Hanime NON Anime: Castlevania

Greetings, fabulous people of the Internet! Hanime on Anime here and welcome to my second review for Hanime NON Anime! And for today’s review, I’ll be talking about a show that I’ve admittedly reviewed once before. Yes, I mistook this show for an anime but proceeded to review it anyways. Still, I had no regrets as I really enjoyed this show.  It’s arguably one of the best shows on Netflix as we as one of the best video game adaptations. But it’s been nearly three years since that review and two more seasons of the show, so it’s probably time for another look at this show because man, there were some big changes with this. So, without further ado, let’s get started with today’s Hanime NON Anime review (or should I say re-review) on Castlevania!

The show begins with the death of Dracula’s wife Lisa Tepes at the hands of the Catholic church in Wallachia. In response to this, Dracula assembles an army of bat creatures from Primal and unleashes them to rid mankind’s existence. Meanwhile, the sole surviving and disgraced member of the Belmont, Trevor Belmont, stumbles onto the town of Gresit to find it ravaged by Dracula’s army of night creatures. Trevor soon teams up with Syphia Belandes, a Speaker magician, and Alucard, the son of Dracula to fight off Dracula, his dark forces, a few stray night creatures, and a few other odd enemies along the way.

Okay, so it’s actually a little hard to review this show as a whole not only because there have been eighteen more episodes added to the series, but because each season has its own specific problems that I want to talk about. I find it important to cover both because this added boost of content in the past few years has impacted the show significantly, sometimes for the worse. But first, let’s talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the show as a whole.

On the one hand, this show has a lot of great action, some intense gore and violence, and a lot of fun monsters for Trevor and company to tear to pieces.  And that’s where the bulk of the show’s strength lies. The fight scenes, even when it’s just human against human are entertaining to watch and well-choreographed. The animation on them is great, too. The big fight between Dracula and his vampire generals and the main cast at the end of Season Two is especially entertaining. And speaking of vampires, all of the different monsters you see in the show are an especially favorite part of the show for me. Season One sticks to the generic bat-like creatures, but Seasons Two and Three get a little more creative. You get a couple of werewolves, minotaurs, some Incidental fishmen, and even something as bizarre and awesome as these fallen angels from Hell- the latter was actually my all-time favorite in the whole series.  It’s all a fun ride if you like dark fantasy shows like Berserk, and again, the best part of the entire series.  And interestingly, too, there’s also some unique philosophical discussion thrown in.

A theme that was very present in the first Season One was the corruption of large organizations, namely the Catholic Church. And given that a power-hungry and a religiously obsessed bishop was responsible for Dracula’s war on Wallachia, it seems to naturally make sense to talk about the corruption of the church. And despite being a devout Catholic myself, I actually liked this discussion. In a great way, Season One teaches a great lesson to other Christians on how to be a good Christian- aka, don’t persecute people who have different beliefs than you and to use your brain! Granted, the subject can get uncomfortable at times, but I think it’s a great bit of discussion that I think a lot of Christians should have nowadays.

So yeah, there actually is a lot of great stuff going on in the show that I really enjoy, but there is a huge problem with the show that becomes apparent in the second and third seasons: it’s very dialogue-heavy.

While the show has all of these awesome monster fights, it’s only in the very beginning and the very end that we really get to see any of that. The middle of the show? It’s boring! Whether it’s talking about backstories, or exposition, or strategy and battle plans, or some problem in some odd town, it’s almost nothing but talk. Heck, in Season Three alone, four different storylines are going on and only one of them has any decent amount of action! I remember watching Season Three up to that point and felt like I needed to rest my brain because I had so much information thrown at me and nothing to alleviate it. Seasons Two and Three don’t seem to achieve that perfect balance of action and dialogue, and that’s not a good thing. As I said, my head felt so bogged down from all of this extra important dialogue going I had to take a break. Granted, noting my earlier comment, it’s not like any of this extra dialogue is unimportant; all of these bits of dialogue do have a purpose at the end of each season. But the problem is that we get so much of it and not enough action to help balance it out.  Why bother advertising this show as a dark, gritty, fantasy action show when 75% of it is just people walking around and talking about things going on and throwing in a few dirty jokes here and there?

So those are the major hits and misses with the show, and overall, it’s okay since I last reviewed it. Season One is still definitely the strongest season despite its short four-episode run, but it had the best of everything in the show. But Seasons Two and Three had their high points, too, which doesn’t make them entirely bad, just a bit disappointing. Still, I do want to go over the specifics of each season just to show what I thought worked and what didn’t work in each, starting with Season One.

