Castlevania Season 2 Series Review: Oh Look, We Got The End Of The Season

Castlevania Season 2 Promotional Image

I mentioned repeatedly in my season 1 review of this that it really wasn’t a season. It was a taste test. A preview or introduction to a series that hadn’t been fully made before release. Here, with the so called season 2, we get the rest of the season bringing the total episode count now to 12 which is pretty much a standard season. So other than a prolonged gap during which time I forgot most of the pertinent details forcing me to rewatch the first four episodes before getting into this, was there any real purpose to this? All I can figure is that they really weren’t sure of their market and wouldn’t commit the resources but that’s a really terrible way to deliver a story as all it really did was make the faults of this second season more apparent.

See, there’s a flow to stories. When you get caught up in them, it is easy to miss small details or to stop yourself from asking hard questions or picking at the edges to see what falls out. But once the story has had a jarring pause and you’ve had months plus a rewatch to contemplate, it is much harder to become immersed in the world. Particularly when the series itself seems to be doing everything possible to stop you.

Castlevania Season 2 Camilla and Hector

Now, that isn’t to say Castlevania is bad. Because, it actually is quite a fun little romp of a story provided the copious blood and guts being splashed around aren’t a problem and the clear sequel bait endings for the surviving cast members doesn’t annoy. If this had come out in a solid chunk and I’d binged the 12 episodes altogether, I’d have had an absolute blast and while I still probably would have noted a few of the flaws, I don’t think I would have been as disappointed.

I was going to try to start positive but I realised that every positive I have for this season comes with a caveat so we’re just going to have to wade right in and hope we don’t sink.

If you like your blood and violence (and if you made it through the first four episodes the answer to that is probably yes), then season 2 is going to deliver. However, there’s a different kind of feel to it. Whereas season 1 had kind of a cruel humour with its demons running from the city carrying an infant (the excess of this imagery just made it more amusing than horrific and maybe that’s saying something terrible about me) and Trevor’s whip cracking removing eyes and the like. It was excessive but fun. It was almost pushing things to the absurdist level as it rained fire and blood down upon the masses. Season 2 sadly lacks any of this kind of edge and instead we are left with vampires tearing through small packs of fleeing humans and a few fights between various demons and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard. These conflicts are still bloody but nowhere near the same level as the city slaughtering madness that the first four episodes threw at us.

Castlevania Season 2 Trevor

And that seems to be a reoccurring theme of season 2. We get more of things given there are more episodes, but at the same time it is less. There’s less impact, less care, and generally less involvement. The church that was such a threat in season one gets some mentions but otherwise are completely absent from the conflict. The vampires spend more time squabbling amongst themselves inside the castle and Trevor, Sypha and Alucard spend an inordinate amount of time investigating the museum that is Trevor’s family vault. With the three main groups separated for vast spans of time (and the church more or less vanishing) there’s a lot of waiting for things to get moving. It doesn’t help that the vampires barely attack anything during the run of the eight episodes here so unless you are fresh on the memory of season one you may not even really remember why we should care about Dracula’s whole kill all the humans plan.

But, we’ve just gotten to my big issue with this second season. Dracula. In season one, the time we spent with him was not great but it was well used time. They built up a very strong impression of this character who was literally larger than life. His love for his wife, his fury at her loss, the pain he felt and his anger being distributed amongst the masses in a slaughter that wasn’t justified but understandable. Here, well Dracula is just a hollow shell waiting to be killed (as more than one character points out). There’s a clever line from Alucard about this whole massacre thing just being a really long suicide note, and he’s right but that just kind of makes Dracula’s character seem even more hollow. The fire and fury is gone and we never even got to see it fade. We went from this extraordinary and imposing menace to the guy who spent nearly eight episodes sitting in his chair staring at the fireplace and occasionally having one on one chats with the various minions who were all scheming around him as he sat more or less oblivious or indifferent.

Castlevania Season 2 Dracula

Perhaps if we’d seen this transition and the slow loss of his connection to the war he started and the drive he had, it might have played out more emotionally. However, the transition happened off screen. One season we see him in one form and now here he is a different and much less interesting one.

They do fill a lot of the screen time with his followers though. The majority of the vampire characters are either glorified extras or just annoying, with Camilla being a notable exception. That said, her character remains more or less on the side of things and ultimately hers is a story unresolved so there’s little satisfaction to be found in this one. Also, her sudden swearing at various points might have been amusing but it kind of seemed vastly out of character for her (plenty of other characters swear and that’s fine, but it just sounded so wrong coming from Camilla – and not just because she was female but rather because it seemed like it didn’t fit with the rest of her persona). The two human generals Dracula acknowledges could have both been interesting but instead they come off as fairly cheap characters with contrasting ends just for the sake of it.

