Castlevania (TV series)
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse|
|Written by||Warren Ellis|
Ryoichi Uchikoshi (co-director)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||4 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||23–25 minutes|
|Original release||July 7, 2017– present|
Castlevania is an American adult animated web television series based on the 1989 Japanese video game Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse by Konami. The series follows Trevor Belmont, who defends the nation of Wallachia from Dracula and his minions.
The series was originally planned as a film, developed by producer Kevin Kolde and his company Project 51, and subsequently by Frederator Studios when Kolde joined the same company in 2005. Kolde had a contract for a script with writer Warren Ellis in 2007; the project entered development hell until about 2015, where it finally found a global home on Netflix. Animation studio Powerhouse Animation Studios joined the team and production commenced. Its art style is heavily influenced by that of Japanese anime and Ayami Kojima's artwork in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, with the production team including staff members who worked in the Japanese anime industry. The series premiered on the Netflix streaming service on July 7, 2017, and was renewed for an expanded second season of eight episodes on the same day; the second season is expected to broadcast on October 26, 2018. According to lead voice actor Richard Armitage, a third season has been greenlit by Netflix.
When his wife is burned at the stake after being falsely accused of witchcraft, the vampire Count Vlad Dracula Tepes declares all the people of Wallachia will pay with their lives. He summons an army of monsters and demons which overruns the country, causing the people to live lives of fear and distrust. To combat this, the disgraced monster hunter Trevor Belmont takes up arms against Dracula's forces, aided by the magician Sypha Belnades and Dracula's dhampir son Alucard.
- Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont, the last living member of the Belmont clan, a disgraced family of monster hunters.
- James Callis as Adrian Tepes/Alucard, the dhampir son of Dracula and Lisa Tepes, who seeks to protect humanity from his father.
- Graham McTavish as Vlad Dracula Tepes, a vampire who swears vengeance on humanity for the death of his wife Lisa, summoning an army of monsters to destroy all the people of Wallachia.
- Alejandra Reynoso as Sypha Belnades, a Speaker and the Elder's granddaughter who wields powerful magic.
- Tony Amendola as The Elder, the leader of a group of Speakers aiding the people of Gresit whom Trevor befriends.
- Matt Frewer as The Bishop, a clergyman who orders the burning of Lisa Tepes for witchcraft, later being named the bishop of Gresit before being killed by Dracula's demons.
- Emily Swallow as Lisa Tepes, Dracula's beloved wife who is burned at the stake after being falsely accused of witchcraft.
In March 2007, Frederator Studios acquired the rights to produce an animated film adaption of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, intended as a direct-to-video production. Frederator brought writer Warren Ellis aboard as the screenwriter for the series. In an interview with Paste, Warren Ellis said that when he was contacted about Castlevania he had no previous knowledge of the series and discovered it was a "Japanese transposition of the Hammer Horror films I grew up with and loved". Ellis explained how he worked with Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi to fit the film into the timeline of the series, including writing a new backstory, and how he was frustrated that Igarashi wanted eight full re-writes of pre-production material before giving approval. Ellis noted that Frederator's Kevin Kolde, who was slated to produce the work, did not want the film to be aimed at children, allowing Ellis to use gruesome imagery and scenes as necessary to tell the story he wanted to write, something that Ellis had found restrictive in working with normal television animation.
In adapting the game for the film, Ellis did not want to make a point-for-point adaption, but instead provide some material to flesh out the game's world and elements behind it. At this stage, the film was anticipated to be only 80 minutes long, which Ellis knew would not be enough to tell the full story he wanted, so was able to break apart his script into a trilogy of works, each part having a self-contained three-act structure; the first part would be to introduce the characters of Dracula, Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard and with a meaningful narrative resolution. In this manner, Ellis noted that if the other two parts were never greenlit, the first work "doesn't demand the presence of the other two parts for it to work as its own thing". Due to the limited time, Ellis opted to drop Grant Danasty, a pirate character in the game; Ellis noted that besides "the stupid name", he felt the pirate was misplaced in the setting and that the limited run time would not allow him to develop the character fully.
