Castlevania is much more than the umpteenth attempt to produce an anime outside of Japan. Its producer Adi Shankar sees the Netflix series as a tribute To them video games he grew up with. A personal project, but also a series made by fans and for fans that can be enjoyed without having touched the Konami saga.
That said, complicity with those who have purged Dracula's castle at some stage in their lives it is felt, it goes through the screen and gives a special value to the set.
After all, it's that complicity with the reader, the spectator or, in this case, the video game player, which works as an essential element when it comes to transferring any kind of work to the small or large screen well – or at least correctly. And in 'Castlevania', despite its much-needed licenses, it is achieved with a very unusual naturalness.
And what is even more curious, the vania Castlevania ’series does not waste the long-overdue nostalgia card. A move that would touch the risky, if it were not because, as its script has been proposed, you do not need it.
A script that has a double merit if we consider that it is a series aimed at an adult audience Based on a video game that, paradoxically, many of us enjoyed in our childhood and youth: although the three seasons of 'Castlevania' broadcast so far borrow a little from various installments, the main plot is based on the adventures we began to experience thirty years ago. years (or more) on the NES through 'Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse'.
'Castlevania' is a series made by fans and for fans that can be enjoyed without having touched the Konami saga
That yes, sowing the way of new plots that also evoke to later titles, like 'Curse of Darkness' and the universally acclaimed ‘Symphony of the Night '. Taking, by the way, his illustrations and the art of Ayami Kojima as a visual reference. Sometimes with more success than others, everything is said, but shining whenever it is necessary to shine.
Now the great plan of ‘Castlevania’Manifests itself from the first four episodes – which place us in the aforementioned 'Dracula’s Curse'— and hatches precisely at the climax of its second season. And, from there, the plot itself mortgages its own continuity through meticulously chosen loose ends, with the unequivocal purpose of approaching new installments, already from its own narrative identity.
With that ahead: how has this been achieved? Rare avis within video game adaptations? What elements make it so special? Where will it take us in the next seasons? Well, they say that to understand the future it is necessary to know the past. And, in the case of 'Castlevania', it's even better to have played it.
The premise: the first attempt to develop 'Castlevania' for the small screen
Coincidences of life, the initiative to adapt ‘Castlevania’To the film format started in 2007, the same year that Netflix made the leap to the Video On Demand. Of course, at that stage both adaptation and online service were completely separate and unrelated projects.
The starting point was, logically, the acquisition of rights. Frederator Studios (who had his own track record on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network) took the step by teaming up with Konami to release an adaptation of 'Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse ' It would be distributed in a domestic format, with Koji Igarashi (producer of the games) having the last word when it comes to creative decisions.
The responsibility for writing the script was for Warren ellis, who practically was unaware of the game saga although he found in it a Japanese transcription of the charm of the horror films of the Hammer that he liked so much. Still, the commission was more complicated than he expected: at his own request Igarashi He rewrote the script up to five times.
On the other hand, everything being said, seeking to reach an adult audience from the beginning allowed Ellis to unleash himself a little more than with his previous works. Introducing into the process really explicit scenes.
Because the project was visualized to have an approximate duration of 80 minutes, Warren ellis visualized 'Castlevania', that is, the adaptation of 'Dracula's Curse', as a story divided into three large arches, presenting the main characters (Dracula, Trevor, Sypha and Alucard) throughout the first one. The reality, on the other hand, is that the following year the project was left in the dreaded cinematographic limbo and the other two parts were up in the air. At least, until 2012.
The adaptation of 'Castlevania' spent a decade in the dreaded limbo of film productions
While Adi Shankar had the opportunity to participate in 'Castlevania ' Through Ellis's script shortly after 'Dredd', the Indian-American filmmaker decided to decline initially due to something essential: Shankar considered adapting 'Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse' through a production in real action it would be a mistake not unlike other video game-based projects that resulted in loud disappointments for fans.
And that's where the last of the key elements comes into play: the director Sam Deats Y Powerhouse Animation Studios.
