Dracula’s Curse unleashed: Castlevania haunts Netflix, all too briefly

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Within the first 10 minutes of Netflix’s new Castlevania anime series, Dracula cries a “bloody tear.” This sets the tone of revenge for what’s to come, giving viewers insight into why Dracula curses the land, the exact nature of the curse and the legend of Trevor Belmont.

What a horrible night to have a curse, indeed.

Episode one, “Witchbottle,” is almost an origin story for Dracula’s curse itself. Following the death of his beloved, the science-minded Lisa Tepes, Dracula releases an army of the undead to ravage the country of Wallachia. OK, sounds good so far. This very much keeps in line with the plot of the games and certainly adds a human element to the story. Now, we have a reason for Dracula’s actions and a compelling plot thread. I found myself quite engaged with this episode and decided to “binge” the entire series, when I would normally have watched one per day until I finished it.

In episode two, “Necropolis,” the viewer learns about the history of the Belmont family through an interesting encounter in a tavern between Trevor Belmont and a few thugs. The tavern scene is amusing in some ways and serves to set up the fallen legacy of the Belmont clan. Following the battle, Trevor finds himself in a destroyed village and rescues a man known as a Speaker from a few violent, egregious clergymen. The Speakers are revealed to be a central, plot-moving group, so I won’t spoil that for you here.

Episode two also covers some plot-building and reaffirms a theme introduced in the previous episode: Those who stand by during an atrocity always have a choice not to do so. It’s interesting the writers would choose to include the theme, and it basically makes Trevor the hero of legend we all know and love from the games.

Episode three, “Labyrinth” begins with some important action: Trevor visits the mausoleum under the city, ostensibly to search for the lost Speaker. He enters the crypt and is promptly greeted by a familiar-looking area for Dracula’s Curse fans: the Cyclops and stone statue of Sypha Belnades. Trevor defeats the Cyclops, releasing Sypha from her stone prison. Trevor then joins forces with the Speakers and vows to save the village from Dracula’s forces. This is a neat reference to the original game and serves as a much more interesting introduction to Sypha than the game had

Episode four, “Monument” is the final episode of the season. Trevor leads the assault against Dracula’s army and both he and Sypha find their way into Dracula’s castle. They find themselves face-to-face with Alucard. After a short battle, the three join forces with the goal of stopping Dracula.

And … that’s it. The season ends there. Each episode is between 23 and 25 minutes long and, watched together, comprise a feature-length anime film more than a TV series. This mini-movie/miniseries feel works, considering the source material, but I felt as if something was missing here. It looks like Castlevania and has some interesting references and throwbacks to the games (the daggers, the axe and Alucard’s sword were nice touches), but it falls flat by trying to tell the story so quickly.

Also, where’s Grant Danasty? Or the pirate ship? The clock tower? I’m sure the writers are leaving some room for future seasons – and that’s a great move – but I really think we should’ve seen the thief-acrobat introduced. Aside from this rather minor gripe, I did enjoy the series immensely.

Castlevania was not only a great film on its own merits, but as a nostalgia trip it was amazing! It’s clear to me the writers are fans of the material and weren’t just throwing something together for a buck or two.

As many of our readers will undoubtedly be aware, I am major fan of the series and feel like we’re heading in a great direction here. I look forward to season two and to how the series’ world will expand.

Visually, the animation is smooth and does not seem to have many issues. The voices are done very well and the voice acting is believable and makes you care about these characters. The soundtrack is superb and is being released on Amazon later this month, so be on the lookout for that. The music was composed by Trevor Morris (Hmm … those two names pop up in several CV games … coincidence? Probably…). It invokes the feel of the games with a symphonic/cinematic flair. I love it and plan to pick up the soundtrack as soon as possible.

Some of the imagery is quite graphic, so if you’re squeamish, the series may not be right for you. The conversations were fun, especially with the F-bombs thrown in here and there, and overall the series was a fun, if brief, ride. I like that the creators went with a dark fantasy vibe for this series. It isn’t so dark that it’s depressing, but it isn’t happy-go-lucky, either. It strikes the perfect balance I look for in this kind of material.

So, if you have two hours available, check out the Netflix Original Series, Castlevania. Let us know what you think of the new series. Did you like it? Did you hate it? What would you like to see in the second season? Feel free to comment below.

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About David Buck

David BuckDavid Buck is an author, musician and media professional based in Colorado. He likes to write about interesting music, video games and science fiction.