• JFS the Reviewer

Castlevania Series Review


When it comes to making a live-action movie of a video game, it doesn’t always turn out well. However, when it comes to doing a TV series based off a video game and make it an animated series, then it has a better chance of succeeding. Not all the time, but in the right hands, it can be done. Castlevania is a good example.


I’m not going to lie, I missed the boat when this series first began back in 2017 and only began watching the series when season three came out. However, I’m glad I was able to catch up to everything that has happened before the finale of this very amazing series. And left very satisfied with the finale.


It also makes me wonder if there’s a possibility of them making more video games into TV series. If so, would they be as good as Castlevania? It’s a big possibility, but first. I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck is Castlevania?

If so, then let’s start at the beginning.


Background:


Castlevania is a platform video game, which was developed and published my Konami on September 26, 1986. The story for the game focuses on Simon Belmont, a descendant of a legendary family of hunters that killed monsters. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, demons, etc. The focus of the story has Simon facing off against the main antagonist of the game, Dracula.


The game became a huge hit and eventually led to dozens of games. From 1986 to 2014, being the last of the Castlevania games to come out. Sadly by this point, the game series wasn’t as popular as it used to be and wasn’t as much fun as it was before. That all would change though when the series began.


Frederator Studios had acquired the right to the series in March 2007. The focus was to make a direct-to-video game, which was to be an adaption to Castlevania III. Warren Ellis was brought on to the project and eventually led to the film being stuck in developmental hell and eventually it was dropped. With Warren having a completed script, but was unable to present his work to the world.


There was a similar attempt to make a live-action film of this in 2012, but that also went nowhere. Until it was revived when Powerhouse Animation Studios negotiated a deal with Netflix to approve to make the film into a series. The series soon premiered on July 7, 2017 and had brought new life to the franchise. Even bringing with it many great actors to play the role of these great characters.


Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont, James Callis as Alucard, Alejandra Reynosos as Sypha Belnades, Adetokumboh M’Cormack as Isaac, Jaime Murray as Carmilla, Theo James as Hector, Emily Swallow as Lisa Tepes, and Graham McTavish as Dracula.

The series though did have its controversy with its creator, Warren Ellis leaving the series due to sexual allegations against him surfacing in 2020. The series continued on without him and concluded on May 13, 2021.


Plot:


The series follows in a different direction to the video game story, where the first season focuses on Vlad Dracula Tepes, the leader of the Vampires, who wants to wipe out all human life after the murder of his wife, Lisa, who was burned at the stake after being falsely accused of being a witch.


He vows revenge and creates an army of monsters to purge the world of humans. In his way, stands Trevor Belmont, the last member of the famous monster hunting family, the Belmonts. The other is Sypha Belnades, a magic user who uses elemental magic to fight. And Adrian Alucard Tepes, the son of Dracula and Lisa.


The first two seasons do an amazing job establishing the story and the characters to the audience. We see Dracula not being an evil monster like from the video game and we understand why he does what he does. While also seeing Trevor hiding his family’s lineage from others, due to how the people hate his family. Before he is thrusted into the conflict going on and goes to help the people against Dracula’s forces.


This eventually leads to him meeting Sypha and Alucard. The three of them working together to hunt down Dracula, which leads to the second season to the big epic showdown.


I think that’s what makes the series so much fun to watch. Its story and how it builds up each season towards a big fight for our characters to go through. A challenge for them to overcome and trying to prevail so that good can win against evil. But we also see that not all of the antagonist are evil.


They aren’t cutout cartoony villains like we’ve seen in other series. They have their own reason why they do what they do, while also understanding how this society of theirs works. We’re even given some time with characters who didn’t get much development in earlier seasons, but also play a bigger role later on. We even see their own points of view of what they believe in and can connect with them.


I can’t find much flaws with the plot of the series, but I know some will likely not like the ending. Since it feels like everyone got a satisfying ending by the end of the series. Something that I’m sure many didn’t expect when the series first began and how it looks like things were going. However, it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get invested in the series.


It doesn’t mean you won’t get hooked on to the story, wanting to see where its going, and how its going to go for our characters. If any of them are going to make it out alive, what is going to happen to them, and if they’re going to get a good ending or will end up dying.

That’s the beauty of this series. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you wonder how its all going to go with the characters you have grown attached to.

Speaking of which…


Characters:


The characters for the series are different from what I can tell from the video game characters. With Dracula not being a evil monster like we’ve seen in the video games, at least not anymore. In the series, we find out he used to go out to kill humans and seem to take great joy in it. However, as time passed, he grew tired of it and wanted to live alone in isolation.


That was until he met Lisa. She came to Dracula wanting his help to expand her knowledge and use what she learns to help people. She didn’t appear afraid of Dracula and wasn’t intimidated by what he did. This led to Dracula becoming interested in her and even offer her his knowledge.


This led to the two falling in love and showed us that Dracula appeared to be a good man. Until his wife’s death, which changed him and made him want to wipe out all of humanity.

The series did an amazing job showing us a side of Dracula we’ve never seen before and made us sympathize with him. We understand why he did what he did and know what the people did to him was horrible. Doesn’t mean we justify him wiping out all of mankind. It doesn’t mean though we wouldn’t feel the same kind of anger he did.


I also enjoyed this version of Simon Belmont, who appears to be an outcast due to his family’s heritage and people blaming his family for the monsters. He also appears to be someone who is more focused on getting his next drink, than fighting monsters. That changes when he meets Sypha and her people. He’s thrusted into helping her and decides to use his knowledge of monster killing to help the people against the monsters.


