Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
With the original four episodes of Castlevania being widely praised as the best video game adaptation thus far, there has been plenty of hype around the followup season. While the short but sweet original run worked as a prologue that introduced the characters and set up the story, this season fully delves into the grim world and makes great use of its eight episodes. Both the protagonists and antagonists receive an amazing amount of development, and every action scene is clever and intense. With beautiful animation and stellar voice acting, this series does just about everything right. Though the third season’s antagonist is underdeveloped compared to the rest of the characters, Castlevania’s second season is a masterpiece. From hardcore fans to newcomers, this is an easily digestible show that deserves a watch.
For a full review (with spoilers), read on.
SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
Development For (Almost) Everyone
Castlevania’s second season easily could have been filled with plenty of style and little substance, but instead, more time is spent on the characters than the fight scenes. The party of heroes, Belmont, Alucard and Sypha, spend the first half of the season searching for Dracula’s constantly moving castle. With most of their time spent being confined to the Belmont Library, each moment spent with the group builds their chemistry and makes them relatable. By the time they leave the library, every character becomes comfortable in their role. It becomes easy to understand why Alucard and Belmont are the way they are, and Sypha works great as the glue that keeps them together.
Dracula’s loss is recapped at the beginning of the season, and his wife’s death still works as an effective motivator for his horrific acts. However, Dracula is not the only villain that gets time to shine this time around. While his growing depression and active choice to not drink blood leaves him weak, Dracula’s generals plot out the war against humans. Hector, a young man who grew up bullied and developed a hatred for humanity, constructs Dracula's army with Isaac, a cruel human who was tortured until he lost his ability to love. Both Hector and Isaac's backstories are interesting and well told, and the tension that comes from Dracula giving two humans such a large role in his empire leads to some fun scenes. Seeing Hector stray further from Dracula while Isaac grows closer to him as the season progresses creates two extremely different dynamics, and each has interesting implications for the third season.
Carmilla and Godbrand close out the villain lineup. While Godbrand is only around for the initial four episodes, Peter Stormare does a tremendous job of making such a stereotypical and edgy character charismatic. As for Carmilla, she’s likely going to be the main villain in Castlevania’s next season. Both cruel and dangerous, her attempts to overthrow Dracula are very reminiscent of the actions taken by Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. The difference between the two characters, however, is that it is impossible to empathize with Carmilla. While she is well-acted and fun to watch in her debut, very little of her backstory is shown. Considering that this is something Castlevania does so well with the rest of its cast, the lack of info on Carmilla's past combines with the character's predictable nature to create a bland, one-dimensional new antagonist. With Carmilla set to become a major player in season three, this is a problem that will undoubtedly need to be addressed going forward.
Carmilla’s storyline isn’t the only thing reminiscent of Game of Thrones however, as the show follows a similar episode structure. The finale acts as a period of relief and setup following the intensity of the seventh episode, “For Love”. This is the right move, as following such a fantastic episode in any other way would be impossible.
With short fight scenes sprinkled within all the drama during the first half of the season, the penultimate episode being nothing but action was wonderful. All the buildup, such as Trevor Belmont acquiring his signature weapon and defending his friends from hordes of monsters, led to this episode. Beginning with a siege of Dracula’s castle, “For Love” had me laughing out loud multiple times due to the sheer awesomeness of the action. Sypha, Alucard and Belmont all pull off stylish kills, and any fans of the series will be ecstatic to see the characters display their power. Backing this action is a perfect piece from the show’s great soundtrack, and the music helps to make these precious moments into a fitting tribute for the games.
The lengthy, violent fight with Dracula that occurs after the opening is intense from beginning to end, and the wait to see Alucard and Dracula clash was certainly worth it. Their conversation at the end of the altercation is heartbreaking, and it’s a great place to end Dracula’s (and possibly Alucard's) story. The episode that follows serves largely as setup, and if any of the plot threads teased are as well told as the story of the first two seasons, Castlevania fans have plenty to be excited about.
If I needed to effectively describe Castlevania’s second season in one word, it would be satisfying. Every character interaction is interesting and pays off in some way, and every fight scene is a blast to watch. If this was the ending of the series it would be a perfect place to stop, as Dracula’s well-told story has come to an end. However, I’m so glad that there’s more to come, as the writers and animators are doing a tremendous job keeping the Castlevania property alive.
Castlevania’s new episodes deliver on every promise made during the first season, and the series remains the best video game adaptation by far.
Great character development +2
Phenomenal action (especially in episode seven) +2
Strong acting and a stellar soundtrack +1
Carmilla fails to be as intriguing as the rest of the characters -.5
FINAL SCORE: 4.5/5