Good aftevenmorn (whensoever you read this article),
When last speaking of video game to series adaptations, I left off one extremely brilliant adaptation. This was for two reasons. The first was that it was an adaptation into an animated series, which means a great deal more improbable things would work due to the medium that made adapting a little easier. The second was, shamefully, I completely forgot it existed.
I am, of course, talking about Castlevania.
I am in the process of rewatching the series as I saw an add for Castlevania: Nocturne, and wanted to brush up before beginning the new series. I am irritated at myself for having forgotten it.
Believe me when I tell you, it is so good. I have made it my entire personality these past few weeks…
No one who knows me will be surprised at all by how much I love this show. It has all the things I adore – angst, great fight scenes, dark atmosphere, brilliant writing, angst, wry humour, loveable characters, angst… In all seriousness, it’s a wonderfully dark show. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it is animated. This show is not for children.
I could go on ad nauseum about how much I adore the show. I could rant for hours about how brilliant the writing is, and how nuanced they made the characters. I could. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll only rant about one of the show’s villains:
Vlad Dracula Tepes.
You’d think, being Dracula, he’d be the major villain in the show. But he’s not. In fact, he’s defeated at the end of the second season of a four season show. He’s extremely powerful — supremely, in fact — but in the end lasts all of eleven episodes. He is, however, one of the best villains (they’re all brilliant in their way) in my opinion. Largely because he’s not really a villain. I mean, he absolutely is. After all, he aims to obliterate the human race entirely. But there is a goodness in him even so.
It’s been years since the animated show was released, but I still feel the need to warn here: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched the show, go do that, then come back to this.
No, seriously. Go watch it. It’s excellent.
What makes Dracula such a compelling villain is the incredible pathos of his character. He, a man of towering intellect, learned of science and magic, long having turned his back on humanity, fell in love with a human woman who, quite literally, beat on his front door with the butt of her dagger.
Lisa of Lupu was a sharp, brilliant woman determined to help humanity. She pursued medical science with fearless courage… which led her right to Vlad’s door, where she demanded he teach her so that she could go out and help people in turn. I mean demanded. He fell in love. How could he not? They married, and had a child.
We don’t see much of their life together, but it can be assumed that it was happy and loving (so loving, in fact, that Lisa chose to wait for him in Hell, where he inevitably would end up). When we see Lisa in her element, helping people, she misses her husband dearly. He is out travelling, as humans do, at Lisa’s insistence. This is, unfortunately, one of the only reasons what happened to her could have.
Charge with witchcraft by another brilliant villain — a corrupt and thoroughly evil (in a frighteningly recognizable way) church official — Lisa Tepes is put to the flame. She was burnt alive in the town square.
The brutal death of his human wife utterly broke Vlad Tepes. At first, there is understandable rage. He swears to obliterate all of humanity for what happened to her. Calling all his generals; all the vampire lords of Europe, he gathers his forces and wreaks havoc on the human population, with the intent of wiping them out forever.
At his side for this cause are two humans, forge masters both (there’s no time to explain, but just know that they can draw souls from hell and put them into new bodies here on earth, thereby increasing the dark army’s number). One, Isaac, is entirely invested in Dracula’s scheme. He hates humanity in much the same way Vlad does now; and for a similar reason: love denied (though the manner of the denial is not the same at all). Hector is… not so much.
When Vlad’s temper cools, as it must, what is left is a shell. He is, in short, depressed. Nothing holds any fascination for him any more. There is no colour. He doesn’t really care to oversee his own bloody war. This task he leaves to his forge masters. He no longer even bothers to feed. He just sits, exhausted with his whole damned existence, and stares out at nothing. He heart left with this wife.
Some of Vlad’s goodness shines through here. It’s not just that’s he’s not interested in cruelty when it comes to obliterating humanity, it’s in the softness he has when dealing with his two human forge masters. It’s in the revealing that he considers Isaac to be a true friend. It’s in the revelation that he always intended to save them both, once all was said and done.
The fire of his temper returns when Vlad is confronted by the three heroes of the series; Trevor Belmont, last son of the house (of monster hunters), Sypha Belnades, a Speaker magician, and Adrian ‘Alucard’ Tepes, Vlad’s own son who is trying to save his mother’s people from the wrath of his father. The three engage in an extremely one-sided battle against Vlad.
When I say one-sided, I mean that though he was weakened because he hadn’t fed in an age, and was entirely apathetic until then, Vlad would’ve handily won that fight… if not for the moment his madness lifted, and he realised what he was doing.
It gave his son the opening he needed to kill his father, at last ending the madness that threatened to exterminate all of humanity.
It’s extremely difficult in a single post like this to explain just how brilliantly this was all done (special shout-out to the voice actors who did an incredible job with their characters), how all the small character moments (like the short conversation between Isaac and Vlad) made this such an incredibly touching villain arc. I cannot properly explain how all this left me sobbing; a full-on, body-wracking ugly cry. I keened for Vlad and his mad, hurting heart, and for his sad, lonely son who had no choice but to end him.
Side note: I was very glad to be home alone when I watched this.
Look, the entire show is a masterclass in writing and character work. It’s all done so beautifully. Everyone is beautifully realised, the villains especially (ask me about Carmilla later). How the show handled Vlad, though, has a very special place in my heart. I’m not going to spoil it any further, except to say that it was about as perfect as it is possible to be in fiction.
Just… brilliantly done.
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, occasionally teaching at the University of Ottawa, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, teaching about historical death, and cuddling a furry murderer. Her latest novels are Skylark, Daughters of Britain, and Human.