TV Review: Castlevania, Season 1

Warning – this dark animated horror fantasy isn’t for the kids and contains extreme gore, violence, foul language, innuendo, and mature themes.

That said, it’s awesome. I’m a sucker for great characters, engrossing stories, and in this case, some very impressive artistry. Castlevania has all three.

The Story

A little history. Castlevania was originally a Japanese video game series by Konami and follows the story of Trevor Belmont, Alucard, and Sypha Belnades as they defend their homeland against Dracula and his minions.

We begin with the story of Vlad Dracula Tepes and see his love for Lisa, a vivacious and determined human woman who forced herself into his life, grow into something special. Twenty years later, she is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake – an event that destroys Dracula’s faith in humanity and sets him on the path to kill every citizen who lives in Wallachia.

Enter Trevor Belmont who comes from a long line of famous monster hunters. The Belmont family is legendary in their efforts to rid the world of dark monsters. Here in season 1, Trevor is still reluctant to take up the family tradition and instead stumbles from town to town seeking out the next tavern and mug of ale. That is until he meets Sypha, a magician historian who is seeking a way to end the monster attacks plaguing the countryside. She’s got the knowledge, he’s got the brawn.

Sypha follows a legend saying that there’s a sleeping soldier in the catacombs deep beneath the city of Gresit who is capable of stopping Dracula. This soldier turns out to be the cast off half-vampire son of Dracula himself, Alucard.

The season ends with Alucard agreeing to help Sypha and Trevor challenge Dracula and end the conflict between vampires and humans for good.

My Review

Season one of Castlevania is super short, only four episodes. In that time, the history of why Dracula turned on humans needed to be revealed, Trevor and Sypha needed to be compelled to work together, and the first big enemy, the Bishop of Gresit, faced and defeated. That’s a lot of ground to cover so it’s no surprise that the story feels a bit disjointed as we get to know the characters and what’s at stake for each. The sheer immensity of the backstory trying to break through is impressive. By the end of the first season the viewer knows that there is so much more going on, but isn’t quite sure what.

Yes, they fridged Dracula’s love interest. It’s a common trope in the genre as a reason for the bad guy to be bad or the good guy to keep fighting. In this instance there are enough other factors also in place that it doesn’t feel forced.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and I found the characters to be likable and charming each in their own curmudgeonly way. The gore is a little much for what is needed to tell a good story, but is an expected aspect of the genre so is forgivable.

I look forward to seeing how the story unfolds and how the stakes are raised.

Recommendations

This series makes a place for itself by offering over-the-top brutal violence in an animated feature. I’ll say it again. IT’S NOT FOR KIDS. Highschoolers, maybe. But not kids. Beyond the violence and gore, there is also frequent swearing and reference to plenty of mature themes.

That said, compared to other similar stories, Castlevania has strong moral undertones. They characters show grit and determination to do what’s right, not because they’ll gain from it, but because it’s the right thing to do. They stand up against evil, protect the weak, and are willing to sacrifice themselves should it come down to it.

I give Castlevania 4/5 for amazing characters, a solid story, and a compelling villain.


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