Holy Shit The New Castlevania Show Is So Awful

I’m not going to mince words here.  Castlevania, the new animated series from Netflix, is total and complete shit.  It’s bad.  It’s very fucking bad.  If the show was any longer than four episodes, I never would have finished it.  Now, before you say that the reviews are great, let me just set the record straight: everyone else is wrong.  They are very fucking wrong.  Despite how cool that title card is and how much my mind is telling me the show should be amazing, it’s seriously not.  I’m baffled that anyone in their right mind would associate the word “good” with this trash.  But here we are.  Let’s begin.

The most jarringly terrible part of this show is the animation.  It’s clearly inspired by anime but does a pretty horrible job at showing any respect for the art form.  Anytime characters make movements, it’s as though someone forgot to finish animating the scene.  And by the “scene,” I mean the whole show.  Every painful piece of this looks like it was done in Flash by one person at 2 AM over the weekend before it was due to air.  The lip flaps don’t match, the faces are stilted, Trevor Belmont’s beard looks like someone just drew an M that never ends, and every fight scene appears as though they just animated three frames: the beginning, middle, and end.  Nothing feels fluid, everything feels like a garbage.  It’s unfathomable that a powerhouse like Netflix can’t muster up the cash to make this look even half as good as something like Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, an America/Japanese anime venture also dealing with famous vampire/half-vampire characters, that came out seventeen goddamn years ago.

Frederator, the animation studio primarily behind this series, is by no means terrible.  They’re just terrible for this particular project.  Their previous work includes things like The Fairly OddParents, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, Adventure Time, and Bravest Warriors.  None of these are bad shows, but all of them have a very specific art style and are made for a largely similar audience: younger people.  It doesn’t appear they were ready for a transition of this magnitude, both in style and substance, and it shows at almost every turn.

What in the fuck is this shot? Why does this exist?

The writing, which was done by Warren Ellis, has moments that shine through, but not very often.  It mostly feels like it’s been penned by a thirteen-year-old who has just recently started labeling himself as a “writer” and is very interested in vampires and swearing.  In a bar scene that is exposition-heavy as hell, the name Belmont is said sixteen times, along with discussions of bestiality that don’t pertain to anything.  “Would you please leave my testicles alone”  is another line that is said, out loud, by Trevor after being kicked in said testicles twice.  On top of all this, the most inappropriately “comedic” score cuts over the fight, but the scene is so incomprehensible that I cannot tell if it’s supposed to be played for laughs or to show that Trevor can hold his own in a drunken bar fight.  The tone is complete chaos, much like this entire show, which is shit.

The story itself is also confusing and uninteresting.  Dracula is portrayed as the main antagonist, but he’s only in one episode and his reasons for being super pissed honestly make sense.  The town burned his wife at the stake.  He gives the people a year to prepare for destruction and spares a woman that was friends with his wife.  So when he kills everyone 365 days later because no one listened, I don’t really feel bad for them.  The violence is entirely unearned at that point, so seeing a dead baby or a disemboweled kid is just an exercise in being thirteen and saying, “FUCK yeah DEATH and GORE!”  It’s not cool and it doesn’t service the story.  Our protagonist, I guess, is Trevor Belmont, who is wholly unlikable.  He wanders into town looking for kicks, which is the only reason he’s even involved in the plot at hand.  The true antagonist is the church, but spoilers, (fuckin’ whatever this show is so awful I’m doing you a favor) both the Archbishop and Bishop are killed off with LOTS OF BLOOD because it’s EDGY AS HELL so I guess we’re back to Dracula as the antagonist?

“And THEN, Trevor sees a demon just walkin’ by, BUT, get this, it has a FUCKIN’ BABY in it’s mouth! Sick, right?”

The second “fight scene” is a disaster, with lines like “Really?” spoken by someone in the 1400s, choppy animation for things that should look cool but don’t, and more tonally inconsistent music choices.  A priest’s eye is dislodged and it’s just so fucking stupid.  For a show that is only four episodes long, and “episode” is a word I use loosely here, there is a lot of talking.  None of it is really any good, and most of it is accompanied by boring, poor animation.  Directly following the priest fight, Trevor has a nearly eight minute exposition dump conversation with an Elder of the Speakers, a group of people who have a really interesting background that is ruined by just explaining it all in one excruciatingly long scene coupled with Trevor kind of walking around being unappealing in every way.

