The Castlevania games are well known for a few specific things, like elaborate levels, cheesy dialogue, and atmospheric design. Music ranks high among those characteristics, which made it extremely weird when the first season of Netflix's Castlevania show included exactly zero music from the Castlevania games. Fans hoped showrunner Adi Shankar would correct that in Castlevania Season 2, and those who watched all the way to Episode 7 weren't disappointed.
Why did it take so long for the Castlevania show to finally use some of the games' iconic music? We asked Shankar, who also produced the recent rap battle satire movie Bodied with Eminem, during a recent interview.
"It is a process," Shankar said. "I'm not making a commentary of how difficult of a process, but I'm just saying, yeah, it is a process."
The Castlevania franchise is owned by Konami, a Japanese company that famously has not seemed particularly interested in catering to what fans of its games want in recent years. Bloody Tears, the song used in Episode 7's impressive and game reference-heavy battle, was originally composed by Kenichi Matsubara and was first heard in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, a NES game released more than three decades ago. Needless to say, the licensing process for it and similar tracks may be more complex than fans assume.
But aside from that, Shankar didn't want to turn Castlevania into the kind of show that buys fans off with endless fan service.
"It was good to build to it, because it makes the use of it more meaningful," he said. The same went for Trevor's whip, which the character upgraded to the famous Morning Star during Castlevania Season 2: "There's a version of the show out there where literally every episode Trevor is getting an upgrade," Shankar said, and he didn't want to fall into that trap.
"At a certain point these things kind of lose their impact and meaning," he said, emphasizing that using the song there wasn't intended as some kind of cheap surprise. It's a moment of pay-off to things that have been building throughout Season 1 and 2, not simply a wink toward fans.
"Ultimately what we're trying to do here--with any kind of entertainment--is to evoke, provoke, make you feel a broad spectrum of emotions," Shankar said. "This is one of the notes we were able to hit--no pun intended. It's that--I don't want to say the nostalgia note, but it is a note we were able to hit, and it's one of those notes that has diminishing returns if you hit it too many times."
The music isn't the only thing Castlevania fans get nostalgic for. The show's three protagonists--Trevor, Alucard, and Sypha--are all playable characters from Castlevania III. The show also took inspiration from other Castlevania games, including Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness. Shankar said he likes to take characters and other elements from these games and flesh them out beyond the relatively basic characteristics present in their original incarnations--but in a way that makes sense to fans.
"Those early games were not able to communicate the subtle characterizations, the subtle nuances, because early games didn't have a way to communicate that," he said. "All of us felt--Warren Ellis, myself, Kevin [Kolde], my partner on the show--that it was really important to expand the world of the show."
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He compared it to the Marvel universe, which spans comics, games, movies, TV shows, and more, all with their own continuities that run in parallel, and each medium with its own strengths and focuses. "In all these different universes, some events play out exactly the same, some things play out slightly differently," he said. "Some characters show up in slightly different timelines and slightly different forms. Sometimes the power balance is different, right? That's very much the same deal with Castlevania. Our show takes place in a parallel timeline--a parallel universe--to that of the games."
"Which, by the way, the games also have multiple timelines in and of themselves," he added.
By Season 2's conclusion, many of the storylines begun in the show are wrapped up neatly. But it also leaves our heroes in a position to have more adventures--and several villains remain in the mix as well. Netflix recently confirmed that Castlevania Season 3 is a go, and Shankar said they already have plans in place.
"I'm trying to think of what I can and can't say," he teased. "We have Season 3 mapped out. A big thing about this show is none of us want to be just making it up as we go along...Every single time, we take a look at how much time we have to tell the story and how many resources we have to tell it. But there's a plan in place. There's an arc in place. When Season 3 comes out you will see that Season 2 set up the events of Season 3. There's still this cast of nefarious characters out there."
"And don't forget this is also a massive world," he continued. "The world of Castlevania, of the--let's call it the Castlevania cinematic universe for our discussion--in that cinematic universe is this massive landscape, and what we saw [in Seasons 1 and 2] is a story on that board. But there are far reaching ramifications for all the events that transpired in Season 1 and Season 2."
What's his overall goal for Castlevania Season 3? "An Emmy nomination--that would be pretty tight," Shankar said. He'll have our vote whenever Castlevania returns to Netflix, which will hopefully happen sooner rather than later. You can catch Season 1 and 2 streaming on Netflix now.