After well over a year of waiting, Drac is back with Netflix's second season debut of Castlevania. This week, Nick and Andy find out if this spooktacularly gory action series was worth all the dramatic buildup.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
Welcome everyone to the second part of our This Week in Anime SPOOKTACULAR! We're closing out the ghastliest time of the year with another HAUNTING show of frights and terror! Let's get into a series that will leave you all SCREAMING for more! Chills and thrills await i--
Wait, October's over already.
Netflix dropping an entire season at once is spooky no matter how late it happens. You think you had other plans? Too bad. Netflix is your god now.
So yes, today we're covering the second season of the CASTLEVANIA series, and in doing so opening ourselves up to the most frightening specter of them all: arguments about whether or not something counts as anime.
For the record, here is my stance:
Cuz anime or not, Castlevania kicks ass.
The clear answer is that this is a Japanese video game and thus immune to the anime-or-not discussion. Where else would you find a party of a Warrior, a Wizard, and a chuuni overpowered OC whose darkness is just too much for ordinary humans to understand.
If only every brooding Dhampir protagonist in fiction had a couple of randos to call him on his shit.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For those who missed the four-episode first "season" of Castlevania, the plot goes thusly: Claude Frollo killed Dracula's human wife, so now our boy Drac is on a quest to burn the whole damn country to the ground in revenge.
And the only people who can stop him are, well,
They're the best. Warren Ellis has never found a cliche he didn't love, but that's fine by me when they're as fun to watch as this group of idiots. Castlevania bills itself on horror and gore, but when you come down to it, the character writing is what kept me going the whole time. And it isn't just the journeys of our protagonists, because in the end I think we spend less time with them than we do our antagonist Dracula and his war council.
This includes the best character in any vampire story ever, Peter Stormare doing a bad accent.
Yes, God Bless Godbrand the walking shitpost vampire. We can't talk about Castlevania without talking about its most defining feature. It is a graduate of the Warren Fucking Ellis School Of God Damn Dialogue Writing.
Which means you get fairly serious and even poetic musings about the nature of trust and loyalty in a collapsing world alongside
Is Dracula sitting on his throne? Prepare for grandpa to wistfully long for his dead wife while condemning the vile nature of humanity. Is anyone else in the room? You best be ready for vampires to discuss whether or not a bath counts as running water that would kill them.
It's beautiful. The juvenile humor fits perfectly with the juvenile philosophy, in a story that's basically an excuse to build up animated bloodshed, it works perfectly.
It's a weird combo that absolutely wouldn't work in a less confident production. But from the word go, Castlevania exudes confidence like few other series. After the bloody and brutal first season, you'd expect more of the same as our assembled heroes crusade their way to Dracula's throne room, but instead season two spends the majority of its runtime building up the twisting alliances and betrayals in Dracula's court of vampires.
You know Dracula is truly dead inside when he appoints humans to run his war and then doesn't even have it in him to drink up the ensuing drama.
It turns out our Big Bad is more of a Big Sad, and he's invited the entire world to his pity party in hell.
That's a pretty interesting twist. Instead of the conflict being "How Kill Vampire?", the question of the season is how will the power vacuum shake out when the big guy is toppled, and who's going to be the one to do it?
Will it be the sad kids?
The humans who've turned against their kind?
Or just one really annoyed vampire lady?
Or will it be GODBRAND?
I mean, he does have insights sometimes.
When your master plan is decoded by the dumbest vampire, you might have a bad master plan. Just saying.
True, Drac's plan is mostly to lie about the exact scope of his genocide plot and then sit on his ass while everyone else does the work. But I think the show does a good job of showing that he's not in the rightest of minds, just desperately dealing with grief in the least healthy way possible.
And I appreciate that basically everyone calls him on it and refuses to be dragged down into his bullshit. Carmilla especially is just done with everyone.
She is the vampire queen of ice cold burns.
You can't help but root for her, even though her winning would probably be the worst outcome for humanity.
This woman has spent centuries surrounded by brooding immortal edgelords stroking their own angst boners. And Godbrand. I feel for her more than anybody else.
