Castlevania: Seasons One and Two Review
Castlevania has been a long-running videogame franchise revolving around a family of esteemed monster-hunters; the Belmonts, and their eternal war against the Vampire Lord Dracula and his endless legions of Hellbeasts and Demons. Adapted into an animated television series broadcasted on netflix, this show about vampires, whether it be slaying them or watching their political power-games tussle for supremacy over each other, captivated me from the beginning of its first episode to the finale of its second season. What exactly makes Castlevania so alluring? Let's find out. Castlevania's main characters are Trevor Belmont, Syphia Belnadas, and Alucard Tepes, all three are distinct, unique characters with their own personality, motivations, and goals. Our first protagonist we meet is Trevor Belmont, the descendant of a long-line of monster-hunters and warrior-nobles that battled the forces of evil for centuries, among them being the ruthless vampiric emissary of evil, Dracula. Despite their service to humanity and God however, they were betrayed by the Catholic Church. For historical context, by the time we reached the 1400s, the Church in Europe had grown into an incredibly fanatic, bloated, and corrupt bureaucratic system of tyranny and forced taxation upon the commoners. All who denied the Church's word were outcasted from society and deemed 'heretics'. Thus, the Belmonts were seen as practitioners of Witchcraft, and given a rather brutal fate as the Church and their loyal mobs dismantled the Belmont family home, and allegedly drove them extinct. The last of their line, Trevor Belmont, lives on as a sardonic drunk roving the countryside, doing an occasional good deed and enjoying liquor. Syphia is far different, a pious member of an order of oral traditionalists that pass on stories from generation to generation (rightfully called the Speakers). She also bears a pantheon of useful mystical abilities to employ against her enemies, which is pretty useful for the party. And finally, we have Alucard, son of Dracula himself. A rather detached fellow, after failing to defeat his father and becoming imprisoned beneath Gresit, he joins Trevor and Syphia after a quick battle, thus forming our three protagonists and their compelling journey towards stopping the vampiric madman from enacting his ruinous, destructive plans upon all the world.
Castlevania gives as much, if not more, screentime to its villains as it does its heroes. Dracula, while a genocidal maniac, is given a surprising amount of character depth as his motivations are explored heavily. As it turns out, by the time our story begins, Dracula has lost all pleasure in the killing of humans, and seeks only their utter extinction at any cost. His voice has grown cold and his passion has been decimated, leaving him a cold, shallow, vampiric essence of a once powerful warlord that commanded respect. Alongside him are his Forgemasters, Hector and Isaac, both humans that have renounced their own kind and join their master in his war on humanity. Their craftsmanship and necromantic power allows them to mutate carcasses of humans into more Hell-Beast cannon fodder for Dracula's army, and both are as well-defined as Dracula and the protagonists themselves. Isaac possesses a more mature thought process, forged by a childhood of abuse and seeing the world for what it truly was, a cruel place of devastation and evil. Meanwhile, Hector is driven by a far weaker purpose, to see humans cowed as animals in pens. Then, we have Dracula's generals, who are mostly just faceless background entities. Among them is the spectacularly hilarious Godbrand, a Viking Vampire that lives to eat, kill, and fornicate. Finally, there's Carmilla, the latest entry into Dracula's legions, a villainess that manipulates members of Dracula's own regime against him, instigating a civil war and seizing control over Vampiric society in the ensuing power struggle.
All of these antagonists bear their own interesting story arcs and driving forces to the story. Hector ultimately becomes Carmilla's puppet and is easily manipulated by her initially, only to become an indentured servant of hers by the time the Second Season ends. Meanwhile, Isaac is driven away from Dracula's Castle to save his own life, being set up as a major antagonist in the next season. Then, we have Carmilla, a female villain done right. Not placed in to push a political message or any sort of subliminal ideologies, Carmilla is simply a badass warrior-queen that seeks power and knows how to use others to attain her goals. In a matter of episodes, her ravishing and audacious personality stand her out before the crowd of dull court-whisperers and vampiric cultists Dracula surrounds himself with, and the showrunners and writers properly set her up to take the throne of big baddie in Season Three after her betrayal of Dracula in Season Two.
The soundtrack, along with the general chemistry between Sypha, Trevor, and Alucard are the show's main strengths however. The scores provided by talented composer Trevor Morris enunciates each scene with an aura of excitement and breadth, while the offbrand humor between Alucard and Trevor make this rather grim narrative enjoy beacons of brief light. Plus, Sypha isn't simply a token romance insert. Her importance to the plot is paramount, and she serves as the group's most useful member, quelling the rivalry between Alucard and Trevor that stems from tension as both hail from opposing walks of life, and she ultimately becomes the reason why Dracula is able to be slain, drawing his castle to their front doorstep.
Ultimately, while I haven't yet seen the Third Season (which I shall most certainly make a critique on), Castlevania has thus far proved an excellent entry into the franchise for me, being an engaging story of vampires, war, bloody battles, fanaticism, jolly drunks, ancient magicians, and much more. So grab your Belmont whip, prepare to face off against ugly Hellbeasts, and jump right in!