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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Phantom in the Twilight Series Review: This Series Could Be Renamed Saving Shinyao

While this anime isn’t exactly going to change the world it was perhaps one of the more fun titles from the Summer Season. If you like a bit of fun and action with vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night and you’ll probably find something to enjoy in Phantom in the Twilight.

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I’ll admit straight out I didn’t think a huge amount of episode 1. It was another girl runs into supernatural hot guys and I kind of predicted that this show could become quite good or just be a mess. I also made a lot of disparaging remarks about the protagonist Ton and it took more than a few episodes before I finally got off her case because I finally started warming up to her. How is that relevant to the review? Well, it is my round about way of saying that this anime takes a little time to grow on you, but fortunately once it gets going the action is pretty solid and the characters are a lot more interesting than they might initially appear.

That said, it isn’t as though this show becomes some kind of sleeper masterpiece. It really is just silly supernatural fun and the final episodes don’t quite nail the landing leaving me at least feeling a tiny bit let down given the mid-season was pretty solid.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

So what is this show about? Well, for the most part it is about Ton, our main character, attempting to rescue her friend Shinyao who gets kidnapped at the end of episode 1. And that’s more or less it for plot. Sure there’s a lot of supernatural business with Ton’s grandmother and learning to use powers and recruiting the members of Cafe Forbidden to help out, but the overall objective remains save Shinyao. This is a plot line that becomes almost a joke at points given how many times they get close to rescuing Shinyao before for whatever reason they don’t succeed and end up back at the cafe lamenting that they still haven’t saved Shinyao.

Twilight7a

What saves this anime from becoming pretty bad is that it isn’t asking you to do anything other than have fun with the characters and to go along with whatever supernatural silliness they just threw at you. There isn’t really any deeper message or idea going on as Ton storms her way through each situation gaining more and more power. There’s enough chemistry between the cast members that they end up being really enjoyable by the mid-season, and they have enough of a backstory that they are fun to learn more about.

Speaking of fun learning, one of my favourite parts of the show each week was the after credits sequence called Twilight Plus where the characters in Chibi form would discuss one of the characters or what was happening in the story. It was always amusing and was well worth hanging around for each week. My personal favourite was where they introduced Toryu and asked him how he managed to carry his weapons around. It was just such a great way to finish each episode.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

Still, there are definitely some down sides to this story. Probably the most legitimate gripe, other than the overall simple nature of the plot, would be the absence of a decent villain or obstacle for the characters to overcome. They kind of try to set up a few of these but mostly they end up being pretty lame and realistically this would have actually helped the climax of the series along enormously. Earlier episodes where they managed to introduce a real sense of danger certainly were highly entertaining so it would have been nice to still believe any of the villains posed an actual threat in the final two episodes.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 Ton

There’s not a lot more to say about this. Either you like supernatural anime with powers and fight sequences and you are happy just to go along for the ride, or you aren’t. For those who like that sort of thing, there’s a nice rich world of lore to explore here and while this particular season is mostly just scratching the surface, it really does feel like the supernatural elements have been nicely incorporated into the real world. It’s great fun and I’m glad I picked this one up during the summer season.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 12: A Mixed Finish

Phantom in the Twilight brought us to the end of the season and I will spoil the ending a bit and point out that they did finally save Shinyao (only took 11 episodes to do that). So with the main plot line resolved the question is how did this episode go for Ton and the rest of the staff from Cafe Forbidden?

Twilight12a

I will point out the two issues I had with this episode before getting on with why it was still good fun. Firstly the villains still just kind of suck. Mr Backup is still unconscious and I’m not sure if he was actually burned or not but he literally had no active role in this episode. You could argue he didn’t need to having already set things in motion, but that kind of makes his character even more lame. Haysin on the other hand more or less depletes his own power in a fight and then meanders off to lick his wounds and gets taken out by a slightly random character.

