REVIEW: ‘Castlevania’ Season 4 Is Exactly How to End a Story

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First look images of Castlevania Season 4 courtesy of Netflix

Castlevania started with four episodes, now, it’s taken pop culture by storm and secured its place as one of Netflix’s signature and tentpole animations. One of the first Netflix Original animations, this anime-inspired series based on Konami’s franchise of the same name is animated by Powerhouse Animation and is pretty much a household name. Now, with Castlevania Season 4, the series is coming to an end and doing so with more violence, more emotion, and more growth than we’ve seen in any of the past seasons. Truly, the folks at Powerhouse have saved the best for last.

Castlevania Season 4 picks up immediately after the events of Season 3 with Trevor and Sypha working their way through vampires and magic-users set on bringing Dracula back to life. Castlevania Season 4 is carrying a lot of weight built-up from last season. This season not only had to worry about ending the series in a way that would satisfy fans, but it also had to deliver on the character moments and large battles and violence of Season 3. Thankfully, Season 4 delivers.

This season, Wallachia has collapsed into chaos as the factions begin to clash. While some are pushing for control like the vampire court in Styria other more nefarious entities are looking to bring Dracula back from the dead by whatever means necessary. But that’s not all of it. While Carmilla is finally looking to enact her plans for world domination through Hector’s night creatures, Isaac is advancing on his new goal: conquest. It’s these two sides that push Castlevania Season 4. The first is a conquest and where two people who have used their pain and trauma to propel them to power, Carmilla and Isaac meet and battle. The second is keeping Dracula dead, which brings Trevor and Sypha into a confrontation with new beasties, vampires, and even new allies. While Alucard moves tangentially, he finds himself pulled towards humanity before the long-awaited reunion with his friends.

While this season’s narrative is broken into those two main elements, it’s woven together by strong character moments. They deliver fitting ends to character arcs by enacting moments of growth and realization. The series has not once lost sight of what makes each and every one of these characters who they are, even as they’ve developed the world and their actions—and in nearly every case have changed their designs.

For Carmilla, we see her reflect on her past and the path that she’s taken to becoming a Queen. More specifically, we begin to understand the idea of conquest, her push against the old men who have ruined the world, and how she truly believes her vision for the future is a better world. You feel for her and understand her, but she remains a vampire set on making a world better for her and her sisters at the expense of humans, who she sees as cattle. Beyond the moments of introspection, we also get the chance to see her fight, and I mean really fight. While her bullying of Godbrand in Season 2 was fun to watch, Castlevania Season 4 actually shows the vampire queen as a warrior, filled with anger and a relentless vision for her future, she tears apart night creatures with ease.

On the other hand, you have Isaac, whose brutality and skill have been on display since last season. While we got the chance to see him in moments of anger, Castlevania Season 4 gives the audience a character who has learned through battle. While he initially began his journey focused on burning the world to the ground, he’s continuing his path of conquest with the focus of rebuilding the world—and in doing so choosing to see his night creatures as more than tools. Isaac is a hammer, and as he explains early on in the season, “a hammer can build a house or it can crack a skull.”

In truth, there is no better character in Castlevania than Isaac. He has learned through his revenge, channeled his pain into building a new world, and has a brutal army to back him up. Now, don’t be fooled by my description of him above, in this season, particularly in episode 6, Isaac showcases his power through violence in some gorgeously animated sequences, the final of which ends in a pool of blood. Taking on endless vampires with ease, his newfound softness doesn’t diminish his strength or his focus. He’s grown, and growing means moving past revenge.

This growth is also extended to the other Forgemaster in the series, Hector. Left broken and at an absolute low, it was hard to see a path forward for him after seeing his agency stripped from him last season. Even the love he felt wasn’t his own. Now, with Castlevania Season 4, we see him reach a complete arc and finally have the much-needed growth that the resident soft boi of the series deserves. While it isn’t without its sadness, he is allowed to choose a path for himself and find a way to reclaim his agency.

