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Castlevania Season 1 UK Blu-Ray Anime Review

8 min read
Netflix brings us a story of the classic video game, done in a strong anime-esque style and drawing you in with flair, animation, story and characters…

Netflix brings us a story of the classic video game, done in a strong anime-esque style and drawing you in with flair, animation, story, and characters…

What They Say:

Inspired by the classic videogame series, CASTLEVANIA is a dark medieval fantasy following the last surviving member of the disgraced Belmont clan, trying to save Eastern Europe from extinction at the hand of Vlad Dracula Tepes himself.

Trevor Belmont, embittered and excommunicated, finds himself drawn into a battle for the survival of Europe a region that has brought doom upon itself by taking away the one thing its greatest monster loved.
Contains the complete first season on Blu-Ray with English audio and subtitles only.

The Review:
Audio:
The sound quality has options of 5.1 English Dolby Surround and a stereo option – as an American adaption only in English and because there is a subtitle track you can keep track of how it works – the audio synchs in well as the animation whilst not anime, is very similar in terms of the lip flaps and synching so it doesn’t feel out of place doing this review. The audio didn’t need any adjustments either, and it comes through very powerfully synching without any issues.

Video:
Set on a 16:9 on a full screen format, the set up is pretty strong, especially with the unique animation from the Netflix series. I put the subtitles on to see how well the video syncs with the subtitles (white font which isn’t off-putting when watching it). There were no transition problems or slowdown, or animation issues when pausing so overall it is actually really good to watch on an HD screen, especially when you see some of the effects it does (especially in the earlier episodes with the fire demon/Dracula emerging – that was pretty slick).

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
The menu is pretty standard – it features clips from the feature above the menu highlighted on a black and gold background with some appropriate blood spots – the selection is Play All, Episodes, Audio (which has 5.1 and Stereo, and allows you to select subtitles on if you wish) and Extras. As a Blu-Ray release, it is quite fast and during the show you can return to the main menu or selections (bar extras) via the pop-up selections. Simple, but effective.

Extras:

We do have a couple of extras for this release – the first is the Animatics selection, a.k.a. how it goes from animatic storyboards to animation – we get a couple of sequences from it – the night creature attack and fighting the Cyclops, seeing it go from Storyboards, to rough animation, to the final product.

The other extra is the storyboard galleries where we go through each episode which has action notes on the storyboard, with rough drawings and seeing how the episodes evolve over time. Both are quite institutive processes in how the show was created, giving you more appreciation for the work and animation involved.

Content:
Based on the classic Nintendo games, the Castlevania Netflix series had quite a bit of buzz when it came out on 2017 – based mostly on the 3rd game with heavy influence from anime and artwork from Ayami Kojima (Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night), it was done by American company March 51 Productions and was something of a sleeper hit among anime fans, with a lot of my friends highly recommending it. Trouble is, I’m still cheap and don’t have Netflix (and don’t watch a lot of television in general) so I never got the chance to see it.

Now with the Blu-Ray release, and Season 2 also done back in October 2018, it seems like this will be now more available thanks to Anime Limited, and boy….is this one of the few things I would fork out a Netflix subscription too? Because holy blood…

I was a Nintendo NES kid and remembered the original Castlevania games – whilst today, they have finally included Castlevania characters in the Smash Brothers series. This one from research is based on the third game and gives you basically the set up to hunt for Dracula…but also giving him some human components which will surprise you as humanity is definitely spread thin over these episodes…

We start with a woman named Lisa, who through the lore you learn becomes Dracula’s (second) wife – we see her visiting Dracula (full name Vlad Dracula Tepes) due to his scientific knowledge as she wishes to use the technology or learn how to use for her work as a doctor. Dracula is suave and confident, but Lisa gives as good as she gets, and the two work out a deal as she hopes for him to reconnect with humanity. It leads to them falling in love and you’d think Dracula has no reason to go against humanity…

….until the church burns his wife at the stake thinking that her ‘technology’ is in fact ‘witchcraft; and this being the 15th-century… yeah. Is it any wonder that Dracula is a lot more sympathetic than most of the humans in the show?