It might be fair to say that none of these characters left an impression, except that even when they are just stuffing around in a library, Trevor and Sypha have real chemistry and the addition of Alucard’s comments and provocations actually just worked really well. Every moment spent with the main group (and admittedly, there weren’t enough moments spent with them) was purely fun and once the fighting started things got very good very quickly. It’s just a shame that there’s so much down time focusing on things that aren’t really all that interesting first.

Sypha - Castlevania

I mean, there are questions about Sypha’s seemingly unlimited magical reserves and Trevor not being totally dead because even though he’s from a family of monster hunters he is actually a human, and Alucard just kind of does whatever because apparently half-vampire means worse than a full vampire though how that works is unclear… but none of this matters. This group is awesome fun. Let’s see more of them.

All and all, watching both season 1 and 2 of Castlevania together won’t be a bad watch. There’s plenty to enjoy – again though with a warning about the blood and gore, it is definitely a feature. However, this isn’t something that is unmissable and it probably won’t be remembered for long. But hey, whips, swords, magic, vampire killing… It is all good fun just remember not to ask too many questions.

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Karandi James

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DEMON CASTLE DRACULA X: NOCTURNE IN THE MOONLIGHT ORIGINAL GAME SOUNDTRACK

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime With Blood and Gore

Tuesday's Top 5

Yes, we have more Halloween list fun this week as I count down my five favourite anime that have a lot of blood and/or gore. Now I had to think long and hard about my pre-requisite for something ending up on this list because just most amount of gross out moments didn’t seem like a great criteria. So instead I decided to go with anime that use blood and gore the best as part of the narrative rather than for the shock factor. That said, it is my list so I’d love to know what you would include on yours.

Please note, there will be spoilers below. And while it should go without saying given the list title, a lot of the images will be disturbing if you do not like blood and gore. 

Honourable mentions: Tokyo Ghoul and Attack on Titan, both provide blood and gore aplenty but it always feels more sensationalist than necessary.

Number 5: Higurashi

Higurashi

Cute kids who turn into psychos and kill their friends, in sometimes truly horrifying ways. This anime really does push the boundaries with a young cast that are subjected to torture, dismemberment, and generally just misery and death. Despite the young age of the cast it doesn’t really hold back on showing the deaths seemingly relishing in each and every failed attempt to break free from the time loop. This one definitely earns a spot on the list even if it isn’t quite as graphic as some of the others.

Number 4: Elfen Lied

Elfen1

I almost just made this an honourable mention given a lot of the blood and flying body parts could definitely be seen as just an attempt to shock the audience. Still, the story does rely heavily on human fear of the unknown and of fear of the monster, and Lucy delivers both as she walks her way through a mass of armed guards leaving nothing but blood in her wake. After the opening the blood keeps coming but it is certainly diminished after the anime has set its scene.

Number 3: Another

Another

While more about atmosphere and creepiness than blood, there’s something even more shocking about the moments of pure gore this anime delivers because of the slow build to them. Very few people forget the umbrella on the stair case incident and the teacher suicide in the classroom is a truly unsettling and disturbing visual that isn’t leaving me any time soon. As these deaths are the result of the curse the class is under the violence and shocking nature of these events are actually kind of necessary because otherwise the kids wouldn’t be half so desperate to undo the curse.

Number 2: Devilman Crybaby

Devilman

Want a break from simply dripping and splashing blood around the screen? Devilman Crybaby delivers true body horror with some truly violent and gory sequences that will leave you feeling fairly unsettled. As much as I didn’t really get into the story or characters of Devilman Crybaby, I have to admit that if you are after a genuine round of body horror with a lot of gore thrown in, this anime is going to deliver provided you don’t also mind a lot of sexualised content mixed in with that.

Number 1: Pupa

pupa2

This one wins again (as it previously in 2016 on anime I recommended for Halloween). This is one graphic and disturbing short anime that will definitely get under your skin as a younger sister, infected with a virus, will feed by eating the flesh of her still living older brother (also infected but fast healing). This is blood, gore and a whole lot of shudder inducing imagery and definitely not for the faint hearted. Also, not for anyone who wants a conclusion because you’ll be left wanting.

And there we have it, my top 5 list of anime that use blood and/or gore. As always, feel free to share your list in the comments below.


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ARTFX J TOKYO GHOUL:RE 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: TOUKA KIRISHIMA

Devils’ Line Series Review: Get Ready For Dark – And I Am Talking About The Colour Palette Not The Story

An anime that started with a fairly poor first episode and pretty much never got any better, Devils’ Line was one of my bigger disappointments to come out of the Spring 2018 season.

Review:

I would really like to start this review with an overview of the story, but unfortunately, I’m not sure there really is one. There’s a few different ideas, but none of them ever develop or end up being resolved. And that’s part of the problem with Devils’ Line as a whole, though it certainly isn’t the only issue sucking the life out of this series.

