Personal views on Castlevania: Animated TV Series on Netflix

Table of Contents:

Season 1 Review and Opinions

Personal Opinion on the overall series

When I first started watching this show, at the recommendation of Discord users of the r/megaten discord, I didn’t think much of it at first. I thought the premise was fairly intriguing, but I firmly believed it would follow the usual story beats with Alucard, Trevor, and Sypha as the stereotypical heroes. The first two seasons seemed to follow this format; arguably the entire show did for the respective story arcs of the three main cast members. However, what made me completely fall in love with this show was the unexpected, impressionable, and detailed story arcs of Dracula’s only two human henchmen, Isaac and Hector. Hector followed typical story beats that I expected, even if the dialogue was far better than I had thought would occur. However, Isaac’s character arc – with what I thought would be a fairly stereotypical devoted henchman arc – completely blindsided me with how fucking amazing it was. Not only because Dracula shows compassion by tossing Isaac out of harm’s way, which I expected to just be a show of Dracula not being a total monster, but Isaac’s story arc was such a shocking, unexpected pleasure that absolutely carried Seasons 3 and 4 and became one of my most favorite story arcs, ever. I simply cannot gush enough on the intricacies of his plot development and character arc, especially with how it fits so neatly against Carmilla’s arc.

On the surface, it seems as if not much is there. After Season 2, Carmilla beats the crap out of Hector and forces him on foot to a stronghold where she suddenly expects that he’ll magically be willing to create demonic minions for her. Carmilla only understands ruthlessness and seems to expect things will work out as she eyes bigger and bigger prizes without the resources necessary to secure them. Her greed and arrogance, borne from her tortures at the hands of a misogynistic despot, making her blind to the realities that her two other sisters intimately speak of. Whereas Isaac, having a single-minded misanthropic purpose, slowly meets kind strangers but also repeatedly falls back into his habits, because he doesn’t understand nor care for the political or social implications of marching a demon army through cities. The premise of Isaac’s journey is perhaps the most fascinating part of it all; he was devoted to Dracula’s cause of wiping out the human race (even killing Godbrand without anyone knowing to prevent any insurrection against Dracula), but then Dracula himself tosses him to safety because Dracula didn’t want him (a human) to die for Dracula’s cause. The hypocrisy of Dracula’s actions and the confusion it brings to Isaac is utterly fascinating. Dracula “betrayed” Isaac by saving his life and subsequently proved that he was not truly devoted to ending the human race and may have just gone insane from the grief over his wife’s loss. Dracula and Isaac are the closest of friends and Isaac was completely devoted to Dracula’s cause of human extermination, but Dracula placed Isaac’s human life as a value above his plan for human extinction. This conundrum bothers Isaac so much and he realizes that he needs to make a new way forward and forms a new way to live his life after finding joy in the simple pleasures. Having lived as a hermit, he doesn’t fully grasp why people feel threatened until the town just before he goes on a war campaign against Carmilla, where he sees a petty despot having brainwashed an entire city-state to do their bidding and tossing their lives away as if they were just a ball of playthings. Although falling back into his misanthropic habits each time (a brilliant form of realism and not poor writing, in my honest opinion. It makes his character even more believable), he slowly sees the negative sides and comes to understand them when seeing the stark reality of abandoned cities, brainwashed people, and his discussions along the way. Isaac’s discussion with the ship captain and later, the Greek scholar turned talking monster, made him realize there was more worth doing than revenge against all of humanity and pleasure was not intrinsically evil. Isaac changes from whipping himself to keep attuned to his misanthropic commitments, to slowly sharing the simple pleasures of eating fresh food and building-up monuments for future people. Why the change? He saw himself in the Greek Scholar who saw pleasure only in committing violence and revenge for being killed for loving knowledge after betraying his own comrades. He realized that he finally had the opportunity to choose. He slowly came to understand that Dracula’s “betrayal” and Dracula’s utter hypocrisy was because Dracula loved him as a cherished friend.

