FORGING A NEW
Castlevania is a long running video game series under the Konami brand that, in recent years, has been subjugated to the unfortunate direction that the publisher has decided for this fan favorite franchise. A once well-respected title has fallen into mediocrity by the time of the seventh console generation. By twenty seventeen, Castlevania was a long distant memory; a staple in the gaming community only to be remembered with both fondness and lamentation. Fortunately for said gaming community, Castlevania would come back into the mainstream limelight in the form of a Netflix series in July of that same year. While only four episodes long, the first season introduced fun characters, great animation, and the fascinating steam punk, magic filled world of Castlevania.
Fast forward to October twenty eighteen, season two is now up and is twice as long as the previous installment; does it add or subtract from its own foundation? The answer is add in spades. We rejoin the trio of Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, and Andrian Tepes, also known as Alucard, on their way to the Belmont Family Estate to acquire the means to find and defeat Dracula and his dark horde. Mean while, we also catch up with Dracula and his entourage of vampire generals, and human alchemist forge masters. The introduction of these new characters within Dracula’s inner circle gives a larger scope to the vampire hierarchy, as well as unique interactions between said hierarchy. Hector and Isaac, human forge masters and Dracula’s closest advisors, play integral roles in the plot of both this season as well as the previous one.
We see much emotional dynamism with these characters between Trevor and Alucard, a vampire hunter, and a vampire. With the two males always ribbing at one another and having to be reined in by the logical speaker, Sypha, allows one to grow fond of these merry bunch of misfits. Even Dracula is given a respectable amount of time as he devolves emotionally since the death of his wife Lisa. The lord of darkness is given so much more emotional depth than the iteration that he is derived from in Symphony of The Night on the PS One. However, the most interesting developments are with the afore-mentioned forge masters.
As said above, Isaac and Hector are humans within Dracula’s ranks, but their motivations are not malicious, nor is their alliance formed out of self-preservation as to avoid the global genocide of the human race. They themselves have their own unique reasons as to why they have joined themselves with the dark lord. They are not just simply minions either; they are intelligent, skilled in their craft, and incredibly dangerous. They demonstrate why they deserve to stand at Dracula’s side over one of his own brethren. As one can imagine, this decision causes contention amongst Dracula’s peers, and while it is explored, it is not done so to where it becomes the sole conflict within this hierarchy of vampires.
The series does a very good job at tipping the hat to the source material without reusing said homage for vapid fan service. Fans of Symphony of The Night game will recognize weapons, abilities, and monsters from said title, which are integrated into the narrative. The narrative itself is not as straight cut as one would think, even with the large comparisons to the PS One game. While one can derive expectations having known the events of the game, one should also not put all eggs in one basket. You can expect to see some things, but do not expect to see them in the way that you did in the game.
The animation remains consistent in quality to the match the narrative. One would have well founded doubts in the quality consistency of an animated series considering there is more of a product to present to the audience, ergo, more of a time crunch to release said product. However, with immaculate detail to each characters form and the great use of lighting and shadows creates atmosphere just as good as any film that one would put on the silver screen. The effects when magic is being used on-screen is visual kinetic, and with CGI being implemented in a very minimalistic manner, the creators know how to restrain themselves, as well as retain the expectations created by the first season.
The Castlevania name is now back in the mainstream in a positive manner, and will hopefully be the start of good things to come down the line. I was stuck in my bed for the full four hours it took watch the eight episodes, waiting with bated breath when an episode concluded to see if my journey was truly done. From the tight and emotion filled narrative, the likable characters, voice acted very well by the way, to the beautiful animation this series did nothing but exceed the first season. I cannot wait for a third season to come out next year, but until then, I guess I will go and play Castlevania games, and be reminded of goods things to come in the very near future.