There is a pretty great fight with a Cyclops that happens during the third episode, despite the fact that the animation isn’t complete.  However, the goodwill is tossed away as the next fifteen minutes are just extended conversation scenes where nothing of importance happens, one of which involves the Bishop pronouncing the town of Gresit as Grey Shit multiple times and whispering some of the lines so quietly they’re almost inaudible.  I’d like to compliment the voice acting, but I can’t really even do that.  None of them are full-time voice actors, which is a very American thing to do.  Richard Armitage is serviceable as Trevor, but that’s the best you can say for anyone in this show.  Half the time it sounds like he’s doing a table read and they just recorded that session and used it in the episode.  None of the actors are bad, but I sure as hell wouldn’t call them good either.  They’re trying their best with the shit they were given, and their best just happens to be as middle-of-the-road as you can get.

The one great fight scene happens at the very end between Trevor and Alucard, son of Dracula.  Although the reasoning behind how it happens is shaky and the dialogue, true to form, has some cringe moments, the fight itself is great.  That’s it though.  That’s all there really is.  In four episodes, this is the only good part and it clocks in under 180 seconds.  The fact that the name Belmont is again uttered an astounding thirteen times in the two minutes leading up to the fight doesn’t do it any fucking favors.

Wow! Something cool! K…kinda? Kinda!

Other big, dumb, terrible moments of the show include:

– An actual conversation between the Bishop and a demon thing goes as follows:

Bishop: I have done His bidding!  My life’s work is in His name!
Demon Thing: Your life’s work…makes Him puke.

Makes him puke.  Warren Ellis wrote that line down, showed it to people, and no one stopped him.  It was later spoken by an actor into a microphone, recorded, and used in a real show called Castlevania, but not for comedic effect.  It was played straight.  It’s meant, somehow, to be serious.

– Trevor turns an entire mob of people on a priest simply by saying a few sentences about what a bad guy he is.  A mob of people who, mere moments earlier, wanted to kill Trevor and the Speakers.  Their minds are changed with terribly written dialogue/logic and no proof whatsoever that the priest has done anything to wrong them.  They don’t actually speak or voice an opinion.  They don’t ask any questions.  They just run and stab him.  A lot.

Here is a scene that makes sense and is well animated.

– “There’s an army of us!  AN ARMY!  FROM HELL!”  These are words spoken by a demon before he is chopped in half by a whip, kind of, because the animation is horrendously ill-equipped to tell this story .  It is not played for laughs and it’s a problem.

– Every priest in the city has a goddamn blade and brandishes it.  The number of frames used to show this action are shockingly low.

– Trevor’s backstory, he’s a Belmont and the church excommunicated his family for hunting vampires and monsters, is awkwardly shoehorned into conversation more than once, and one time was honestly too much.  Each time takes several valuable minutes.

The show is a jumbled mess.  It cannot be stressed enough that it looks like the entire thing was done in a weekend.  If this was a animation project done by a fan of the original games, I’d be pretty impressed.  But it’s done by a company, and one with a mostly well-received pedigree.  It’s unacceptable and I’m still trying to process how something this bad was given the green light AND undeserved praise from the community.  Why would you like this?  Why would you want more of this?  There is a second season already confirmed, this time with eight episodes.  I’m not excited at all, but I have a feeling I’ll want to watch it to see if anything has changed.  Ugh.

BUT WHERE’S GRANT? AM I RIGHT? Grant was smart. Grant stayed away.

It must be stated that the intro credits sequence is pretty rad, which is surprising since it has animation.  The backgrounds in most scenes were also really beautiful, unsurprisingly because there was no animation.  The two fights were fun, but choppy as hell.  That’s about it really, so you know, don’t watch any of this.  It’s still appalling.  During my writing I wound up just watching Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust again, so at least I smiled at some point.  If you’re looking for a high-quality vampire anime, just watch that instead.