Devil2b

Firstly we have Taira Tsukasa, who is one of those super pure girls who has never fallen in love. Then her friend from school tries to attack her and it turns out he’s a vampire and she’s rescued by another vampire who turns out to work for the police hunting down devils (and don’t ask why vampires are called devils in this story, they just are). All of that seems fine but then Tsukasa is apparently in love with the rescue vampire, Anzai, and the two of them are in a relationship.

If you are wondering what happened in between the rescue and the falling in love, other than Anzai forcibly sticking his tongue down Tsukasa’s throat, I’m going to say not much. The story just expects that audience to believe these two are now in love.

Devil2a

Seriously in love. Like they’ll throw themselves into life-threatening danger on more than one occasion for the other person. Even though vampires and humans can’t actually be involved in a relationship and there is government discussion around a law to allow humans and vampires to have sex only is supervised by a doctor (what?).

I’ll get to the other plot lines that trail about in this mess in a minute, but I want to take a moment to look at Tsukasa’s character, because she is perhaps the stupidest thing about this entire series, and there are some stupid things happening in this series.

Devil8b

The girl meets a guy once who after saving her, by injuring her mind you, gets so out of control because she’s bleeding that he forces himself on her, shoving his tongue into her mouth, and has to sedate himself to calm down. She’s then just totally fixated on him. Letting him into her house, chasing him around the city and into danger… A sniper takes a shot at him while he is in her house and she gets cut by broken glass leaving a permanent scar on her face, and the only comment she makes regarding that several episodes later is that it hurts less than not being with Anzai. I actually can’t recall a single decision or comment that came out of Tsukasa’s mouth that wasn’t either asinine or stupid, and as she’s a character a lot of the action is built around her presence really hinders the story.

Though probably not as much as the fact that everyone seems to fall in love with her. her vampire friend who initially attacked her. Anzai as the saviour. Her lecturer at school who attempts to rape her. The girl is a dishrag and there is nothing about her that is interesting and yet every single person she meets seems to like her and either want to have sex with her or protect her, or both.

Devil10b

But as much fun as the vampire/human relationship issues are, and they do permeate the entire story, even at fairly odd moments when you would think the cast would have better things to do than worry about whether Anzai and Tsukasa can sleep together, the story also seems to want to explore how vampires (devils) fit into modern society and how the general public responds to them. We get mass protests, terrorist groups, calls for segregation, and it all seems like this should go somewhere. There’s even a vast conspiracy within the organisation Anzai works for where there are double agents all pressing their own agenda.

This could have been a fairly gripping story really. And yet it plays out in the background with only a few episodes where it is the focus. Then we get to the end of the season and this story line just kind of stops. We don’t know what legislation actually gets passed or what happens to the conspirators or anything else. The story just turns its focus back to Anzai and Tsukasa’s relationship.

Devil4b

There’s also some subplot about the institution where Anzai grew up and his parents. An escapee vampire from their joins the group midway through the series. Nothing ever eventuates from this plot point.

While I was harsh to Tsukasa earlier, I should probably point out that there isn’t a single decently developed character in the entire series. Not one character is actually interesting or well explored. At the end of the season you would be hard pressed to remember more than a handful of names and when you think about why some of the characters existed at all you will draw a blank. They contribute nothing overall to a story that goes nowhere.

Devil10a

Then we have the visuals. Right from episode one it was pretty clear that this anime was not exactly a gorgeous feast for the eyes. Murky imagery, poor contrasts in the colours, and some really bad choices with animation to make the vampires seem fast (animation choices that seemed to disappear a few episodes in) all worked to make this series a pretty ugly thing to watch.

Devil4d

This isn’t the worst thing ever but what really hurts is that we could have had a decent relationship between Anzai and Tsukasa and an exploration of the trouble they had in building an inter-species relationship. Or we could have had a compelling police drama where there were conspiracies to marginalise devils in society. The issue is, this show couldn’t handle doing both and the end result is an unsatisfying mess.

What did you think of Devils’ Line?

Linked Reviews:


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Karandi James

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Devils’ Line Episode 12: The True Tragedy Is That The Story Might Continue

And this series slowly pulls into its final station and there it will stay. I’m not sure what kind of ending that was but I know I’m not planning on watching it again to find out.

Devil12b.png

I’ll save the rant for the series review. Wow, this is finally done. And while the squad is disbanded and the conspiracy continues in various levels of government and people continue to protest, the anime will of course focus its final half on Tsubasa and Anzai’s relationship as they are forbidden to see each other. And they’ll accept that and wait.

Time skip and there they are together, blushing away.

The end.

