We continue Vampire Weekends with my retrospective on “Castlevania” one of the few great adaptations of a story from a videogame series and one that gives us an array of different vampires and motivations. This was a show that wasn’t afraid to go deep while still embracing the fun of the characters and premise. Before I get into my thoughts on the show as whole my season reviews of the show will be posted at the end and this review will contain SPOILERS, so be warned. Before that I do highly recommend this show as the animation, action, soundtrack, characters and themes are all fantastic and it is a favorite show I look forward to rewatching again.
The series was created by Warren Ellis.
The story follows Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) as the last Belmont he finds allies in the fight against Vlad Dracula Tepes (Graham McTavish) who seeks to destroy humanity after the Church killed his wife Lisa (Emily Swallow) for witchcraft.
The Action – The action in this is amazing with the standout battles being Trevor, Sypha and Alucard facing off against Dracula’s generals and Dracula in Season 2, Isaac against Carmilla in Season 4 and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard fighting against Death and his generals when they attempt to bring back Dracula from Hell. There are also great battle sequences through all seasons but season 2 and 4 had the best battles.
The Soundtrack – Trevor Morris created a beautiful soundtrack that captures this gothic world so well with his rendition of “Bloody Tears” being a song I keep coming back to. He captures the hopelessness that humanity is facing with all the vampires and night creatures trying to kill them but also the hope in the heroes who rise up to fight. The fight song of Trevor against Death is also notably epic.
The World – The world of “Castlevania” was compelling in the games where Dracula has won and it is you trying to stop him and is given depth here in the Church killing his scientist wife and us seeing human cruelty being a motivator for not just Vlad Tepes but also his generals Isaac and Hector who only experienced human cruelty. This adds a dimension of redemption for humanity through it all as our characters go through arcs and find a reason to be beyond hate and revenge. Also the variety of night creatures, vampires, demons and human kingdoms keeps the world compelling as they are all distinct.
Dracula’s Generals – Dracula has generals from around the world and each have a different way of being vampiric be it turning into mist, speed, super strength, etc. They also have distinct looks and personalities with standouts being Godbrand, Carmilla and Varney who have motives beyond just following Dracula’s orders. Their defeats are earned and rewarding too and usually advance a character’s growth.
The Characters – The characters make this story work and how their relationships are explored keep the show interesting even when there isn’t a major arc to the season. The character work in season 1 setup Sypha, Trevor and Alucard and season 3 explores Isaac and Carmilla’s realm. Because of this character work even the slow or setup seasons were still good or great.
Striga and Morana – Striga and Morana are two of Carmilla’s generals and also lovers. They have a compelling relationship too with Striga being the military strategist and Morana knowing supplies and number. They have a great arc too as they realize that if they go through with Carmilla’s plan of trapping all the humans in their nation they will be fighting forever so after here death they go their own way. These two vampire women’s story is one I’d like see continue.
Carmilla – Jaime Murray does a wonderful job as the vampire lord consumed by rage. All she does is to hurt the vampire lords who ignored her nation like Dracula (her betrayal of him), revenge for abuse from the vampire lord who made her and rage at the world for their nation being left with little resources. She’s charismatic and deadly and we see why she rules too as her desires shapes the world around her. In the end she only falls because she betrayed Dracula and Isaac and his night creatures get revenge on her for it as well as stopping her dreams of conquest.
Vlad and Lisa Tepes – Lisa and Vlad have a sweet relationship with her teaching him science and showing him there is more to humans than fear and hate. Sadly she is killed by the Church while Vlad is exploring the wold leading to his goal to wipe out humanity. In the end they find each other in Hell though after their child Alucard kills Vlad when he regrets what he’s become and that he is killing Alucard. Eventually they are freed by Death’s ritual and we see that Vlad has changed and no longer has his rage though he still distrusts humanity. I didn’t mind them getting a second chance at life and I hope that they end there story there though.
Death – Malcolm McDowell’s Death is hilarious. He plays an arrogant English vampire as an act and as Death speaks the same way cussing up a storm. I loved how much he just didn’t care and wanted souls. This was how to do a one-dimensional villain right as he was powerful, knew it and had plans within plans as well as being hard to kill. His reveal design is great too puling from the “Castlevania” games design as a giant skeleton.
