Castlevania III / Castlevania Season II
I used to speed run Castlevania.
I was seven years old and fresh off seeing the Lost Boys and the Exorcist, a double-feature that my uncle brought over one sunny summer afternoon. I think he was trying to scare me, but it just gave me more of an interest in the occult. Castlevania was the closest I was going to get on Nintendo to proper horror, and I devoured the lore (such as it was).
There were books, strategy guides, all sorts of weird stuff. I got the second one and gave up on it pretty quick, recognizing it for a poor version of Metroid and Zelda, but got stupid excited for the third game.
I loved this game. Loved it. I loved that there were branching paths, multiple endings, and different allies that added different mechanics to the game. My first playthrough was with Grant Dynasty, the pirate thief who could climb walls and throw knives. I was so enamored with him that my first D&D character was a half-elf thief named Rant Ghastly who climbed walls and threw knives.
The game expanded on the lore and I got into it. I even started designing a role-playing game and a board game based on the Castlevania series when I was twelvish. I loved the glass cannon Sypha, the elusive Alucard, and the impressively lethal Grant. I loved when they cameo’d in Symphony of the Night, grinning the whole time that I murdered all of them.
And then there was this:
The video game series has had its ups-and-downs. The various 3D games were ambitious but not great, and the side-scrolling ones are all very Metroid and not classic Castlevania, the terrifyingly hard and cleverly designed platformers that were the precursor to something like Dark Souls. I still love the games and the lore, though, and was interested to see where this went.
Only one other attempt has been made to turn Castlevania into any sort of animated series, and that involved importing Simon Belmont into the world of Captain N: the Game Master. That was… a thing that happened.
Thing of it was, the Netflix series looked great and brooding and had been written by Warren Ellis. For those of you that don’t know him, Warren is one of the best comic writers in the medium, the author of towering works of genius. Comics like Nextwave, Injection, Transmetropolitan… the scribe can do no wrong.
He’d written the script back in 2010 and it had been forgotten until Netflix picked it up, dusted it off, animated it, and let it fly on July 7, 2017, right in the middle of summer with little fanfare. It should have flown under everyone’s radar and been forgotten, but…
I got all kinds of childish excitement when I learned he had based his script on the lore of Castlevania III and I wasn’t disappointed by the result – Ellis’ script digs deep into the lore of the series while also exploring the consequences of misusing faith and popular opinion for political ends. In this case, a perfectly sane cardinal uses the power of his position to gain more power, regardless of the consequences.
One of the things he does to do this is murder Dracula’s wife by burning her as a witch.
Dracula’s response is to give humanity a one-year warning before he unleashes the armies of hell upon them. He comes back a year later to find humanity celebrating their deeds, the guy actually responsible for causing the murder nowhere in sight. Dracula doesn’t care. Dracula sets hell loose and people begin to die while, elsewhere, the priest responsible blames more people that have done nothing wrong so he can consolidate what power he has left.
Enter Trevor Belmont of the deposed Belmont Clan, a line of nobles that were tasked with holding the line between humanity and the supernatural. The church saw them as a threat, though, and had them excommunicated, seized their lands, and cast them out. The few that are left have become drifters, layabouts, and drunks, and Trevor has to find his own nobility and regain himself to save a humanity that fears and hates him.
Along the way, he picks up a mystic ally in Sypha Belnades, the wizard-protector of a small group of nomads whom the church is blaming for things going wrong. He saves her life and she gives him knowledge and helps him find himself, and there’s a casual line that says a lot when they first meet:
“I hate it when your people do that,” Trevor says, or something like it. “Dress up your women like men.”
“It’s safer for when we travel,” says Sypha.
This is what Warren Ellis does, casually mentions the themes running through his work. It’s one of the things that makes him amazing; his four-episode Castlevania season one is a little less than two hours and presents a living, breathing, rotting world full of political intrigue, prejudice, and nuanced characters that are all understandable even if they are detestable.
Blind faith in a mistranslated truth reveals the savior people are waiting for to be Adrian Tepes, a young man who goes by the name Alucard and happens to be Dracula’s son. Dracula imprisoned him after his wife was murdered and Adrian was like “let’s go get the ones responsible instead of genocide” and Dracula was all “go to your room, you’re grounded for the next century or so~!” Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard punch one another’s noses and become friends before they head out to confront Dracula.
Season one ended on a cliffhanger, though, because of course it did.
And we were uncertain if there would be a season two.
Good news, though. Enough people liked it on Netflix that we did get a sequel, and so almost a year and a half after its initial release, Castlevania Season 2 emerges from the shadows on October 26, 2018.
Look at that. It’s beautiful. It’s a thing of wonder that proves that sometimes there are good things in this world. Warren Ellis returns to scribe a series that deserves him and lets him play to the fullest of his abilities, or close to them (for the full range of what he’s capable of, read Transmetropolitan, Nextwave, Planetary, and especially Injection, click on those titles to purchase them). I don’t know where he’s going with this, but it’s going to be amazing.
And so I know what I’m doing at midnight on the October 26 – keeping an eye out for Grant Dynasty.
How about you?