As I mentioned earlier, Season One is still the best season of Castlevania thus far. It achieves that nice balance of gritty monster violence and fights with some thoughtful philosophical discussion on human nature and religion here and there.  But Season One’s biggest problem is the fact that it’s incredibly short. Four episodes are not satisfying enough to keep a show like this going.  Now for something like Primal, it works because the show doesn’t have a linear story.  Castlevania, on the other hand, does. On top of that, we don’t get to see the show’s main antagonist, Dracula, that much either. In fact, he’s only in the first episode. But still, Season One made do with these issues and still did really well. Season Two was another matter.

While Season Two gave fans more episodes and more Dracula, it still remains the more disappointing season for me. Much of the season focuses on Dracula’s generals and their whole strategic planning on taking over Wallachia, not knowing that Dracula is really just pulling their chains and that his whole plan to wipe out humanity is just a suicide trip for him. This was all well and good, but that did cause a major problem. 

The main protagonists were, of course, featured, but somehow Alucard was more of the focus than Trevor was. Now I may be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure Trevor is the main protagonist here, so I don’t think it’s fitting for Trevor to suddenly be demoted to comic relief. Seriously, Trevor delivers some of the funniest lines in the entire show in this season alone, and one of them isn’t even intentional. On top of that, Trevor seems to question being a monster hunter, again, because why not have him question that all over again when Season One made it clear he was going to man up and actually use the monster killing skills God gave him? So yeah, I get that Trevor is supposed to be a funny character but having him be a comic relief trying to do something he already did in Season One was a big letdown. That aside-and you might not like what I have to say here-, I also didn’t like that by the end of Season Two, the main trio actually kill off Dracula.  

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I didn’t want that to happen. I just thought that it happened way too soon. It would have been nicer to way till the Season Three finale to do that, but I can agree that it led to one of the best fights in the show. Still, I felt like this happened way too soon in the series. Killing off the main antagonist that soon was daring to say the least that left me questioning where the show would go from there, but Season Three, fortunately, gave me the answer there.

Season Three very much felt like a return to form with a lot of Season One’s bests. The focus was evenly split between the main protagonists and antagonists and the discussion on corruption in the church made a return (to an extent because it really played out more like a philosophical discussion on humanity). But among other things, like the over-saturated feel of the dialogue, the arc involving Alucard and these two Japanese vampire hunters was written really off. It starts off well at first, but then suddenly spirals off into this sexually explicit moment disguised as an assassination attempt because the hunters don’t trust Alucard. Long story short, Alucard kills them both and stakes them out in the yard. The problem here is that the sexually-explicit part made absolutely no sense. Nothing in this arc deemed this necessary even if you factor in the fact that Alucard is lonely and depressed and that there’s another scene where two other characters are in a sexually compromising situation and one of them gets snared in a trap because of it (and you would probably be happy to know it doesn’t involve Trevor or Sypha even though the show implies that by this point they are a couple and are sexually active). The latter was actually fine because watching that story play out, it made sense that it would eventually lead to something sexual. Having two vampire hunters follow Alucard around and become friends and then out of nowhere have a threesome with him makes no sense and is not all that welcome coming out of the left-field as it does. No, seriously, fans got upset over this and the other aforementioned sex scene between two other characters, but that was for entirely different reasons.  

Make this guy the main villain in Season Four, please!

Oh, and can I say for the record, screw Carmella as the main villain for Season Three! I could have cared less about her and her band of vampire gall pals. Isaac should have been the main villain here. He was actually one of the most interesting characters in the entire season! His character arc here will suffice, but I really hope we get more of him-or as the main baddie- in Season Four.

Anyway, while I liked the return of some of the show’s better elements, I can’t really say whether Season Three was good or bad. In fact, that’s really how this whole series is at this point.

Having gone over every detail I can with this show, all I can say is that the jury is out on this one.  Castlevania is, in fact, a good show with a lot of great monster fights, philosophical discussion, and a few good adult jokes thrown in for good measure. But from Season Two onward, things really slowed down and the writing started to go in some odd directions. I have no regrets in keeping up with the show or my Netflix subscription in the wake of everyone canceling their Netflix subscriptions because of Cuties (which is completely understandable), but I feel like I can only label this as a guilty pleasure at best. It’s good, but not as great as it was starting off. Here’s hoping Season Four will whip things into shape.

And so that wraps up today’s review! Thanks for stopping by! There will be no post this Sunday, so I’ll pick things up next Wednesday with one hell of a review on an extremely popular YouTube project. Till next time, bye!

-Hanime on Anime

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