I am actually ashamed… that I slept on Castlevania this long.
In a similar vein to the Dota animated series, I naively thought that you had to be familiar with the gaming franchise to understand the tv series. Although I did end up searching for basic lore afterward, I really enjoyed my time watching this understated, slightly medieval vampire thriller.
Despite season one of Castlevania being so short, it does a lot of worldbuilding in that time.
We are introduced to Dracula – including his brief backstory and motives for committing the atrocities he does in the five cities of Wallachia.
And honestly…it is understandable.
Despite what many may say, I found Vlad Dracula Țepeș to be quite a sympathetic character.
Sure, he had a wild past – but seemingly isolated himself from the local human population for so long that they believed he was all but a myth.
As a woman of science, Lisa desired to help those around her of their ailments and seemingly permanent conditions that the church instructed the afflicted to simply pray away. Or rather, during that time period I’m sure indulgences and gifts to the church were the preferred methods of devotion.
Because Vlad Tepes was the only immortal known throughout the ages to have secret histories that had been long forgotten by mankind, Lisa sought him out.
What I found extremely interesting in their brief, initial interaction was the suggestion that humanity had once advanced further than their state in 1455.
Meaning, there have been active purges of knowledge – or at least in their world.
I’m not sure if it was the church, but given my own culture’s history of sacred books and knowledge either being lost, buried, or burned away I can believe it.
Especially considering even today, deep within the underground papal archives in Vatican City lie centuries of knowledge erased today by the likes of google, history textbooks; along with active suppression of technological advancement to simulate an untrue reality.
Or “Metaverse”, if you will.
As I type this, I am reminded of the ‘uprising’ arc in Attack on Titan, and the explanation for the military’s outdated gear being that it was actively suppressed by the King in the Walls in order to control the citizens of Eldia.
I think the timeline in AoT was messed up, as well.
Similar to our world, if you’d believe those that say a clerical error mistaking a ‘J’ or “I” for a ‘1’ messed up our own written timeline. The J standing for the Year of our lord Jesus, or that which he was known by the earlier Latin name, Iesus.
As, there is no “J” in Hebrew.
Then, about 500 – 2000 years were added to our histories, and the calendars were even changed a few times to add months that never really existed.
We even celebrate the new year in the dead of winter, when it’s historically been in the Spring, during the equinox.
As “January, from Latin Ianuarius (mensis) ‘(the month) of Janus,’ to whom the month was sacred as the beginning of the year according to later Roman reckoning.”
There are even those who say that our world resets every 6,000 cycles – the knowledge being lost, and the continents risen and sunken once more.
But regardless, whatever you believe this year is – whether that be 2021 or 1520 – what is a fact right now is that in Castlevania, the church was actively suppressing the advancement of mankind.
The Bishop even admits that he personally set up and arranged the burning of Dracula’s wife, Lisa, at the stake as a witch.
As this man later admits that he will “be the church” once the night creatures are defeated in Gresit and the Speakers (who carry the world’s history) are driven out as scapegoats, it’s not hard to clearly see his motives.
The Bishop couldn’t have Lisa, the good scientist she was, going around curing the peasants of plague – then no one would show up to church.
No one would be told how to live in parables, and stories.
No one would be there to give tithes to fund the bishop’s presumably lavish lifestyle.
No one would have fear of excommunication in a society that is dictated by closeness to the church, and by proxy – god.
Next thing you know, the women would want to “read” and the peasant children would deem themselves worthy enough to go to school and learn the ways of the world.
In order to keep the status quo – Lisa had to die so that the church could continue to live.
Judging by Draucla’s immediate fury and restitution of genocide, this has happened before.
Humans have continually been deemed “savages” who erase their “marks on the land” every so often as they incur divine wrath.
Once they are punished (be it the church, vampires, or other creatures of the night) what survives of their history is taken presumably by the immortals or the church, and locked away for safekeeping – until the public grows restless once more.
A cycle that keeps repeating because “no known written records” exist to combat the ignorance.
On happenstance the records do exist, they are coveted by the very people who are trying to keep the simple townsfolk dumb, docile, and submissive.
It’s funny, there was this one scene where Trevor was fighting the creatures of the night with Sypha in Gresit’s last stand and he tells the townspeople the truth: that the bishop dressed common thieves as Men of the Cloth to manipulate public opinion and frame the speakers – those carrying the world’s history – as evil.
Given their own choice to decide, (and not the blatant lies of the church) the townspeople decided to believe Trevor and butcher the impersonators.
I wonder what the townspeople would have chosen if given the chance to know their actual history? Or how they can improve their lives for the better, without interference of the church?
(lest they truly desired the institution’s input)
Trevor Belmont even alluded to the church deeming his vampire hunting family ‘disposable’ after centuries of service and acquired knowledge of the unknown.
Knowledge of demons, monsters, and resurrected creatures of the night that could unseat the ‘reality’ the church was quietly weaving throughout the ages.
So, this is not without pretext.
I think that’s the sole reason why the bishop killed Lisa Tepes and branded her a witch – because she could have sparked an idea in the thought of common folks. Lisa could have started a revolution – with an immortal at her side who had the history of humankind at his fingertips.
So needless to say, I loved watching an absolutely dynamite start to this criminally underrated series.
Is Castlevania Season One worth watching on Netflix?
Castlevania is a story less about monsters and creatures of the night, and more about just how terrifying those with a human nature of greed and depravity– can really be.
Dracula’s wife is murdered and accused as a witch, despite wanting to help the common people. Her death could be seen as martyrdom for the innocent silenced by a corrupt church, or a warning for those who would go against the dominant authority that ruled the simple folks’ daily lives and future.
Castlevania never tells you what to believe, but shows you a variation of stories within stories, and slices of lives who have been wronged, who had been just, and those who are somewhere in-between.
After a while, you can hardly tell who is in the right, and who is in the wrong based on a common morality.
It’s a fantastic four-episode season to watch starting out, with lots of memorable scenes.
Especially the scene of the literal hell-demons calling out the bishop for his hypocrisy before his death. It was just the icing on the cake.
Beautiful writing, beautiful animation, beautiful overarching story.
But, tell me your thoughts.
Have you played the video games based on this adapted animated series?
Does God exist in this universe? Or is the realm under the Church of Wallachia’s jurisdiction?
In your opinion – is Castlevania a love story or a tragedy?
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☆ In Asian Spaces
The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893: A Photographic Record by Stanley Appelbaum
History: Fiction or Science? by Anatoly T. Fomenko (series)
Get copies of the out-of-print books legally via the I.A. here.
Link to: the Pyrates’ grave on Flickr