Don’t watch Castlevania.  I feel the need to reiterate this because the internet seems to be extremely fucking lost at the moment about the value of this show.  Do not watch Castlevania.  It’s very, very, very bad.  The only reason to watch it is to bring your critique to the front of this very lopsided battle.  Don’t just brush it aside because “whatever man, Castlevania got an adaptation, it’s still cool!”  First of all, no it’s not.  Secondly, supporting this only leads to further mediocrity.  Demand more from your favorite stories and characters in the video game world.  Don’t settle just because it happened.  You don’t deserve to settle.

50 thoughts on “Holy Shit The New Castlevania Show Is So Awful”

  1. jen says:

    Oh, thank god it’s not just me. This post is exactly everything I walked away from this show feeling and thinking. It’s so bad, no matter how I look at it, and now I have to side-eye every friend who has gushed about it and told me I need to watch it. They all owe me ~100 minutes of my life back.

    1. Drew says:

      I’m glad someone else saw this show for what it was. I’m so confused by the reviews. Did they watch the same show?

  2. Rena says:

    I think I only liked it because I was forcing myself to give Salem another chance. Then I switched over to this. Salem is so bad it can make anything else look great.

    1. Drew says:

      Oh man, Salem looks…not good. If it’s making Castlevania seem okay, it’s got to be some terrible TV.

  3. Jerry says:

    No.

    I could leave a really elaborate comment about why you’re wrong, but I’ll be succinct instead. I will say your criticism of the absurd level of gore has some merit; you are wrong about everything else. But hey man it’s all good, you like what you like. Take it easy.

    1. Drew says:

      Honestly, I’d like to hear what you did like! A lot of people seem to enjoy it and I just cannot understand why.

      1. J says:

        I think the notion of God having a visceral, bodily reaction to the works of one of his supposed servants is a pretty powerful image.

        1. Drew says:

          I mean, true enough, but the way that line is delivered seems pretty poor to me. “Puke” is also just…not a well chosen word. It just feels like, again, a 13 year old wrote this script. He’s trying to say something, and there might be good ideas there, but it’s as if he wrote it all in one draft and then said “good enough” and passed it off.

          1. Jack says:

            I rather liked the word choice myself, I mean think about it. He is a demon from hell, he has no reason to be eloquent and any other word choice doesn’t have the same impact. Saying that it “Sickens him” would be the generic thing to say, I’ve heard similar lines in other stories and shows and it always just seems to bounce off without notice, “vomit” is just silly, you could say “he’s disgusted by your work” but that also seems too light. But telling a priest to his face as bluntly as possible that what he does makes God “puke” is jarring and reinforces the earlier idea that God has very human reactions and is genuinely revolted by the Bishop and his “work”.

          2. Anonymous says:

            It’s also a reference to Revelation. “Because you are lukewarm I will vomit you from my mouth.”

          3. Drew says:

            Vomit I could maybe understand. Puke just doesn’t do it for me. Feels out of time with the series.

        2. crank says:

          what are you talking about? god has human emotions and responses? This is the most bullshit I’ve ever heard. No wonder you like this series.

  4. Jack says:

    I’m confused about your comments about the Archbishop and Bishop’s demise, the show is gory yes, what do you expect from Hell itself? But those, if anything, were the least gory deaths in the whole season, The Archbishop took a spike through the chest sure, but it was quick and there was little blood, it’s not like they removed it afterwards. As for the Bishop, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how he died in the scene, but they didn’t actually show anything besides a what was a rather small amount of blood (as far as biting of heads go) by his feet for around five seconds on screen.

    1. Drew says:

      I’m sure I was just attempting to be funny with the EDGY AS HELL bit. I think I was more concerned with the uninteresting plot than anything else with that, but yeah, those deaths by comparison were pretty tame from the rest of the show.

      1. Justin Ukabiala says:

        What makes a plot interesting? I very curious. A simple plot is not bad at all in fact I think trying to make a grand put is where you dig your grave.

        1. Drew says:

          Oh I’m not saying this show needed a grand plot, I just think it needed a better one. Simple is never bad, but this one I just found super uninteresting.

  5. Blawz says:

    Total dog shit I’m glad me and my friends aren’t the only ones who think so. The show is 99% dialogue except almost none of it matters.