I cannot fully put into words how much I loved what this built-up to. A Forge-Master (essentially a Demon Summoner who uses necromancy to summon demons) with a demonic army waging a full-scale invasion and war against an army ruled by four vampire queens in a winner-take-all to the death for the purpose of carving out and ruling a massive nation-state that is in the process of being made. Isaac was alone and Carmilla had her sisters to help her, but the difference in why one succeeded and the other failed came down to a matter of faith. Carmilla was good at brutality and had dreams of a vast empire, but didn’t understand the upkeep of resources that it would take to accomplish such a thing. She wonders why all these supposed petty male tyrants never just conquered the world, yet she’s utterly blind to how much her attempts at it are costing her in manpower, resources, and aggravating the faith of her own sisters who nearly get murdered in a surprise attack by impoverished farmers because they didn’t consider basic issues like human attacks from daylight into their account. Carmilla tries to brush it off by hiring mercenaries as a quick fix, but all she offers is the equivalent of band-aids on gaping wounds. Her sisters are little better when taking up the scale of Carmilla’s greed and deluded ambitions (deluded, because Carmilla never tries to be a ruler). Her sisters don’t understand how to rule either. Eleanore is only good at trickery and making reciprocal negotiations to get what she wants, but finds diplomacy useless when it was what was needed most to rule an empire. Her two other sisters think of the horror of fighting endless battles against humans, but never even consider diplomacy. Carmilla actually believes humans will continue to magically breed more in her giant farm-pen turned nation-state project, but never even thinks of why it is slowly becoming impossible to keep the borders under her and her sisters’ control. The thought of starving peasants doesn’t even get calculated into consideration like with Isaac. Whereas Isaac went out of his way to hold back on his misanthropy and begin talking to people, Carmilla thinks quick magical fixes will solve everything. The most important part of this story arc is when Isaac reunites with Hector; Hector has been tortured by Carmilla, cajoled and sexually enticed by Eleanore, and thoroughly beaten down and humiliated at every step. So why, when cowed, did he so easily outsmart and go against them in the service of making amends for his part in Dracula’s fall? Because Isaac represents something that everyone in Carmilla’s court lacked: faith. Not just faith, but devotion to a person who did his best to help them despite his own limitations.

Despite Carmilla demeaning Dracula for his shortcomings, the two humans of Dracula’s court remain utterly devoted to him. Despite Eleanore trying to make Hector change his mind by pointing out Dracula’s flaws and Isaac himself slowly realizing the weaknesses of Dracula’s rule prior to his wife’s brutal torture and murder; they both remain completely faithful to Dracula. It is actually quite easy to understand why. Whereas Eleanore tried to negotiate and get Hector to admit to what he wanted, despite already being enslaved by her and thus making such a question utterly meaningless; when they served Dracula, he . . . let them have the freedom to do what they wanted, respected their privacy, and demanded they be given equal respect among the vampires of his court. Even more than that, he convinced them to join . . . by letting them do what they loved to do the most. Whereas Carmilla and Eleanore thought torture, trickery, and reciprocal favors could negotiate Hector into getting him to do what they wanted . . . Dracula simply let Hector enjoy his pleasure of committing to Forge-work and never demanded he hurry up or do something in his work that he didn’t want to do. The Forge was literally Hector’s favorite thing to do and Carmilla was too violent and stupid to realize that she’d delayed her plan by months because of pointless, banal cruelty. Despite her sisters’ trying to fix that, their treatment of him would always be in stark contrast to Dracula’s implicit personal respect, which Hector felt guilty for inadvertently betraying, and then of course. . . angry at the one who caused him to assist in Dracula’s downfall. Hector showing that he had outsmarted and deceived the four vampire queens by agreeing to their negotiations is actually a more brilliant twist than it is given appropriate attention and credit for. They taught him these lessons, he internalized it after Eleanore’s slavery ring placed upon him, and then he immediately went to make penance on Dracula’s behalf. He negotiated, tricked, and pretended to help to make it easier for Isaac to overthrow Carmilla and to assist in Dracula’s resurrection. Hector was completely willing to allow Isaac to kill him, because he hated himself so much more than Isaac felt angry with him over Dracula’s downfall.

Isaac’s battle with Carmilla and defeat of Carmilla was the best part of the show; not only because of the stellar choreography, but because it was a conclusion to an arc about two emerging empires killing each other in a Machiavellian showdown. It didn’t disappoint and I am so happy the more nuanced and intelligent character won. Isaac has probably become my favorite Muslim character who never lived and definitely my favorite part of Castlevania. His story arc is among the best in my honest opinion. In more boring, typical stories; he’d be revealed to be a Christian from the Middle East. The writers superbly decided to fuck that and made him a Muslim and he’s one of the best parts because of what he does for the worldbuilding, the examination of his faith as a Sufi, and they expound on his personal philosophical beliefs separate from his Islamic faith. He is such a complex and well-written character after Season 2 that I absolutely was thrilled to watch his entire story arc unfold. The ending being a successful conquest of empire was the best, most fitting, ending that I could imagine. Isaac slowly journeys from single-minded purpose to a more driven, compassionate outlook because he sees several villages being what he himself wanted to achieve and realizes that there was always a better way, but he had to choose to pursue it.

