Okay so… Another season of Castlevania came out this weekend, and one that actually spanned a good 8 episodes this time. As you recall, when Season 1 came out my opinions on the season and the show were generally positive. The show wasn’t perfect, but there were enough good things and some real untapped potential that made me really want to see how the show would fare with a proper run time and budget.
And hey, honestly I never really expected to write something up for Season 2. I had hoped that the show was actually going to be rather good. Everyone, in turn, would’ve raved about it and I would’ve just been content to enjoy the show and keep Anime Evo as a mostly Anime only affair. I mean, while I had thought that the animation production for the first series had been done somewhat in Japan, I later learned that this show was more or less a completely western job. Which, I guess makes covering this show on a website that focuses on Japanese Animation kind of a weird thing.
If anything the value in covering Castlevania now is to just kind of look at what the western half of the world is doing with regards to animation and how it compares to the stuff we generally enjoy here. And well… I guess I’ve buried the lead long enough, so I’m just going to go out and say it: I hated Season 2 of Castlevania.
Yeah… Its actually pretty darn bad, and I’m honestly baffled by how the show is getting the praise that it is, and how everyone from casual watchers to franchise fans are eating this stuff up like its the best game animated adaptation… Ever. Its definitely not, and I can’t believe I can’t find any negative opinions of this show on the internet (based on my cursory look). Whether its the critic reviews by people who are clearly unfamiliar with the source material, or whether its in comments on places like reddit and what not, everyone seems to be loving this thing. And for the life of me, I really can’t even begin to fathom why.
Look, If you’ve been around Anime Evo in the last few years you’ll notice a bit of a pattern with me. I don’t generally go out of my way to trash things I don’t like, anymore. I’m certainly guilty of doing that for the occasional episode review here and there when I’m particularly disappointed, but a negative full series review is pretty darn rare from me. I generally either just don’t review or cover a show I don’t enjoy too much, or if I am covering it and consistency trashing it, then I just drop it. Fact is, even the most mediocre of shows have a good deal of effort and hard work put into them, so there’s really nothing gained by slamming that just because my tastes don’t align with whatever is being presented.
Castlevania though? I’m going to dig back into the old well of ranting and make an exception. Castlevania is a game franchise whose lore and story I enjoy. I’m a huge fan of the series, and the lore of the franchise. I was also, a big fan of Season 1, and even discounting all the reverence of the game series, I just can’t say I’m anything other than severely disappointed even as a fan of the original show.
Now before I get into the specifics of what exactly rubbed me the wrong way so intensly, I think its worth talking about the two things I did enjoy from this season, small though they may be.
First, I will say I appreciated the art direction of the show. The look and feel of the characters, the visual tone and style of the show, the lighting e.t.c, it’s all really well done. Castlevania Season 2 is even more beautiful and polished than the first season from a visual perspective. If looks were all this show needed to be, then I think Castlevania season 2 absolutely nails the tone and feel of the games, while providing its own unique and distinct style on top of that. So yes, from a purely artistic perspective, I think season 2 is actually pretty darn awesome, perhaps even more so than season 1.
The second thing, which is kind of related to the first, is that the show boasts some AMAZING looking fight scenes and some bombastic and jaw dropping action. If you remember my comments on Season 1, you’ll remember that I mentioned the last fight between Alucard and Trevor being some of the best stuff I’ve seen in animation, period. Castlevania Season 2 has MULTIPLE scenes that just one up that particular battle, and its just awesome to watch. Its clear that the show invested heavily in the action sequences of the show, whether its the animation (for those specific parts), the sound effects, the visual effects or the choreography. The actions scenes, I think are the single most amazing aspect of this show, and the one part that I’d actually recommend checking out.
Everything else? Well… That is a much different and more horrid story. Its sad, but literally everything about the show, from the focus of the story, to the pacing, to the actual content, to the characters to the dialogue, everything is just… garbage. Its subpar, and while the show tries to mask its weaknesses by throwing in little things from the game, or by distracting with its action sequences, the fact remains that the show as a whole is just “boring, for huge chunks of its overall screen time.
And its here that I guess I’ll start to use comments and ideas that I’ve seen online, and basically disagree with them quite directly. Again, I don’t generally do that, but I’m just kind of surprised at how no one else seems to have felt or noticed the things that I feel are glaring issues.
Alright so, lets start with the thing I mentioned at the end, the fact that the show is “boring”. Now, I’ve read and heard a lot over the internet that people seem to suggest that the show is “slow but thoughtful and methodical”. That the show is simply just taking a more muted, contemplative approach, and that people who were expecting a fast paced bombastic show in the same vein as season 1 are the ones who’re going to be disappointed. Castlevania Season 2 decides to take things slow and focus on developing its characters and world… Man!
