‘Castlevania’ reigns as Netflix’s new king

“Castlevania” is not only the best thing Netflix has pumped out this year, but it’s also the most pleasant surprise of the year. The first season of the show was good, but because it was only four episodes it was hard to tell if the follow-up would top it. It did, in a magnificent way.

The highlight of the entire series is Dracula, who is the main antagonist. The first season made his character so sympathetic that I was almost rooting for him even when he was sending out hordes of un-dead to kill innocent people. In this season, his war against humanity that was started over the death of his human wife continues. His character is written so well that he largely overshadows the heroes.

The fighting that happens among Dracula’s generals adds a surprising layer of intrigue to the show. His left and right hands of war are two humans who have interesting backstories and motives for helping Dracula in his act of genocide.

The trio of heroes (Trevor, Sypha and Alucard) have good chemistry with each other, but their scenes have pacing issues for the first half of this season. Alucard’s character is fleshed out more, which is good because his relationship with his father, Dracula, has the most satisfying payoff of all. All three protagonists go through arcs that range from good to decent and the season’s conclusion leaves them in interesting places.

While the show was made in America, there are obvious influences from anime in the art style and presentation. Western studios have had difficulty in creating their own shows modeled after anime, but “Castlevania” nails it. The visuals are strong without being too flashy and the writing has a good mix of melancholy and humor.

The action scenes are plentiful and brutal. The blood and gore are cranked up to gratuitous levels yet it manages to remain fitting for the story. I can see how people could complain about the over-the-top violence, but at the same time I would say that it compliments the vicious world that these characters live in. Dracula’s army is bent on unleashing hell so the visuals need to tell that story and get the point across.

The most common feeling this might leave on fans of the Castlevania games is that of “Man, I wish they made a game out of this.” The series’ plot is loosely based on “Castlevania 3,” which came out in 1989 and games have obviously come a long way since then. The creators of the show did a great job of adapting the source material of a game that had a plot largely told through text. There’s a good handful of nods and references to the series in the show and the overall tone does justice to the games.

Fans of the “Castlevania” games will have plenty to love about this show. Fans of action-oriented anime will also have a great time watching this. There are some things that don’t work at first, but by the end of the show everything is where it needs to be. This has been Netflix’s clearest triumph this year and it easily earns five stars.

[Final Score: 5/5]

Ulises Duenas can be reached at artseditor@theorion.com or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.

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