    If sexy is one end of the spectrum this is on the other, let’s call it “sterile” I mean it’s fine to have a dark show that avoids anything sexy at all costs, but if the dialogue puts everyone to sleep and the action is meaningless (endless nameless demon jobbers ftw) then HAVE SOME EYE CANDY. But Castlevania has literally none of the above.

    The second season is 90% as bad. The vampire generals are so puny and pathetic they literally don’t even have voices, and you’re never afraid for the main characters for even a nanosecond. Their protagonist armor is so thick they can nap through the entire thing no worries. And don’t get me started on the angsty hipster circa 2018 dialogue. Wtf were they thinking?

    Animation is shit.
    Boring af start to finish.
    No likeable characters.
    No hatable characters.
    No sexy characters.
    Dumbest dopiest fight scenes I’ve seen in an anime to date, with the only good fights happening between complete nameless demon footsoldiers and Belmont.

    Utter. Fail.

  6. AngerousDangerous says:

    I 6000% agree. Is there a word for when people are trying to use elevated speech, but the words are actually really mundane? Some of the worst offenders are: simply, as well, and wretched.
    Also, the puke line is absolutely ridiculous. I wish they took the dialogue seriously and used language contemporary to the time period. How about retch??

    1. Drew says:

      I sure can’t wait to watch season 2 so I can write more about how bad I’m sure it is! But maybe it’ll surprise me.

  7. Snug says:

    I feel the same. If you’re going to exposition dump then at least give me some eye candy. This show is definitely aimed at a younger audience. “And your dad was fucking Dracula”…I felt embarrassed watching that particular line which made it even worse as the characters all fake laughed with each other. I’m 35 but work with a bunch of early 20-somethings. If any of them took the time to watch the original Evangelion or Serial Experiments Lain I think their heads would explode. This tripe is just bad all around with the exception of some fight scenes. Then again we haven’t even had a good Castlevania game since what? Symphony of the Night? Curse of Darkness was decent and I’m surprised Hector got a part in the show but maybe the franchise has just gone to shit just like this show already is

  8. Anne Ominous says:

    So beautifully animated and so very stupid. Thanks for the summary. There’s even more that is stupidly wrong, but why go on?

    1. Drew says:

      Still debating if it’s worth sitting through eight more episodes…

  9. Mochan says:

    Good to hear that somebody gets it.

    This show was bad. Just plain awful actually. I’m glad not everyone in this world is crazy.

    1. Drew says:

      It warms my heart to find others who see the flaws in the show. I seriously thought I was alone for a while.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It was not so much the story that kind of made me think of it as a children’s show; It was the shoddy shots of animation that just pay tribute to poor children’s animation. The background art was beautiful though. The only time it felt like the creators took this project seriously were during the fighting scenes.

    1. Drew says:

      I can see that for sure. Background stuff did look great, but it never had to move so that helped TONS. The fight scenes mostly worked, especially against the Cyclops, but it sure as hell wasn’t perfect if you ask me.

  11. Al says:

    This guy actually got a degree in creative writing and film studies? Fucking rip.

    1. Drew says:

      I tried really hard though!

  12. Phoebe says:

    God, this is so accurate. I’m around the age of 13 and even I thought the show sucked. Being a teenager I could imagine some kid my age writing and animating a show of this quality! (If not that, then of better quality.) I couldn’t even make it through all of episode 4 of the first season. I was gonna go back and watch it but this article made me re-realize how stupid and edge-lordy the show was. Thank you for saving me from being disappointed yet again.

    1. Drew says:

      It’s time we’ll never get back, but at least you didn’t even finish it! You missed nothing but disappointment.

  13. Solo Se says:

    Oh, thank god it’s not just me. This post is exactly everything I walked away from this show feeling and thinking. It’s so bad, no matter how I look at it, and now I have to side-eye every friend who has gushed about it and told me I need to watch it. They all owe me ~100 minutes of my life back.

    1. Drew says:

      100 minutes you could have spent doing literally anything else…

  14. Justin Ukabiala says:

    What makes a plot interesting? I very curious. A simple plot is not bad at all in fact I think trying to make a grand put is where you dig your grave.

