Yesterday, Netflix dropped season two of Castlevania. The series is based on the video game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and season one premiered in July of 2017. I really enjoyed season one, though I found it a tad brief at four 22-minute episodes. Castlevania season 2 contains eight episodes and, beginning where season one left off, introduces a lot of new characters.
Castlevania season 2 begins with the newly united Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades and Adrian Tepes (Alucard) embarking on a mission to find and kill Dracula. Meanwhile, for his part, Dracula amasses an army of vampires from around the world, and his two human forgemasters bolster his forces by creating an army of the dead. The heroes make their way to Trevor’s ancestral home in search of information and tools to use against Dracula. Dracula’s general and fellow vampire Carmilla reluctantly arrives at the castle and begins manipulating him and his allies. Dracula’s human necromancers Isaac and Hector start to splinter, disagreeing about what city to invade. This, partnered with Carmilla’s scheming, leads to conflict and betrayal among Dracula’s court, as well as copious bloodshed. Sypha manages to trap Dracula’s magical castle, and Alucard faces his father, ending the three heroes’ mission and collaboration. Carmilla flees with Hector in tow. After being sent to the desert by Dracula to save his life, Isaac begins building his own horde of reanimated corpses.
Castlevania has a gorgeous art style, and the quality is better than most animated TV series can offer. The character designs are appealing, backgrounds sport a surprising amount of detail, and buildings seem dimensional. Dracula’s castle, in particular, is imposing and creepy and has this grand, haunting air to it. Castlevania isn’t my very favorite Netflix animated series, but it is their best looking. The show’s gorgeous settings and thoughtful character animation were more than enough to cleanse my palate after Big Mouth. The music is also epic and beautiful, and at times communicates a sorrowful timbre. It goes perfectly with the visuals and story, and elevates emotional scenes as well as action sequences.
The voice acting in Castlevania season 2 is also excellent; they make a lot of unconventional casting choices that pay off tenfold. Trevor is voiced by Richard Armitage, known, of course, for the Hobbit trilogy, as well as Into the Storm and Alice: Through the Looking Glass. Trevor is unlike any character I’ve seen Armitage play before, but he does an excellent job; he pretends to be a dumb drunk at first, soon revealing himself to be an emotionally complex monster hunter. James Callis brings a truly distinct sound and attitude to Alucard. Graham McTavish, also known for The Hobbit, as well as Creed and Outlander, shines as Dracula. This is another actor in a role I wouldn’t have imagined, as I usually associate McTavish with a thick Scottish accent and surly disposition. He gives Dracula a smooth, unsettling voice with a proper English accent. While Trevor is at least recognizable as Armitage’s voice, I would have never guessed this was McTavish. Character actors are the best for animation because they just bury themselves in their roles, and the vocal performance simply becomes part of a living, breathing whole. Theo James and Adetokumboh M’Cormack portray forgemasters Hector and Isaac, and though they don’t get a ton of focus, they are nuanced performances. Alejandra Reynoso voices female lead Sypha, but all she really brings to the role is an enigmatic accent. Jamie Murray joins the cast in Castlevania season two as Carmilla, and she brings a devilish delight to the iconic figure. Murray portrayed a similar character in Stahma Tarr in Defiance, using her beauty and intelligence to control the men around her. As Carmilla, she sounds similar to Marina Sirtis as Demona in Gargoyles, and that’s just about the highest compliment I can give.
So far, I’m very impressed with the series’ characters, particularly Trevor, Alucard and Dracula. In addition to having such a great vocal performance, Trevor is shaping up to be a very complicated and multi-faceted character, and he’s my favorite up to this point. I also really like Alucard, particularly whenever he discusses his past and his family. His is my favorite character design. Dracula was more interesting in season one than he is here, but that’s natural because he’s gone from sympathetic, tragic villain to nihilistic madman. Carmilla really replaced him as the main antagonist even before his demise. Unlike Dracula in season one, Carmilla isn’t sympathetic or pitiful at all. She’s pure evil, and every step she takes is calculated to best control those around her, even Dracula himself. After all is said and done, I don’t like Hector, but the way she treats him in the season two finale made me uncomfortable. The three heroes have dealt with Dracula, but I imagine they’ll find Carmilla to be an equal challenge, if not an even greater one.
Isaac and Hector interest me quite a lot, being that they’re humans who are willing to help Dracula – and later Carmilla, in Hector’s case. The justification is that Isaac has been beaten and abused by his fellow man, while Hector was treated like a freak for bringing dead things back to life. I think these are good enough motivations and backstories, but I would have liked a more in-depth exploration of these characters in Castlevania season 2. That being said, it appears that Isaac will be a major villain in coming seasons, with Hector a pawn for Carmilla, so there’s plenty of opportunity to do more with them. Of the main characters, my least favorite is easily Sypha. I like the idea of the Speakers and her abilities as one, but this is another character I’d like to see fleshed out more. She doesn’t have much in the way of personality, aside from basic things like being nice and smart. We don’t really see her struggle with her powers, and her exchanges with her male companions are generic. She arbitrarily goes from finding Trevor rude to hugging his arm and leaning on him to sleep. Her relationship with Alucard, meanwhile is nonexistent; all the focus seems to be on the animosity between the two men and the burgeoning romance (?) between Trevor and Sypha. Speaking of that, I’m not sure if those two are supposed to be in love, or if it’s just a genuine friendship. I haven’t played the games, but to me, their whole dynamic seems unclear on top of being somewhat rote. One other nitpick I have is that the heroes spend too much time at the Belmont family home. The Dracula/Carmilla storyline was always dynamic and interesting, but these three spend the better part of Castlevania season 2 at the ruins poring over texts. I can understand that this was done to show how much information is present and how much work it took to find the necessary spells, but personally, I’d have preferred a montage to speed things up and get more action in. This is especially true since, as I mentioned, a lot of the talking between Sypha and her comrades is rather stale.
Overall, Castlevania season 2 is everything I’d hoped it would be and more. The animation, voice acting and music are slightly better than in season one. The characters of Isaac, Hector and Carmilla are very interesting and despicable additions to the cast. The story this season is exciting and interesting, even if I’d have liked the heroes to explore more locales or arrive at the Belmont ruins later. I’d have taken some of that time to develop Sypha, as I think she’s the weakest of the three leads, and maybe to expand on Isaac and Hector’s stories. But otherwise, Castlevania season 2 is creepy, beautiful and extremely competently made. I’d recommend it for anyone who likes animation, vampires, or just wants something to watch for Halloween this week.