Castlevania is an American adult animated dark fantasy action horror television series created and written by Warren Ellis for Netflix, and is produced by Frederator Studios’ Kevin Kolde and Fred Seibert. Based on the Japanese video game series of the same name by Konami, the first two seasons adapt the 1989 entry Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and follow Trevor Belmont, Alucard and Sypha Belnades as they defend the nation of Wallachia from Dracula and his minions. Additionally, characters and elements from the 2005 entry Castlevania: Curse of Darkness are featured beginning in the second season, and Alucard’s backstory is drawn from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The art style is heavily influenced by Japanese animation and Ayami Kojima’s artwork.
Castlevania was originally planned as a film, developed by producer Kevin Kolde and his company Project 51. He joined Frederator Studios in 2005, and founder Fred Seibert agreed to produce the project there. They contracted a script with writer Warren Ellis in 2007. The project entered development hell until about 2015, and it was picked up by streaming service Netflix. Powerhouse Animation Studios joined the team and production commenced. The production team includes staff members who worked in the Japanese anime industry.
The series premiered on Netflix on July 7, 2017, and was renewed for an expanded second season of eight episodes on the same day; the second season premiered on October 26, 2018. A ten-episode third season was greenlit by Netflix and released on March 5, 2020. The series ended with the release of its fourth season on May 13, 2021. The series received critical acclaim, with its visuals, animation, voice acting, action sequences, characterization, themes and writing receiving much praise, although the pacing, particularly of the third and fourth seasons, garnered a polarized response.
A follow-up series in the Castlevania setting, Castlevania: Nocturne, is in the works at Netflix which will focus on Richter Belmont, a descendant of Trevor and Sypha, and Maria Renard during the French Revolution.
- Graham McTavish as Vlad Dracula Țepeș, a vampire who swears vengeance on humanity for the murder of his wife Lisa, summoning an army of monsters to kill all the people of Wallachia (seasons 1–2, 4; no lines in season 3)
- Emily Swallow as Lisa Țepeș, Dracula’s beloved wife who is burned at the stake in Târgoviște after being falsely accused of witchcraft (seasons 1–2, 4; no lines in season 3)
- Theo James as Hector, a devil forgemaster called upon to serve Dracula in his war against humanity. (seasons 2–4)
- Adetokumboh M’Cormack as Isaac, a rivalrous devil forgemaster and fierce loyalist of Dracula who helps to lead his army. (seasons 2–4)
- Jaime Murray as Carmilla, a scheming vampire mistress and member of Dracula’s war council who seeks to usurp him, leader of the Council of Sisters. (seasons 2–4)
- Jessica Brown Findlay as Lenore, the diplomat member of the Council of Sisters. (seasons 3–4)
- Rila Fukushima as Sumi, a vampire hunter from Japan using a sword. (season 3; corpse in season 4)
- Jason Isaacs as The Judge, the town leader of Lindenfeld who wishes to keep peace and order in town, at all costs. (season 3)
- Yasmine Al Massri as Morana, the strategist member of the Council of Sisters. (seasons 3–4)
- Ivana Miličević as Striga, the military member of the Council of Sisters. (seasons 3–4)
- Navid Negahban as Sala, the leader of the monks of Lindenfeld. (season 3)
- Bill Nighy as Saint Germain, a strange man researching a realm known as the Infinite Corridor. (seasons 3–4)
- Toru Uchikado as Taka, a vampire hunter from Japan using a bow. (season 3; corpse in season 4)
- Gildart Jackson as FlysEyes, a demon created by Isaac. (seasons 3–4)
- Malcolm McDowell as Varney, an egotistical vampire from London and former agent from Dracula’s Army who seeks to resurrect his master. (season 4)
- Toks Olagundoye as Zamfir, the head guard of Targoviste’s Underground Court, fighting against night creatures. (season 4)
- Marsha Thomason as Greta of Danesti, a swordswoman of Carthaginian descent and the head woman of Danesti, fighting against night creatures. (season 4)
- Titus Welliver as Ratko, a brutal Slavic vampire warrior assisting Varney. (season 4)
- Christine Adams as The Alchemist, a powerful mage who resides in the Infinite Corridor and controls it. (season 4)
- Matthew Waterson as Dragan, a vampire warrior who seeks to resurrect Dracula. (season 4)
In March 2007, Frederator Studios acquired the rights to produce an animated film adaptation of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, intended as a direct-to-video production. Frederator brought writer Warren Ellis aboard as the screenwriter for the series. In an interview with Paste, Warren Ellis said that when he was contacted about Castlevania he had no previous knowledge of the series and discovered it was a “Japanese transposition of the Hammer Horror films I grew up with and loved”. Ellis explained how he worked with Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi to fit the film into the timeline of the series, including writing a new backstory, and how he was frustrated that Igarashi wanted eight full re-writes of pre-production material before giving approval. Ellis noted that Frederator’s Kevin Kolde, who was slated to produce the work, did not want the film to be aimed at children, allowing Ellis to use gruesome imagery and scenes as necessary to tell the story he wanted to write, something that Ellis had found restrictive in working with normal television animation.