With so much being concluded and grown this season in what I mentioned above alone, I’m shocked that the series was also able to give the same emotional storytelling to our main trio, Alucard, Sypha, and Trevor. For Alucard, who was all but done with humans after being manipulated and abused by Taka and Sumi last season, he has to make a choice to help a nearby village that has asked for aid. It’s a choice he has to make, to open up to humanity again or shun it a final time. In his acceptance of them, we get the chance to see Alucard cling to hope and in doing so we also get to see him find his way back to Sypha and Trevor. Additionally, he is finally in his signature look, embracing the bi-shonen beauty of Ayami Kojima’s work with his black cloak, hair long, and with a sword and board in toe.

You’re not prepared for emotional gut punches that are to come in Castlevania Season 4. The trio relies on each other, fights with each other, and stands as a testament that no one can make it alone. They have grown to rely on each other and once reunited, they fall into place as if they had never been separated in the first place.

But perhaps the most emotional elements that come from the trio aren’t in their words, but in how they move together and how they read each other’s movements and needs outside of words. And for Trevor, it’s how he continually pushes his body to its limit. He isn’t the strongest, he’s the most human, and yet, he keeps standing as his body breaks and he keeps pushing past every conceivable limit. His growth is in his actions and he chooses to stand up against every evil regardless of the danger it poses to him. And he does it not just for the world, but for the people he’s grown to love.

First look images of Castlevania Season 4 courtesy of Netflix

Now, I know I’ve talked at length about the way the series beautifully handles its characters in its finale, but there is one more element this series exceeds nearly every bar previously set by Netflix Oritingals: animation. Not only has every character received slightly new looks to accommodate where they are in the story, but we also get the chance to see them completely cut loose. Much like the sex scenes in Season 3, which are more than just showcasing sexiness for the sake of horniness, the action sequences in Castlevania Season 4 are stunningly graphic in nature, as is true to form the series. But, the violence and the blood are more than just for appearances, they exist to deliver on powerful plot points and to show character changing, ending, and motivations.

That said, Castlevania features a stunning amount of varied animation styles, all of which bring out the most in each battle sequence. For example, Alucard fighting on his own with his fast movement and the signature glow around his body look vastly different than Trevor and his Morning Star. It’s even different still from other vampires like Carmilla and the sword that brings elegance to rage, or Striga in her armor that brings grace to brute strength. Each and every character is animated to make their style pop, but beyond that, the stunning change in style from scene to scene works to draw the viewer in. In one moment you’re watching a heavily detailed Alucard talk, and the next you see a simplified version of his body moving through space and fighting at a pace we know is far too fast for humans to recognize.

It is incredibly hard to detail my favorite fights in the season. Each and every battle has weight to it, whether emotional for a single character or carrying gravitas that impacts the entire narrative. While every season has had standouts, every single moment of violence in Castlevania Season 4 hits hard, hits fast, and tops the last. Like last season, the penultimate episode of the series holds a strength and a scope that will shake the audience to their core. Fading into silence, and letting you sit in the weight of what we just saw.

In its ending, Castlevania isn’t just a collection of good seasons, it’s a cohesive story of pain, triumph, and growth that has never lost its way. In this one series about vampires, demons, monster hunters, and magic, we’ve gotten to see how people wade through grief. We’ve watched characters as they’ve let their trauma push towards revenge and experience when both when that revenge is left behind and when heels are dug into the ground and made unyielding. We’ve seen characters embrace their paths and rewrite them. But most importantly, and perhaps most shockingly, we’ve seen love.

Finally, Castlevania Season 4 also manages to introduce a bevy of new characters and add substance to existing secondary ones. Why is this a feat you may ask? Well, because it’s done in the final season and manages to expertly make new potential fan favorites without making it seem as if their storylines are dangling without closure. In fact, there are ways to continue these characters’ story but they’re really few and far between.  And while it would be nice for more to come into the world of Castlevania, this series, the characters in it, and the world it exists in feels complete. We can come back to it, but we also miss nothing by ending it all here. That is a perfect balance to strike.

To put in the simplest of terms: Castlevania Season 4 is animation at its best. It’s storytelling at its best. And this is how you end a series.

Castlevania Season 4 is streaming exclusively on Netflix May 13, 2021.

Castlevania Season 4
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    Rating - 10/10
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TL;DR

To put in the simplest of words: Castlevania Season 4 is animation at its best. It’s storytelling at its best. And this is how you end a series.