After much hype and a long wait, the first season of Castlevania has been released. But is it any good? How does it hold up to the source material? Is it worth the watch?
First off, there are going to be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the show yet and don’t want spoilers, stop reading here and come back later. If you wish to know if it’s worth to watch, be prepared for plot elements to be revealed.
I must confess, I have not played the games past the first three. When I was younger, I did not have access to the consoles they were on, when I had access to those consoles the games were quite outdated. But the games I did play, I played a LOT. I am well familiar with the lore and the characters.
I did not see much of that in the show. I replayed the first two games in anticipation of the show, only to find out it will follow the events of the third game. That was my fault for not checking the rumor threads, but I do not want to spoil shows before I watch them so I stay away from those threads.
The first episode follows Dracula Vlad Tepes, a take on the infamous vampire lord, as he falls in love with a human woman who shares his passion for science. The woman, Lisa Tepes, convinced Dracula to travel the world “as a man”, during which time she used the knowledge he had given her to act as a doctor to the village. During his absence, Lisa was captured by the Church and burned as a witch. The day of her execution, only minutes after it had been enacted by the Bishop, Dracula returns to his castle to find one of Lisa’s patients laying flowers at the gate. She tells him of her fate and Dracula swore an oath to kill every human on the planet.
As you may have noticed, the Church is seen as the main enemy in this show, Dracula is portrayed as a relatable character and there’s a certain lack of the main protagonist. The way it is portrayed, for the entire first episode, Dracula IS the main protagonist. At the very end of the episode we meet the real protagonist, Trevor Belmont… drunk, alone and annoyed at the locals calling his family bad things.
The second episode opens on a bar fight, where Trevor shows very little care for the lives of the local people he’s fighting. Here’s the second big flaw of this show, Trevor just isn’t a likable or relatable character. He’s supposed to fight the big bad, but so far the big bad is more relatable and have a more likable personality.
From here and through the rest of the 4 episodes, it’s a bitter Trevor against the Church, with occasional peeks at monsters that are quickly dispatched. We have to wait until the very last episode before Trevor even shows a sign of compassion for other human beings that aren’t directly tied to him. Before that, we have seen him maim and kill for no good reason at all. Heck, one of the first scenes we see him in, he’s prepared to kill a man just so he can walk into a city unnoticed, when he just walks in plain sight as soon as he’s entered anyway. The only reason he doesn’t is because he noticed the man was asleep.
Ok, so the main character isn’t the traditional goody-2-shoes… how about the rest? It’s an adaptation of Castlevania, so how about all those easter eggs and references that we all expect from these adaptations?
I managed to catch a handful, but that was about it. First was the name of Dracula’s wife, Lisa. That is taken straight from the games, Dracula’s second wife after Elizabeth and his main motivation in the games. She met the same fate in the show as in the games. The second one I caught was Sypha, Trevor’s wife from the games. In the third game, she was one of the protagonists alongside Trevor. There was an easter egg in the second and third episode, where the Speakers referred to her as the grandson of the Elder Speaker. In the third game she wears typically male clothes and due to mistranslations from Japanese, she is only referred to with male pronouns, leading to confusion among players. The third easter egg I found was an axe throw in the last episode, where Trevor throws it into the air and it arcs back to hit a target behind him, just like in the games.
As I said before, I have not played Dracula’s Curse recently. In fact, it’s been over a decade since I played it, so I might not be the highest authority on that particular timeline. But I did expect more recognizable things in the show. Something to tie it back to the games. We don’t even get the music from the games. What we do get is a bloodbath, very detailed gore and plenty of kicks in the nuts. So many that the characters themselves starts calling it out. First Trevor, who asks a recent kicker to leave them alone and later as a sort of plot point when Trevor tries it against a vampire, who quickly tells him it’s not a bar brawl, a callback to the start of the second episode that had several nut kicks in the same scene. With so many nut shots, you’d think they’ll be playing it for laughs, but the tone of the series is dead serious throughout.
When the final episode was over, nothing new had really happened. We have one well-established character, one halfly established character and one recently introduced character walking off, promising the next episode will be epic… then it ends. As if the entire Season 1 was a trailer for Season 2.
For me, the show has few redeeming qualities. It’s not the walk down the memory lane I had hoped for, neither does it bring anything new to the table. If you like gore and anime with good acting, you’ll certainly be entertained. If that’s not your thing, it’s safe to give this one a skip.