Except… It really, really doesn’t do that, man. See, one of the big things that I said I enjoyed about Season was how it gave Trevor an interesting personality and then at the end of the series paired him up with Alucard and the Mage Sypha (Yes I’m aware she’s called a listener or whatever, but she’s essentially a mage). It seemed like Season 2 was going to be the three of them actively going up against Dracula and putting an end to the atrocities that the villain has perpetuated in his crazy made revenge rage.
Unfortunately, that action packed journey and adventure to stop Dracula? It never actually happens in this show. In perhaps one of the most baffling things I’ve seen since Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, the show ends up relegating Alucard, Sypha and Trevor to a mere subplot and focuses instead on a swath of NEW characters.
Which is insane, and it makes me think that there was never really a formulated plan for Season 2, and that the people behind this show (particularly the writer Warren Ellis) were just winging it as they went along. I mean, Season 1 is all about setting up Alucard, Sypha and Tervor’s trio and building up to them joining forces to take down Dracula, so why just side step that for the majority of your second season? It just makes no logical sense, and it just feels like there was no care or effort put into the larger story or plot work.
So instead of seeing Alucard, Sypha and Trevor journey towards Dracula’s Castle (you know, since the show is called CASTLEVANIA), the season instead has the trio go to the ruins of the Belmont family estate. The idea being that a secret vault in the catacombs of the estate holds the answer to the question to kill and defeat Dracula.
Which, honestly, isn’t a bad plot device, for say, an episode or two. The problem, of course, is that the season basically puts Alucard, Sypha and Trevor in this underground library for the majority of the season. They literally DO NOTHING but read books, “banter” with one another and basically just kill time until the end of the show. And we’ll get to what happens at the end, but first we need to talk about what the show actually spends the majority of its time on.
No, its not actually Dracula, although that might’ve been an okay path to go with. No, instead of perhaps even focusing on Dracula himself, the show instead decides to focus on the main villain’s GENERALS, all of which are new characters introduced in this very season. Oh yeah, the show doesn’t focus on its primary heroes or its main villain, and instead adds a bunch of secondary antagonist and shifts the focus to them.
The characters in question? Well they’re three characters that fans of the games are at least a little familiar with; Camila, Isaac and Hector. Hector and Isaac are actually characters that have their own game, one of the 3D Spinoff titles that appeared on the PS2/XBox consoles. Hector and Isaac in the games are basically two of Dracula’s generals, both who seem to be weapon smiths of some kind. In the games, Hector is actually an anti-hero of sorts, who sees the error of his ways and ends up falling in love with a human woman. Isaac then kills said woman, and Hector enters Dracula’s domain to basically exact vengeance against Isaac. Camila, on the other hand, is a regular boss character in the games, who is extremely devoted to her master Dracula.
Here? In the show? Hector and Isaac are some weird kind of “Demon Smiths” that can create undead monsters, and who are basically humans who hated humanity. Oh and they’re Dracula’s trusted friends and are basically leading all his armies and his other vampire generals in the effort to eradicated humanity. The conceit here, is that both Hector and Isaac have, much like Dracula, suffered at the hands of humans and are basically just as broken and onboard to killing as he is. And Camilla? She’s a manipulative female vampire that seems to hate all men, and views them as little more than idiotic children that she should manipulate and dominate over.
And the show primarily focuses in on these three characters, building up their back stories, spending exorbitant amounts of time in Dracula’s castle. The show is basically these three characters and their personal agendas clashing with one another, and the Dracula and the rest of his generals basically being casualties of this conflict. Oh yeah, Dracula, the so called big bad? He’s not even developed into a proper and menacing villain, and he’s literally a victim of the actions of characters that are supposed to be “under” him.
What’s sad is that neither Isaac nor Hector are actually even trying to betray Dracula. No, one of them is just too subservient while the other is manipulated by Camilla, and both end up basically making a mess of things. As For Dracula? The guy’s basically shown as a tired, depressed guy who simply doesn’t care and is suicidal. Dracula, the menacing antagonist of the entire franchise, is reduced to an emo, depressed docile idiot that allows his underlings to make a mess of things while he sits in a chair in his tower and just sinks further and further into depression.
Look, I get that the show wanted to make Dracula sympathetic, and I think it achieved that quite aptly in Season 1. Dracula has a good enough motivation established, so why do we see him in season 2 totally unmotivated and depressed? Sure, it makes sense with the whole “grieving husband” idea but it doesn’t make for a good villain. And really, Dracula isn’t a villain in this season like he was built up to be in the first. In this season? He’s just a victim that gets ruined by literally everyone around him. Oh and he’s suicidal anyway, so the show basically excuses its lack of focus on its main antagonist by the whole “He wanted to die, dude!” idea.