The Texan animation studio began negotiating with an already much more powerful Netflix the ability to adapt the Ellis script approved by Konami and Igarashi, making all the above agents (including Frederator Studios, Warren ellis and himself Shankar) elaborated a first season of just four episodes long.
References, beyond the games of ‘Castlevania ’ and the visual style of Ayami Kojima, would be other anime like 'Ninja Scroll ' o 'Vampire Hunter D ', more or less in tune with what they wanted to offer on screen. And seen the end result, everyone was right.
The first four episodes of ‘Castlevania’ premiered in July 2017 (ten years after the initiative started) and they got instant refresh by doubling the number of episodes and visual ambition. Closing, in an exceptionally satisfactory way, the events of the video game 'Dracula’s Curse' in the final episodes. And, at the same time, aligning pieces facing what is to come.
Dracula's Curse: the art of setting a timeline
Published in 1990, the video game ‘Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse’Is a playable prequel whose events take place 215 years before the previous installments of‘Castlevania’On NES. And while it doesn't top the series timeline, it's the perfect starting point from which to unfold the fates of the Belmont lineage and the very same Vlad Dracula Tepes.
Both the game and the first season of ‘Castlevania’On television, we are transferred to the Wallachian region during the year 1476, a dark period in which Count Dracula began to devastate Europe through his army of creatures of the night and other evil beings. Your plan: exterminate humanity.
Although in the 1990 video game it is not necessary to introduce a reason for it (although Konami went out of its way to give context to the game) the script by Warren Ellis offered an interesting background for the occasion: Dracula was unleashing a angry vengeance against humanity, which had sentenced to death Lisa Tepes his beloved wife and the mortal who managed to breathe humanity into the heart of the vampire lord.
In that dark context appears Trevor Belmont, the last descendant of the nearly extinct monster hunter clan, exiled due to fear of their supernatural strength.
And although in the series his intervention in events is due to a succession of events, in ‘Dracula’s Curse’He goes to his destination and enters the enemy's castle before a desperate call from those who condemned the Belmont in the past.
Throughout the game, Trevor will unleash a demonic purge with the blow of a whip, facing against all kinds of monsters and creatures of the night. And you will not be alone: you will have the possibility to recruit up to three allies:
- Sypha Belnades, a powerful sorceress capable of conjuring the elements.
- Alucard, the son of Dracula whose vampiric abilities have not overshadowed the generous heart of his human mother.
- Also, in ‘Dracula’s Curse' appears Grant Danasty, a highly mobile pirate who was discarded from the series from the 2017 scripts, although he is hinted at at the beginning of the third season.
It would be unfair to get to this point without giving it a necessary focus: in the ‘Dracula’s Curse’NES establishes the first connections of the saga with the work of Bram stoker, but there are also many really special tributes, like the name of Alucard (originally from the film 'The Son of Dracula' of 1943) or that the surname of the discarded Grant Danasty It is based on a lineage that in real life was opposed to that of the true Dracula.
After traversing the cursed lands and thoroughly exploring Dracula's Castle, 'Dracula’s Curse'He will test our thumbs against the dreaded lord of the vampires. Of course, as it is a prequel it is logical that neither evil nor threats will end completely extinguished. And that's a good thing, both for the player and the viewer.
The Netflix 'Castlevania' in front of which we could play on our NES
As we discussed, the series of ‘Castlevania’Does not seek to follow point by point (or pixel by pixel) what happened in the‘Dracula’s Curse’Although the references, places and events that are revealed throughout the chapters have ties to the NES cartridge.
From the fight against the powerful Cyclops before freeing Sypha to musical pieces extracted from several of the games in the saga in the second season. This includes, among other factors, the early appearance of characters who will have a greater role in later games and, by extension, in future animated seasons.
