By Andrew Osmond.
This blog has already run an in-depth article on Castlevania’s game origins and the people who produced it, which you can read here. The second season carries on very directly from the first, with the three principals – vampire-hunting heir Trevor Belmont, young woman magician Sylpha, and Dracula’s estranged son Alucard – now united. But it’s not much of a team yet, with Belmont and Alucard sniping at each other all the time, like a couple of twelve-year-olds.
But are they the main characters anyway? In fact, this second season is much more interested in the enemies, the people Dracula has gathered together to wipe out humanity. In another twist, two of those people are human. One is Hector, a fundamentally gentle soul who’s kind to puppies and believes that humans need to be “mercifully” culled like any other species. He’s voiced by Theo James, who vampire fans may have met before – he appeared in a couple of the later Underworld films, starting with Underworld: Awakening. Dracula’s other human ally is Isaac, who’s driven by a pure-hearted loyalty to the vampire king, the only being who ever showed him respect.
Then there’s Godbrand, a reminder that we really need more Viking vampires; he’s an amusingly foul-mouthed berk who’s still a lethal killer. And then there’s the beguiling Carmilla, a vampire queen who strides into Dracula’s castle, never hiding her contempt for all the men around her, and is plainly playing games of her own. She’s voiced by Jaime Murray, who you may recall as Lila West in the live-action series Dexter; more recently she was Nyssa Al Ghul in the final season of Gotham.
Carmilla showed up as an adversary in several of the Castlevania game titles, but the character is much older. She originated back in a Victorian novella published even before Dracula, which was famed for its lesbian themes. These were very upfront in a memorable Hammer film adaptation, 1970’s The Vampire Lovers, where Carmilla was played by Ingrid Pitt. There are no such Sapphic themes in Castlevania, at least in this season, but this queen makes clear she needs men like a vampire needs a lettuce sandwich.
Dracula himself largely continues to brood over his lost love and his longing for extinction. As the previous article mentioned, this version of the character may be inspired by the sadder incarnations of Japan’s Captain Harlock. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that this season is setting up “enemy” characters carefully because some of them will carry through to future seasons of Castlevania. But it also makes Castlevania feel akin to some Gundam shows, especially the original series from 1979. These also spent a great deal of time on the rivalries and power struggles between characters who were, technically speaking, the adversaries in the series.
Over on the side of humanity, Belmost, Alucard and Sylpha have plenty of time to get to know each other, as they try to work out how they can possibly vanquish something as strong as Dracula. The answer may lie under the ruins of Belmont’s family home, where his ancestors archived their knowledge in a wondrous library.
Don’t expect non-stop action this season – a lot of it is devoted to character building and “set-up” for seasons yet to come. However, there are some really big fights toward the end, including a humungous and very personal punch-up at the climax. This particular super-barney feels inspired by anime like Ninja Scroll; however, the emotional payoff at the end feels more in the spirit of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the 1992 film by Francis Ford Coppola.