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[Review] Netflix’s “Castlevania” Is Immensely Enjoyable but Regrettably Short!

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a horror nut who isn’t at least tangentially familiar with the Castlevania franchise. Taking heavy inspiration from the Universal Monster movies, the infamous game series can be summed up as “2004’s Van Helsing, but good”. Due to the series’ enormous success, an adaptation has been in the works for decades now, but leave it to Netflix to actually go through with the project, producing what might very well be the best animated video-game adaptation to date with their new 4-episode series.

Castlevania stars Graham McTavish as the legendary Vlad Dracula Tepes, an immortal demonic being who vows to destroy the people of Wallachia after religious zealots burn his wife at the stake. However, Trevor Belmont (played by Hannibal’s Red Dragon himself, Richard Armitage), the last remaining member of the vampire-slaying Belmont family, reluctantly embarks on a quest to slay Dracula as his demonic army lays waste to Eastern Europe.

The early Castlevania games weren’t exactly known for their attention to plot or storytelling in general, but the series is actually one of the more faithful game adaptations, following the basic setup to Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse and building upon established lore. This approach results in a storyline familiar enough to be appreciated by diehard fans, but also simple and engaging enough that newcomers can easily keep up.

Like in the game, Trevor finds himself accompanied by a series of companions, with their own vendettas against Dracula. These additional characters keep things from getting stale, as a direct adaptation of the earlier games would be rather simplistic. That being said, due to the extremely short nature of this season, to say any more about the plot or characters would ruin what little story we have, so suffice to say that the series does a phenomenal job at establishing fan favorites and their motivations.

On a visual level, Castlevania is downright stunning. The animation is gorgeous and fluid, and the action still has enough weight to it to keep things grounded. While the series still retains much of the game’s Japanese roots, the backgrounds, color scheme and general style are heavily influenced by Gothic and Baroque artwork, without losing track of the franchise’s videogame origins.

Nevertheless, it does feel as though this was more of a lucky experiment than an actual season of an animated show. As a whole, these four twenty-minute episodes feel more like an extended pilot than a complete narrative arc, only managing to introduce elements that will be further explored in the show’s future. So far, the main antagonist seems to be the Catholic church, not Dracula, which seems kind of strange considering the source material. Although a longer second season has already been confirmed, I think at least a couple of extra episodes could have strengthened the show’s impact, allowing the story more time to breathe.

Despite this, Castlevania is still an immensely enjoyable, if regrettably short, experience. I can’t recall any videogame adaptation that I’ve enjoyed as much as this one since Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill. While the episodes so far serve more as an introduction than anything else, it’s one hell of a series opener, and I can’t wait to see where Netflix takes the show next. Hopefully, they’ll include fully cooked chicken dinners hidden inside the castle walls in future episodes.

Castlevania‘s full first season is available now on Netflix!


27 Comments
  • J Jett

    is it just me or does this Dracula kind of look like Luke Evans’s Dracula from DRACULA UNTOLD?

    • Muscle Struts

      It’s supposed to be a compromise between classic Dracula (black hair) and Ayami Kojima’s character design for Dracula in Symphony of the Night (long hair, goatee, pointed ears and long fingernails, etc).

    • Hardcore F’n Mudd

      I watched Dracula Untold for the first time this week and its a much better start to a ‘Dark Universe’ than The Mummy. Its not great, but its definitely better than The Mummy and Luke Evans is GREAT in it! Pity its being disregarded.

      • I still need to see that

        • Hardcore F’n Mudd

          The Mummy? No you don’t man lol!

          • No silly Dracula Untold lol

          • Hardcore F’n Mudd

            ah sorry lol!
            I got it on eBay for £1.75 on Blu Ray with free delivery. 5 times cheaper than a cinema ticket – so why not!
            Yeah it’s OK – great cast and effects but feels very slow for a 90 minute film.

          • no worries thats good to know ill make sure to temper my expectations

      • J Jett

        yeah, i really like DRACULA UNTOLD! i haven’t seen THE MUMMY…yet! 🙂

      • Luke Evans was indeed great in that film! Although the low rating was disappointing. Should have been great to see a universe with these characters!

        • Hardcore F’n Mudd

          The Mummy got even lower ratings and I think Dracula Untold was a better film!

          Makes you wonder will they go ahead with any more Dark Universe films? Reboot it AGAIN? Cancel it altogether?

          I would say keep Evans as Dracula and just pretend its still film one in the universe.

    • HalesTales

      That’s because both are inspired by or based on Vlad Tepes and that’s basically how he looked.

  • Pf Mahan

    I enjoyed it, reminded me of Spawn the animated series, I thought 8 episodes was the norm for a season

  • sliceanddice

    after watching… i have no idea why it wasn’t all strung together into a movie??????

    • Tetra-Gramaton-Cleric

      As I understand it, it began as a film and became a series, which explains why it feels like a fragmented movie.

  • I quite enjoyed it this. I have never played the games except on…gameboy when I was 7 years old. I liked the world and fight sequences. Characterization is spot on but this is hardly a season but rather a prelude. Bring it on!

  • Fracassi

    I loved the Sypha dressed as a boy nod. Hope to see Grant in season 2.

  • Lindsay-Ann Morrison

    Having never played the games, at all, I rather enjoyed it for what it was, and look forward to seeing more.

  • Tetra-Gramaton-Cleric
  • HalesTales

    They really did a bang up job here. I’m really looking forward to more and I hope it doesn’t take them too long to proceed.

  • JPG127

    This was a great series. It was short. But for a good reason. Video game based anything outside video games tends to fail. If Netflix ordered a full season, it could have bombed.

  • boxcar182

    I was never into Castlevania but this short series actually had my attention. I actually sympathized for the antagonist. Looking forward to the new season.

  • bigval

    I was of the view the first two episodes were very slow but the third episode pulled me right in and just such a shame the season only goes for about 1.5 hours. Obviously they hedged their bets and this short season was a test the waters thing and I’m glad it’s expanding to eight episodes next season.

    The voice acting in this was excellent I thought which is not something you can always say about animated shows and I appreciated they didn’t go down the watery marketed at kids route with gore and a bit of swearing. Excellent animation too.

    I used to love playing the game growing up but couldn’t remember the story line that well so it was great being pulled back into the Castlevania world. A solid 7/10 from me I would’ve given it 8/10 if it went for at least an hour longer.

  • Evan3

    I do not understand the love for this. None of the character motivations make any sense (indeed, I can assume Dracula walked the Earth and learned…. absolutely nothing). Simon Belmont doesn’t give a crap about anything, and I sure don’t give a crap for him. The plots are overly simplistic. I’d expect way more, especially from Warren Ellis.

    • Djshay12

      Trevor Belmont, not Simon and I found him extremely compelling as well as the show itself

    • Doctor Dementor

      Trevor Belmont sir……….it’s an adaptation of Castlevania 3

  • Doctor Dementor

    i can’t call this a season, its like a long intro , and i don’t understand why its only 4 episode , there is no Ayami INCREDIBLE design or Michiru Yamane epic and beautiful music but….but besides those negative facts i kinda find this adaptation enjoyable and its satisfying to see Alucard ,Vlad and Sypha animated , i hope also they will add later our ”noble thief” Grand Danasty………..and more episodes…..it will be great

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