Wow! Two Castlevania articles in little over two weeks? What’s with the massive interest in the whip swinging adventures of the “Dracula Haters” fan club, Andy?
Well, earlier this month, season 3 of the terrific Castlevania anime series dropped on Netflix, and I gotta say it has once again peaked my interest in everything Belmont-esque. So after devouring the remainder of the season in the last week, I thought it was time to give my review of the latest collection of episodes surrounding the cartoon series inspired by arguably one of the best NES games ever created in the legendary Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.
The Castlevania Anime was created by Warren Ellis, who if you have been listening to our podcast, is the creator of “NEXTWAVE!” , Planetary, as well as countless other terrific comics over the years. After languishing in developmental hell for years, the first season finally saw the light of day in 2017 and has since gone on to amass 2 more seasons thus far, each with an ever increasing number of episodes given an outpouring of support from its loyal viewers.
Starring the voice of Richard Armitage as the main character of Trevor Belmont (although I swear up and down every time I hear the voice, I think of Paul Mcgann from Doctor Who instead) and James Callis as Alcuard, the first two seasons of the series fleshed out the main story from the original video game of Trevor’s quest to kill Dracula and free mankind from his evil. This includes Trevor teaming up the magical spellcaster, Sypha Belnades as well as Dracula’s own son, the aforementioned Alucard, just like they can be recruited through the course of the original NES game.
It’s very odd that they don’t introduce the pirate Grant Danasty as well, but season 3 does make mention of a odd pirate who put wheels on his boat and tools around the backroads making a mess of things. Whether that’s Grant or not remains to be seen.
Anyways, with the main story of the showdown with Dracula coming to a conclusion in season 2, it definitely was intriguing to see where they would go next with the story given there wasn’t any more video game to build off of. However, instead of one story in season 3, we were actually given 4 different subplots to follow.
As such the remainder of the article will be yours truly not only ranking the four story lines from “worst to first” but also assigning them individual grades. In that way, maybe folks that haven’t watched the series yet will skip over those parts I thought were less than stellar.
As always this review does have some spoilers, so if you don’t want to read those, please go track down the NES video game instead while I entertain those that don’t give a damn about such things…
The Alucard Story: F Grade
By far, the dumbest, most pointless, most emo storylines I have ever watched in any series ever has to be the “Alucard is super sad” story from this season.
Wow, was this ever difficult to watch at times! It was so self indulgent in its whiny, “woe is me” attitude, that it was almost comical at times with how cringeworthy it was.
Alucard has been by himself for a couple months. Boo Hoo!
Oh look at him depressingly cook meals for himself. Boo Hoo!
Oh he’s made dolls of Trevor and Sypha like they are his BFFs despite only hanging out with them for a hot second. Boo Hoo!
And then weird Japanese bro/sis ninja couple wanna sex him up in a threeway before trying to kill him for no apparent reason. Boo Hoo?
I mean that last part of the story line really just dumbfounds me. Like why did they want to come train under him as vampire hunters, force him to cook them meals, shove their naughty bits in his face until he cries, and then attempt to murder the heck out of him? Like was it a big catfish scheme? Like a couple of con artists taking advantage of a helpless lonely shut in before with the promise of companionship before robbing them blind? Makes no sense.
Worse part is Alucard just ends up killing them anticlimactically and then he’s back to be being sad again.
Again, what was the point of this story? To just be super emo and appeal to the strange “I can’t have real relationships with people ’cause they don’t understand me” loners that might find a hero in the characterization of Alucard???
Yeah, I got one thing to say to those people: Get a Life.
The only reason Alucard is by himself in this stupid story line is because he imposes it on himself. The only reason he gets taken advantage of because he lacks self esteem and lets it happen. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and painting yourself out to be a self absorbed victim of your own story.
And most of all, stop watching shit like this that glorifies that kind of garbage. This stuff is counterproductive to being a normal healthy member of society, I feel. Harsh, but true.
The Hector/Sisters story: C- Grade
One of the main story lines of season 2 was the rise of Camilla, a platinum haired bombshell of a vampire queen who conspired with one of Dracula’s forge masters named Hector, to overthrow him, after she felt his plan to kill all of the humans to be utter bollocks.
In season 3 we see the fallout from that scheme as Camilla returns to her home kingdom and reconnects with her “sisters” as it were, 3 other female vampire lords who reign with her in a quite progressive democratic cooperative. Not that they were elected mind you. It’s still more of an oligarchy, but it’s democratic in the sense that the 4 listen to each other and make decisions as a group without a clear “leader”.
The exploration of this as a power structure within this particular world makes for a pretty interesting story line especially the lesbian relationship between the council members of Morana and Striga, who other than maybe Trevor and Sypha are the most realistic and loving couple we’ve seen on this show. They have some really great scenes as they discuss how to inact Camilla’s latest scheme of conquest, and like a old married couple, it’s wonderful to see them plan with genuine affection for one another. Hopefully, we’ll get more of them in future seasons for sure.
However what brings the grade down is the somewhat hackney subplot between the sister Lenore and the captured Hector, as she manipulates him pretty blatantly into becoming her submissive slave. In a twist you could see from a mile away, Lenore uses sexual seduction to magically bond Hector to her as a “pet”, and Hector, being the gullible dumbass he was in previous seasons falls for it.
It’s as corny as anything you might read in a cheap romance novel with the beautifully ravenous vampire temptress and her unwitting prey, and it’s utterly amazing that Hector can’t see what she’s exactly doing through out. That is unless he does actually see it and he really doesn’t care. There are some people that give up their free will the moment any pretty face winks in their general direction. Maybe Hector is one of those jokers?
