Castlevania – Anime Series Review

When Lisa Tepes, beloved wife of Vlad Tepes AKA Dracula is accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake by an overzealous bishop, Dracula declares war on the people of Wallachia and unleashes an army of murderous demonic creatures from hell. Luckily, Trevor Belmont, last survivor of the Belmont clan, a disgraced family known for hunting all kinds of monsters, is still in town and agrees to take the fight to the lord of vampires.

CASTLEVANIA: SEASON #1

Producer:
Frederator Studios
Mua Film
Powerhouse Animation Studios
Project 51 Productions
Shankar Animation

Genre: Action, Supernatural, Fantasy
Air Dates: 2017
Status: Season 2 in Development to Be Released in 2018
Sub Version Available: Yes
Dub Version Available: Yes
Available on Netflix

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What You Need to Know:

In case you are unfamiliar as to what Casltevania is, it is a video game franchise about the Belmont family – Vampire Hunters destined to battle the immortal vampire Dracula throughout the generations. Since the release of the first Castlevania for the Famicom and the Nintendo Entertainment System back in the 80’s, the franchise is just as iconic and recognizable as other video game franchises like Super Mario or Pac-Man.

Now it’s been well known that adaptations of video games into film or TV tend to end up pretty bad. But producer Adi Shankar took a lot of care to make sure that this adaptation gives justice to the source material and pleasing both fans and non-fans of the franchise.

The animated Castlevania based its story on Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, which came out on the Famicom in 1989, and the NES a year later.

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What You’ll Find Out:

It begins with the prologue of a woman named Lisa, who visits Dracula, already an immortal vampire, for knowledge in the field of medicine to help heal her people, in return for helping the vampire communicate with the outside world. Dracula agrees to help as he enamored by Lisa’s beauty, knowledge, and strong spirit, and the two end up a married couple.

Unfortunately, this is the Middle Ages, and despite Lisa’s good intentions of using science to help the sick people of Wallachia (a region of modern-day Romania), she is deemed a witch by the Church and is executed by being burned at the stake. This was the last straw for Dracula and thus begins his campaign of destroying virtually all of humanity.

We are then introduced to our protagonist, Trevor Belmont. Though a total slacker, his bloodline pretty much meant he is to deal with Dracula’s rampage. But Dracula may be the least of his problems as not only the Church has excommunicated the Belmont bloodline, but Trevor is also deemed a threat to the Church’s ambition of power over Wallachia amidst the chaos brought upon by the immortal vampire.

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What Just Happened?

The series doesn’t go exactly like how it happened in Castlevania III. (Quite frankly, nobody can anyway as the game is a side-scroller) But many of the game’s elements are transitioned perfectly into the animation. When we see Lisa entering Dracula’s castle for the first time, the interior is a recreation of the first level of the very first Castlevania game. And it’s a beauty. In fact, many of the scenes we see here are recreations of the levels found in the Castlevania games.

Plot-wise, it is more towards being a bit of an original story, with Trevor having to deal with members of the Church who want him dead, all while Dracula’s rampage is going on in the background. That being said, Trevor’s acquisition of his allies, a key element in Castlevania III, is still here, save one character. Given that Netflix has ordered a Second Season just a day after Castlevania (actually the VERY day) debuted, I would think Shankar would bring in the rest of the cast, and pretty much put the events of the actual game forward.

I was a bit disappointed that Dracula only makes his appearance in the first episode, though understandable as he tends to just let his minions do the dirty work anyway while he plays the Final Boss. That said, I love how he is portrayed as more than just an immortal vampire. The guy knows a lot about science and sorcery as well. I love that Dracula’s design and persona mirror that of the same character from Castlevania: Symphony of The Night for the Playstation, arguably the best Castlevania game of all time.

Frankly, I do sympathize with Dracula’s backstory here, as Lisa was his only remaining connection on tolerating humanity’s flaws. Lisa did nothing wrong and the Church, being power hungry and corrupt at the time, had her executed to maintain their position of power. No way would they give that up even with the threat of genocide by Dracula himself. So his attack against the people of Wallachia and beyond is purely out of blind rage rather than some megalomaniac wanting world domination.

And because of Dracula’s rage, the violence depicted here is well-justified, visually speaking. I wouldn’t say it’s the most graphic out there, as it’s still below par in shock value when compared to Devilman and Violence Jack. That said, I do like that Shankar lets us see Dracula’s minions being very indiscriminate on who they kill and in a very brutal manner – even children don’t get a pass and Shankar makes sure we see that happen.

I was a bit taken aback by Trevor having a devil-may-care attitude. Granted he virtually has zero personality in the game and it would’ve been a bad idea to make Trevor a one-dimensional character. He nevertheless is more than what he appears and is quite likable.

You probably noticed that I never called this adaptation of Castlevania an ‘anime’ series. It’s because despite the character design, animation, and all that. Castlevania the series 100% made in the USA. Castlevania is co-produced by Frederator and Powerhouse Animation Studios. Frederator, of course, being behind Adventure Time and The Fairly Oddparents, among many others. Powerhouse Animation is the studio behind OK, K.O.!. It does however have a Japanese dub, which was the version I watched when making this review (with English subtitles, of course).

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Rating: 8.0/10

Final Thought: I would say as a fan of the Castlevania games, Adi Shankar did justice to the source material with this animated adaptation. I dare even say that this is perhaps the BEST adaptation of a video game to film or TV anywhere! The only negative part of this is that it’s only 4 episodes long and people either don’t like the gore and/or featuring the Church as the bad guys. Beyond that, it is an incredible ride for fans and non-fans alike.

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