Anime, Netflix, Show

Netflix’s “Castlevania” is a near masterpiece

One of the constants throughout these, now five months of quarantine, has been Friday Movie Nights with my boyfriend. 

Now, we don’t watch movies every time, of course. We’ve been working our way through Avatar: The Last Airbender – as he’s never watched it through and it’s been wonderful, viewing the series through fresh eyes.

Also, don’t worry, we’re social-distancing. We’re each watching at our own apartments and texting while watching. It’s been fun seeing how he reacts, and when watching something new like Castlevania, how we’ll have similar reactions simultaneously.

Watching the show was his idea. He had watched the first two seasons and loved them – I didn’t know what the show was about and it had just been sitting on my Netflix queue for ages, so I decided to try something new. 

And I thought it was excellent.

Certainly, it’s not perfect – but Castlevania is probably one of the most well-paced shows I’ve watched in a long time. 

Even though most episodes have two or three plotlines going at once, it’s never confusing and the team knows exactly when to jump from one plot to another. Most of the time, the end credits feel so sudden and it keeps me wanting to know more.

I sincerely hope there is a fourth season in production. I need to know what happens to this wonderfully colorful cast of characters. 

Now, I’ve never played the Castlevania games – so I won’t be comparing the two. Also, video games and TV series are distinct ways of story-telling.

According to Wikipedia, the series adapts Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and takes elements from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. 

After his human wife, Lisa is falsely accused of witchcraft, and burned at the stake – Dracula unleashes an army of demons over the country of Wallachia. The demons destroy everything in sight and the vampire lord comes to the conclusion that he must wipe humanity off the face of the Earth to pay for their sins.

Opposing him is Trevor Belmont, the last living member of the monster-hunting Belmont clan; Sypha, a magician who is a member of the nomadic Speakers -a group hated by the Church and of course, Dracula’s half-human, half-vampire son Alucard who wants to stop his father’s apocalyptic war and to honor his mother’s true wishes.

While there are many antagonists in the series, the main ones outside of Dracula, include his humandevil Forgemasters; Hector, and Isaac, both of whom can resurrect the dead with the souls of demons -turning them an army for Dracula. The two do not get along, and eventually, Hector betrays Dracula only to swear loyalty to Carmilla, a vampire who becomes an antagonist in the third season.

She wants total control over humans -to keep them as livestock, as opposed to mass murder. After all, a girl’s gotta eat. And she’s not too interested in dying anytime soon.

It’s an intricate series – that strives to include many aspects from the games but is also very much its own story with its own identity and with an amazingly complex and intriguing world.

A Full-Fledged Fantasy World (Except there are no Jews)

The story takes place in alternate 1400s Europe -where vampires, demons, and monster hunters all live together. Everyone seems well aware of their existence. The Church, of course, still isn’t fond of non-Christians or any type of magic. 

The Church murders Lisa because she was using penicillin to help others, and they assumed she was a witch. I can’t believe they thought it was a fine idea to murder the wife of the most powerful vampire in the world… But they did. And then celebrated her death a year later, something they were told explicitly not to do.

Science and magic appear closely related. Dracula’s castle can magically appear anywhere and still has technological capabilities that aren’t around then and amaze everyone. The world feels authentic and lived-in, even if we don’t know all the rules or how things work -it’s a place we can recognize that people live and inhabit. It’s not just a one trope world like Panem. It feels like it can feasibly exist.

It helps, of course, that this world is based significantly on our world’s past- so there doesn’t need to be many artistic liberties in terms of countries, economy, and culture. And with the fantasy elements, I can easily accept them existing in this world. They all make sense — and it can be hard to do that in a series like this. 

Unfortunately, the show does fall into a trap that many other monster-fighting media does – it makes Christianity myths and monsters the default and doesn’t acknowledge other religions or beliefs – unless it’s something from Greek or Norse mythology.

Though Isaac is Muslim, he doesn’t seem to pray much and the only trace of it, aside from him outright stating his religion, is that he doesn’t drink alcohol.

I won’t pretend like I’m familiar with the demons of Islam, because I’m not. But everything in this world runs on Catholic rules – holy water can kill vampires or other items blessed by priests, there’s Hell, all sorts of unholy demons, it’s implied Lucifer is real and of course, the Church basically maintains everything.

I let some of this slide. It’s 15th century Europe after all. It’s a very Christian place. But I think it would be great if they showed how other religions deal with vampires. There are clearly vampires from India and Japan -neither place in that time really had that many Christians, so surely other religions had holy objects.

 Surely, the Church doesn’t have dominion over these sorts of things.

Originally I thought the Speakers might end up being a sort of allusion to the Jewish people, with them being discriminated against and driven out of towns – but even though the group is said to be hated by G-d, Sypha likes Jesus and thinks he’s cool.

Which broke any kind of connection for me.

