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Castlevania: Season 1 review (Netflix)


When Konami introduced Castlevania in the arcades and eventually into homes, it became a household name to those who grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When Nintendo reached that prime, games such as Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest and Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse became fan favorites and instant classics for kids that adored the House of Mario.
Of course, with the success of Nintendo came products such as cereals, shirts, and of course TV shows and movies. With Castlevania, Captain N did feature Simon Belmont, but was portrayed as a stuck-up prima donna instead the rugged vampire hunter he was in the games.
Thankfully, the creators of Castlevania Netflix learned from that, and it turned into one of the most respectable and true-to-life forms in video-games-to-TV adaptations.
Castlevania Netflix starts in 1455 Wallachia (modern day Bucharest, Romania) where a young scientist, Lisa, walks in the Castle of Dracula. She searched for him because she believes he holds “secret knowledge” (i.e. science and magic) to improve the world, but that “knowledge” unfortunately is forbidden by the Catholic Church.
While Lisa is headstrong, she also wants to teach Dracula to a bit more civil and give humanity a chance, in which he reluctantly, yet quickly does.
20 years later, Lisa is burned at the stake for heresy (of course) with a corrupt and power-hungry Bishop of Gresit looking on. The Mayor of the city also looks on and he was fascinated with Lisa’s work, but for “strictly academic purposes”, he timidly tells the Bishop.
When Dracula learns of his wife’s execution from a kind elderly village woman, obviously he’s done with humanity and takes revenge. He teleports through fire where Lisa died and gives Wallachia one year to leave the city, or suffer grave consequences through his demonic horde. Naturally, the Church and the village were skeptical, but enter the one year, and everyone is slaughtered (nothing left to the imagination). Thus, Castlevania begins.
The main character is Trevor Belmont, a drunk and jaded vampire hunter as well as a former nobleman whose family the Church excommunicated because of their deals with magic in fighting vampires.
It is, of course, understandable that Trevor has a bit of a distaste for humanity because of this. This is noted when a couple of drunks in a bar noticed his family crest and fought him, believing that his family was the cause of Wallachia’s peril. Trevor also spits nonchalantly on a pile of corpses under a bridge as he crosses it. But in his jadedness, he’s also witty and sarcastic, perhaps as a coping mechanism for his predicament.
Trevor meets other characters such as corrupt and combative priests that were harassing a local elderly man. The elderly man calls himself a Speaker, a member of a non-Christian religious sect that deals in magic, but acts way more humanely than the Church does. Trevor also encounters Sypha Belnades (Bel-NAH-des), also a Speaker that seeks the Sleeping Soldier, whom she believes is the key to defeating Dracula.
This is only the tip of the iceberg since it is only Season 1, with Season 2 on the way for 2018, but it does build for high anticipation on what lies ahead for Trevor, Sypha, and Dracula.
As noted, Castlevania has the distinction of a children’s following in the late 1980s to the early 1990s as part of the original NES trilogy. After all, video gaming was considered a children’s hobby. But in 2017, that audience has grown and this show is intended for that audience. The animation and violence is extremely graphic with blood, guts, vomit, and excrement. It’s not just men, but women and children also get slaughtered, literally torn apart, leaving nothing to the imagination. There’s a scene in which Trevor whips another person’s eye out. Castlevania definitely deserves the TV-MA rating.
Richard Armitage (Thorin in The Hobbit trilogy) is the voice of Trevor, and does solid job in making him sound like the devil-may-care (pardon the expression) with his wry wit and humor. When he fights a couple of drunks and keeps getting hit in the mid-section, he says “Will you please leave my testicles alone?” Also, when he was about to enter a sewer, he says “God forbid you should warn anyone before emptying your fucking shit pots” after excrement-filled water exits it.
Other voices include Alejandra Reynoso (Nickelodeon’s Winx Club) as Sypha Belnades, Graham McTavish (Dwalin from The Hobbit trilogy) as Count Dracula, and James Callis (Dr. Gaius Baltar from 2004’s Battlestar Galactica) as Alucard.
Since Castlevania is in anime, it would’ve been nice to have Japanese voice actors to give this a more “authentic” feel.
Perhaps the most noticeable omission from the series is the music. Tracks such as “Vampire Killer”, “Bloody Tears”, “Beginning”, “Dance of Illusion”, etc. are absent, but composer Trevor Morris (Dragon Age: Inquisition) might have a good reason for that. Perhaps he doesn’t believe that neither of the scenes in the show has the proper context to setup for those tracks. In the age of terrible video-game-to silver-screen translations, it would’ve been seen as an unintentional parody to force the music when it is not warranted. Perhaps there will be moments in which the tracks would be appropriate, but series director Sam Deats has too much respect for it otherwise.
Children might be intrigued by the series since their parents mostly like played these games at their age, but this is definitely not the 1980s Castlevania. Parents should let them know that it is intended for mature audiences, thus the rating. But Netflix is finally breaking the tradition of terrible TV translations, exciting an audience that grew up with it.

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