I don’t really consider myself a Castlevania aficianado, nor an expert on the series’ lore. My first encounter with the games was Symphony of the Night on the original PlayStation, then later the Nintendo DS games Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin, and Order of Ecclesia. I enjoyed the 2D action-RPG combat and plethora of weapons and abilities that you could use; the dungeon exploration mixed with puzzle-solving; and the bestiary of ghouls, goblins, and wicked monstrosities.
I also really appreciated the background story and setting for each of the games, and the Netflix series has done a good job of summarising all of it: The lineage of the Belmont bloodline and Belnades family as vampire hunters and magical sorcerers respectively; Alucard’s half-vampire heritage and why he chose to side with humanity. They’re all adapted quite faithfully for the animated series and are brought to life with the superb British voice acting. I mean, it stars freaking Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont and Graham McTavish as Dracula, both very well-known and accomplished British actors.
One thing I like about Netflix is how you can access different language dubs by switching your account profile’s language settings. I was very eager to listen to the Japanese dub, and was absolutely thrilled that Alucard’s JP voice was done by Shinichiro Miki. I recognise his voice instantly, anywhere and anytime: His most recent, prominent role was in Dragon Ball Super as the voice of Zamasu. If you’re a frequent anime watcher of the last few years then you’ve no doubt heard Miki’s voice before. He likes to play villainous or morally ambiguous characters.
Castlevania is rated M18, and I soon discovered why. It’s a very violent series, more violent than most anime shows airing on Japanese TV. There’s a lot of blood, decapitations, and organs being ripped out. Such a level of violence would never make it past TV censors, so I guess this is one advantage of being a Netflix-exclusive show.
The action sequences for some of the fights are very well-executed. I’ve gone back and replayed the duel between Alucard and Trevor several times now. It’s easy to follow, choreographed in a manner that makes the battle feel impactful, and depicts the immortal powers of Alucard and the human resourcefulness of the Belmonts in series-faithful fashion.
I also loved how it took 11 episodes for the classic Vampire Killer theme to appear in the show. If you’ve ever played any Castlevania game, you’ll know how it sounds like. The build-up to that moment was great and it’s a subtle reference meant for fans of the series.
Speaking of Netflix, I have no idea how Konami and Netflix collaborated to produce this series. What was the level of involvement, if any, that Konami had on production? If my gut feeling is correct, I think the answer is zero: Konami have been treating their videogame properties like trash for the past few years. You’ve no doubt heard many negative reports about how they mishandled and mistreated their employees over Metal Gear Solid V. That level of ineptitude also extends to their Castlevania series: The last “proper” Castlevania game, Lords of Shadow 2, came out in 2014. This was followed by a pachinko game in 2015 (I’m not kidding), and after that a Castlevania mobile game will also be released.
For fuck’s sake, Castlevania on mobile??
That’s a discussion for another day. Let us celebrate the wonders of Netflix instead, an online-viewing platform that is bringing so many adaptations that no one asked for to life on the big screen. I have resisted Netflix for the longest time because I’m a traditionalist for physical media — if I really like something, I will go out and purchase it to add to my Blu-ray collection.
Castlevania, Stranger Things, Daredevil, they’ve all shown me that sometimes, it’s ok to go full digital. Also please give us more Japanese dubs. It is very important.