Castlevania review
Image via: © 2018 Frederator Networks, Inc.

Castlevania‘s first season consisted of 4 episodes, giving us a brief season which does not over stay it’s welcome, and gets to the core of what the Castlevania series is about: killing demons and vampires. Those familiar with the games noticed the narrative takes queues from the third NES installment Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. Trevor Belmont is commissioned by the Church to combat Dracula after his family was exiled, accompanied by three companions in the game: Sypha Belnades (priestess), Grant Danasty (rogue pirate), and Alucard (son of Dracula and halfling). Dracula’s Curse is significant because it marked the first game where the narrative was the main focus of the game. Even though Dracula’s Curse uses numerous endings, there is a canonical one for the Castlevania timeline which gives way to the events of the first game. Considering how often we receive bad sequels to excellent works, and the frequency of sub-par video game adaptations, assuming Castlevania Season 2 would fall short is not irrational.

Castlevania Season 2 review
Image via: © 2018 Frederator Networks, Inc.

Sam Deats, Ari Shankar (Dredd and The Grey), and Warren Ellis (Deadspace and Iron Man 3), however, laid these premonitions to rest, and delivered an adaptation that capitalizes on the aforementioned aspects of what makes Castlevania so beloved: synthesizing high-stakes plot and phenomenal character development and dynamics with superb fight scenes, animations, and sprinklings of fan-service.

Taking place immediately after season one, the second season narrative jumps efficiently between two stories, which are Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard venturing to the old Belmont manner. Explained by Trevor, the Belmont manner is the vault of years of valuable research, second hand knowledge, along with weapons specifically crafted for efficient monster slaying. Meanwhile, Dracula’s bloodlust has diminished, creating indifference and depression, amidst the turmoil spurred on by his inability to lead an effective war on humanity. When planning the genocide of humans, Dracula elected two Forgemasters (alchemic necromancers), Isaac and Hector from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, ultimately to the chagrin of his army.

Castlevania season 2 review
Image via: © 2018 Frederator Networks, Inc.

Hector and Isaac found Dracula during his year-long trek across the globe. Dracula took advantage of the two being outcast by their respective families for their gifts of forgemastery. The two resented mankind for its hostility and ignorant tribalism, and Dracula saw this factor coupled with their affection towards him as an ideal strategic weapon. Despite his army’s cries, the count understood that vampires would not carry out his genocide due their need to feed, coupled with their affinity for having slaves, as to where Hector and Isaac would see to the complete eradication of human life.

Dracula’s plan to basically commit suicide via starvation is met by resistance through two fellow vampires: the Viking Godbrand and malicious Carmila. Godbrand seeks to rally as many vampires as he can for unauthorized raids, while Carmila seeks to sabotage Hector’s trust in Dracula, bringing him at odds with Isaac and Dracula on the viability of the war effort. While there are only a couple of action sequences, the voice cast and narrative for Dracula and his crew is riveting and intense to witness. As schemes unfold and alliances are being tested, Dracula sets down the road of self-destruction and contemplation of how he may truly leave his mark on the planet, human kind, his race, and his own family; consequently, this makes him exceptionally likable and an enjoyably tragic villain. The count fairs decently as a developed character in comparison to the heroes of Castlevania‘s season 2.

Castlevania Season 2 review
Image via: © 2018 Frederator Networks, Inc.

The trek from Gresit to Belmont Manor utilizes Sypha, Trevor, and Alucard’s contrasting mannerisms and drive to similar goals to develop their relationship. They certainly fulfill a trio of heroes trope with Trevor playing an outcast and unlikely hero; Sypha is the voice of reason and glue for the troop; and Alucard checks off as the logical-to-a-fault cynic who serves as the vagabond hero’s rival. During the journey, the narrative magnifies the shared common ground of each character deprived of having a normal, healthy childhood. Trevor’s revolved around the burden of training to slay demons due to his heritage, Alucard matured abnormally because of his vampire genetics, and Sypha never had a single stable place to call home, since she grew up in a travelling caravan.

There’s an authentic bond between them that’s solidified by discussing the lives they never got to experience, but also their admiration for the hardships they faced, which is what brought them together to ensure they are not alone in facing Dracula. Each discussion is given vitality by the voice talents of Richard Armitage (Trevor Belmont), James Callis (Alucard), and Alejandra Reynoso (Sypha), making the script’s dialogue sound organic and genuine. Along with character development, the trio uncover ancient texts that provide guides and spells on how to counteract the magic and mechanisms used in Dracula’s castle, and Trevor finds a coveted weapon in the Castlevania series that gives way to arguably three of the most fluid and bombastic animated fight scenes in western animation.

Castlevania season 2 review
Image via: © 2018 Frederator Networks, Inc.

Successfully pinpointing and bringing Dracula’s castle to a stand still, the trio execute their plan to confront and kill him, along with anyone who stands in their way. A nail-biting brawl ensues, giving way to a father-son skirmish between Alucard and Dracula. As emotions run high and fists fly, an emotional wall is soon torn down, and sentiment dictates how the fight ends between the halfling and his warlord father. The season is concluded, perfectly setting up for a third, which may take place after another time jump.

I want to cover a few gripes before signing off, since this obviously can’t be a flawless work of art. Obviously, the first season was more action packed than the latest, but Castlevania‘s second season relied excessively on dialogue, references, and in world politics to carry two stories for 5 of the 8 episodes. The tributes to the combat featured in the Castlevania games didn’t really start until almost half way through the season, but as previously stated the writing and voice acting do mostly make up for this. Some viewers may come directly from first to second season expecting more combat scenes and gore, but considering these seasons are based off a narrative heavy installment of the series, this should be a prior expectation.

Overall, this is a mature successor to Castlevania‘s first season, but this is how video games should be adapted. Fans of the series would be insane to pass this adaptation up, with the references and combat inspired directly from the games, and characters written competently. The animation by Adam and Sam Deats, as well as the rest of their team, and music score from Trevor Morris, establish Castlevania season 2 as a superb conclusion to the series’ beginning arc. Whether the third season will adapt Curse of DarknessRondo of Blood, or the first Castlevania, the series is thankfully getting that next piece, with confirmation via Twitter by Adi Shankar.

The Castlevania series will always remain a pioneer of the platforming genre, regardless of  its adaptations. If you want to know more about one of the games inspired by Metroid-vania and rogue-like sub-genres of platformers, you can check out our review on the critically well received Dead Cells!

 

 

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