This review has spoilers for the first season of this series.
Castlevania, the classic action adventure platforming franchise created by Konami has been adapted into an animated series for Netflix. The animated series is based on the 1989 game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Being a fan of the series and the lore surrounding it, visualizing how this would play out has me slightly hesitant. Going in, having limited expectations, I instantly became hooked on the series.
We start the Castlevania adventure seeing an unnamed woman traveling to an unknown place in search for something. Upon reaching her destination, she is greeted by the Lord of the castle who is bewildered and enchanted by this young woman who shows no fear but strong will and determination. We find out that this woman is called, Lisa, who is a doctor from Lupu and that she came to find out more information about science to teach the townspeople that they don’t need to live in the dark ages anymore. Although her part is brief, it’s her death that drives Dracula into rage starting the events into motion where the people of Wallachia is given one year before he unleashes hell upon them for their actions. After the year is up, his army of monsters and demons overruns the country, causing the people to live their lives full of fear and distrust where everyone outside is treated like an enemy regardless of how noble their intention.
Following an altercation at a pub, Trevor Belmont seeks food and rest in the city of Gresit, which is being besieged by Dracula’s forces every night. As he makes his way through the town, he learns that the townspeople blame a group known as the Speakers for Dracula’s assault. The rumor is enforced by the acting bishop and his corrupt priests. Trevor saves their Elder from certain death and in return, he brings him back to his home to meet his fellow Speakers. Trevor insists they leave the city for their own safety, but the Elder refuses, as his grandchild has gone missing after venturing into the catacombs. The Elder states that his grandchild went to search for the “sleeping soldier”, a legendary hero who they believe can defeat Dracula. Trevor agrees to retrieve the grandchild only if they leave the city before nightfall and the Elder agrees.
Exploring the catacombs, Trevor realizes that they are part of Dracula’s castle and upon reaching a certain point he sees a bunch of statues and is attacked by a giant Cyclops. He defeats the creature and rescues the Elder’s grandchild who turns out to be a female called Sypha Belnades.
When he returns delivering the Elder’s grandchild, Trevor is summoned to the church by the local Bishop. He is revealed to be the same Bishop who ordered Lisa’s execution a year ago. The Bishop orders Trevor to leave before sundown, as he plans to lead a mob to kill the Speakers, offering to spare Trevor and restore his family name in exchange to which he refuses. The Speakers are refusing to retreat citing that it is against their nature.
Trevor decides that since they won’t leave, he has them hidden in the Cyclops’ chamber to keep them safe from the raging mob. He finds his resolve and takes on the priests leading the mob before escaping into the city. As Trevor continues his escape, Sypha appears, revealing herself as a powerful magic user aiding Trevor with Fire and Ice spells. Trevor exposes the clergy’s actions as the true reason for Dracula’s invasion which awakens the townspeople to rise up and fight.
During the battle, the floor begins to crumble beneath Trevor and Sypha and they fall deep into the catacombs of Dracula’s castle. Making their way in deeper, they find the sleeping soldier, who is revealed to be Alucard and has spent a year healing from his last fight with his father trying to stop him before he unleashed his army. The men exchange some words and engage in battle. Alucard sees both Trevor and Sypha’s resolve, offers his aid, and the three prepare to challenge Dracula and put an end to Dracula.
What I enjoyed about this series is that it felt like the Castlevania games of old. It really felt that the creators were fans and it showed with the attention to detail that mirrored the game in a lot of ways. It really felt like the creators expanded the world of Castlevania 3 where we get more in depth of behind the scenes on what is happening, a better understanding of the events and the characters really had more personality than what was given in the game.