  15. Gladeflower says:

    Same reaction here, everyone else is loving it death around me whilst me and my partner(a writer and long time storyteller) cant stand it. The best visuals mixed with the worst writing.

    1. Drew says:

      Have you all watched season 2 yet? I still can’t bring myself to do it.

      1. DeathStar says:

        If you didn’t like the first one you should avoid it. I kinda like it, but i like many things. If they did better voice actors and lines it would be better.

        1. Drew says:

          That was sort of my thoughts. Seems like I’d be wasting my time other than to just write more negative reviews, which obviously no one else wants.

  16. Eddie says:

    What would you recommend that has the gothic/ gore elements? I like the atmosphere that Castlevania lends.

    1. Drew says:

      Watch Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust if that’s what you’re looking for. I think the whole thing is on YouTube!

  17. CRANK says:

    I would point out that this show has left out so much great material that easily could have been incorporated into a great show.
    The games are chock full of characters, monsters, and other lore.
    I mean a whole playable character doesn’t even show up in the show, Grant.
    Dracula’s right hand man, Death, should have been instrumental in the creation of the undead army and summoning of the infernal legions.
    But, leaving these key figures out of an already great game and story makes the writers pull shit out of thin air.
    They should have stuck closer to the source material as it was already golden.

    1. Drew says:

      Anything closer to the games might have helped this show out, because BOY did it need it.

  18. Mako Crab says:

    Your review is dead-on. Castlevania 1 on the NES was the first game I ever owned. And as a lifelong fan of the series, it baffles me how the anime so completely misses the mark. I’ve only just begun season 2, but the same problems continue to plague it.

    What’s especially galling is how Ellis said that he didn’t have the time to work Grant the pirate, one of the 4 main characters of CV3, into the story, but he found the time to work in all these other characters from various other CV games in addition to adding his own original character in the form of Godbrand. He’s said that a pirate in Transylvania doesn’t make sense.

    I feel like a lot of this show’s problems come down to that mindset. Ellis seems like that guy that may honestly love the games, but views them as silly or kiddy and is on a mission to make it cool and dark and edgy, forgetting that those silly elements are also part of the popularity. I still have 6 episodes to go, but Trevor needs to whip at least one candle. Find a reason.

    1. Drew says:

      Thank you! I’m surprised you’ve carried on watching the second season, I still can’t bring myself to watch anymore. Your thoughts on Ellis make sense. A pirate not making “sense” in a vampire world is a little odd, considering the insanity that is already happening and the really dumb choices characters already make, but COOL DUDE. The dark edgy stuff can be there, but you sort of have to embrace the camp a little. That’s what makes them great!

      But again, it seems we’re in the minority here. People just really like this show for some reason.

      1. Mako Crab says:

        I found one paid professional review that also disliked it. The guys at GQ know what’s up- except for the part about how there hasn’t been any good videogame to movie adaptations. There have been. Not many, but a few.

        https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gq.com/story/neflix-castlevania-review/amp

  19. Mako Crab says:

    Finished watching season 2 last night.

    And immediately played through all of Castlevania 3 to wash the taste out.

    First the good:
    – Character designs are solid. Even someone like Sypha, whose cloak is as basic as can be in the game art, looks good here. I had hoped we’d see Trevor don the iconic armor of the 1st four games but I’m not upset that he didn’t.

    – The action. When they fought, it was great. Loved the fight in season 1 against the cyclops. Loved all the season 2 fights at the end of the season. Love how Trevor fights with the whip. Just some great fights on display, even if the animation was choppy at times. The only downside was the stark lack of action throughout most of the show.

    – Vampire Killer. It was great hearing one of the most iconic tunes during the finale.

    – Our three main heroes played off of each other well. Trevor & Sypha in particular.

    Now the not so good:
    – The excessive cussing. It took me out of the show more often than not, and if it was supposed to make it feel more adult, it didn’t. It screamed of trying too hard, like they felt the need to overdo it because it’s a cartoon.

    – “Rated R as f%#k.”
    Classic Castlevania games have never been terribly gory. There’s always some, sure, but the show goes out of its way to throw loads of gore in for shock value. Like demons eating babies.

