Vampires, flashy magic, impressive gore and night creatures. What more could you possibly ask for in a fantasy action anime?
I've been a huge fan of the Castlevania franchise since season one first burst out of the coffin onto Netflix in 2017.
Though it is definitely a tamer and slightly less darker version than its older brother, the Japanese anime Hellsing, Castlevania absolutely holds its own as an anime adaptation from the game by video game publisher Konami. I do have my issues with video game TV adaptations that tend to be either horrifying or just bland as heck, but boy has it been an epic ride with the fourth season of Castlevania, the last season of the series, which dropped on Netflix on 13 May.
Although the series drags its sanguine feet a little in the first half of the season, Castlevania is living proof that you can make a heck of an anime with just about twenty minutes per episode. It kicks off with some kickass night creature fighting from our two beleaguered heroes, Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) and Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso), as they try to follow a train of clues that ultimately lead them (albeit slowly) to the main plot line (which I will not spoil).
Sypha's magic is honestly my most favourite thing in the series. As a mage from the Speaker Magician clan, she can control and warp with the utmost ease the elements of fire and ice, wielding them with both precision and deadly violence; something she does to great effect and no small hesitation.
Trevor is from the Belmont family, who have spent generations learning about night creatures, vampires and all assortment of dark magics, in order to combat them effectively. Trevor has absorbed the entirety of his family's knowledge, and seeks to put it to good use by ridding Castlevania's medieval world of night creatures and every non-human thing for good.
Speaking of non-human things, there is also the half-human Adrian 'Alucard' Tepes (James Callis) — the dhampir (half-human, half-vampire) son of the diabolical vampire king Dracula Tepes (Graham McTavish) and his human wife Lisa Tepes (Emily Swallow), who struggles with his humanity and what it means to have almost god-like, supernatural swordsmanship.
The accents of the characters do add very much to the auditory experience; the whispery unctuousness of Alucard to Sypha's irreverent Scottish burr give much colour to the world of Castlevania
Other minor plotlines that branch out include the vampiric sisters of Styria and their plans for world domination. Carmilla (Jaime Murray), Morana (Yasmin Al Massri), Lenore (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Striga (Ivana Milicevic) have since grown into their own position as elders and leaders of the vampiric community, consolidating their reach within their dominions and invading neighbouring lands in their conquest.
Their plans hinge on Hector (Theo James) the forge master, formerly of Dracula's court, and on his ability to create more night creatures spawns from his unique ability to transform human beings with his magical mallet.
Castlevania is not all action and no talk. The dialogue is extremely well scripted and thought out, with a depth that belies the series' barbarous aesthetic of spraying body fluid and rains of severed appendages.
There is even romance that blossoms, such as the longing wistfulness of the jaded scholar Saint Germain (Bill Nighy), who loses his lover to the Infinite Corridor (an alternate dimension of sorts) and almost loses his humanity in the process of attempting to retrieve her.
On the other side of the world, Isaac the other forge master holds a scintillating conversation with one of his night creature minions, where in halting speech it questions his orders of rebuilding and repairing a broken city. Were night creatures meant to build when their whole purpose in life was to be machines of destruction? Discerning viewers will ultimately discover that the answer is somewhat predictable.
Castlevania, as the name suggests, is all about Dracula's castle and the destruction, malice and hate that it once represented under its old master. Yet, the harrowing, blood-stained journey of our heroes, whose fatigue grows deeper and darker still persists. Their growth of self and an appreciation for that of others is really what makes season four a truly epic, kick-ass finale.
That, and the super cool action sequences involving Alucard and his sentient, swishing sword in the last few episodes too.
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