I “binged” the first “season” yesterday. I completely agree with the criticisms of the article. We’re used to videogames being rushed out the door before they’re finished, but this is the first time I can think of it happening with an entire TV series (mini-series is probably the best term for it.) Even this abbreviated season feels like it’s unfinished.
There are a few other things holding it back, in my opinion.
In addition to being extremely gory, it’s absurdly vulgar. Weirdly, this doesn’t start until the end of episode 1, when, out of nowhere, we are treated to a goat-fucking story. After that it’s just f-bomb after f-bomb.
There are some major lip syncing issues. Characters’ mouths flap out of sync with their voices all the time, and there are several times where mouths move but the character doesn’t say anything. It’s worse than most anime English dubs. It’s clear they changed the script without bothering to update the animation.
This is a particular problem because it’s extremely talky. If you’ve ever listened to the Talking Simpsons podcast, they discuss how the showrunners in The Simpsons’ early episodes were careful to make sure they weren’t just animating a radio play. Castlevania has long, long stretches of people talking while almost nothing interesting is happening, visually. The entire second episode is basically 3 conversations with brief action sequences to move the story to the next setting.
None of this would be so bad if there was a payoff at the end, but there’s nothing. The first episode basically stands alone, then the other 3 tell a sub-story without adequately wrapping back to the main plot. It feels like an anime procedural, like Ghost Hunt, except they’ve only dealt with one case.
My recommendation, if you are interested but willing to wait for Season 2 (at least), would be to do so.
I think the series definitely has potential (the writing and voice acting impressed me in particular, which, coming from Warren Ellis, isn’t too surprising), but the direction leaves a little to be desired. Still, even in its current form, the story is much better quality than most of the other Castlevania media I’ve seen, and it’ll be interesting to see if the story intersects later with the plots of any of the Castlevania games.
I loved this 'cos it’s British to the core. Like, to the point where it didn’t even register as vulgar because this is just how conversations go here. If you’re gonna do fantasy so clearly inspired by Ye Olde Medieval England, I’d be disappointed if everyone had American sensibilities about swearing.
The lips thing is because lip syncing is hard as shit with the best of budgets, and they clearly put their efforts into the absolutely spectacular fight scenes. All things considered, those scenes still looked phenomenal, and were really carried by the voice actors.
And it’s talkiness is a personal preference thing, I’m a big fan of characters standing around talking in pretty places and this was a HELLA good show for that. Every moment Trevor was on screen was BLISS dammit, I’ve not loved a protagonist so much for ages.
In case it’s not clear then, I fuckin’ loved this. Absolutely belting. Leaned into the horror aesthetic full on with the one kind of horror that still gets me, creepy religious superstition on a vast scale. It feels so much like it’s for me on every level, from the performances, to the art, the worldbuilding and script, everything was just brimming with style and substance. And fuck me that finale was incredible. Alucard and Trevor hamming it to the max, an absolutely stunning fight scene, and a KILLER setup for the next season. Very much looking forward to more Cypher(I think that’s her name, I’m bad with those) and Alucard after they built Trevor as such a fantastic character. Hell, considering how little time they got with the two by comparison they did a stellar job with those two, especially Alucard, who basically had to do everything in one long scene.
Floored me, this did. That’s me inty The Adventures of Vlad the Lad and The Belmont Boy.
This show owns and is extremely fun. It’s also British as fuck which, like, imagine Alien 3 is a baseline absurd levels of superfluous profanity and go from there.
Something that really impressed me about this show is that it really nails the tone I always had in mind with the games with these almost grimdark too macabre worlds offset by some pretty goofy characters and story.
I was also impressed with how much the way the action scenes work and the way the characters move and their abilities and magic takes form, like it looks like Castlevania. It doesn’t look like Vampire Hunter D or Genocyber or Underworld, it just looks like characters from a Castlevania game doing Castlevania stuff, that’s really awesome. And I appreciate how that’s even down to the way when some of the demons are seen spitting fireballs and it’s like the exact way that creature does so in Symphony of the Night.
I’m surprised how close the general progression of the story is to Castlevania III too, not that there was a lot of story at all in the NES game but they weren’t kidding.
Going back and re-reading my comment, it comes across pretty harsh, but I want to be clear: despite my criticisms, I liked it quite a lot. I joked about “binging” it, but for me to watch 4 consecutive episodes of anything is actually pretty rare.
Huh. I had kinda just assumed this would be trash, but now I might give it a shot.