It’s weird to me a Jewish person that there are no Jews in a series focused on Abrahamic religions.

Seriously, if there are Muslims and Christians in your world -there have to be Jews. Neither religion could exist without Jews coming first.

 And I don’t want to hear about how the Castlevania games were produced in Japan. Because 1) Google is a thing and 2) The show is an American production. They already had to change so much for it to work a series, so they could have added something.

And I wouldn’t even ask for a lot. 

Have an episode where Trevor and Sypha go to a shtetl -that is under attack by the whole vampire invasion, have them meet with a rabbi, and have them fight alongside a golem to protect the village. That can still fit within the mythos.

Plus, Trevor and Sypha might find more allies since certainly the villagers won’t be associated with the Church in any way.

The show could also create a new character to appear once or twice who is learned in Kabbalistic magic. Though that could go awry and become anti-Semitic too easily.

But part of me wants the show to include so people can start learning and caring about these issues.

Issues like this are just frustrating to me. I can tell you that one of my first thoughts when watching this series was “I wonder if/how they’re going to incorporate Jews” because… it’s a pretty significant time in European Jewish history.

I know this show is pretty critical of religion as a whole – but I find often in religiously critical television shows – They tend to assume all religions function like Christianity. Which certainly isn’t true. 

Chemistry Class

Probably my favorite thing about this series is how naturally the characters’ relationships and interactions appear and develop on screen.

It goes without saying, I love Lisa’s introduction. She barges into Dracula’s castle, scolds him for his manners, and then demands that he teach her medicine. And they fall in love. The whole man falls head over heels in love with the only woman who is unafraid to call him out on his bullshit, which is probably one of my favorite tropes of all time.

Knowing nothing about the franchise going in, I was heartbroken when she died. And while I do have issues with the whole fridging trope – it is a powerful motivation for Dracula and works for his drive to essentially commit genocide and a slow, painful suicide as his own penance for letting her die.

Dracula is not supposed to be an ethical person. The fact is — from their brief on-screen interactions, you can discern and understand that these two people loved and cared for each other. And I can understand why he would want to burn the world for her.

And then there’s the dynamic between our protagonists. In the terms of the trio, Sypha is obviously the sane man who must prevent the two immature man-children in her group from killing each other.

Trevor and Alucard are both powerful but petty immature guys -whose attitudes clash, but they have a lot of respect . They simply have a weird way of showing it. It’s great

But it’s Trevor and Sypha’s relationship that seals the deal. It’s an excellent example of how to build a relationship over time. They start out pretty much loathing each other and there’s some sexual tension — but you can see it going both ways: either they fall in love or they don’t. But you want them to end up together.

At least I did.

Over time, they grow closer. They meet about halfway through the first season and it’s not until the third season —one whole season later that they are confirmed to be in a relationship. And it’s revealed in a way that feels natural.

There’s no big moment when they have to tell somebody they’re in a relationship. It’s not a dramatic moment. Instead, we find out when the two have a petty squabble when Trevor says the beer he’s drinking is “better than sex,” a statement that Sypha isn’t too happy about.

The chemistry is just as much about the writing as it is the people playing the characters, probably even more so in animation.

Then there is Dracula’s War Council. Most of the characters don’t get much personality and just there to fill out the empty space. But there are two interesting vampire generals.

There’s Godbrand, a red-headed Viking vampire who at first appears goofy and ignorant, is actually much smarter and savvy than he seems. He has some of the best lines, and I honestly wish the show did more with him. He often clashes with Carmilla – a suave, femme fatale who ends up taking Dracula down.

Carmilla’s best chemistry is with her “sisters” three other vampiresses maintaining the country of Striga. They’re fiercely loyal to each other and need each other to work to be successful in their rule.

Lenore, who is quiet and soft-spoken, is the diplomat but probably the most dangerous – as she is the one who secures Hector’s loyalty through some dishonest means. I utterly despise her as a person, but she is an engaging character.

And the other two, Striga and Morana, are actually in a relationship – and they work well together in the few scenes they are in.

Each relationship dynamic is different, but they’re all interesting and work well too. Nothing feels forced. It’s truly impressive and I want to explore more combinations of character interactions- and truthfully reflect more of all the ones mentioned above.

You can’t have interesting dynamics without interesting characters.

Sympathy for the Devil… or Vampire

With the variety of characters – surprisingly, most of the characters have relatable and understandable motives- particularly our main antagonist, Dracula. 

In the beginning, we can see how Lisa’s influence originally had him trusting and learning from humans, whereas previously it didn’t appear he expected much of them at all. He cares deeply for his son, and it’s precisely his climactic fight with Alucard that snaps him back into reality and regrets what he had done.

In the beginning, we can see how Lisa’s influence originally had him trusting and learning from humans, whereas previously it didn’t appear he expected much of them at all. He cares deeply for his son, and it’s precisely his climactic fight with Alucard that snaps him back into reality and regrets what he had done.