    – Grant Da’ Nasty
    Not enough time to squeeze four characters into the ensemble cast? I didn’t buy it when Warren Ellis said that before & I don’t buy it after seeing the mass amounts of filler in season 2 & the inclusion of no less than four other characters (Isaac, Hector, Godbrand, Carmilla), each with backstories, arcs, resolutions & epilogues. Without him, this feels less like a true adaptation and more like Ellis couldn’t be bothered to work him into the story.

    – The focus on the antagonists.
    So much time was spent on Dracula’s court of fools, that it sometimes felt like Trevor and co. were guest stars in their own show. Which is a shame, because I liked having them onscreen and kept waiting to see what they were up to.

    – The season 2 plot trips & faceplants right off the starting line.
    To recap, Dracula spends a full year amassing his army of demons, attacks Gresit, and then has no idea what to do next. A whole year to plan & he didn’t think of where to strike & when. So instead of powering forward with the momentum that season one ended on, we get something like 5 or 6 episodes of idiots bickering about where to go next.

    – Game of Thrones lite.
    The plotting, backstabbing & testing of loyalties begins immediately in season 2, and maybe this worked in GOT, but it’s boring here. Especially when none of it seems to carry any weight. Isaac kills Godbrand, but it’s no big deal. Everyone writes him off & carries on without questioning who killed him.

    – Characterization
    The idea of Dracula as this suicidal, world weary immortal is interesting. But he lost all drive in the same day that he declared war & spends all of season 2 moping in his favorite chair by the fire.

    This is just a personal gripe, but I never in my life pictured Trevor as a washed up drunk. Is this typical of Ellis’ work to have drunken protagonists?
    Anyway, his path towards redemption is short but serviceable. I like that he & Alucard grew to respect each other, that he cleaned himself up, and that he stayed with Sypha at the end. But since so little time was spent on our heroes, their happy ending doesn’t feel entirely earned.
    We saw that he & Sypha were growing closer, but they were barely at the holding hands stage, when she confesses that she wants to be with him “forever.”

    It’s disappointing, because this show had moments where it shined & showed what a Castlevania show could be like. But the bulk of it was weighed down by bewildering creative decisions. In all total, there were 2 or 3 episodes that felt worthwhile to me. The rest was wasted potential.

    1. Drew says:

      Ugh, that’s a shame. I feel the need to watch it and see how much of it I agree with you about, but BOY that sure doesn’t sound fun. What a waste of a good IP honestly.

      1. Mako Crab says:

        If anything, it’s short. I’d say give it a watch just so you can form your own decision. It still blows my mind that so many people are in love with this show. It’s not just a bad adaptation of Castlevania. It’s a bad show in its own right.

        And I know I’m still going to watch season 3, when it comes out. *facepalms*

        1. Drew says:

          Hahaha the death march continues forward! I guess I need to get in line…

  20. Rhema says:

    I’m late in this thread, I know. Watched season 1 but can’t get past the 3rd episode of season 2. I’ve been a fan of the games since NES. I really wanted to like this, but it’s lame and contrived.

    I read an interview with Ellis where he admitted he’d not played any of the games. Not surprised. Ellis has tried to turn Dracula in to a victim and bc of that a sort of protagonist. The real bad guys are the church officials and all the bigoted townspeople. Yawn. SJW claptrap from Ellis who probably has some personal issues with the catholic church.

    Dracula is evil incarnate! He is a force of hell. Being a whiny, emo beta is not a good look for Dracula. And where is the actual castle? The entire franchise is named after the living, shape-shifting castle. No, audiences today are more interested in the totally mature political intrigue…not! Well maybe that’s true given the positive reviews and an upcoming season 3.

    The cursing and over-the-top gore were clearly thrown in as a gimmick to help sell a clichéd re-write where Dracula is an antihero of sorts straight out of Twilight and the real evil is bigotry and closed mindedness. Lame.

    1. Drew says:

      You’re doing better than me. I still can’t even bring myself to START season 2. Ellis not having played the games makes sense. I understand the want to make something where bigotry is the enemy – it makes sense and could fit the theme. Just maybe not so hamfisted? Perhaps Castlevania isn’t the show for that. Guess it’s beyond repair at this point anyway.

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