It’s a shame the music apparently isn’t anything special. Like Andi I would lose it if they busted out a new version of Bloody Tears or Vampire Killer or Simon’s theme or Heart of Fire or about a million other classic songs.
I’m feeling some severe Castlevania withdrawal if that isn’t obvious.
I wonder if there’s some weird rights issue or something regarding the classic music. I read an interview with someone from MercurySteam where they said that when doing Lords of Shadow they were specifically forbidden to use any already existing Castlevania melodies/etc. and that the little bits of Vampire Killer in the music box level was sneaked in.
But more realistically not everyone likes the prog rock stuff anymore, like we were never going to get something as awesome as Theme of Simon blasting as the season ends or whatever.
That reminds me of three of my favorite “Castlevania” tracks.
Like most anime series, it took me a few episodes to really get into it. There’s that awkward moment in the second ep where the town-based set-up and lore suddenly appears, and you realize that this is what the entire “series” is going to be about.
And even given that, the first episode is rendered completely unnecessary by a few lines later on.
BUT, when it finally clicks and the characters start working together, it works! Some of this stems from my general fondness for Castlevania in general, though.
There’s definitely some budget animation, acting in places. But I’m impressed overall. It takes until the Cyclops fight and Alucard fight to really see where the budget was really spent. I usually follow Japanese animation studios, which there’re a lot of and each usually has a large resume of shows under their belt and is very structured and I never think of American studios in the same light because household names like Bones, Trigger, Madhouse, Shaft, etc just have SO much fame and legacy behind them. I usually think of the network the cartoon is on, not the studio. So seeing someone like Frederator Studios doing projects like this with Netflix makes me hopeful.
Huh I hope there isn’t a rights issue, I want to hear some of the classic tunes whenever Konami gets around to reviving the series. Regardless of the rights I think you are probably right that the music doesn’t have as broad of an appeal anymore, which is sad because it’s such a huge part of the Castlevania aesthetic.
How were the Mercury Steam games anyways? I didn’t have anything that could play them when the first one came out so I’ve never tried them.
PS. I have a hard time believing the House By the Cemetery theme isn’t actually from a Castlevania game, it sounds extremely on brand.
A lot of game composers in the 80s through the 90s just stole music outright, even major names like Yoko Kanno have done it, so that seems about right. Like if I were given $$$ and told to make a Castlevania game I wouldn’t even have any original music I’d just license a bunch of stuff from Goblin.
The Lords of Shadow series…
1 - Fun God of War style game (I feel weird calling it that since the PS2 Castlevania did the chain whip “God of War” thing three years before God of War came out) with a great atmosphere and presentation, but falls into the God of War trap where you get a ton of awesome moves/combos/abilities but only really need two or three of them for the whole game. GREAT voice acting with everyone in full scenery chewing mode.
Mirror of Fate - An absolute disaster. Lame animation, very choppy, boring levels and action, like I can’t even believe it was released.
2 - A lot of the mechanical and level design issues of the original are fixed, but it also adds a ton of new ones, wasted potential and I didn’t really like it at all past the first level.
I’m not familiar with Goblin, but after a quick look on youtube I’d be down with that.
Now that you mention Mirror of Fate I remember playing a demo of it and being intensely disappointed, particularly since it had been 5 years since Order of Ecclesia and I was jonesing for a new 2D Castlevania pretty badly.
I think I saw Lords of Shadow 1 on sale for basically nothing in the summer steam sale, so I might pick it up next time it’s on sale, it sounds like it’s worth giving a shot.
I am 5 minutes into the first episode and I find myself really wishing the whole series was just about Dracula making friends with an aspiring, idealistic scientist who seems completely unaware or uninterested in his vampirism. Gonna keep watching but I feel like it can only go downhill once the whipping of monsters starts.
The new “season” of Castlevania is out (I’m still a little miffed that they’re calling this Season 2 when Season 1 was barely even a prologue, but that’s neither here nor there.)
After Season 1 was almost entirely about Trevor Belmont, Season 2 has a lot more Dracula in it. There’s more about the Bishop’s murder of his wife, which probably counts as a pretty classic fridging, but there’s at least an interesting angle in that he didn’t even know about Dracula - she was targeted purely for her “witchcraft,” which is really just basic science. The story also brings in two humans who are assisting Dracula, and their motivations.
Plus, it’s got GiantBomb fave Peter Stormare as a hilarious Viking vampire.
I’m only a couple episodes in, but so far Season 2 is off to a promising start, and seems like it’ll be more substatial than the first. If you managed to miss Season 1, it seems like you did yourself a favor as you’ve now got a full story to dig into.