CASTLEVANIA S3 gets 8.5/10 Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins

Season 3

Created by Warren Ellis
Starring Richard Armitage, Alejandra Reynoso, Jaime Murray, Adetokumboh M’Cormack
Network: Netflix


Based on the popular Konami video game franchise, Castlevania has been a surprisingly well written and voiced anime, that over three short seasons has brought a credible and engaging show to Netflix. This is really no surprise when you scratch the surface to look at the talent involved. Writer Warren Ellis (the guy responsible for the classic comics Transmetrapolitian and RED, rather than the Dirty Three/Bad Seeds musician) has engaged in the subject matter with dedication and joy, keeping the spirit of the original games (Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse for season 1-2, and drawing on elements of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness for this season), but bringing his own sense of weirdness, and an anti-authoritarian edge.

With Dracula’s war against humanity being halted at the end of season two, the medieval kingdom of Wallachia is coming to terms with the power vacuum that has formed in its wake. As the vampire Camilla (Jaime Murray) retreats to her mountain stronghold to formulate her options, Dracula’s son Alucard (James Callis) comes to terms with his actions, Isaac (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) finds himself in his homeland far from his vampiric master, and Trevor (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) hunt down the last remnants of the demonic forces in the land. Yet a new threat is emerging in a small town priory, as a growing cult of traumatised preachers begin to worship the works of Dracula and his night hordes.

This curious blend of European culture seen through the lens of Japanese culture, and then reflected back by an English writer, could so easily devolve into another anime gorefest with pseudo Gothic horror elements. Indeed, Castlevania doesn’t shy away from the gore or horror elements with some stunningly graphic and beautifully animated sequences bringing this to the forefront, but it also manages to bring a bit more to the table. Part of that is the characterisation, with this season having rather a lot of character development, as the show re-pivots to deal with its next major conflict. We see the hopes and aspirations of the characters, many of them re-examining their motivations and causes, after the catastrophic events of the previous season.

Isaac in particular is undergoing a process of self examination, and through that we learn more about the motivation and philosophy of the Forgemaster. This season he steps out from Dracula’s shadow becoming something more than just a two dimensional villain, and begins to prosecute an argument that audiences may at times find almost reasonable and rational… despite the hordes of gibbering demons that he’s summoned into existence to destroy humanity.

Then there’s the ever present sense of humour in this show, especially in the interplay between Trevor and Sypha (given some extra spice by the interaction of Bill Nighy’s Saint Germain). Without that banter, this show would lose a lot of light and shade, becoming just grim, self-indulgent angst. With that sarcastic tone, it has some tension relief, as it builds for the next dramatic confrontation.

And this season really does manage to build, bringing those disparate characters and plot lines together in a satisfying, thematic way. A slow burn in the early parts, it builds into a breathtaking climax in the final two episodes, with the penultimate episode being one of the best this show has ever produced.

All of which certainly makes Castlevania worth sinking your teeth into.