When Netflix announced the plan to bring an animated Castlevania series to its service, it promised an R-rated story. Consider that promise fulfilled.
Castlevania is an adult animated series that fits right in with any number of horror classics. Based on the video game series that has been around since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Castlevania on Netflix dives into a story that brings together some familiar characters from the source material in a way that has never quite been done before. The four-part series lays the groundwork for introducing our main characters and leaves you hanging on at the end with plenty of anticipation for what happens next. Netflix has already renewed the series for a second season, which is reportedly set to consist of eight episodes.
The idea of an animated Castlevania has been worked on since 2007, and it may have been worth the wait. The animation style is dark, as it should be considering the story and era. Inspired by anime and the artwork seen in the Castlevania franchise, Castlevania on Netflix offers a four-episode story that is easy to get through in one sitting for fans of the horror genre. Each episode runs around 23 minutes long, so the whole series can be viewed in an hour and a half.
The series opens up setting the inspiration for what makes Dracula the nemesis he is known to be, and it does not take long at all to find out why Dracula is hell-bent on taking out his frustrations on the local townspeople. Set in the time of the Dark Ages, Dracula’s wife, a scientist who approaches Dracula with the pure intent of learning about vampires, is accused of being a witch by the people of the town, and for that, she is taken and burned at the stake in the middle of the town. Dracula vows revenge on the people, giving them one year to make their peace before he brings down his promised justice.
As Dracula is wrecking havoc on the town and the massacre is spreading to nearby towns, one survivor manages to spread the word to a nearby tavern, where we first meet Trevor Belmont for the first time. Belmont is a bit of an outlier in his own family, a family that has little respect by the locals for their dealings in magic and monster fighting. The Belmont family has been outcast by the church, but Trevor is determined to live his own life, and it just so happens he is the leader the town needs more than ever before. He’s also sarcastic and confident, which is great.
As he becomes determined to stop Dracula’s reign of terror, The Lost Son of the Belmont family builds a small team with the magical Sypha Belnades and Alucard, the son of Dracula who will do everything he can in order to stop his father from committing genocide. Both characters should be familiar to anyone who has played the Castlevania video game franchise. But before these three can ultimately team up, they must first gain the trust of each other, which results in a brief conflict of interest at first that must be resolved.
A major theme of the series is focused on religion. Because this series is set in the times of the Dark Ages, religious leaders are portrayed as over-the-top and crazy influencers on society that stop at nothing to block scientific thought. It is the church that goes about its business in the community in spite of Dracula’s threats, and it is the church that burns those deemed to be witches. This is inspired by the acts seen during the Dark Ages, where science could be considered an act of defiance. Castlevania plays off that theme from the start and continues to use it as a plot point over the four episodes. Belmont is the lone man not afraid to step up to the church, which leads to Belmont to be more inspired to fight for what he believes is right for the sake of others.
You do not have to be a fan of the Castlevania series of video games in order to enjoy the Castlevania Netflix series, but having some knowledge of the source material may lead you to have more respect for some of the references and plot features. For example, there is one moment where Belmont does everything he can to avoid stepping foot in the water. Maybe it was not the intended reference, but water leads to an automatic death in Castlevania video games. But no, there is no whipping the walls in search of some meat to replenish any health.
As someone who has a very limited background with the Castlevania franchise (never owned a Castlevania game and have only played small portions of the franchise up through the Super Nintendo), I went into this series with a pretty clean slate. In watching it, I enjoyed the theme Castlevania aimed for and how the theme and tone carried out.
This is a dark series, with doses of humor. Make no mistake about it; this Castlevania is very much the R-rated experience that was initially promised. The violent imagery may not be for those with a weak stomach, and the language is not for kids. We may not have seen such violent imagery with Castlevania since an early issue of Nintendo Power led to the Nintendo phone lines being flooded with complaints about kids having nightmares.
Castlevania was an enjoyable viewing experience for me. This is clearly an R-rated horror adventure, but it also has a sense of humor that doesn’t feel forced and always tends to fit in at the right opportunities. The character development is also adequate even in four episodes. If you have 90 minutes to spare and are a fan of horror adventure, then Castlevania is right up your alley. So crack your whip, grab a turkey leg, sit back and enjoy. Let the kids play the games, while the adults watch the show.
Castlevania is currently available on Netflix.