I also have a sweet spot for her gullible sidekick Hector. The dude is just plain too dumb. First he's suckered into Dracula's plan, and then just as easily suckered into betraying Drac when he realizes he was lied to. He really is a naive child at heart, and maybe if generic fantasy townspeople weren't so judgmental about zombie pets, he never would have come into Drac's service.
I mean come on, do you really chase a guy outta town for this?
Who's a cute little abomination before god? YOU ARE!
Hector's a good boy! And not just because I feel like he'd love Sankarea as much as I do.
Hector is too pure to have a zombie fetish.
Though my personal fave of the cast has got to be Isaac. He's the one character who's truly in on Drac's plan and still loyal (and misanthropic) enough to go through with it.
Also he's just a sass master.
Then much like Dracula's court, we are at odds. I can never forgive this Da Vinci code motherfucker for robbing us of more Godbrand.
Godbrand was too good for this world anyway. We didn't deserve him. He's in a better place now, fucking boats in Hell where he belongs.
It's just what vikings love to do. Not that Isaac would understand. He may be fully on board with Vamp Daddy's plan, but even he misreads the situation. While the vampires are dismissive of the idea of loving a human at all, much less it being the motive for war, Isaac mistakenly thinks his truth that love simply does not exist has finally dawned on Drac.
So I love that this gets thrown in his stupid face when Dracula saves him out of genuine affection and friendship (and so that we can have a season 3).
He's a fascinating character study. While just about everyone in this show deals with mistreatment in unhealthy ways, Isaac channeled all the anger at how the world's dehumanized him into total misanthropy. And it was genuinely sad to see him break down when Drac saves him.
In general that's Castlevania's biggest strength. It can make you feel sympathy for even complete monsters (vampiric or otherwise) by giving them complicated, messy, human motivations.
Completely agree. Even if it does delve into ridiculous and melodramatic territory, those things are also what make it work. Each character gets to share a relatable worldview, spout a few quips and barbs, and then occasionally do something flashy and video-game-like, which is probably what got the series greenlit in the first place. The second season has even more standing and talking than the first, but when they decide to turn it out, we get some great moments. Basically the entire thing is a build up to The Brawl in the Hall where we see the animators translate game to screen.
Like Alucard turning into a wolf while murdering vampires with his flying sword.
So is that like a real thing in the Castlevania games? Because I was genuinely confused why this show turned into Wolf's Rain for a hot second.
Yup. Symphony of the Night has a system where Alucard gets to transform into baddies, so we get it in the show. Hector in Curse of Darkness has to use familiars, so of course he makes the baddies. Sypha's spells in combat are pretty much directly lifted, and
Treffy gives us all the whipping goodness fans have come to expect.
The fact that they didn't feel the need to point out what they were doing is something a lot of fantasy shows should take note of. It kept things fun and flashy without ruining the pace to explain esoteric lore from the source material.
But yeah, after six episodes of quiet buildup, Castlevania just fucking explodes for its climax. Teleporting castles desolate a city. A zombie priest self-destructs by blessing an entire river into holy water.
Sypha just casually immolates a dude...
Just when I thought I couldn't appreciate her any more than I already do, she whips out goddamn Burning Finger.
I just love that stroll she does after it too. You just know that five minutes later she was like, "Fuck I should've said 'Talk to the hand!' back there..."
The girl is confident and I love it. The final showdown is pretty anime in that it makes a big deal out of our three heroes coming together with conviction to take down Dracula, who then beats the shit out of them because he's still motherfucking Dracula.
That whole final fight is sick, and I don't want to talk too much about it because folks really ought to check it out for themselves. Especially the resolution which, while somewhat cliche, lands with genuine emotion among all the super vampire fireballs and whatnot.
Fair point. In that case, I simply want to address one thing about Dracula's powers. That is a sweet-ass wolf plushie. That's craftsmanship. It's no wonder Alucard turns into one now.
The real curse of Alucard's bloodline is that his dad turned him into a furry.