When Castlevania’s first season dropped last year, its minuscule 4 episode run-time and lack of characterisation built to an anticlimactic end that left us a little disappointed. With a longer run time, better characterisation and a surprisingly robust story, Castlevania’s second season improves in every way, finally delivering where the first season did not. Although the final episode acts as a 25 minute set-up for a potential third season, there’s enough closure to this story to make the 8 episodes worth the trip, righting the wrongs from last year and delivering a solid, compact story to digest.
With all roads leading toward a climactic fight with Dracula, the season begins with a brief recap of the events from last year before skipping ahead to the main characters on both sides of the fence preparing for battle. After their epic fight at the end of last season, Alucard (James Callis) and Belmont (Richard Armitage) team up alongside Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso), travelling on the road as they prepare to storm the castle and defeat Dracula once and for all. With the humans still reeling after a taste of their sheer strength and power last year, Dracula and his War Council prepare to decimate the humans but descent in the ranks threaten to tip the balance of power before they even get to the starting line.
As the season progresses, both of these storylines eventually converge, with far more emphasis placed on the vampires than our trio of heroes during this period of time. While this works well to flesh out both Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) and Hector (Theo James) who are easily the stand outs of the season, it also gives our heroes very little to do for large swathes of the story beyond travelling to (and eventually hiding out in) Belmont’s family residence. Thankfully, the characterisation is excellent throughout for all characters involved and clever quips and bursts of dry, adult humour help to give these scenes with our trio of heroes a much needed lightheartedness to contrast the melodramatic moments within Dracula’s castle.
Much like last year, the aesthetic in Castlevania is sublime once again. The moody Gothic tone continues and some of the lighting and general landscaping is very well done indeed. From flickering torches casting ominous shadows up walls to the brilliant flashes of red as blood is spilled throughout the show, Castlevania nails its visual design to produce another impressively animated series of episodes. While the season is light on action and big, blockbuster set-pieces, the final couple of episodes increase the tempo and with it, boast a flurry of fight sequences. Much like the breathtaking Alucard fight in the first season, Castlevania’s fights feel more like a dance, with a floaty weight to a lot of them with plenty of slow-framed shots mixed with sudden bursts of movement. Whether this is an intentional move or a limitation with the animators, only the creators of the show can answer but it’s certainly an interesting choice, one that helps Castlevania feel distinctly unique.
The season isn’t perfect though, the sound design is questionable at times and the voice acting really hit or miss. The over-acted dialogue of Godbrand is sure to annoy more than a few people and some of the sound effects feel a little off and disjointed. The final episode does feel like an over-long advertisement for a third season too although the intrigue it leaves certainly means it’s done its job in piquing interest for another season if the show creators can keep up the excellent work done here.
We’ll be the first to admit we weren’t the biggest fans of Castlevania’s first season. While the fight sequences were well shot and the general aesthetic impressive throughout, the unfinished story and rushed characterisation made it a season with some serious flaws. With more episodes to boot this time and a much better emphasis on fleshing out the characters on both sides of the fight, Castlevania’s second season is a pleasant surprise, one that finally does the show justice and produces a season that lives up to the video game it’s based on.