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Castlevania Meanders Through an Uneven Second Season

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castlevania netflix season two

The first season of Castlevania moved along at a deft clip. The storytelling was epic, the action was fast and frenetic, and there always seemed to be something happening. In fact, one of the main criticisms of Netflix‘s first stab at Konami’s vampire-slaying saga was that it was too brief.

At a mere 4 episodes, fans could be forgiven for wanting a bit more from the inaugural season of Castlevania, and with this in mind, it would seem that the expansion to 8 episodes for the series’ second season would be a natural progression. However, while the runtime has increased for Castlevania‘s sophomore effort, there may not be the depth or breadth of content to justify the extra 2 hours.

The main issue with Castlevania‘s second season is that its most interesting characters spend half the season doing next to nothing. I kid you not when I say that Trevor, Sypha and Alucard, the protagonists of this series, spend literally 4 of the 8 episodes puttering around in a library. While one can recognize how this allows these new allies to engage in banter and develop as characters, it makes for some pretty tedious story-telling.

Netflix Castlevania Season 2 Trevor Alucard Sypha

While it’s good to finally have the whole team together, it would be nice if they had a smidge more to do.

Likewise, Dracula, who arrived as a shockingly effective villain in the first season of Castlevania spends a vast chunk of the second season brooding in his study while his subordinates make reports to him. All in all this sidelining of the central protagonists and antagonist is easily this season’s biggest weakness.

Luckily, however, there is some fresh blood to keep things from totally going stale. As Dracula gathers his war council in the premiere, many new characters are introduced. Fans will recognize Carmilla almost immediately when she appears, and she is faithful to her treachery and deceit from the series, most notably in Symphony of the Night.

Peter Stormare also joins the cast, which is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, he’s almost completely wasted as the Viking warlord turned vampire, Godbrand. Stormare is an actor of considerable talent, so it’s a bit of a bummer to see him offered so little to do in Castlevania.

Castlevania Netflix Season 2 Godbrand

Peter Stormare joins the cast of Castlevania in season 2. Unfortunately, he isn’t given a lot to do.

Either way, the strongest additions by far are the human characters who serve on Dracula’s council. Hector and Isaac are placed in charge of the mission to exterminate humanity, and their place in the show is a fascinating one. Both humans who despise their own kind due to the cruelty they’ve endured, they seek to eradicate their own species at the behest of Dracula. Both characters are given a lot more depth than would be expected for their roles, and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air with so much of the cast just sitting around for vast swathes of time.

They also run his devil forges, a very cool part of the Castlevania mythology that serves to explain the never-ending supply of demons and monsters in the series. Seeing the devil forges at work is actually pretty damn cool, much like how it’s surprisingly satisfying to see the inner machinations of how Dracula moves his castle to new locations.

In fact, fans will recognize lots of fun additions being added from the franchise canon. I won’t spoil them here but just to give you an idea: iconic weapons, enemies, and bosses do make key appearances in the second season. Also key is the use of the Belmont ancestral home as a backdrop, a place where other series protagonists are referenced and name-dropped in a bevy of Easter eggs for eagle-eyed fans.

Castlevania Netflix Season 2

While a whole host of new characters shows up for Castlevania’s second season, only a few of them are developed enough to truly matter.

All in all Castlevania‘s second season isn’t a total disappointment, but the amount of time it spends dragging its heels might really leave you wondering if 8 episodes were the best fit for this amount of storytelling. For every cool battle scene or natural addition that improves the quality of the narrative, there is another scene of Trevor and Alucard teasing one another in a library, or Dracula staring mournfully into his fireplace.

Now, just to give a clear and concise disclosure, Netflix only offered us episodes 1-6 of the 8 episode season in advance, and things did seem to really be picking up in the 6th episode especially. So if you find yourself wanting more with the new season of Castlevania, as this reviewer did, it’s worth noting that the best may be yet to come.

Castlevania Netflix Season 2

Longtime fans will probably find the fan service and easter eggs to be enough to propel them through. More casual fans, however, may be left wanting more.

Either way, if you enjoyed the first season of Castlevania, you should find enough to like here to make the short trip through the second season worthwhile. There are some excellent moments, and even if the action is more sparse, it does pack a bloody and satisfying punch when it arrives at last. Those who are not die-hard series fans, however, might not find much to sink their teeth into.

Castlevania will be released for all Netflix subscribers on October 24th. 

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 33: Coming into Maturity

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Anime Ichiban welcomes our anime waifu overlords, old and new. Join Matt and Kyle this episode as they discuss the return of the Goddess of Anime, Haruhi Suzumiya herself, then hop on over to the new virutal sensation that’s finally sweeping English-speaking nations: Hololive Vtubers!