So 20 years after their marriage, Lisa’s burning at the stake causes Dracula to go mad, and whilst the priests think he is weak in his threats, he warns them that he will kill every human in the land in a years’ time if they don’t make their peace with him. Considering how unlikeable the head priest is in this, you won’t be shocked to hear they don’t do this and despite warnings from someone living with Dracula (who we learn who it is by the end of the show), Dracula attacks this person and we cut to a year later as the archbishops celebrates their defiance of Dracula…

…which, of course, leads to death by irony as Dracula kills him, and summons a demon army to kill everyone in the land of Wallachia, but instead of blaming the church and the one track mind priests, it is turned into blaming the nobles who should be protecting them…with one particular name mentioned…the Belmonts.

Cue Trevor Belmont in a pub, hearing this and trying to sneak out…but the local thugs aren’t too kind to him, so he kindly tries to peaceful…before just knocking seven bells out of them, and heading to the city of Gresit where Dracula’s forces are at work. Here, the blame is been put on some magic users named the Speakers. Needless to say, Trevor is not cool with this and after saving a Speaker Elder from some corrupt priests, he tries to get them to leave but the Elder’s grandchild has gone missing as below the catacombs is apparently a salvation, only known as the ‘sleeping soldier’…Trevor decides to try and save the grandchild, and invade Dracula’s castle – and after a well-animated fight against a Cyclops, he defeats it, which releases a curse which turned the grandchild, a powerful young lady named Sypha. She and Trevor definitely have some chemistry…albeit one with some sharp tongues between the cocky Trevor and the confident Sypha, which definitely brings smiles if you know of their relationship from the games (which I hope will be explored in Season 2)…

Anyway, the bishop who ordered Lisa’s execution wishes to meet with Trevor which he offers to restore the Belmont’s honour and let him live in exchange for the lives of the Speakers. Trevor of course calls the Bishop out on his hypocrisy and refuses, escapes and hides the Speakers whilst planning to take out the corrupt priests.

Interesting Dracula had the same idea (and not saying I cheered when the bishop was unpleasantly taken out considering Dracula is technically the villain but….)…

The big finale comes when Trevor and Sypha team up and manage to convince and prove that it was the clergy that caused Dracula’s attack, meaning the villagers now help them take out the clergy whilst trying to protect from the demons. The two then return to Dracula’s castle and after collapses into the catacombs, they find the infamous ‘sleeping soldier’….who was in fact the man attacked by Dracula back near the beginning after Lisa’s death. He is in fact Adrian, Dracula’s son…who now going by the name of Alucard, healing after a year of being injured by his deadly dad. It leads to Trevor and Alucard fighting with Sypha’s help (as a magic user), the two are evenly matched and it leads to Alucard agreeing to going with the two, prepping to take on Dracula…

…and then it ends. NOOOOOOO…

O.K, I am aware there is a Season 2 but this is like a delicious appetizer getting you ready for the main course. The idea that Dracula is the enemy, yet the little you see of him, you kind of sympathize with him (as this show definitely incorporates the humans are b*stards theme that doesn’t understand anything – it doesn’t help though that most of the antagonists have religious iconography considering how the world plays today) for his wife dying, but also that all humans have to pay for this is definitely setting up some sort of confrontation between Dracula and Alucard, along with Trevor/Sypha.

The animation is slick, the writing is charming (Trevor is a lovable rogue, that does think of himself but also has a soft spot that definitely fits in with the ‘oh I don’t really care but I’ll help you out anyway’ philosophy, and the monsters feel straight out of the horror genre, I can’t remember how accurate they are to the games but either way it is impressive. I am definitely also liking the dynamic between Trevor and Sypha, and see how that goes – it may go down the obvious route of romance, but there is definitely time to develop there, along with how Alucard develops as a character as again, the little we see of him suggests he wants revenge against his father, just how is the main question.

Bottom line, this needs to be seen – even if you aren’t familiar with any of the lore or the games, it draws you in, gives you enough story and characterization to get with Trevor, and then sets you up ready for more…

Summary:
Castlevania caused a bit stir among the anime fandom when it came out and you can understand why. Highly polished anime like animation combined with a good script, with comedy, horror and action all rolled into one with some nice character development, a thin line between good and evil, the understanding but not fully agreeing with Dracula’s actions, and the set up that will happen at some point between Trevor/Alucard/Sypha (for different reasons) against Dracula. I may have to actually acquire Netflix now because I am not sure if I can hold out till Anime Ltd releases Season 2….

Features:
Animatics, Galleries

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: May 27th, 2019
MSRP: £19.99
Running Time: 96 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p aVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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