Sometime around 2008, work on the production stalled, and entered development hell. Ellis had completed his script in June 2008, and the show's production blog had said in August 2008 that they were shopping around the idea as a theatrical release, but no further updates followed before the blog was quietly deleted.
Around 2012, Adi Shankar was approached to direct a live-action version of Ellis' script. Shankar, who at the time had just finished work as executive producer of Dredd, said that the party was looking to make a film in the style of the Underworld films with a similar budget, representative of a small studio with large independent backing. Shankar turned the opportunity down, saying it felt "250 percent wrong", as he had deep respect for the original game and felt the live-action version would not treat it well. Following this, Shankar stepped back from Hollywood to pursue more self-published works, stating that "the major studios were blatantly disrespecting fandom" as a reason he turned down the offer.
The show was revitalized when Powerhouse Animation Studios's Sam Deats was able to negotiate a deal with Netflix for the production, using the existing scripts that had been written nearly a decade prior. Powerhouse reached out to Frederator to help with the show's production. According to Ellis, Netflix was very positive about his original scripts that he wrote in 2007, and so he had to only make a few changes to fit the Netflix format while staying true to the version of the script Konami had accepted. Shankar was approached with the opportunity to produce the work, which he took as neither Powerhouse or Frederator sought to restrict his creative vision from Ellis' scripts. Fred Seibert and Kevin Kolde of Frederator Studios also co-produce. The series was animated by Frederator Studios and Powerhouse Animation Studios and directed by Sam Deats. Trevor Morris composed the show's music.
The show's art style was heavily influenced by the work Ayami Kojima did for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. They also took ideas from director Satoshi Kon's works for character expressions and series such as Cowboy Bebop and Berserk for inserting humor among the more serious elements. The show is produced using 2D hand-drawn animation, taking cues from Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D, with staff members that previously worked on Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. The manga series Berserk and Blade of the Immortal were also cited as inspiration, with one of the show's animation directors having previously worked on the Berserk films. The production works closely with Konami, the holders of the Castlevania franchise, who helped to identify small continuity issues but were otherwise very receptive towards the work.
Two seasons of the show have been planned, with the first season of four 30-minute episodes released on July 7, 2017. This season represents the first part of the trilogy that Ellis has laid out in 2007. The second season will be eight episodes long and is planned for release on October 26, 2018. Ellis said that the second season, completing the trilogy, is where he had been able to deviate somewhat from the game, and has been better anticipate the show's release on Netflix in terms of scenes and episode lengths. Shankar believes that there is an opportunity for more stories to be told borrowing from other games in the series, noting that overall he sees the series as "a story about a family and multiple generations of this family" with many tales to draw from. The production team for the second season will include staff members who worked on Madhouse productions such as Death Parade.
Season 1 (2017)
|No.||Title||Original release date|
|1||"Witchbottle"||July 7, 2017|
|In Wallachia in 1455, a young woman named Lisa who wishes to be a doctor seeks out Vlad Dracula Tepes, a vampire with advanced scientific knowledge. Intrigued by her courage and ambition, Dracula agrees to teach her, while she in turn offers to help him reconnect with humanity. The two eventually fall in love and marry. Twenty years later (1475), in the town of Târgoviște, Lisa is burned at the stake after a Bishop discovers scientific equipment in her home and accuses her of witchcraft. Dracula is devastated and furious upon learning of his wife's death and declares the people have one year to make their peace, after which every human in Wallachia will die by his hand. His son Alucard tells him to instead go after the man responsible instead of all of humanity, but Dracula refuses to listen and attacks him. One year later, the Archbishop hosts a celebration in defiance of Dracula. As promised, Dracula kills the Archbishop, destroys the church and orders his demon army to kill every person left in Wallachia. As the army spreads across the land, the people place the blame on the kingdom's noble families, including the Belmonts.|
|2||"Necropolis"||July 7, 2017|