Over time in the second and third season, we see his relationship with Sypha begin to bloom. Seeing the two of them forming a strong bond with one another, but at times Travis will still be the same jackass. However, he’s someone who still do the right thing and help people. Even protect those he cares about.


Sypha in the series is such a badass. She appears to be a normal woman, who wants to help people and doesn’t have any fighting experience. Until she reveals her powers and how she definitely knows how to fight. She shows she’s also no damsel in distress and can hold her own against any monster, even a vampire.


She’s also the glue that kept Travis and Alucard from fighting each other. Even shows kindness and trust to Alucard, which Travis did not show at first towards the son of Dracula. Sypha’s relationship with Travis isn’t perfect, which I am thankful for and shows they do have issues. But they are able to resolve them and she knows he’ll do the right thing in the end.

Alucard to me is someone who has gone through a lot in his life. Losing his mother, almost being killed by his father, not good with interacting with other people, and by the end of season two, is alone. He has no one else and we see him struggling with trusting people. We even see him slowly becoming like his father in some ways, which thankfully doesn’t happen as we get to season four.


Where he goes out to help people and keep them safe from monsters. He gains the trust of the people, despite his heritage and believe in him. He finds his purpose and begins doing all he can to protect the people. He has a good heart and a great relationship with his friends.


Even showing great chemistry with them both, which I very much enjoy watching.

The rest of the characters of the series really bloom throughout the series and get such great character development. Being given time to flesh out for the audience, getting to know them better, and even being satisfied with what happens to them. Even going from being a possible threat to our main characters, to ending their arc in a good way.


A good example of this is Isaac. A loyal servant of Dracula, who despises humans and makes monsters for his master. Despite his encounter with humans and what he goes through, he act like some of the villains in the series. He isn’t motivated by revenge, wanting power, or control.


He’s being driven by something else. Some kind of purpose that keeps him moving forward and takes him on a path, that eventually leads him to the ones who betrayed his former master. That will decide what will become of them. Will he kill them to punish them for their betrayal or spare them?


He spares Hector, who has shown his remorse for what he did and is doing all he can to make it right, despite the hell he has gone through. Isaac can see this and decides not to kill his friend. He does end up going after the one who betrayed his master and despite being human, managed to use his skills to help him wound the vampire villain, Carmilla. Even ends his story arc choosing his own path of what he wants to do now, to live.


I’m glad the series gave all these characters time to get developed and are given a chance to grow as time passes on. They are given their time to shine and don’t disappoint. Now, there are a few who are there just to help move the plot along. Doesn’t mean they aren’t essential and seeing them being killed off or help our heroes helps make them in the series useful.


Animation/music/settings:


The animation for the series is gorgeous. I love how beautiful everything looks, I love how clean it looks, and I love the way they made everything look. From the cities, Dracula’s castle, to the monsters, the surroundings, and even the characters. I also love the coloring they use for certain fights and certain scenes. It really makes the animation look so beautiful and I can’t help but be drawn towards it.


I normally don’t like these sorts of series with so much gore and blood, especially how too realistic they make the facial expressions for the characters before they die. In this case though, it’s not bad.


I do like the emotions that these characters are able to give to help make every scene look good. They’re able to do this even through their body language and how you are able to tell what they are feeling. I think a good example of this is when Dracula is fighting his son in the castle and they fight to Alucard’s room, where Dracula begins remembering his wife. How they made the room for their son, how she put so much love in the room, and how it made him realize what he was doing.


He was close to killing his son and it broke him. Dracula couldn’t go through with it, because he knows if he does then the last piece of his wife will be gone. Killing their son will destroy him completely. He can’t do it and this leads to him being killed.


The music for the series is also done well and they are able to play it with the right settings. The Dracula scene I mentioned is a good example of this. Where he is talking about Lisa, their son, and the room they made. All leading to Alucard killing his father, who accepts death.


I have to give them a lot of credit for the fight scenes as well. The fight scenes looked amazing. They not only made them look so epic, but they were able to get you drawn into it. They looked like something from an anime series and you can’t help but want to see how it all goes.


A good example of this is of course the Dracula fight against his son, Travis, and Sypha. Another is the season four fight between Travis versus Death, Isaac versus Carmilla, and Travis, Sypha, & Alucard against the vampires. All such great fights and all of them being as good as the last one. The animation really made them look so amazing, looks so good, and look epic.


I’m not going to lie? I really enjoyed the fights and got sucked into them.


Final Thoughts:


Castlevania in my view is without questions one of the best animated series and a great adaption of the video game series. They had such a great story, characters, animation, music, and fights. All of it leading to such a satisfying ending for everyone and giving us a great send off. I have no problem with how everything went from the beginning to the very end.

Now, its not for everyone. It’s not for kids for obvious reasons, but if these sorts of shows aren’t to your taste, then I wouldn’t recommend it. However, if you are interested in a series that has a lot of action, drama, and great fights, then this is the series for you. If you are a fan of the video game series, then this is the series for you to watch and enjoy.


In my view, Castlevania delivers on everything it set out to do and is a great adaptation of the video game series. Not only able to get us invested in the story and the characters, but also admire the beautiful animation behind the series. It’s a shame the series has now concluded, but I’m not disappointed. I’m glad it ended the way it did, and it was a satisfying conclusion to this amazing series.


Can’t wait for the future and hopefully one day, they’ll make another video game for Castlevania. If they do, I hope it will be based off of the series. I wouldn’t mind flying around with magical fire powers and blow up monsters up. Or use that awesome whip from Travis against my enemies.


Hell, if I can play as Alucard and use his powers in a fight, then that would be worth whatever kind of price the game would be for.

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