What a treat to see Richard Armitage in a story on TV (and so animated too! Lol), rather than just hear him in an audiobook! The second season of Castlevania recently appeared on Netflix and I was really excited to watch it. It instantly engaged me, starting from the exciting theme song (by Canadian composer Trevor Morris) and continuing with fun and funny dialogue and depth of character. But, at the same time, there are aspects of the season that are so cartoonish and/or so grossly violent that you really have to be prepared for that. It is cool, though, that you can choose the audio not only in English, but also in German, Spanish, French, or Italian — but then you’d miss the voice! Maybe go for the subtitles instead, if you’re more comfortable with a language other than English.
As with the previous season, I am really impressed with the drawing and animation (which is anime, rather than what I would call fluid motion). In particular, the use of light, shadows, and colour to create atmosphere is really well done. In the first episode, we see Dracula’s now deceased wife, Lisa Tepes, in a flashback while she is providing medical assistance to a villager. She is portrayed as goodness and kindness personified, working in a cottage with light streaming from the windows and fireplace in stark contrast to the darkness of the rest of the show. The light effect really reminds me of the paintings of Thomas Kinkade, known as the “Painter of Light”. (Thomas Kinkade’s painting is the one with the light in the sky.)
My favourite parts of the story are where Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) and Alucard (James Callis) are bantering back and forth — not friends, but necessary allies who give as good as they get. And the connector, of course, is Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso), who keeps the peace while being an integral part of the plan to defeat Dracula. We also see some of the back stories of Trevor and Alucard, although not so much of Sypha’s history. And in addition to the enjoyable back-and-forth, there is some exploration of the emotional toll that these characters have had to experience. All three actors do a great job, although I wish someone would give Trevor a bottle of something, just so we can hear some drunken quips, to supplement the world-weary attitude.
Graham McTavish as the grief-stricken Vlad Dracula Tepes also gives a good performance, and he has a chance to explore some emotion and world-weariness of his own, in addition to enacting revenge on human-kind. It’s when we have to spend time with Count Dracula’s court that I find it all seeming so cartoonish. Some of his hangers-on are really just caricatures, while others get to show us some really gruesome scenes, which are not to my taste. In fact, I think I would be okay with only seeing one bout of eye-gouging and one of ripping a heart out of a body bare-handed, and yet the latter at least happens multiple times.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, as this is a video-game adaptation after all, but for me I would rather spend more time on the humour, the emotional development of the characters, and action scenes that are not quite so gory.
On balance, it’s enjoyable and I will definitely watch the third season (recently announced), but I’m sure that some people would be just as happy fast-forwarding through the non-Richard scenes. (Caution: The trailer below has lots of gore and violence.)