Secondly, all of the potential danger and tension of last week was more or less diffused in seconds this episode when all the injured support characters just kind of rock up fine. if you were worried about Chris, Luke or Toryu, just don’t worry about them. They are all fine and will jump straight back into the fight without a scratch, though Luke did lose his shirt.

Twilight12c

And that’s really the big issue here is that everything is just kind of solved magically. None of the characters are actually injured, Vlad somehow holds Shinyao off and removes the chip controlling her, Ton somehow becomes a legendary fighter and takes out a whole army of umbra, the Lord of Gluttony makes a brief appearance and fixes one issue but the other is just kind of left hanging, and then we all go to the cafe and get back into the usual kind of banter between the characters.

Twilight12d

Don’t get me wrong, it is all kind of fun and the problems are solved. This episode has no more issues then the show has had the whole way along. Still, given the momentum this anime gained mid-season, I still feel the ending hasn’t quite held up its end. That said, I’m looking forward to a full season review of this one because it has been a fun enough ride.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 11: Brainwashed Shinyao Is No Fun

As much as Shinyao is incredibly powerful in this episode of Phantom in the Twilight, she’s become more or less a blank slate controlled externally for the purpose of creating a big bad to face in a final episode. It isn’t exactly the most compelling way this show could have ended (though I guess there’s still an episode to go).

Twilight11e

I think the most surprising part of this episode was the reappearance of Van Helsing. I mean, we did see him escape hospital earlier but his literally dropping into the fight seemed really random. Outside of that, things progressed more or less as you would expect. The Twilights accompanied Ton to the Tower of London where they were separated from her one by one leaving just her and Wayne to confront Shinyao. And, because it isn’t the final, they don’t yet save her. So all according to plan really.

Twilight11b

The issues crop up with the half-hearted nature of the threats blocking their path, the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any malice from the ‘villains’ as they just seem to be playing around, and then the reunion with Shinyao being pretty flat due to Shinyao being entirely brainwashed and completely boring.

Even the promise of evil Wayne didn’t really elevate the occasion nor did a duplicate version of Rijan facing off with Vlad. Basically this episode was perfectly serviceable and progressed us nicely to a point where we can see things wrapping up next week but lacked any real excitement or point of interest.

Twilight11d

I am however left wondering how they can be in the Tower of London and yet the most exciting enemy they are facing off against is the same suit of armour that seems ridiculously weak duplicated over and over. Seriously missed opportunity here.

I’m still enjoying the show mind you, but I kind of wanted a little bit more from this episode.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10: Shinyao’s Power Is Impressive, Yet We Now Have an Imminent Ton vs Shinyao Situation

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 - Shinyao

Definitely glad I picked up Phantom in the Twilight this season as despite some of the logical issues with the plot, it has been a whole lot of fun. The realisation that Shinyao is more than just the perpetual kidnap victim took awhile to sink in, but I think anyone who watches this episode will agree hers is a pretty impressive power.

Phantom in the Twilight, Episode 10, Vlad

I wondered briefly when I previously looked at the idea that this show seemed to be trying to set up a show down between Ton and Shinyao how that would ever come about. This episode mostly answers that with Shinyao being more or less controlled at this point and seeing a Chris that doesn’t exist who is counselling her to use her power and in the process she’s absorbing a lot of umbra. While this works well enough, fights between protagonists and mind-controlled best friends have fairly predictable outcomes so I’m kind of hoping we end up with a bit more to it than this. Still, that particular power of Shinyao’s is going to be a problem given the company Ton is keeping.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 - Luke

And that is perhaps the strength of this show. While never amazing, it continues to build one crisis on another and to make the audience wonder how the characters will get through the next hurdle or even what their next move should be. The answers are never all that far away and are usually pretty entertaining to watch unfold so mostly I’m happy not to look too hard at the bits and pieces that aren’t exactly the most rational or logical.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10 Ton