Now, I’ve also read everywhere that the focus and shift from Dracula, Trevor, Alucard and Sypha to these new characters is actually good, because it develops the world and the story. And yeah, in theory that would be good, and I’d be down with that. But the show doesn’t actually develop anything here. All it establishes is that Isaac, Hector and Dracula are incompetent and broken men, and that they basically all get screwed over by the end of the show.
It would be one thing, if the show just spent the entire season focusing on the Dracula side of the equation, and maybe revitalized him through this Isaac, Camila and Hector mess. But it doesn’t, instead what happens is that Isaac basically gets thrown off and sent to some desert at the end by Dracula (because Dracula wants to save his friend??!?!), while Hector basically falls into Camila’s trap and becomes her prisoner and slave.
As For Dracula? Oh the guy still gets killed and defeated, its just… weird how it happens. See, the near the end of the season, the show suddenly realizes that it needs to have the heroes defeat Dracula. Its almost like the writer behind the show’s story is forced to move away from his own interest and personal pet projects revolving around Isaac and Hector, and move back to the main plot that the show is actually about. The writing, the show and the story do this begrudgingly, and what happens is something that feels like a major ass pull.
Remember that Library where Trevor, Alucard and Sypha are? Well Sypha discovers a way to teleport Dracula’s castle STRAIGHT to them. So Sypha is basically able to do just that, and at the end of the show, as Dracula is being betrayed by Camila and Hector, the Castle is transported to where the heroes of the story are.
And then the show jumps into the end game, and basically has Alucard, Trevor and Sypha face off against Dracula. And again, while the action here is awesome, the actual substance behind the action and the story is meh at best.
See the only reason the trio are successful is because Dracula realizes that he’s killing his son, and suddenly grows back a conscience. Dracula ends up realizing that he’s already dead, and finally gives Alucard the opening to killl him. Alucard does so, the show explains it away with the whole “Dracula always wanted to die” and the show’s story basically ends.
But even the ending here, is super unsatisfying. See in the final battle, Dracula sends Isaac off to save him. Isaac then goes ahead and starts building his own army, likely a plot thread setup for a future season. Camila on the other hand enslaves Hector and plans to use him to build her own army.
Trevor and Sypha? The two decide to go on more adventures together and the show basically hints that the two fall in love and live the rest of their days out together fighting evil. As for Alucard? The poor guy is left ALONE in the Castle where he killed his father by his so called friends. Yeah, Trevor Belmont, the noble hero… Instead of inviting Alucard to join him and Sypha, basically gives him his underground estate and tells Alucard to basically use the castle and the Belmont estate’s remains to build something better.
So the show ACTUALLY ends with Alucard all alone., in a broken castle, crying over the death of his mother and of all the loss he’s had. There’s no satisfying ending here, for almost anyone except for maybe Trevor and Sypha.
So I ask again… How is THIS a good story? How is any of this interesting or well done? I mean… Jeez.
And if that weren’t enough, the actual dialogue and banter in this season is just… Really bad. I’ve read that people really enjoy the banter between Alucard and Trevor, but all it is is a bunch of “f yous” and insults that the two throw around like teenagers. Its not entertaining, nor is it fun, nor does the show do anything interesting with these two characters. They actually have zero chemistry, as do most of the other characters in the cast. The writing as a whole, is just so… phoned in. Its a far cry from the witty humor and good dialogue that was present in Season 1.
There’s also zero character development or anything resembling a character arc for ANY of the characters. Yeah, despite Sypha saying at the end of the season that Trevor has “really” grown, Trevor actually doesn’t change or evolve at all in the story. He’s exactly where he was at the end of Season 1, and Alucard doesn’t fare much better. To make matters worse, even the characters that are focused on (Isaac, Camila and Hector) are more or less trapped by their personalities and traits and never really change or evolve past them. They all get screwed to some degree, but in the end Camilla is actually the character that gets rewarded the most.
And honestly, there’s more issues to point out, like the subpar animation in any scene that isn’t an action one, or the fact that we litertally see no human element or civilization at all in this season, but… Well, I think I’ve said enough.
At the end of it all, Castlevania Season 2 is just a massive failure and a huge disappointment. It may be pretty, it may have good action scenes, but underneath all that style is a serious lack of substance. The fact that the show just isn’t a good story is a serious downer, especially given how beautifully everything had been setup one season prior.
I’m sure a lot of people will just hop on the bandwagon and continue to praise this show (I mean, its sitting at a 100% fresh rating on Rotten tomatoes as of writing), but I can’t help but disagree with all of those people. This is now a good game adaptation? Really? I mean…. Not only is this not a good part of the Castlevania franchise but its honestly just not a good piece of entertainment. Given the fact that Netflix just announced another season with a longer episode count coming next year, I’m well… Really really not happy. I wish Castelvania the Animation ended with this mess, but you know what? I guess I’m just the minority here…
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