For this episode of Anime Ichiban, the SHITSUMON! topic will have the duo diving into recently released Aggretsuko Season 3 and The Great Pretender and explore how the two shows work with mature themes.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions and what we’ve been up to
23:33 – The Return of Haruhi Suzumiya(‘s light novels)
37:23 – The Debut of Generation 1 of Hololive English Vtubers
53:07 – Minor news roundup: (Shenmue anime announced; Fate/Stay Night Heaven’s Feel Part 3 movie debuts to huge success; KyoAni fire updates)
58:35 – SHITSUMON! How does anime portray mature themes in its storytelling?

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 32: The Art of Following a Formula

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry.

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diary of our days at breakwater

Corporate shakeups and Galapagos Syndrome spell omens of a changing global landscape for the anime industry and that the crew digs into along with how a series can effectively perform within its genre conventions.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions
12:28 – Legacy piracy site KissAnime shuts down
28:45 – AT&T reportedly looking to sell Crunchyroll
43:27 – Galapagos Syndrome: Is anime in danger of losing its global identity?
58:41 – News Reel
1:02:20 – SHITSUMON! How do shows perform effectively and still entertain in genres whose formulae are already well known and expected?

TRACKS

Intro – “Cagayake! GIRLS” by Houkago Tea Time (K-ON! opening theme)
Outro – “Tsuri no sekai e” by Umino High School Breakwater Club (Our Diary at the Breakwater ending theme)

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Anime

‘One Piece: Stampede’ is an All-Star Behemoth Buckling Under Predictability

Does One Piece: Stampede sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

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As the fourteenth film in Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece saga, One Piece: Stampede was released in 2019 to critical and financial success. As a big-budget commemoration of the anime’s 20th anniversary, Stampede has lots to live up to, from successfully stamping a momentous two decades, to satiating the hype of a passionate global fanbase. Does it sail all the way to Laugh Tale, or remain anchored in an East Blue of mediocrity?

It’s party time at the Pirate Fest!

The Pirate Fest, a grand gathering of the sea’s most infamous individuals, is underway! At the festival, the Straw Hats compete with their Worst Generation rivals to retrieve a treasure of Gol D. Roger. But behind the scenes, festival organiser Buena Festa and legendary pirate Douglas Bullet are scheming something sinister.

Cutting to the chase, One Piece: Stampede soon kicks into an all-out battle against said Douglas Bullet, with Luffy working with friend and foe alike to fell his opponent.

Much like Dragon Ball Super: Broly, also animated by Toei Animation, each frame of One Piece: Stampede is a treasure to behold. Fluid animation and colors spell eye-candy magic, and the odd bit of 3D animation isn’t (too) visually jarring.

One Piece: Stampede nails its mission statement of lightning-paced popcorn entertainment to a tee. Goofy shonen films don’t have to transcend ‘awesome action and silly superpowers’. Rather than shooting for the moon and coming up short, Stampede settles for smashing the sky. With white-knuckle fights and satisfying character moments conveyed with a zippy pace, One Piece: Stampede assuredly brings what fans want. And whilst not as developed or memorable as other film baddies (One Piece: Strong World’s Shiki or One Piece: Z’s titular Z), Douglas Bullet is terrifyingly tough enough to tick the boxes.

Playing It Safe

Whilst the ‘playing it safe’ ethos of One Piece: Stampede succeeds on the surface, the imaginative innovation of One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island is missing, and the excess of characters prevents the possibility of channeling the simplicity of One Piece: Dead End Adventure. Stampede works as anniversary celebratory bombast but isn’t the series’ smartest, and with the core of the film occurring in a single spot and under dull skies, location fatigue rears its head.

For some, the draw of One Piece: Stampede is its constant character cameos. From the instantly recognizable to the deep cuts, it’s a fun gimmick for fans, although the absence of big names like Kuzan and Jinbei are noticeable. Some cameos fall on the side of groan inducing-ly forced, shoehorning a requisite Zoro fight, or overtly shouting to audiences “Remember them?!” Having no effect on the story, these cameos are clunky and break narrative immersion.

Far from the worst of One Piece’s wildly varied films, Stampede is what it needs to be. It lacks the creative spirit of One Piece’s heights and is dampened by its inconsistent cameo execution, but it’s a fine anniversary celebration for one of manga and anime’s, if not the world’s, best works of fiction. For the uninitiated, it’ll be like an avant-garde acid trip, but for those clued-into Luffy’s antics, it’s a barrage of ballistic glee!

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