Thoughts on Netflix’s Castlevania

WARNING: I nonchalantly mention some spoilers for Netflix’s Castlevania, so if you want my opinion on the show, just know that I recommend you watch it. It’s not great, but it’s good and short enough for a quick binge.

I didn’t grow up with the original Castlevania games on the NES, and my first Castlevania ever was Dawn of Sorrow on the DS. As you might expect, I have very little emotional attachment to this series, though I remember loving Dawn of Sorrow a lot. However, I got a lot of exposure to the original games through the Angry Video Game Nerd, or AVGN for short. Around October of 2009, he uploaded a 4-part Castlevania retrospective on the old games, and I loved his videos, so I watched them all. The AVGN was probably not the type of content I should’ve been watching at age 11, but nevertheless, I watched all his videos on the series. Through him, and some various other videos on Castlevania, I think I have a pretty good understanding of the original games and their legacy.

That being said, when Netflix announced their adaptation of Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse, simply titled Castlevania, I was pumped. The animation looked absolutely fantastic, and just the idea of seeing Trevor Belmont beat Dracula to a pulp was, in my eyes, awesome. Never mind the fact that I never played the original; this was going to be a great series?

So I took some time today and watched all 4 episodes of Castlevania, and what did I think? Well, it was pretty good, but not amazing.

I think the part that seemed the most lacking was how they handled the story. Tons of people have said 4 episodes isn’t enough, and truth be told, it isn’t. Using up the very first episode to set up Dracula’s tragic backstory only gives 3 episodes for Trevor Belmont to slay Dracula, or so I thought. When I heard this series was 4 episodes long, I wondered, “Huh, how will they fit Trevor’s adventure through the castle with Sypha, Grant, and Alucard?” The answer “they won’t” never crossed my mind.

Although Castlevania is supposed to be an animated adaptation of the 3rd game in the franchise, the 1st season seems more like an animated prequel to the whole game, which in theory is fine. Nothing’s wrong with taking a few liberties with the source material. However, as I watched, I just had questions about why they went in this direction.

For example, why does Trevor meet Sypha and Alucard in this random town in Wallachia? Who are the Speakers? Why is everyone British? Why is the church more antagonistic (in this season) than Dracula? In fact, why is the church so prominently featured? They’re basically the ones that made Dracula into the villain that he is because they burned Lisa Tepes at the stake. However, the game is called Dracula’s Curse; I was expecting more Dracula, not more white dudes in robes carrying weapons. And where’s Grant? I assume he’ll show up next season, but it seemed strange how Trevor only recruited Sypha and Alucard, while Grant was missing from the scene.

Speaking of Lisa, she’s probably the biggest waste of potential in this season. We only get 5 minutes to get to know Lisa in the beginning of the series, and she portrays herself to be smart, clever, witty, and very courageous, all attributes Dracula finds intriguing. Of course after 20 years, Dracula and Lisa would have a special connection. But what about us, the audience? Other than the fact that Lisa’s death by burning at the stake turned Dracula into a vengeful demon lord, why should we ultimately care about her demise? Sure, it’s horrible what the church did, but the show gave us no time to develop emotional attachment to this character. If we got a whole episode dedicated to Lisa and Dracula growing closer together, while throwing in bits and pieces of church dissatisfaction with their “black magic”, and ended that episode with Lisa’s burning at the stake, her death would have much more impact. Instead, it just feels like a cheap attempt to moralize Dracula to an extent and push the plot forward.

Of course, there are definitely good things to this show. The animation is stunning and breathtaking, especially all the gory battles, though some details felt a bit excessive (did they have to show Trevor whipping the priest’s eye out?). I think the anime aesthetic really fits the show. The voice acting, while not phenomenal, is still really good. Richard Armitage does a fantastic job portraying Trevor as a 15th century slacker who is strong and willing to help others. The absolute best part of this show are the action scenes. The choreography in those fight scenes is stellar, and the action is plentiful. From watching Dracula’s monsters destroy and murder Wallachians to Trevor’s duel with Alucard, each moment is action packed, gory, and fun to watch.

All in all, should you watch Castlevania? I think you should. While it’s got its flaws, I think it’s a lot of fun to watch. If the second season can expand the story and resolve a few of my gripes, this Neflix series would definitely be an animated series for the ages.