Devil12d

Huh, really? An what is the current status of Devils after the time skip? And did anyone get to the bottom of the conspiracy? And all the members of F Squad who were demoted, reassigned or whatever, what happened to them? Does anyone care?

Clearly not the writers.

I am genuinely glad this anime is over.

 

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Karandi James

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Devils’ Line Episode 11: Oh No – It’s A Trap

Turns out everyone is a double agent, or maybe a triple agent, who knows. And now they’ve walked into a trap. Terrible really.

Devil11d

You walk into a building where there are dead homeless people and you just keep proceeding with your mission. Later, you act all shocked that someone set you up. Yep, that is the logic that the writers of this show are working with. Because you wouldn’t call in the dead bodies. And you wouldn’t abandon a mission that was clearly not going to plan. And of course you wouldn’t have thought about just taking the computer and running away because you want to waste time copying a list.

Devil11c

By the time Anzai takes yet another bullet and Taira makes the idiotic decision to get Lee to take her to him, you are kind of wondering why the sniper won’t just take out the whole cast so that this can be over already.

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Karandi James

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Devils’ Line Episode 10: Disjointed

This week we get the continuation of Anzai’s showdown with the professor on the train, a training sequence, some chat about lost memories and the ongoing conspiracy, a romance sequence, and then a fire. Not really sure which part of that I was supposed to pay attention to.

Devil10c.png

Devils’ Line continues to be a bit of an oddity. I don’t actually dislike, but it isn’t good. Nor is it entertainingly bad. It’s kind of like watching the sketched outline of something that potentially could have been good but it never got out of draft form. As a result, ideas are tossed about and we drift from scene to scene with nothing to really distinguish what’s important and what is not. Conversations about murder are delivered in exactly the same tone and colouring as conversations about drinking tea and it makes the whole things just sit a bit strangely.

Devil10d

Turns out we’re going for the ‘Anzai’s special’ approach to bringing this to some kind of conclusion. Why and how I’m sure we’ll get to, but given so many characters are turning their focus to him, as if he’s all that interesting, they will hopefully reveal it soon. Of course, I haven’t actually confirmed how many episodes this anime has, so maybe we’ll just stretch this whole drama out. I’m kind of hoping not.

Linked Reviews:

  1. Episode 9: Vigilante ‘Justice’
  2. Episode 8: Larger Social Issues Aside, Let’s Focus on Vampire Sex
  3. Episode 7: Facing Your Fears Apparently Solves Everything
  4. Episode 6: How Deep Does This Conspiracy Go?
  5. Episode 5: Ooh, Conspiracy
  6. Episode 4: If Blood Tolerance Was A Thing, Wouldn’t The Government Know?
  7. Episode 3: Ill-Defined Relationships
  8. Episode 2: We’re Just Skipping Over the Falling In Love Part
  9. Devils’ Line First Impressions

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Karandi James

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Devils’ Line Episode 9: Vigilante ‘Justice’

And we’re back to caring about the fact that people are protesting about the existence of Devils. This anime doesn’t really know how to build a consistent tone at all.

Devil9b

This episode is a little bit of a mixed bag. We get some more information about Lee and a flash-back to his ‘escape’ but not really sure where he sits in the grand scheme of this story. So far he doesn’t seem like a key player and more like an annoying side-kick so I’m genuinely not sure how much attention I’m supposed to give that sequence. We’re also introduced to the new squad leader and we get some cloak and dagger conspiracy talk that is more or less chopped off at the knees when the new guy just tells them point blank to check out his history and that he doesn’t mind them investigating whoever else. Why you would replace someone who is uncooperative with your agenda with someone else who seems like they are going to be uncooperative is a little confusing, but in terms of Devils’ Line it all just seems pretty standard.

Devil9a

Finally we have the squad negotiating with Seven and Nine for information on the CCC. Meanwhile, the streets are filled with chanting protesters who are carrying blood on them and attacking anyone who reacts to the sight. This is great ‘justice’. Meanwhile, other than Squad F has anyone else taken action? Forget the special units, the guys causing the chaos here are human. Where are the normal police? Nowhere to be seen.

As normal, this anime is just kind of bad even while I think there were some interesting ideas behind it.

Linked Reviews:

  1. Episode 8: Larger Social Issues Aside, Let’s Focus on Vampire Sex
  2. Episode 7: Facing Your Fears Apparently Solves Everything
  3. Episode 6: How Deep Does This Conspiracy Go?
  4. Episode 5: Ooh, Conspiracy
  5. Episode 4: If Blood Tolerance Was A Thing, Wouldn’t The Government Know?
  6. Episode 3: Ill-Defined Relationships
  7. Episode 2: We’re Just Skipping Over the Falling In Love Part
  8. Devils’ Line First Impressions

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Consider supporting the blog by:

Patreon2             Thoughts on Anime             74iz