Happy Halloween and Spoiler Warning
More monsters, more characters, more epic fights, and more Castlevania goodness. Season 2 of the hit animated series based off the famous video game of the same name. The show is written by Warren Ellis, known for his years of hit comic books including The Authority and Transmetropolitan, and directed by Sam Deats, known for… well, mostly this show, and that’s a good thing. In fact, this is a great show that’s true to the source material and tells a compelling, romping adventure with action, gore, emotion, epic monologues, and did I mention awesome fight scenes? I did, but here’s another reminder.
The voice cast is highlighted by the amazing returning voice talents of Richard Armitage as the monster-hunting Trevor Belmont, James Callis as the half-vampire, half-human Alucard, Alejandra Reynose as the magic-wielding Sypha Belnades, and Graham McTavish as Dracula himself. Along with them are the new talents of Theo James and Adetokumboh M’Cormack as Dracula’s forge masters Hector and Isaac, Jaime Murray as the conniving vampire Carmilla, and Peter Stormare as the vampire Viking Godbrand. All come together with the directorial and writing talents of Deats and Ellis to create an astounding second season. Anyway, here’s my episode by episode review.
Episode 1: War Council
The show picks up immediately where it left off with our heroes at the ruins of Gretis as the villagers remove the monsters Trevor and Sypha destroyed the night before. I point that out because later in the season Dracula’s crew assumes Alucard defeated them, but he didn’t. Dracula may be the coolest character in the show, but give credit where it’s due. After Gretis, the episode cuts to Dracula’s crew, which includes an awesome assortment of vampires from other countries that never get any lines. Talents are only shown, not told throughout the season. Then there are Dracula’s two human generals, the forge masters Hector and Isaac who make monsters, and Godbrand, a Viking vampire that eats, kills, and sleeps with anything he can get his hands on.
Hector and Isaac are put in charge of planning the war because they are humans that hate humanity and no one would know how to defeat humanity better than themselves. That’s a beautifully horrifying metaphor if I’ve ever heard one. Anyway, this episode was a neat change of pace from last season because we only had Dracula in one episode and now we get to see behind the scenes of his operations. Never having played the popular video game series, I don’t know if these characters appear in the game, but like any adaptation, they stay true to the feeling source material. Nonetheless, this is an excellent opening episode to the season remind the viewer of last season’s characters while setting up for new ones. Also, Alucard has a cool speech about his name.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Episode 2: Old Homes
This episode is the first time we see Alucard, Trevor, and Sypha fight together, here stopping a horde of night terrors from attacking a nearby village and highlighting the different fighting styles we will see throughout the season. The trio is very powerful in different ways and the show knows how to use this in entertaining venues with Sypha’s magic, Trevor’s whip acrobatics, and Alucard’s literal boss mode, kick-butt self.
We also get the first appearance of Carmilla of Styria, the conniving vampire that you love to hate and hate some more. Where Dracula has some moral understanding of why he’s evil, Carmilla is a heartless, soulless, lady of the night. She has some of the best Warren Ellis patented f-bombs in the show and really carries the scenes she’s in, like Cersei Lannister but a non-incestuous vampire. She brings a bit of order to the arguing war council while manipulating Hector and Godbrand.
Meanwhile, we get a flashback to Isaac’s past and discover he was a slave that freed himself. In the end, this episode sets the heroes and villains down their paths for the season and is a solid second chapter to an overall stellar season.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Episode 3: Shadow Battles
The heroes reach the hidden Belmont hold to find information to kill Dracula. There are some obvious video game references and the trio have some intriguing development with each other, comparing Alucard and Trevor, proving themselves to each other while they look for answers. Ironically, Trevor had less of a childhood than the half-vampire. This all leads to some neat developments between the two outcasts that tell each other off constantly. The viewer gets a sense of the opposing allies’ history, with Alucard’s upbringing being compared to Trevor’s monster hunting legacy dating back to Leon Belmont.
Then Godbrand finally confronts Dracula about his motivations. This scene was stunning because here we are in this awesome teleporting castle and Dracula, who’s already shown that he can fill any room with his presence, does so in his small study. He towers over Godbrand, both physically and emotionally, and stares the vampire down.
The episode furthers the development of the characters on both sides without feeling overly focused on either. The way they switch from character to character while telling one story well kind of reminds me of Game of Thrones, but more succinct and organized. The characters in this show don’t have the dour, regal tones of Westeros and bring a colorful (though frightening) take on a fantasy world all their own.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Episode 4: Broken Mast
Godbrand dreams of murder and glory and is getting tired of Dracula’s leadership in the war. So, he leads the band of foreign vampire generals out on a raid on a nearby village. This is the only time we get to see them fight and it’s as terrifying as a group of international vampires attacking a village should be. Gore and death show these are powerful dangerous beings not to be taken lightly. Meanwhile, Carmilla tries to get Hector on her side, developing those characters and the intriguing contrast between humanity and vampires. Then Isaac and Godbrand have a chat that ends with finding out which of the two are more loyal to Dracula, spoiler, it’s Isaac.
