Thursday, July 18, 2024

Castlevania Enjoys a Triumphant Return

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Has it really been a year since we last saw an episode of the surprisingly great anime that is Castlevania? I know it’s hard to believe but with so many great additions to Netflix it is truly hard to prioritize what you should watch during this Halloween season. For those like me were eagerly awaiting the second season to this fantastic series, you will not be disappointed. After the debut series, I was left with the bitter taste of having such a quality video game adaptation be on the short side. At an average of just under half an hour runtime and with only 4 episodes, the first season felt like episodic film but this time around the creators opted for double the episodes which I’m sure no one is complaining about.

With the second season comes more fan service to those who loved the game it is based on: Castlevania 3. Not only that, but similar to certain elements of the first season, we see more brought into the continuity from other games in the series, including certain well loved spin-off’s such as Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. All in all, the creators really took a love for this classic series once again, and made something veterans of the series and newcomers a like can enjoy.

For those who need a reminder of what happened last season, here’s a short recap. After falling in love with a Wallachian woman named Lisa, Dracula slowly learns the ways of humanity, until she is burned as a witch for unknown reasons. In his despair, he declares war on the city of Gresit. The church blames a group of Seekers in the area for the demon slaughter that is now destroying their city. Trevor Belmont, drunk and disgraced, is convinced to make them leave but it comes at a price. The elder of the order asks him to seek out his granddaughter who went into the catacombs of Dracula’s mobile castle in order to find a hero who would end Dracula’s reign of terror. When Trevor happens upon Sypha’s petrified body he fights a Cyclopes in order to restore her.

After their return, Trevor is abducted by the Bishop of Gresit and learns he plans to incite the remainder or the city’s town folk against the Seeker’s in order to expel them from the city. Trevor returns to the Seeker’s to warn them and eventually help with their defense. Not long after, the city is upon them and the fight is grand and bloody—even more so when the demons arrive. Before the fight reaches its end, the floor beneath Trevor and Sypha gives way and fall to the Catacoombs where the lonely tomb of Dracula’s son, Alucard, slumbers. He is awakened and fights with Trevor until ultimately being convinced to join our hero’s in taking him down. Now I left out a lot but if you want to see more detail feel free to read my reviews of the previous season.

War Council

In the first episode of the second season, we get a much more intimate look as to why Lisa Tepes was burned alive at the stake, for all accounts the one event that caused Dracula’s current insanity. As we know from the first season, the whole reason Lisa sought out Dracula in the first was to gain more knowledge and understanding of medicine and the healing arts. Instead, it seems that what he taught was the powers of the old world…of natural remedies and cures that were long since condemned by the church as witchcraft and alchemy. It seems her jealous predecessor, the elder healer of the city of Gresit, sold her out to the Bishop and he immediately took action.

As Lisa convinced her husband to see the world to better understand humans and their culture; he was not there to protect. She gave as much warning to the clergy of the fury of his wroth, but they had fallen upon deaf ears and they ultimately sealed the entire fate of Gresit. In his sorrow, Dracula summoned vampire leaders from around the world and an army of darkness to fulfill his plans of first, taking Wallachia, then the world. Among his elite are two Demon Forgers who fans of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness will immediately recognize. Hector and Issac are given the paramount responsibility of planning the strategies Dracula will use to conquer Wallachia. Many of the vampire generals, notably Godbrand a viking vampire, are not keen to follow humans orders and are quite vocal about it.

Dracula in private gives these two humans his motives for trusting them more than the entirety of his vampire generals as they are not driven the thirst of blood or the destruction of humans. Rather their hatred for their own species takes center stage and their lord see’s this as better suited for destroying the human race as a whole rather than seeing them enslaved or farmed. In this scene we get a glimpse of Hectors past in the form of mental voices. His mother saying he sickens her and that she never wanted him. Clearly he was taught alchemy in order to defend himself, but it was not out of love from his parents as we can hear. Apparently he caused a fire that led to their demise as well, it was clear it was intentional.

Back in Gresit, the survivors are doing their best to tend the wounded and rebuild what little remains after the last night horde attack. The Seekers also leave the city to help other cities. Only Sypha remains to aid Trevor and Alucard in their coming fight. The relationship between Trevor and Sypha is quite strained and adorable as the two are so different that it makes perfect for one another. As fans of the game know what happens after the game, but my lips are sealed.

