Isn’t it weird that even after all these years there has never been a truly successful video game adaptation? Even after so many efforts from Hollywood to adapt a video game, there isn’t really any breakout hit. It’s sad that while book adaptation have masterpieces like the Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the best video game adaptation is still Mortal Kombat or Tomb Raider that was made nearly two decades ago. Since then people have been asking: maybe movie isn’t the way to go to adapt a video game. How about a TV Series instead?
When the Castlevania animation project was announced back then in 2016 I wasn’t really thrilled. Just a year prior in 2015 Konami did a dick move towards one of the most respected video game developer in the industry: Hideo Kojima. Firing and spliting up with Kojima has turned Konami into the ‘bad company‘ that almost everyone in the video game industry hated. I must admit that even I got swept into the “let’s hate Konami” bandwagon and swore not to touch any of their games and their products anymore. It wasn’t until the first season earned rave reviews that I was interested in watching it. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the first season of Castlevania was actually really solid. I even found myself wanting more of it once the first season – which only consisted of four episodes – ended.
One and a half year later the second season containing eight episodes – double the episode count of the first season – was finally released. Was the long wait worth it?
At the end of the first season the series has finally introduced the three heroes of the tale who will rise against Dracula’s reign of terror. They are Trevor Belmont: the last of the Belmont Vampire Hunter clan, Slypha Belnades: a very talented young magician, and Alucard: the son of Dracula himself. Although the three have totally different skills and abilities, they are united by the common goal of stopping Dracula… but how can he and his legion of darkness be stopped? Dracula himself has summoned and gathered his generals from all around the world. Dracula gave them but one simple instruction: obliterate all humans. And so it became a race against time, can Trevor, Sylpha, and Alucard stop Dracula before he lay waste to all humanity?
With eight episodes I am hoping that the second season of Castlevania would have more time to flesh out its characters. My wish is partially fulfilled. With eight episodes it is true that Castlevania have more times to flesh the three heroes and Dracula himself but not that much. It is because this season also introduced many new characters as Dracula’s general: Hector, Isaac, Camilla, and Godbrand. I don’t feel like the four generals (and many other Dracula’s cannon fodder generals) serve much purpose in the story other than slow the pace down and sow seeds for season three (yes, there will be season three). I also feel that the action this season, excluding the phenomenal episode six and seven, is a bit weaker compared to last season which is more evenly spread.
One of the reason I can think of why the story seems to drag longer than I want it to be is because Warren Ellis’s original script was intended for an 80 – 90 minutes movie. It is clear that the first four episodes in season one is the extended first act of his script while the first five episodes in season two is the second act – which tends to be the part where most movies / series suffers to maintain its rhythm. I, however, very much enjoy two things from the Ellis’s script. First is the banter between Trevor and Alucard where they are trading insults effortlessly; kudos to Richard Armitage and James Callis who showed a lot of chemistry in their voice acting. Second is the inspection to Dracula’s damage soul and mentality. Dracula never showed up much beyond the first episode in season one so this is the first time viewers truly have the time to understand how much the death of his wife has affected him. Many viewers might ask why Dracula’s plan seems so stupid and pointless, even while he is waging his war on humanity. The answer is subtly provided and shows a sad shadow of a man who have lost everything. As much as I love Armitage and Callis’s voice acting, I believe that Graham McTavish who voiced Dracula is the MVP here for his performance: changing the voice of Dracula from quiet anger to burning rage to sadness flawlessly.
Since the first season is a breakout success I have no doubt in mind that Netflix definitely greenlighted a bigger budget for the second season and it shows on episode six and seven. The two major action sequence is choreographed brilliantly and animated fluidly, highlighting the teamwork of the three heroes, accompanied by the soundtrack Bloody Tears from the game. What else can I say but “BLOODY BRILLIANT!”. Character design-wise those who love the artwork of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night by Ayami Kojima (not related to Hideo Kojima) will have plenty to love here for Kojima’s design definitely influence the aesthetic of the series: from its character to its setting design. Also this series has definitely hidden a lot of Easter Eggs for Castlevania gamers to find. Many of the monsters that the three heroes faces in the story are also the monsters that gamers will face on their adventure in the game!
The two seasons of Castlevania proves that creating a great video game adaptation is not impossible. All you need is an understanding of what made the video game series hugely popular, a strong script, and respect to its source material. Thank you producer Adi Shankar for bringing us the story of humanity’s struggle against Dracula. Additional note: as always though, do not take your chidren or anyone below 18 to watch this series because at times it is bloody,