By JD Phillips
The first season of “Castlevania” was one of the best surprises on Netflix last year. American anime and video game adaptations are both almost always terrible, so there was a lot going against this series. The show set all these fears aside in its very brief first season.
It had an amazing art style, a great voice cast, fully developed characters, and some great writing. It has stood throughout the last year as the best video game adaptation ever, (doesn’t hurt that the previous bests were Angelina Jolie’s “Tomb Raider” and the “Resident Evil” franchise) so no pressure on season 2 at all.
Thankfully though, season 2 is even better. It features more new characters, more bloody violence, and the same great art style. Unfortunately, it also features the same pacing issues that keep the series from truly reaching its full potential. Picking right off where season 1 left us, Dracula is still waging war on the human world in order to avenge his wife who was burned at the stake. This time though, he has assembled a war council full of fascinating characters.
Great pain is taken to flesh out all of these new characters and it gives the series a great deal of potential for the future. Human forgemasters Hector and Isaac are big standouts as well as the delightfully vicious Carmilla.
The core cast, unfortunately, gets a little light changed. Trevor, Alucard, and Sypha are all still excellent characters, but the show devotes so much time to fleshing out the new characters that our mains don’t get as much development as they deserve.
When the big final battle happens and our characters come together to fight as one, it feels a little unearned. I had more investment in Dracula’s friendship with Isaac than I did our trio, which isn’t good.
This is essentially the big problem with the whole season and the show in general. In only eight episodes you can do just so much. The series starts with a slow pace that would be standard for any good anime, yet it jumps straight from the setups to the big final battle.
While the final battle was amazing (more on that in a minute), it felt out of place. It was almost as if the entire middle of the season were cut out. If the season had four or five more episodes to it, the finale would’ve definitely felt more epic.
Not that it wasn’t epic though. This was mostly because the characterization of this nihilistic, suicidal/genocidal Dracula is one of the best interpretations of the character ever. Ending the fight on Dracula realizing he was about to kill his own son in his son’s childhood room was heartbreaking.
Any other show would’ve just upped the spectacular violence into a crescendo of blood but this one stops the action dead to focus on the pain of these two vampiric family members. Moments like these are exactly why this show has such a good reputation despite being so short and new.
Ultimately, the series gives itself a gust of wind in the last episode. New quests are taken, new villains are formed, and as always, it ends with bittersweet sadness.
“Castlevania” proves this year that its first season was no fluke. It continues to be the best video game adaptation and one of the best American animes ever. While it is still held back by its short episode span, it makes up for this by delivering the emotional punches and setting up more bloody splendor to come.
Also, couldn’t you just watch Trevor Belmont kill monsters for hours? It’s just fucking awesome.