Despite the set up being about Shinyao, the episode does spend a lot of time with Ton and we really see how attached Vlad and the others have gotten to her in the short time they’ve known her. But we also see that Ton doesn’t want to just be a substitute for Rijan. Fortunately we’re in London so a tea party solves everything and then our heroes are off for a showdown that apparently has two episodes to resolve.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 10

That said, I can’t finish this post without mentioning that Vlad finally just outright admitted that Wayne is more than just a ghost who hangs around. Then the Twilight Plus added to this particular revelation. Yet another example of a small mystery the show set up a few episodes back before dropping the explanation at more or less the perfect time. While I kind of hope we get more on this, we kind of have enough at this point in time to just get on with the ending. Still, it would be kind of fun.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9: Saving Shinyao has Become A Full Series Job

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

They really could rename this series Saving Shinyao the way its been going. The girl has been repeatedly kidnapped and on the run since the end of episode 1 and it seems like the Ton vs Shinyao scenario is far more likely (and I’m still not sure how I feel about that).

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

This episode gave a lot of its screen time to the bad guys (or at least the people standing in Ton’s way and pursuing Shinyao so I assume we’re supposed to think they are bad). The selfish motivations and almost play-like way they go about their pursuit of the heroines in this episode doesn’t do much to endear them and does a lot to make me feel like Haysin and the computer guy are two pre-teens squabbling over who would win a fight between Batman and Superman.

Phantom in the Twilight - Haysin

And in case you missed it, I did say heroines. This was previously Ton’s story with Ton’s grandmother  establishing the cafe and Ton being the one who was trying to save Shinyao. Somewhere along the way, Shinyao has become a character in her own right and while I think she’s a little unbalanced, given the limited screen time she’s had it is still impressive what the show has managed with her.

As for the specifics of this episode, there’s a lot of fighting. Haysin is trying to ‘level up’ ton so he’s got some umbra from the museum for her to play with. Computer guy is still playing a game of tag with Shinyao and Chris. Meanwhile, one of the two, or both, send guys with guns to take out a hospitalised Van Helsing. After the set-up plays out we more or less just run from conflict to conflict.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 9

That said, if you want to have your heart broken a little bit, the Twilight Plus this week is as adorable as ever and features Shinyao and Chris. Of course it was definitely bait to make us watch the next episode but these little skits at the end of each episode are actually pretty solid entertainment.

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Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8: Down Time

If this were still just Ton’s story, than episode 8 would seem relatively fillery and kind of like they were trying to drag out a plot to a set number of episodes. However with Shinyao and Chris still on the run and bad guys manoeuvring for position, while the action is largely off screen there’s still a sense of movement here.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

I’m not entirely convinced by this episode given after elevating our heroine momentarily it now lays her out for an entire episode with amnesia and exhaustion. It might be worth noting that at least there was some genuine consequence to the sheer amount of power exerted in the battle of episode 7 and a welcome addition to the world building in Phantom in the Twilight, however given by the end of the episode they’d more or less completely backtracked on both the physical and mental marks of her struggle, I’m not 100% sold on that explanation. Ton’s condition does lend itself to the boys worrying about her and their personalities are on full display as they discuss and argue about what is best for Ton before each offering her comfort in their own way.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

However, where Ton’s story was very much a time out for the team, Chris and Shinyao are very much still in the thick of things. I’d wondered earlier why they hadn’t just gone to Cafe Forbidden so it was nice when Shinyao finally raised the prospect and I kind of hope we’re finally getting to that point because keeping Shinyao away from Ton has been stretched almost as far as it can (though I did get worrying vibes of pitting the two against each other in the future and that would not be a pleasant development). However, where the scenes with Shinyao and with Haysin and the other villains succeeded was in convincing the viewers that this world is real (or at least close enough). The other characters don’t just stop what they are doing while Ton is lying around in bed. The world goes on whether the heroine is involved or not.

Phantom in the Twilight Episode 8

This wasn’t the best of episodes, but it did do some building on the world and characters and it has neatly set up future developments. Hopefully it manages to execute whatever choice it makes.

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