Dracula saw how humans treated his wife and decided that people were the problem. He figured the only way to solve the problem, which was to punish everyone.

 Even though Lisa begged him not to hurt anyone. 

He made it into a suicide mission and didn’t care about what would happen to anyone else. Most of all himself. And I think that is a very human reaction -losing the one you love most and wanting to die. That’s not something vampires are supposed to do.

It was as Godbrand said – a long-drawn-out suicide – meant to punish himself in every single way he could.

Had he succeeded -I believe Dracula would have ensured he was the last to die as penance.

It’s easy to feel sorry for Alucard as well. Though he’s a protagonist – he ends up having to kill his own father, and he’s struggling with his own morality. He’s a good person, but later and later into the series he’s been forced to make some choices that might lead him down the same path as his father.

And of course, there are plenty of villains who are outright horrible without a seeming redeeming quality and it’s fun to watch them get their comeuppance and have somebody to hate. Sometimes, you just need to hate somebody.

What the Fuck is Toilet Paper? Or How to Do Humor in an R-Rated Cartoon

I’ve talked so much about humor in adult cartoons it seems pointless to mention it again. But put up with me for a moment. The humor in this show –works. Because it comes from the characters interacting and reacting to the world around them. And they’re rarely if ever overplayed.

There’s the running joke involving fucking goats – and that is so ridiculous, it’s funny when the idea comes up several episodes later after the audience has more or less forgotten about it.

Sure there’s a lot of cursing and sex jokes which I normally don’t find hilarious – but it’s the way the jokes are done that makes them work.

Trevor tends to curse a lot – but certainly, every time he does it’s still hilarious. He’s just done with the world: he’s seen almost everything and fought so many monsters, that you kind of just expect it.

The line about toilet paper is actually the second joke in that episode regarding the product. It’s 15th century Europe, so most people actually don’t know what toilet paper is. So when the Judge asks the mysterious Saint Germain what he was doing with Trevor and Sypha, he uses his world-traveler status to say they wanted to talk to somebody who had used toilet paper.

The Judge just seemed baffled by the concept and had clearly never heard the word before. I think the fact we were watching this during *gestures vaguely* a pandemic, recession, quarantine, and goodness knows what else -made it much funnier.

Like honestly, I’m glad the stores near me are stocking it again because there was a good couple of months when I couldn’t find toilet paper or paper towels. (Thankfully, I had stocked up on both early on,

I also connected to Alucard’s isolation madness in the third season. Like him, I’ve lost all sense of time.

People aren’t really saying these things for the sake of it or because the writers thought it was just a good joke. They all come naturally through the environment, even the What We Do in the Shadows/Seinfeld -esque discussion about vampires’ weakness to running water – which happens when the vampires should be preparing for battle.

It’s mature humor because the characters are adults – but it doesn’t rely on sex, relationship, bodily functions, or any of the like to be funny. Seriously – it was wonderful not having every other joke be: “Haha, they said, penis.”

There were a few jokes that did – but they were limited and worked in context.

Of course, I have some nitpicks and criticisms about the show – I think certain elements could have been expanded on, like the other members of Dracula’s war council, and I would have loved to watch more of Lisa. And certain events could have used more foreshadowing – but I think a lot of these can be mended in the following seasons.

I don’t know where this show will go in the future but I hope we continue following the characters, we are watching right now to the bitter end and the series ends on a proper note

And that’s the scoop.


Score: 8/10



Year of release:  2017 -present

Length: 22 episodes ranging from  22 -31 minutes

Executive Producers: Adi Shankar, Fred Seibert, Ted Biaselli, Kevin Kolde, Larry Tanz, Warren Ellis

Producers: Jason Williams, Maki Terashima-Furuta

Developer: Adi Shankar

Directors: Sam Deats, Adam Deats, Spencer Wan

Writer: Warren Ellis

Voice Actors: Richard Armitage, James Callis, Graham McTavish,  Alejandra Reynoso, Tony Amendola, Matt Frewer, Emily Swallow, Theo James, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Jaime Murray, Peter Stormare, Jessica Brown Findlay, Yasmine Al Massri, Ivana Miličević, Bill Nighy, Navid Negahban, Jason Isaacs, Toru Uchikado, Rila Fukushima, Barbara Steele, Lance Reddick


5 thoughts on “Netflix’s “Castlevania” is a near masterpiece”

  1. This show is pretty good at being constantly terrible. I don’t know what else it has done right.

  2. The show is AMAZING, but my question is why are you social distancing from your boyfriend? 😂😂 Wth?

    1. Both of us have roommates and since we can’t go out to eat or anything we can’t hang out at each other’s places. Also he doesn’t have a car and would need to take the Metro to me (or me to him) and those are gross on a good day

      But I’m getting my own place soon, and then we’ll be seeing each other more!

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