Real Talk By: Cmack The Don
Attention: This Review contains spoilers!
The Konami-produced classic dungeon crawler Castlevania, (written by British comic book author Warren Ellis) has arrivedwhile we’re firmly Into the Coronaverse. So there’s nothing better to do right now than to catch up on shows. It might be a rough time for most of us, but Netflix’s corporate offices are loving it.
Those of you who read my review of the first season when that dropped in 2017 might remember how I made mention that the first season was a “micro-season” that felt like it shouldn’t have even been released yet, and that there wasn’t enough story. It had plenty of pros over it’s cons: good voice acting, great fight scene animation, and a script that merged ideas from several games in the series’ past. Considering the games have been getting produced for almost 30 years and some have been more popular than clothes, I always thought they deserved props for using characters and storylines inspired by games towards the start of the franchise instead of immediately starting off with more recent, more popular installments to set the tone instead.
The second season had a higher episode count that let the story breathe more, and there were even more impressive battles and action-set pieces featured in that season than the appetizer that was the first season, but during the second season I noticed Vania starting to drift into territory that a lot of the anime it’s inspired by tends to venture into: filler episodes. In the second season, the characters spend what I remember to be about three episodes in what’s essentially the Belmont family basement, taking what could’ve been a handful of scenes and stretching them out to pad the runtime of the show. Dracula, Big Drac, The Rad Vlad (okay, nobody calls him that) if you will, in the meantime, was almost a background character in that season, a supporting cast member in what should be his own show, practically until the final episode.
The second season really felt like you got some character introductions, a bit of action at the start, a lot of filler towards the middle, and then out of nowhere a ton of action and battles at the very, very end, which all go by very fast but with some great animation. Well I can tell you that the creators of this season of Vania took all of those vibes and cranked them up double this time around, because we have an even longer season with what feels like even more characters and time that could spent on other things. In short, season three has the opposite problem of season one: now there’s too many episodes and too much story, but the show still keeps its high-quality voice acting, and with the 3 or 4 actual battle scenes that take place, the animation during those is downright outstanding.
I can see why creating a show out of Castlevania must be a challenge, especially if the creators were given a set episode amount to fill out, without any flexibility on that. The story in the games is fairly bare-bones (especially when you face off against skeletons, heyo!!), you head into a castle filled with traps and enemies, and have to fight your way through using power-ups, sub-weapons, magic, and various melee strategies to wade through the hordes. The Castelvania games are well known for boasting fantastic level design; the word “castle” is in the title after all, and even though the four vampire sisters have a castle in this season, very little significant action or story takes place there, so it’s a little odd to have a Castlevania-inspired show with very little dungeon crawling or exploration. It would be a little like having a Mortal Kombat production with no tournament. Those characters are interesting, it could still be good, but would it be in the spirit of the games? My thought while watching was, if the source material doesn’t give you much story to work with, then maybe trying to force too much story isn’t a good idea.
Castlevania Season 3 expects you to follow multiple storylines at once, which is never a bad thing, but they have to converge and play off each other at some point for it to be really interesting, but by the end, there’s not a whole lot of payoff with most of the stories on display. The four vampire sisters, headed up by Carmilla, one of the head vamps in Big Drac’s court when he was alive, for example, have this master-plan to enslave and feed off a large number of humans and create a vampire empire (sounds like a bad punk band). They talk about this plan again and again, and there’s even discussions about logistics, how they’ll afford everything, and geography…so basically the 16th century equivalent of board-room meetings instead of fast-forwarding through all of that and showing their rampage.
Their discussions and planning has no effect on Sypha the Speaker and Trevor Belmont, the main heroes of the show, and Alucard, Drac’s son and the third member of their night-creature fighting squad, spends all 10 episodes moping around his house until a pair of Japanese twins visit him and ask to be trained by him. Think he’ll train them to become expert vamp hunters and that he’ll check on Trevor and Sypha and maybe teleport into battle to save them? That might be cool, because those three characters had great chemistry in the second season, but nope. They instead drag out Alucard training them until they trick Alucard into letting his guard down in a very graphic, out-of-nowhere sex scene that turns into an assassination attempt. It makes it seem like they separated him from the main cast and benched him for ten episodes while introducing two new characters who ultimately got wasted because they went for shock value.
I could go on with a few more examples, and there are interesting storylines presented, it just takes 10 episodes for ideas to unfold that really could’ve been in two episodes, or maybe less. There’s a scene towards the start where a new character, Saint Germain, barters with a local fruit-seller over the price of apples, and it goes on for over 2 minutes. I counted.
I get it, fight scene animations are expensive. So why not make an OVA (Original Video Animation aka an anime movie) instead? Castlevania’s story could definitely be condensed into a shorter format, with three full length movies instead of a 22 episode long series that’s mostly filler. With a shorter runtime, you could keep everything focused on what Castlevania should be about: dungeon-crawling, monster-slaying, vampire fighting action and resourceful strategies used by heroes who are up against impossible odds. The show’s still got all of that, it just packs all of that into the final two episodes, which again I have to remind people in case you guys think I’m a hater, have some mind-blowing fight animation which you can count among some of the best.
For high quality voice-acting, outstanding fight scenes (when they actually happen), and for the most part some good dialogue, I give Castlevania Season 3 three stakes through the heart out of five. Confine the action in the next season to a castle or dungeon, condense the story down to five or six episodes, and pump them full of those high-budget fight scenes, and you’ll have a bloody good time.
Castlevania Season 3 Gets
3 out of 5