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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

Castlevania, an adult animated Netflix original series, is widely agreed upon to be one of the greatest video game-to-television adaptations ever made. However, no familiarity with the games is necessary to appreciate the show. As someone who has absolutely no knowledge of video games whatsoever, I went into Castlevania with no awareness of its lore or characters, but that was in no way detrimental to my viewing experience. Whether you’re familiar with the source material or not, Castlevania is irrefutably a spectacular piece of entertainment. Last week, the dark fantasy series returned in the form of its highly-anticipated spin-off, Castlevania: Nocturne. Nocturne is set about three hundred years after the original series and follows the stories of an all-new cast of characters. 

The main character of the series is Richter Belmont, the youngest descendant of the legendary Belmont clan, an ancient bloodline of vampire hunters. His arc throughout the season is a beautiful illustration of the impacts of grief and trauma. Richter is the adopted brother of Maria Renard, a young leader of the French Revolution who practices the occult. Her powers allow her to open portals through which she can summon magical creatures that she can then command in battle. Maria and Richter are joined by ex-slave-turned-warrior Annette, who has the ability to manipulate metal and earth, and Edouard, a swordsman and opera singer, both of whom fought in the Haitian Revolution to overthrow slavery before coming to France in search of a Belmont to help them stop the Vampire Messiah. Besides being fascinating characters on their own, Annette and Edouard’s participation in the plot enhances the narrative by allowing for parallels to be drawn between the Haitian and French Revolutions. The French aristocracy and slave owners in Haiti both being literal blood-sucking vampires is excellent, if not subtle, symbolism. Edouard and Annette’s story also enables further exploration of the humanity of night creatures, a narrative thread that first began in the original series with the character of Isaac, and which I am very excited to see continued as the series progresses. 

As remarkable and captivating as our cadre of protagonists is, the villains are on a whole other level. Vampire demoness Drolta Tzuentes serves as the loyal second-in-command to the Vampire Messiah. She is cunning and ruthless, and her appearance can only be defined as peak character design. The shapeshifting Olrox is yet another stellar addition to the cast. As an Aztec who witnessed his people’s destruction by conquistadors, he presents a challenge to the Messiah’s authority by refusing to bow to her and recognize the divine superiority she claims to possess. Unfortunately, Olrox and Drolta were more compelling antagonists than the big bad — the Vampire Messiah, Erzsebet Báthory herself. Claiming to be the Egyptian goddess of war, Sekhmet, her sense of superiority is intended to make her that much more daunting, but it only serves to make her less fascinating than the other antagonists whose personalities are multi-faceted and full of intriguing complexities. Though, no matter who the main villain in this new series was, measuring up to the pure greatness that was Dracula was never going to be an easy task. Still, I’d like to see Erzsebet more fleshed out in future seasons. It’s been made clear that all creatures in this universe — whether human, vampire, or even night creature — are full of depth and nuance, so why should a reincarnated goddess (if that’s what she truly is) be any different? 

Aside from my qualms with the execution of Erzsebet as a character, I only had one other minor issue with the show. In the first few episodes, some of the voice acting was a bit flat and seemed to lack the necessary passion the characters should’ve been feeling in the moment, but as the series progressed, I stopped noticing it. Whether this was because I got used to their voices or the actors’ craft improved with time, I didn’t consider it a problem by the end. One other critique that I have seen is that the show is exposition-heavy, which it is. This doesn’t bother me personally, but it could be a downside for those who don’t care for long dramatic monologues explaining the past. 

The cons are few and far between, but the pros abound. By far the strongest aspect of the series — aside from its remarkable characters, marvelous word building, imaginative creature designs, and spectacular score — is the animation, which is nothing short of incredible. Set during the French Revolution, the show is a breathtaking visual feast from start to finish, especially when it comes to the elaborate architecture and attire of the vampiric aristocracy. All of the environments are richly detailed, the creatures are expressive and full of life. The expertly choreographed fight scenes are some of the best and most creative I have ever seen. The lighting is stunning — from dark prison cells to warm golden sunrises, every frame is expertly lit, further immersing the viewer in the story.

Nocturne was officially renewed just a week after its premiere. While this was a thrilling announcement for us Castlevania fans, it was also extremely frustrating to see this show get renewed so quickly while the fan bases of other Netflix original series have been fighting for the renewal of their shows for more than six months without a word from Netflix on the fate of their beloved piece of content. My grievances with Netflix aside, I am delighted that the future of this franchise is secure, and I can’t wait to see more enthralling stories unfold in what has quickly become one of my favorite fictional universes. I would encourage everyone (unless you have a low tolerance for blood and gore) to watch both Castlevania and Castlevania: Nocturne, as they are collectively some of the best pieces of media I have ever encountered.

Autumn Fleming is a contributor at the Her Campus at the Pace University chapter. She writes about entertainment of all forms, including but not limited to theatre, television, film and books. Outside of Her Campus, Autumn is an author and student who self-published her first novel, a YA high fantasy entitled ‘Virago’, in 2021. The book is for sale on Amazon. She currently serves as the treasurer for her school’s theatre club and has plans to study abroad in the spring semester. She also writes book reviews on Goodreads and reviews spanning every entertainment medium on her own personal website. She is currently a junior at Pace University majoring in Communications & Media Studies with a double minor in Journalism & Digital Storytelling and Arts & Entertainment Management. Autumn is an avid fangirl who loves to spend her free time consuming media and telling new stories of her own. Her current works in progress include three novels, several musicals, a poetry collection and a long list of to-be-written fanfics which she occasionally posts on Archive of Our Own. Her favorite genre is fantasy and she is a lover of well-crafted fictional universes, her favorites being Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Bardugo’s Grishaverse and Martin’s World of Ice and Fire. She is also a cosplayer and has a collection of swords and daggers as well as an incurable obsession with wall art and dragon statues.