This episode really only furthers the plot and character development of the show, which sounds obvious and necessary I know, but what I mean is this episode is really just a slow buildup for the finale. Long monologues tell us the beliefs and worries of the characters. Thankfully, long monologues about philosophy are one of Ellis’s strong suits so I was never bored, but a lot of viewers might be watching this for the action which, other than the short fight between Godbrand and Isaac, really slows down. This tells us that the show is trying to be more than a generic action adventure story and really delves into the motivations of what could be really one-dimensional gimmick ridden characters, like a Vampire Viking.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
Episode 5: Last Spell
Motivations for Dracula’s side are confronted and confirmed. Isaac informs Dracula of manipulations and Camillia convinces Hector to get them to go to Bralia, the river city. Meanwhile, Sypha, still astounded by the Belmont hold, finds the answer they’ve been looking for – a way to trap Dracula and his ever-moving castle, a way to bring it to them. This episode shows the ingenuity of the heroes and the conniving of the villains. Also, Isaac, who seemed fairly boring till the end of episode four, quickly became one of my favorite characters as Dracula’s loyal human.
Like episode four, this one really only exists to clarify positions and forward the plot. Even though the episode is mostly people talking, take a moment and notice the beautiful background and art design in the show, which was heavily influenced by the work Ayami Kojima did for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The show was also heavily inspired by Cowboy Bebop and Berserk for character design, and Konami had a lot of input to make this show as genuine as possible. These are important aspects to notice. The artists on this show brought their all and it definitely shows and further entertains even when characters are monologing for every other scene.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5
Episode 6: The River
Carmilla’s manipulations come to fruition as she betrays Dracula while the Trevor fends off a horde of night terrors by himself while Sypha and Alucard cast a spell on the castle. Trevor Belmont versus the night terrors is the second best fight scene in this season. We get to see the Morningstar, a legendary Belmont weapon, in action as he battles against creatures, whom I assume are redesigned enemies from the game series, up and down a staircase leading to the Belmont hold, just like a Castlevania level.
Also, Carmillia has a cool scene where she betrays Dracula with her hidden army, and the shit really hits the fan when Sypha teleports the castle to them. In the end, this feels like a set up for episode seven. Even though this episode has the best f-bomb drop in the season, it doesn’t really live up to the rest of the show.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Episode 7: For Love
There is an art to telling a story with fights. Except for a beautiful monologue at the end, this entire episode is one epic fight between our trio of heroes and the opposing vampire forces, and then… Dracula.
The moment when Styria and Dracula’s generals stop fighting each other because our heroes come in is amazing. I don’t know if it’s because they hate Alucard or that they recognized a Belmont, part of a family dedicated to exterminating them, or they just didn’t want interlopers in their fight, but either way it was a stunning scene. The fight between the three of them and the vampires showed exactly how powerful both sides were and how none of the three heroes could have done this alone.
Dracula teleports Isaac to safety when the trio gets there for the fight. Throughout this show Dracula has barely felt like a bad guy, his wife was murdered and he wants revenge, but he still saved the man loyal to him. That’s important, and leads to the fight that both seasons have been building up to.
There are some awesome lines, but I cannot stress enough that this story is mostly told through the fight. Each of our heroes has a moment: Sypha blasts at the vampire lord, while Trevor has a beautiful punching scene where Dracula simply responds, “You must be the Belmont.” But it’s not till all three come together that they actually start to win the fight, and I think if Dracula wasn’t smart enough to separate them, then they would’ve actually beat him the way they planned. This show wasn’t called Trevor Belmont and Friends, it’s Castlevania. The way these three heroes have grown together throughout the season, overcoming their differences and working together, slow and laden with f-bombs and speeches, was completely worth every second. Even if the fight ends up being Alucard and Dracula punching each other throughout the castle.
There’s another character I’ve barely mentioned in this review and that is Dracula’s Castle itself and what a beautiful and foreboding castle it is. Like the classic levels in the game, we’ve been going up and down the castle all season while the war council was feuding and the forge masters were forging, and now we get to see it blown apart as Alucard and Dracula fight through the whole blasted thing.
The way Dracula is defeated is perfect. I would say what happened, but please watch the two seasons of Castlevania. In whole, it’s twelve episodes of pure horror adventure goodness that anyone could enjoy. I’m not a big fan of scary, I have a fear of blood, and I love this show. This episode is a culmination of everything I love in the show.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
Episode 8: End Times
This is an epilogue episode, showing us that the show’s creators, despite the big bad’s defeat, have more stories to tell. Isaac builds an army, Carmilla and Hector return to Styria, Trevor and Sypha continue their adventure against evil, and Alucard finds a new purpose. I enjoyed this episode because it shows that the creators have more stories to tell. This show will have more than two seasons if people take the well-deserved time out of their day to watch it, and this is me, the reviewer, telling you that you should.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
This show has given me a happy Halloween. I watched the whole season in one sitting because I couldn’t look away. I was never bored nor confused, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. This is one of the best animated series of the past few years. Castlevania is a leader in storytelling and has been a truly entertaining source of joy to write about. Director Sam Deats says he’s already excited to adapt Symphony of the Night and I’m excited for that too, heck I’d even love a prequel season with Leon Belmont. I do hope Trevor and Sypha’s story continues in further seasons, but as I said before, this isn’t called the Belmont Show, it’s Castlevania. There are over 30 years of lore to tell stories about, and I’m excited to see what they do next.
Overall Verdict: 5 out of 5