Isaac – Adetokumoh McCormack’s Isaac was my favorite character besides Alucard on the show. Freed from slavery by Dracula he hated humanity until Dracula saved him again giving him the chance to meet people like a merchant and ship’s captain who changed his perspective. He also made friends with his night creatures and changed their role from one of destruction to rebuilding as he became a redeemer to all the souls he was pulling from Hell to make his night creatures. His arc is amazing and he even forgives Hector showing that in his journey he grew beyond hate and found a reason to live that made life more.
Alucard, Sypha and Trevor – The trio of “Castlevania” is one of the best trios in any show or film. Sypha is the one with perspective while Alucard and Trevor are quick to fight and mope. All have dimension though and I loved the Sypha and Trevor romance that developed that Armitage and Reynoso gave so much weight too as well as humor in how they played off each other. James Callis’s Alucard is my favorite character on the show besides Isaac and I like how he finds a reason to live too beyond just guarding his father’s castle from threats. They all find community in one another and the world which is fitting given how much of the world was lost over the course of the show.
Redemption and Community as Motivation – Hector, Isaac, Dracula and Alucard all find redemption in different ways by connecting to people. Isaac sees not all humanity is evil, Hector forgives himself, Dracula stops destroying and finds his wife once more and Alucard leaves his castle and sees a world worth protecting. All of them find reason to be in their own redemption and in relationship with others.
The Dangers of Revenge and Hate – Revenge and hate are shown to be self-destructive through the series as Isaac if he’d stayed to fight Sypha, Trevor and Alucard would have died as he would have been living for Dracula’s mission of hate and revenge and not himself. Carmilla like Dracula is consumed by it and the rules even apply to side characters like Taka and Sumi who die and nearly kill Alucard who had only ever been kind to them. The Church that kills Lisa is also consumed by hate as well as we see it target anything it doesn’t understand with hate which leads to Dracula destroying it and the world. This theme is established from season 1 and never stops being relevant.
Hector and Lenore – Hector and Lenore have a toxic relationship where Lenore enslaves him to be Carmilla’s forgemaster and make night creatures for their kingdom and this is after Carmilla abused him and he betrayed his only friend Dracula…but somehow they form a functioning relationship and he bests her in the end as after Isaac sees his regret for his betrayal he does not kill him and lets him know there is more to live for. Lenore was talking about that and starting to distrust Carmilla but after Carmilla’s defeat she just chooses to die. I wanted to see where their relationship would go as they were equals by the end of the show. Still their arc was okay.
Saint Germain – Saint Germain like Dracula is used by Death to bring back Dracula believing it will bring back his wife. We never see his relationship to his wife though so it is all tell. Bill Nighy does a good job as being the arrogant alchemist but I wanted more for him to be a pro to the show.
Taka and Sumi – Taka and Sumi are vampire hunters who befriend and try to kill Alucard. They exist purely to show that humans and vampires still have problems with each other (they were abused by one of Dracula’s generals) and so Alucard can feel hate and be alone. This plot should have been redone as it shows us nothing we don’t learn in the Hector plot. Also we don’t get enough of either of their backstories or the state of the world Dracula left behind.
Lack of Focus in Sypha and Trevor’s Journey After Defeating Dracula – The one issue I had with Sypha and Trevor was after Dracula they just went fighting monsters around the world but never to any point. It doesn’t lead anywhere until season 4 which is a shame as season 3 should have setup the truth big bad of Death. Their story needed focus even if it was just to develop their love further.
Lack of Setup for Death – Death was the one who set Dracula’s madness in motion as he feeds of dead souls and Dracula was going to give him the greatest feast. For this reason him trying to bring Dracula back made sense but his character Varney should have appeared in season 2. He only shows up in the last season and given how core he was to the plot he needed that character work or at least hints of who he was earlier.
This is a great animated show that is well worth your time if you are looking for great action, characters, world, soundtrack and animation. There isn’t much that didn’t work about this show and it is one of the more complex portrayals of vampires I’ve seen in fiction whether they are friendly like Alucard or villains like Dracula and Carmilla. This is a major reason I wanted to write about the show as a whole for Vampire Weekend on the blog and if you are interested I hope you check this amazing show out.
Final Score: 9.2 / 10 A favorite show.