice acting, Season One makes for an impressively compact and cohesive four episode arc.
Castlevania Season One is bursting with action, violence, character development and superb voice acting in an impressively compact and cohesive four episode series.
This Castlevania series tells a story of loss and revenge. The first episode introduces the brief relationship between the bold and benevolent scientist, Lisa Tepes, and the powerful, reclusive vampire known as Dracula. Their playful banter and blossoming marriage is cut short abruptly when the next scene depicts her being burned at the stake by religious zealots running the city of Wallachia. Lisa’s ground-breaking scientific research has been interpreted as witchcraft and so, she is sentenced to this cruel public execution. During her final moments, in between cries of pain and suffering, she begs her husband not to take revenge on the people of the city. The hard cuts and brutal imagery of this opening scene leaves an indelible impression, quickly establishing the moody, somber tone of the show.
So Dracula, a repentant monster trying to live life as a man—with the love of a good woman—has just watched said woman be brutally murdered. A firestorm appears in the sky and the clouds form to deliver a daunting message: in one year, Dracula will send an army to level Wallachia and tear its people to pieces. This event serves as the catalyst for the mini-series as well as a truly badass monologue from Dracula, my favorite character and the show’s best performance.
After one year, one brief altercation and a teaser involving Alucard—Dracula unleashes his demon army, with plenty of blood and gore. By the end of the first episode, the story baton is passed to Trevor Belmont, the last of the Belmont family, not to mention the main protagonist of NES classic Dracula’s Curse (apparently). We then follow his adventures killing demons, helping the weak, and stopping this hellish plague.
Trevor Belmont is key to elevating the otherwise dark plot line into a fun, entertaining adventure. Full of clever quips and endearing dialogue, he even out-paces Indiana Jones in making a whip look ridiculously badass. While I was initially frustrated that I wouldn’t be getting more Dracula in this show, Trevor quickly won me over and had me invested in each episode. His scenes with the Speakers, the righteous and reserved group of nomadic storytellers, was always a great dichotomy. These interactions revealed some of the heroic qualities he keeps buried under layers of sarcasm and feigned indifference.
While I was initially frustrated to not be getting more Dracula in this show, Trevor quickly won me over and had me invested in each episode. Full of clever quips and endearing dialogue, he even out-paces Indiana Jones in making a whip look ridiculously badass.
The Speakers were enjoyable as well. The Elder was stubborn but wise and always caring more about others than his own well being. He had the best back-and-forths with Trevor and his dialogue helped build the world as well. His granddaughter, Sypha Belnades, was especially badass and full of clever and sarcastic remarks. She had great action scenes and some truly entertaining dialogues with Trevor. It was great to have such a strong female character that didn’t put up with any of Trevor’s shit.
The character that truly got under my skin was the main human antagonist, the Bishop. I deeply hated his character and felt myself tense up with frustration every time he spoke which, obviously, meant he had served as a solid villain. His church scene with Trevor was especially powerful and captivating, yet another showcase for the stellar voice acting in this show.
The final character reveal in this season was Alucard, the half-vampire son of Dracula (I don’t think his family was specifically mentioned in the show, but it was heavily implied at the very least with his mother’s long blond hair, him sleeping in a coffin and his earlier encounter with Dracula). His introduction quickly erupts into the last major fight scene in this season; truly a phenomenal, intensely frenetic fight. Most of the budget seemed to have been spent on this final act, and it paid off. The fight ended with Alucard teaming up with Trevor and Sypha to stop Dracula. This was immediately followed by this reviewer Googling when Season Two was coming out because it was such a captivating ending.
The final fight scene was one of many bits of violence and action sprinkled throughout the first season. Limbs are severed, blood is sprayed, and a man’s fucking eyeball gets whipped out of it’s socket! Optic nerve and all. Between Trevor’s altercations with the armed religious zealots, the demon attacks on the Wallachians, the battle with the cyclops and the fight against the demons, there is plenty of action to go around. Each frame is beautiful and handled with care, making a second watch-through just as exciting and enjoyable as the first. The last fight scene may leave me wanting even more action, but there is plenty to enjoy in this dense mini-series.
The bloody, medieval themes of this story pair well with the anime visual style to tell an enticing introduction to the series and set up for the next season. Within the context of it being an introduction and not a standalone series, Castlevania Season One is a wholly enjoyable 90 minutes of action, beautiful animation and powerful voice acting performances. This mini-series is an easy sell for fans of the series and newcomers alike, as well as anime fans looking for a short new high budget show to check out. I’d recommend this to anyone that doesn’t mind some blood, gore, and criticizing of Witch Trial-era Catholicism. Now, I go back to waiting impatiently for Season Two.