I also enjoyed the fact that the voice actors and actresses from the major roles to minor had a European accent vs an American one and they had a top notch cast. Richard Armitage who played Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit trilogy is Trevor, Alejandra Reynoso who played Flora in Winx Club is Sypha Belnades, James Callis who you might know as Dr. Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica as Alucard, Graham McTavish who was in the Hobbit trilogy as Dwalin stars as Dracula, Matt Frewer who is best known as the 1980s icon Max Headroom as The Bishop who orders Lisa’s death, Tony Amendola best known for playing the Jaffa master Bra’tac in Stargate SG-1 plays the Elder and Emily Swallow best known for her role as Amara / The Darkness in the eleventh season of Supernatural as the voice of Lisa.
What I dislike are a few minor things that did not take away my experience from watching. I found that the four-episode arc was just too short enough given Netflix’s other original shows. I just felt season one could have been a lot longer than just the four episodes as I was left craving for more. The other minor thing is just that some parts have animated that’s off putting but they are very few and between.
The differences between the game and show are many, but, they do not ruin anything. In some cases, they add more insight into characters and events that longtime fans will notice. They don’t take away anything from the lore or the basic story, but, add more depth which I personally enjoy.
Case in point is the character of Lisa, who is Dracula’s second wife and mother of Alucard. She isn’t really fully fleshed out in the game, expect, in her appearance of her death which is featured in “Symphony of the Night” for Saturn and PlayStation. In the original instruction guide, it’s stated that she is his only wife. In the PS2 game “Lament of Innocence”, the story changes to reflect the origins of the man who become Dracula, the fate of his first wife and how the events surrounding her death changed his destiny, how the Belmont legacy was born and the tragic story behind the vampire killer whip and how it was forged.
The differences between Lisa’s dialogue in SOTN and the show differ a lot. In the game, Lisa created medicine for those who suffered from the epidemic. During the witch trials, Lisa was apprehended and executed. Dracula later found her body but arrived too late to save her. Alucard was present shortly before Lisa’s death, just like his father, being unable to stop the event. Lisa delivered the following words for her son to deliver to Dracula: “Do not hate humans. If you cannot live with them, then at least do them no harm, for theirs is already a hard lot.” …She also said that she would love you. For eternity.” In the television show, Lisa is seen pleading to her husband stating, “I know it’s not your fault, but if you can hear they don’t know what they’re doing. Be better than them. Please!”
In the original game, Sypha is a male companion that aids Trevor with his magic but states that he is a vampire hunter. The in game reference was a bit of a slip-up, but, the ending text does suggest that Sypha finally reveals her true self, so maybe the “him” reference was added to confuse the player, similar to how Samus was called a “he” to throw players off in Metroid. Where in the television show, it hints that Sypha is a “he” but she herself early as a female minus the long hair in the game.
This series isn’t Castlevania’s first foray on television. Simon Belmont appeared on the Saturday morning cartoon show called “Captain N: The Game Master”. The show ran from September 9, 1989 to October 26, 1991 and featured many characters from different video games including Mega Man, King Hippo, Mother Brain, and Link. Simon was more of a parody than what I ever pictured him the famous vampire hunter.
With a second season confirmed, I do have some thoughts on what I like to be included. I am hoping that Grant will appear as it wouldn’t feel like Castlevania 3 without the agile thief. I would love for him to be introduced the same way as in the game as the boss in the clock tower where he is possessed by Dracula. I would also like more boss fights that took place in the game with Medusa, Mummies, Frankenstein, and Death. I also think it would be fun to include the infamous wall meat even as a gag.
The future of the series seems bright as there’s so much of the lore to really bring to life featuring the Belmont clan and other characters who fight Dracula. I would love to have Lament of Innocence, Bloodlines, Circle of the moon and Curse of darkness to be animated. I have a feeling they’ll do Symphony of the night next after the adventures of Trevor which is a fan favorite but I do hope others will be considered.
Trevor has been in a few other games besides Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. He appears in Curse of Darkness for the PS2, Castlevania Judgement for the Wii, and Lords of Shadow 2 for PS3 and 360.
I do hope you decide to take a journey into this series and let it be a gateway to the exciting world of Castlevania. The games have so much to offer and just like this series it has a rich story, superb character design and exciting characters to really sink your teeth into.