The final scenes of the first episode are dedicated to showing the viewer the art of devil forging and how Dracula’s army is made up of demons, the undead, and the reanimated dead. As their art suggests they are tasked with creating new demons from dead ones. Godbrand comes into also offer his apologies, though it is clear they are not sincere. In the final moment we see the relic that gives Dracula’s castle the ability to transport itself, as it does so to middle of the woods. A setting all too familiar to any fan of the game series.

Old Homes

In the start of this episode, we are treated more delightfully adorable dialogue between Trevor and Sypha about him being just in general an angry person who doesn’t know how to play nice. Duh, he’s no Richter Belmont… The two make their way to Alucard who apparently knows more than Trevor how to be nice. Their first order of bushiness is to find the castle and keep it from moving on them. Yet, Trevor has other plans. He wants the group to return the Belmont Estate, where the library survives and includes generations of knowledge of how to fight vampires. Perhaps in one of the tomes, lies the answer to destroying Dracula. Then we get some wholesome bromance between the two and I honestly couldn’t be happier about it.

Oh, children

As the group departs Gresit, Dracula’s generals continue to disobey Hector and Issac. That is until Carmilla arrives and makes things infinitely worse. Not only does she remark on the fact that he failed to destroy Gresit, but that his generals are a muck, and the most controversial of all: why did Dracula never turn Lisa into a vampire? If it was her plan to piss him off, it certainly worked. Yet she gives reasons to all her outcries. Her first being to basically unsettle all the men there, giving her the position of power and dominance.

Back with our trio of heroes. Alucard reflects on the life of his mother, Lisa Tepes. Most importantly, her role in influencing his father. To Alucard, the centuries that Dracula lived act as a reservoir for all knowledge unlearned and forgotten. The little he showed to his wife was nothing compared to what he could have shown the world. Of course, Trevor is disgusted by this idea and is quick to brand him monster. Now he goes on to his insanity and we see the truth of the transformation of Dracula.

Not soon after they are attacked by yet another famous series boss. The duo Gaibon and Slogra, amongst a group of lesser demons. The fight is both bloody and exciting. We get to see Alucard and Trevor in action with whip and sword. We also get to see some part of Sypha’s true potential as she calls upon great storms of fire and burns the demons to ash. Leaving only one to escape.

Back in the Castle we see some of Issac’s past. He flagellates himself as a vision of his past appears before us. He was a slave of sorts and was being brutalized by what looked like a Knight he was serving, for the crime of reading his books. His cries and pleas were that he was only trying to help and learn in order to assist his master. When asked why, he replies because he loves him. At this point it’s easy to see where his hatred is rooted. He master claims he loves him too and this is why he is punishing him so severely. That is until Issac counters and ends the Knights life. Godbrand appears to give Issac the body of the demon who returned from the fight, so that Issac could help it live again. In these scenes we see the insanity of Issac and the plans he has to see the world purified once more.

Another council follows this scene as the two devil forgers argue over which city they should have attacked. Arges was highly populated and would take the most toll on human life, yet it would cause nearby settlements to empty. Braila on the other hand was the major port city of Wallachia and if taken could prevent anyone from leaving the country. Braila presents an issue though due to running water, which Vampires cannot cross. Issac also gives the news that a Belmont- Alucard alliance has been forged, Carmilla intelligently suggests they attack the Belmont estate and destroy it once and for all. In a heated and passion filled monologue, it seems that the ultimate power in this room is she, which begs the question of what her endgame is?

My name is Carmilla and I’m here to ruin every mans day. I love her honestly

The first two episode we’re both well balanced with story telling and action. The dialogue was excellent and the chemistry of actors was on point. Between Alucard and Trevor we see a sort of respect and also some animosity on both ends. Yet that bromance better endure. Hector and Issac came as much of a surprise to me. As they are never mentioned outside of their game we do know that they were among Dracula’s elite generals. Fans of the game also know that (spoiler alert!) Hector eventually betrays Dracula.

Will we see that in this season? Other questions remain as well, like what is Carmilla up to, what will the state of Dracula’s generals mean for his war as a whole? How surprised are we that Peter Stormare is actually playing a Scandinavian and not a Russian for once?! Okay, maybe that last one is just me.

I am really looking forward to the rest of this season, and I’ll see you all next week for a review of the following two episodes!

Images Courtesy of Netflix

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