I’m a little late on my review for Castlevania Season 3, but I was busy playing Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Persona 5 Royal. Let me start by saying I really enjoyed season 1 and season 2 of this show. Although, in my opinion, season 1 was so short you might as well consider season 1 and 2 as just… season 1. After watching season 3 though, I find that I’m questioning myself. Did I really enjoy season 1 and 2? Because if it was like this, I probably didn’t like it as much as I remember liking it. Could they really have had such a quality downgrade in just one season? Did those seasons have the same problems I’m struggling to tolerate in season 3? As always, this review will have spoilers.
I think it’s a combination of rose-colored glasses and an actual quality downgrade. Here’s the thing. This season is both full of unnecessary padding, and incredibly short. The whole season, and every individual episode, feels too short, but every moment of the show also feels too long. But it doesn’t feel like intentional padding. It feels like animation self-indulgence. Like they were so in love with their own animation that they couldn’t bear to edit it down, or, if they did edit it down, they’d find that they only had like 5 or 6 episodes worth of show in this ‘season’. The storytelling is not tight at all. More plot happens in like, a single episode of Rick and Morty than happens in this entire season.
Let me give you an example. There’s a scene toward then end of the show where a portal opens to hell and it does this sweeping… crane shot I guess would be the film term, but do you still call it that in animation? Anyway, it does this shot where it’s just passing over the landscape of hell. I swear this goes on for at least a full minute. It only needed to be about 6 seconds long to convey the information they wanted to convey. I guess the rationale is that they want you to see this brilliant hell landscape but… it’s not that good. That’s what I mean about the self-indulgent aspect. Every time one of these scenes happened, and they happen pretty regularly, I can’t imagine what their reasoning is for doing it that way except for they really think it’s amazing animation-wise, but it’s not.
That’s not to say this show doesn’t have amazing art and animation. It certainly does, and there’s a fight scene toward the end that really shows off what the animators are capable of. Unfortunately, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out in this review that Castlevania season 3 isn’t full of amazing fight scenes. It’s 90% a melodrama. Which brings me to another point.
The dialog in this show is awful. It just feels amateurish. No one talks like real people talk, even given the time period, and it has this really weird… I guess you’d call it a “writing style”, where for the most part people will be trying to talk in a period dialect that fits into 12th century Austria, and then they’ll just randomly lapse into verbal anachronisms and cultural norms that are obviously 2020 America. I half expected characters to slip in a “lol” or a “bruh”. It’s weird, and I don’t know if it’s intentional and it’s just a misfire, or it’s just amateurish, bad writing. But I suspect it’s the latter. Or the former by means of the latter.
It’s not all bad. The plot itself is cool, so when it’s moving forward the plot it’s generally alright. For example, the scene where a vampire named Lenore is explaining her plan for Hector that she’d been enacting throughout the season was probably the best part of the show, dialog-wise. Where it falls flat is in the monologues, soliloquies and moments of character banter that are supposed to flesh out the characters. None of that works. For any character.
Sypha and Trevor’s relationship doesn’t feel real or touching. A glaring moment is when Trevor orders a beer and says it’s better than sex and Sypha gets super offended and freezes it. No one acts like that. That’s such a weeb-filter interpretation of what a relationship looks like. So it didn’t feel like a real relationship. It felt like a relationship that someone who only watches bad anime thinks a relationship is like. Another example is Isaac’s weird monologues about humanity. They’re played off like this insightful, introspective thing, but in reality it’s super banal and pointless and shallow.
The sex and gore is fine, but the second to last episode is basically hentai. I think it’s trying to be edgy with the amount of sex, like True Blood style or Game of Thrones style, but it also suffers from that animation self-indulgence I mentioned, and what should be a 10-15 second scene becomes a 20 minute montage cutting between two sex scenes that both go on way too long. And, again, the reason I think it’s self-indulgence is I just get the vibe from the show that the show thinks this is super edgy and cool but in reality, it’s just the pacing of this show being whack as hell.
For all the effort they put into trying to make me care about these characters, I don’t care about any of them. At all. They all have these sort of one-note personalities, their relationships feel inorganic, and they feel, for the most part, like tropes more than they feel like characters.
All in all, this season also feels significantly smaller in scale than the previous season. Where do you go after killing Dracula in season 2? How do you top that? Well, the answer is, apparently, you don’t. This season, more than anything else, feels like setup for a season 4. It has 4 interwoven narratives — Hector at Camilla’s castle, Isaac traveling to Hector (for some reason), Alucard and some totally inconsequential side-story about amateur Japanese vampire hunters who made it to Dracula’s castle in Austria somehow (what?), and Trevor/Sypha investigating a church in a small town. None of these narratives converge by the end of the season. Not only does this show have this aggressively slow pacing, but it’s also spread incredibly thin.
And it’s not like Game of Thrones where the different locations/POV characters are regularly trading secondary characters back and forth and introducing plot elements that affect the broader narrative. There are 4 totally distinct storylines in this season that have no interconnection whatsoever, and only 2 of them are satisfying at all. They all suffer from not having the attention they deserve and the severe issues with the pacing.
Let me use this Castlevania season 3 review to fix this show’s structure really fast. Ready? Okay. Here’s what they do. Trevor/Sypha is the A plot. It stays mostly the same, but they have significantly more action and the investigation they take part in teases out the sinister nature of the Judge-character a little better. It’s played off with more horror and more suspense, like kind of a Get Out or a Stepford Wives plot, with them slowly uncovering something is horribly amiss in this seemingly normal town.
Hector/Lenore is the B plot, it plays out mostly the same. That Alucard shit is cut entirely, instead we get one scene at the end where things are starting to come to a head and Alucard’s sitting alone being all mopey and news reaches him that shit’s really about to go down and he’s like “Shit dawg I gotta get back in the game” and he sets off.
Isaac’s plot starts out with him reaching the new castle and we think he’s going to do something badass there but instead he just gets fucking murdered in the first five minutes by one of the new vampire queens (Striga) to show off how powerful she is and also so we don’t have to watch this dead weight, boring character traveling and having “philosophical” monologues for 2 hours (“Humanity’s bad.” “But what if they’re good tho?” “They have cruelty… but also kindness.” Holy shit. Super deep. If you’re 9. All the philosophical insight of a Clifford book served with the self-seriousness of a funeral dirge). Now the plot is, as it should be, 65% A plot, 30% B plot and 5% teasing Alucard coming back for season 4, instead of 25/25/25/25 and most of it just being pointless.
We cut out every scene that drags on way too fucking long. Now we have this show simmered down, reduced, as the cooks say, to a tasty, concentrated demi-glace instead of the loose, watery, flavorless mess that it actually came out as. A tight 6 episodes. Except then they still get another 4 episodes so maybe they can have an actual finale instead of a midseason finale trying to carry the burden of being a finale.
Anyway, do you see what I mean about I’m questioning if I liked the first two seasons now after having watched the third? I seem to remember the finale of season 2 being amazing and, while the pacing was still spotty and the dialog was questionable, I remember the characters being charming. I also remember feeling like a lot of stuff happened in season 2, whereas I feel like in season 3 barely anything happened, it was mostly just time passing. But that can’t be right, can it? Surely season 2 had all these problems? Anyway, I’m not going to subject myself to finding out.
I will probably still watch season 4. Because it really feels like season 4 is just the back half of season 3 that we didn’t get and I want to know what happens.
Anyway, this has been my review of Castlevania Season 3. Can’t really recommend it. Click here for more Movie/TV Reviews.