We refer to Hector, a Master of the Forge capable of creating creatures of the night, whom we can see at the service of Dracula in the second season and who, together with Trevor, is called to lead the plot events shown in ‘Castlevania: Curse of Darkness ‘
On the other hand we have Isaac, Hector's counterpoint in both the animated series and ‘Curse of Darkness‘, Whom we can already see shaping his own monster army during the development of the third season.
In addition to these two early appearances, during the second and third seasons we are introduced to the ambitious Carmilla, who curiously debuted in Castlevania II in video games (although it would have much more weight in games after 'Dracula's Curse' how 'Rondo of Blood', the two installments of 'Lords of Shadow ' and a 'Circle of the Moon ’ that will allow us to travel to the vampire castle shown in the series.
It goes without saying that changes were made from the transition from the video game to the animated series. Some more justifiable than others, but most not too accused: Dracula was given weight and motivation, Alucard was borrowed from ‘Symphony of the Night’ (and his melancholic countenance) for the occasion and many elements were reserved to be able to unfold better and with more time in the future.
And regarding the appearance of the protagonists, these two images speak for themselves:
However, the new challenge facing the animated project of Castlevania it no longer resides in finding the tone, the setting or setting the characters facing the public. The first three seasons have cemented that very well. But the way to guide us to what is to come, being as a whole a transition towards Vania Castlevania: Curse of Darkness ’.
The third season of 'Castlevania' aligns the plot towards the events of the PS2 video game 'Curse of Darkness'
Released in 2005 for PS2, ‘Castlevania: Curse of Darkness’Takes us to the Europe of 1479, three years after the events of‘Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse'To introduce us to a world in which Dracula's curse continues to spread among humans, even after the fall of the Vampire Lord.
Without going into too much plot detail, a rehabilitated Héctor from his days in the service of Dracula will initiate revenge after a painful loss: Isaac, the other great Master Smith, caused the murder of his fiancee, forcing him to return to the same darkness from which he had drifted years ago.
In the chronology of the Konami saga, ‘Castlevania: Curse of Darkness’Is the direct continuation of‘Dracula’s Curse’And all the elements shown throughout the third animated season direct us in that direction for future chapters.
However, there are also interesting possibilities when it comes to expanding the plot.
- On the one hand, through a prequel in which the events of ‘are presented to usCastlevania: Lament of Innocence’, Whose protagonist –Leon Belmont– makes a subtle appearance in one of the paintings in the Belmont clan library, in the second season.
- On the other hand, the character of Alucard can claim full prominence if, after the events of the third season, it is decided to take a generous temporary leap that leads us to 1797 and, consequently, to ‘Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ’.
The possibilities are there, and we are clear that there is material for many more seasons than ‘Castlevania’On Netflix. But also for other exceptional adaptations.
What is the Bootleg Universe and what can we expect
The good reception of the animation series of ‘Castlevania’Has not only guaranteed its continuity beyond the plot of‘Dracula’s Curse'But has made it the flagship of the Bootleg Universe, the particular hallmark of Adi Shankar dedicated to his youthful passions. A sort of cinematic universe that, by the way, will continue to expand on Netflix.
The initiative Bootleg Universe was born in 2012, long before the first episode of ‘Castlevania’ was released, as a series of animated and live-action short films in which, unofficially, Shankar experiences (or play) with his favorite characters from popular culture, taking them to your ground from a creative point of view.
Sometimes they are twisted versions of well-known characters, sometimes bordering on satire, and other times a kind of alternative worlds. Of course, the objective in any case – beyond giving free rein to the imagination like any fan, is do not leave the viewer indifferent.
While the first short films from the Bootleg Universe can be easily found on YouTube, Vania Castlevania ’ represents the leap in quality of the initiative: Shankar and Netflix Original Series are developing new series based on video games under that same label, including ‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘Devil May Cry’ and the indie gem ‘Hyper Light Drifter’.
A vein found from hexes, spells, and lashes —Trevor Belmont's, of course — that will begin deploying just in time to counter the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from Disney +. Enough claim? Well, Netflix has the attention of those passionate about video games, And that is too much already.