In adapting the game for the film, Ellis did not want to make a point-for-point adaptation, but instead provide some material to flesh out the game’s world and elements behind it. At this stage, the film was anticipated to be only 80 minutes long, which Ellis knew would not be enough to tell the full story he wanted, so was able to break apart his script into a trilogy of works, each part having a self-contained three-act structure; the first part would be to introduce the characters of Dracula, Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard and with a meaningful narrative resolution. In this manner, Ellis noted that if the other two parts were never greenlit, the first work “doesn’t demand the presence of the other two parts for it to work as its own thing”. Due to the limited time, Ellis opted to drop Grant Danasty, a pirate character in the game; Ellis noted that besides “the stupid name”, he felt the pirate was misplaced in the setting and that the limited run time would not allow him to develop the character fully.
Sometime around 2008, work on the production stalled, and entered development hell. Ellis had completed his script in June 2008, and the show’s production blog had said in August 2008 that they were shopping around the idea as a theatrical release, but no further updates followed before the blog was quietly deleted.
Around 2012, Adi Shankar was approached to direct a live-action version of Ellis’ script. Shankar, who at the time had just finished work as executive producer of Dredd, said that the party was looking to make a film in the style of the Underworld films with a similar budget, representative of a small studio with large independent backing. Shankar turned the opportunity down, saying it felt “250 percent wrong”, as he had deep respect for the original game and felt the live-action version would not treat it well. Following this, Shankar stepped back from Hollywood to pursue more self-published works, stating that “the major studios were blatantly disrespecting fandom” as a reason he turned down the offer.
The show was revitalized when Powerhouse Animation Studios’s Sam Deats was able to negotiate a deal with Netflix for the production, using the existing scripts that had been written nearly a decade prior. Powerhouse reached out to Frederator to help with the show’s production. According to Ellis, Netflix was very positive about his original scripts that he wrote in 2007, and so he had to only make a few changes to fit the Netflix format while staying true to the version of the script Konami had accepted. Shankar was approached with the opportunity to produce the work, which he took as neither Powerhouse or Frederator sought to restrict his creative vision from Ellis’ scripts. Fred Seibert and Kevin Kolde of Frederator Studios also co-produce. The series was animated by Frederator Studios and Powerhouse Animation Studios and directed by Sam Deats. Trevor Morris composed the show’s music.
The show’s art style was heavily influenced by the work Ayami Kojima did for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. They also took ideas from director Satoshi Kon’s works for character expressions and series such as Cowboy Bebop, Demon Slayer and Berserk for inserting humor among the more serious elements. The show is produced using 2D hand-drawn animation, taking cues from Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D, with staff members that previously worked on Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. The manga series Berserk and Blade of the Immortal were also cited as inspiration, with one of the show’s animation directors having previously worked on the Berserk films. The production works closely with Konami, the holders of the Castlevania franchise, who helped to identify small continuity issues but were otherwise very receptive towards the work.
The first season represents the first part of the trilogy that Ellis has laid out in 2007. Ellis said that the second season, completing the trilogy, is where he had been able to deviate somewhat from the game, and has been better anticipate the show’s release on Netflix in terms of scenes and episode lengths. Shankar believes that there is an opportunity for more stories to be told borrowing from other games in the series, noting that overall he sees the series as “a story about a family and multiple generations of this family” with many tales to draw from. The production team for the second season included staff members who worked on Madhouse productions such as Death Parade.
Developing the character of Dracula, Adi Shankar made it clear that one of the series’ main goals has been to paint Dracula not as a villain, but a tragic, doomed figure. According to him: “The best villains, in general, are the heroes of their own story and the trick to making Castlevania resonate was this idea that Dracula isn’t a bad guy, he isn’t a villain, he’s just a person consumed with darkness. That first episode in Season 1 we start to see why he wants to eradicate humans. He’s not just this mustache-curling, one-dimensional villain. What Dracula is doing is not really a war against humanity. It’s more a suicide note.”
The show’s third season was greenlit by Netflix a few days after the broadcast of the second season. Shankar announced in November 2018 that he will also be leading an animated series based on Capcom’s Devil May Cry, which he acquired the rights for himself, and will make the show, alongside the Castlevania series, part of a shared “Bootleg Multiverse”. On March 27, 2020, Netflix announced they had renewed the series for a fourth season, stating on April 16, 2021, that it would be the series’s final season. On July 31, 2020, it was reported that amid a wave of sexual misconduct allegations being levelled against the show’s creator and showrunner Warren Ellis, he would no longer have any involvement in developing subsequent Castlevania series after the fourth season’s release.
May 13, 202
- E01 – “Murder Wakes It Up”
- E02 – “Having the World”
- E03 – “Walk Away”
- E04 – “You Must Sacrifice”
- E05 – “Back in the World”
- E06 – “You Don’t Deserve My Blood”
- E07 – “The Great Work”
- E08 – “Death Magic”
- E09 – “The Endings”
- E10 – “It’s Been a Strange Ride”
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