“Better late than never” is the expression that comes to mind when thinking about the recently released Netflix Original Series ‘Castlevania’. I’ve been a Castlevania fan since I was a kid, all the way back to when Castlevania was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986. Since then, it’s been a love/hate relationship with the franchise; I love Super Castlevania IV and I hate Konami for not giving me even more Castlevania in recent years.
I remember Warren Ellis posting about his involvement producing an animated feature aimed at the adult audience years ago and visited the production blog an obnoxious number of times until the project seemingly fell into the desolate pit of The Forgotten One. Yet, sure as Dracula rises from the grave every 100 years, the concept was awakened and here we are.
It’s a short first season, and while it wasn’t note-perfect the successful critical and fan reception already has paved the way for season two. That’s way better than we’re getting from Konami, and even though that is about a year away it’s at least something to look forward to for the die-hard CV community. Unlike, say, this:
***Mild spoilers ahead***
So what worked well? Well, for starters the world is firmly established as a horrific place. A violent, violent, violent land. We’re talking women-and-children-on-the-menu violent. It’s downtrodden, dirty, full of terrible people, awful circumstances, and unholy evil personified by Dracula. The teleportation and soul-searing visage sequences should put a smile on your face, and a brutal-yet-poignant backstory to his motivation alluded to in Symphony of the Night hit the right notes. Trevor is also well fleshed-out as a shunned and despised member of the Belmont clan touched upon in the opening scroll to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.
While we’re on the character front; Sypha is present and accounted for, but it’s Alucard’s reveal that will have audiences sitting forward in their seats. His design and brief but really cool appearance at the end of episode four gives me hope for even more vampiric-awesomeness to come.
Now on to what didn’t work, or at least what might have been missing. The score in particular was a more serious, straightforward affair and far from the guitar-infused riffs that players may be expecting. It isn’t out of place here, but it also doesn’t really stand out. That’s a bit of a missed opportunity others have already noted, but it’s worth mentioning again because so much of the atmosphere for the series stems from the amazing music Michiru Yamane and others delighted us with all these years. Another miss for me was a lack in diversity of creatures. There’s likely to be an expansion of familiar ghoulish monsters yet to come in subsequent seasons, but for season one there seemed to be a decided lack of skeletons tossing rib bones and floating medusa heads. There are creatures to be sure, but nothing truly memorable, and one that looks as though it was plucked from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate, strangely.
All said, though, it’s great to see life breathed into this otherwise declining franchise. Sure, it isn’t in the form of a new game, but the animated series should drive new fans to discover the dozens of gems across multiple platforms as a result. I really hope that the overwhelmingly positive response so far has some long-term benefits. It would be great to see what is in store for the next season and beyond. If there’s anything fans know, it’s that the series has a plethora of timelines, characters and scenarios to mine which could lead to whole seasons devoted to some of our favorite iterations of Dracula and his crazy castle. Renewed interest could also spark a revival of the actual games, too, so here’s hoping a dev team and publisher comes along to treat and not trick fans with new installments (I’m looking at you, LOS2 & Judgment).
So, in closing, thank you to the Netflix CV team for digging-up such an amazing universe and bringing it to fresh mortal eyes! What a horrible night to have a curse, indeed!