|Following an altercation at a pub, Trevor Belmont seeks food and respite in the city of Gresit, which has been besieged by Dracula's forces every night. As he passes through town, he learns that the townspeople blame a group of magic users known as the Speakers for Dracula's assault. He saves their Elder from a pair of corrupt priests, who brings him back to his home to meet his fellow Speakers. Trevor insists they leave the city for their own safety, but the Elder refuses, as his grandchild has gone missing after venturing into the catacombs below the city in search of the "sleeping soldier", a legendary hero who they believe can defeat Dracula. Begrudgingly, Trevor agrees to retrieve the missing grandchild.|
|3||"Labyrinth"||July 7, 2017|
|Exploring the catacombs, Trevor realizes that they have been unusually constructed and contain devices matching old family descriptions of devices within Dracula's castle. Finding a stone statue in the visage of a Speaker, Trevor is attacked by a giant Cyclops. He defeats the creature, releasing its curse, and rescues the Elder's grandchild, Sypha Belnades. After returning Sypha to her grandfather, Trevor is summoned to the church by the local Bishop, revealed to be the same Bishop who ordered Lisa's execution. The Bishop orders Trevor to leave Gresit before sundown, as they plan to lead a mob to kill the Speakers, offering to spare Trevor and restore his family name in exchange. With the Speakers refusing to retreat, Trevor has them hidden in the Cyclops' chamber and takes on the priests leading the mob before escaping into the city.|
|4||"Monument"||July 7, 2017|
|Night falls as Dracula's army descends upon Gresit, killing the Bishop. As Trevor continues his escape, Sypha appears to aid him, revealing herself as a powerful magic user. Trevor exposes the clergy's actions as the true reason for Dracula's invasion and assists the people in mounting a defense against the demons. During the battle, the floor crumbles beneath Trevor and Sypha and they fall deep into the submerged catacombs of the city. Making their way in deeper, they find the "sleeping soldier", revealed to be Alucard, who has spent a year healing from his last fight with Dracula. Trevor and Alucard engage in battle, but after seeing his and Sypha's resolve, Alucard relents and offers his aid, and the three prepare to challenge Dracula and end the conflict for good.|
Season 2 is expected to have eight episodes and will broadcast on October 26, 2018.
According to Parrot Analytics, Castlevania was the most popular digital original series in the United States during July 6–19, 2017, with the show generating 23,175,616 "demand expressions" on average. According to Parrot Analytics, "demand expressions" indicate the "total audience demand being expressed for a title, within a country," measured by video streams and downloads as well as social media.
It remained the 7th most in-demand digital original show in the United States through October 11, 2017. By the end of 2017, Castlevania was the year's 15th most in-demand digital original series in the United States, averaging 18,137,196 demand expressions throughout the year. It was also one of the year's top 20 most in-demand digital original series in the United Kingdom (20th), Japan (4th), Brazil (10th), Mexico (11th), France (13th), Canada (14th), Germany (19th) and Australia (20th).
On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a rating of 79%, based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 7.39/10 and a critical consensus that reads "Castlevania offers spectacular visuals and a compelling adaptation in its all-too-short first season". It is the first video game adaptation in the site's history to receive a "Fresh" rating. Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, reported that there were "generally favorable reviews" for the first season, with an average score of 71 based on 4 reviews.
The Verge gave a mixed review, noting that the gore did little to create a sense of danger and felt "intentionally flashy". It concluded that "Castlevania is ripe with potential, but also burdened with cliches." Dave Trumbore of Collider gave the series four stars out of five, praising the chemistry between the cast and comparing the violence with anime such as Ninja Scroll. IGN also wrote glowingly of Warren Ellis's script, but felt some of his humor was a little jarring. In a review for Paste Magazine, Dave Raposo wrote that Castlevania channeled the cutaway gag formula that is seen in Family Guy. He dismissed the "absurd" attempts at humanizing Dracula and called it a "milquetoast imitation of Game of Thrones", noting that the ambitions of the script "fly in the face of the simple ideals that unify the best entries in the Castlevania series". Several reviews lauded the voice cast, particularly Graham McTavish as Dracula and Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont. Screen Rant's Sarah Moran drew attention to the "sarcastic edge" that Armitage brought to the character. Destructoid also wrote positively of Trevor Belmont as a protagonist, but criticized the animation and added that the character designs were "flat". Dan Seitz at Uproxx left a negative review, writing that it tried too hard to find profundity in the story of the Castlevania series. He also cited issues with the pacing.
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