It’s sad, but probably true.
The Issac Story: B+ Grade
We were introduced in previous seasons to Issac, the other one of Dracula’s forge masters, a form of magic user that can create the demonic “night creatures” by connecting dead bodies to souls from Hell. We also were introduced to the fact that he was kind of a jerk. Similar to Alucard, he was a whiny antisocial little prig who due to the fact that he had been victimized earlier in life thinks its “okay” that Dracula wants to wipe out all of humanity.
However, unlike Alucard, who sees no personal growth in Season 3, it could be argued that Issac is one of the main protagonists of this batch of new episodes. Yes, although he could technically be seen as a “villain”, and yes, he does start the season as the same self righteous turd bent on making people suffer just because he did, Issac sees some pretty decent personal growth as the episodes progress.
This is thanks in large part to the kindness of a shop keeper who gives him the gift of a new magic mirror and more importantly, a world savvy ship captain, who urges Issac to stop wallowing in self pity and blaming others for his misfortunes. He connects with Issac like a life coach would, challenging him to take control of his own destiny and use his gifts to end the injustices of the world instead of just creating more of them.
As such, although Issac controls an army of demons, you begin to see them more as an army of the disenfranchised, and like Issac, they are cast as more of a revolutionary force vs. a purely destructive one.
It doesn’t hurt that by the end of the season, Issac faces off again this nameless magician jabroni who has enslaved an entire city through mind control, which compared to Issac’s crimes is a lot worse. As a result, we end up rooting for him as somewhat of an anti hero and cheer for the fact that although his inner strength is tested severely, Issac comes to triumph in the end.
I smell a full on face turn for this fella in future seasons…just saying.
The Trevor Belmont/Sypha Belnades Story: A+ Grade
Okay, so this is a no brainer.
I mean let’s not mince words here. Of course, the main reason to watch any Castlevania show or play any Castlevania game for that matter is to experience the continuing saga of the most famous characters from this entire series: The Belmonts. I’m sorry, everything regardless of how great or how poor it is, is just plate dressing like sprigs of parsley compared to the Belmont Saga. This is the meat and potatoes of this meal, and so it better deliver on satisfying your hunger.
Luckily it did as their adventures in town investigating the strange monster which has corrupted a local monastery and converted its followers to resurrecting Dracula was intensely gripping. It was the story I waited every episode for the show to get back to and could have honestly done without everything else.
Although some may decry the simplistic approach to their arc in this season as just a traditional “monster hunting heroes for hire” story, I feel it accomplished so much through it’s tensely plotted unfolding mystery in a small town. The small town portion of this is key as I believe just as the Judge does in the story, that things that happen in small towns take on so much more significance than what happens in big cities. You get to know the players in such a more intimate fashion that whether they live or die has so much more of a greater significance.
These are the hundreds of thousands of people that Dracula was going to slaughter in his plan to cull the human race in seasons 2. These are the people sitting down to dinner, walking around in the market square, even the young boy and his love of fresh apples. They have faces. They have stories. Heck even the monks that have been converted to evil are so much better as villains because they have real personalities which we can rally against. All told, the smaller stakes of this arc in Season 3 really help to ratchet up the drama in my opinion, and I would like to see more of this in future seasons.
Plus the season introduces Saint Germain, the time and space traveling, magician scholar from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, voiced by the impeccable Bill Nighy, which helps not out flesh out the Belmonts supporting universe but again helps humanize everyone by showing that our main heroes do value life and friendship most of all, and are willing to help each other out when needed.
However, more than just that, this story delivers on continuing what is arguably one of the most important story lines in all of the Castlevania Saga which is the courtship of Trevor and Sypha. We all know that eventually these two will reignite the Belmont family legacy, rebuilding the now tattered remains of this proud line of monster hunters and siring children which will not only carry on that reputation, but bring it to even greater heights of notoriety through the actions of some of their more famous descendants such as Christopher Belmont, Ritcher Belmont, and of course, the great Simon Belmont.
But, very important relationships can not be rushed from a narrative perspective. They need to be savored, with each unfolding chapter adding complexity and nuisance. This season does that perfectly as they are definitely a couple by this point in the sexual sense of the term, but they are still discovering how deep their commitment to each other is and surprisingly “made” for one another the other person is.
For me, my favorite scenes from this season that highlight this include the demon fight at the Priory in episode 9 is which Trevor pinned down by trident watches as Sypha is launched hundreds of feet in the air by an attack and for a moment fears that she has met her demise. But true to form Sypha fires up the magical after burners and hovers high above the battlefield continuing the barrage of icy spire attacks on their enemies.
This moment of resolute defiance in the face of death galvanizes Trevor to take the battle to his demon unleashing a chain whip beat down of epic proportions. In this simple scene, Trevor acknowledges that he has found a partner in life which he doesn’t have to worry will leave him for the grave like so many of his family have, and as such he can focus with his full heart on the task at hand, mainly the ass whooping of the monstrous denizens of Hell.
Of course, there’s also the scene when they are in bed together and Sypha rolls over on his chest as they are talking about helping Count St. Germain find the Infinite Corridor and Trevor mentions that they keep finding themselves in our people’s stories.
To which Sypha responds: This is our story, Trevor. This is always our Story.
And indeed it is. If you for one second think otherwise, you are fooling yourself. All of this is just a part of Trevor/Sypha’s story. Every single scene. It’s the story of the Belmonts.
That’s what Castlevania is all about.