The other story arcs sadly don’t compare to Isaac or even Hector’s storyline. Hector’s story arc and Carmilla’s ambitions were my second favorite, but I will say that after Season 2 I loved how Sypha and Trevor realized the problem with their approach as adventurers and how they slowly fell in love to start fighting like an old married couple. Sypha and Trevor learn that it is not enough to just keep saving villages, because then all that they do is react to situations. They slowly realize the enormity of these problems in Season 4 at Tagovista. Sadly, while I liked Sypha and Trevor’s story arc as adventurers as they traversed through various European villages and loved their dawning self-awareness that there needed to be firm assistance to the regular folk so they could eat and live, the story arc of Adrian Tepes / Alucard was just dull for Season 3. The fact Alucard has to casually mention the two people that he staked outside his house and then not have the villagers that he helps in Season 4 see them and give an opinion on it was probably the weakest post-Season 2 writing. It makes sense why he causally mentions it, since those staked bodies are nowhere to be found once the village slowly gets founded outside his castle. In other words, the story arc was of so little value, added nothing to Alucard’s arc, and provided nothing of value for the story that they had to add that dialogue because the entire story acts as if it never even happened. It amounted to nothing; Alucard’s tortured Christ analogy from the injuries is gone unlike the scar from his father’s attack in episode 1, Alucard doesn’t grow or change for the better or worse from the story arc, and the story acts as if it never even happened outside of a very brief conversation. It added absolutely nothing to the story apart from random shock-value for how it ended.

What the post-Season 2 narratives seem to center around is the total lack of rule of law; the complete lack of concern for it by the four Vampire queens without any real awareness on how to manage their dream of a country (the reason the villagers attacked in daylight was because they hadn’t communicated anything to the surrounding villages around them), the lack of being able to have any enforcement of the law such as the parish travelers in Trevor and Sypha’s story arc for Season 3 since they have to follow the village leader’s rules and then discover how they had essentially been helping a monster in his own right after already failing to save his village from the demonic religious cult, and of course . . . the power vacuum left by Dracula’s fall which neither his son nor Trevor Belmont or Sypha could do anything about. They barely had any awareness of the problem, because none of them knew how to rule. Isaac is the only one who came the closest and slowly learned to rule through vicarious learning after seeing real-life examples of his more narrow-minded goals. He fixes the power gap in the region that he conquers after knocking out petty tyrants, but Trevor and Sypha just leave villages to their problems after saving people from the immediate threat of demons and only slowly come around to changing that perspective once Alucard founds a village in Trevor Belmont’s name. However, it’s still only a single village helping a limited amount of people, while Isaac founds an empire to help vast swathes of innumerable villages on a scale that far surpasses Alucard’s achievement.

Overall, this was a pleasure to watch, and I really enjoyed the ending. I’m glad it ended on a high-note in Season 4, but that shouldn’t ignore the weaknesses like Alucard’s utterly dull and pointless Season 3 storyline or how terribly dull Saint Germaine is. Germaine would have been more compelling . . . if we ever learned anything at all about the so-called love of his life. We never learn anything except for a few flash images of this mystery person. It’s essentially a weaker, inferior story arc to Dracula’s own and perhaps was meant to parallel him? Unfortunately, the whole story seems pitifully weak because we learn nothing of this person that he wants to rescue or the circumstances in which she was lost in the endless corridor. It’s essentially skipped over. If there were time constraints, then I don’t mind, because Isaac’s journey was more than worth it all; the worldbuilding and arc of the four vampire sisters was also very good.

I’m unsure how to feel about the final scene of the story. It seems like they intended a longer story arc with Adrian Tepes eventually meeting his parents again, but I actually really enjoyed the overall narrative and story arcs. I just don’t know how to feel about Dracula and Lisa coming back, when so much of the first two Season stories was about the tragedy of their loss and Seasons 3 and 4 were in reaction to the fallout of the Post-War events with so many vying for power. I suppose it isn’t too bad as an ending itself, but if there was any arc after it then the impact of their loss would have been undone. I really enjoyed the show and since it ended so neatly after Isaac’s awesome story arc, I may just add it as one of my favorite shows ever. The dialogue was fantastic, many of the story arcs were well-done, and I ended-up enjoying every character and nuance of different perspectives throughout the show.

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  1. Pingback: The First Season of Netflix Castlevania: In Defense of Dracula | Jarin Jove's Blog

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