Two shows that are worlds apart in genre and themes, but equally as entertaining and engaging.
Castlevania (Season 3)
Based on the acclaimed video game, Castlevania is one of the best anime series on Netflix. Whether you’re an anime expert, casual viewer, or even a novice, Castlevania continues to deliver strong narratives in a world of vampires, magic, and monster hunters. The animation itself is a stark reminder of the bleak reality of this work, and the third season delves further into the dark ambitions of humans and creatures alike. This may be the best season yet as viewers are introduced to a world without Dracula and the power vacuum it left behind. We are introduced to many candidates aspiring to fill this void, and no one is as ambitious as the vampire, Carmilla. Having instigated the uprising against Dracula in the previous season, Carmilla and a captive Hector seek to expand her influence alongside her sisters. The dynamic between these vampire sisters was fascinating, each had their own invaluable skills, but it was the diplomat, Lenore that proved to be most cunning. It is clear that among the developing threats we’re introduced to this season, it’s the sisters that stand to be one of the most formidable foes in seasons to come.
But what became of the trio that brought an end to Dracula’s tyranny? Belmont and Sypha are seen hitting the road, killing monsters along the way. These action sequences remind us of their formidable skillset while quickly reintroducing us to the witty banter that made the two such a fun pair. Their path takes them to Lindenfeld, a town with a looming sense of danger around it as various occupants plot their own nefarious plans. Meanwhile, Alucard, the half-vampire half-human son of Dracula, finds himself a mentor to two aspiring vampire hunters. Their meeting gives Alucard a brief respite from the empty void of Dracula’s tower. It is interesting to note that loneliness was the recurring theme of this season with Alucard’s arc tragically exposing the crippling anguish of his loneliness, while other characters seek to find meaning in each other or in their mission. That is just one example of how this show, with all its monsters, magic, and action, never strays too far away from the emotion that motivates humans and monsters alike, allowing us to connect with that raw vulnerability displayed by some of our leading characters.
This season clearly sets up the larger arcs and conflicts to explore in the future. However, what season 3 does so brilliantly is putting the focus on characters old and new, giving the chance to explore the motivations, inner and external conflicts, and the emotions that lead these characters down their respective paths.
Castlevania continues to impress as this third season utilises its position as a filler to explore the darker depths of this universe and its occupants. The animation is engaging in its action sequences, but its bleakness also reminds us of the worlds looming threats and darkness. The scattered narrative takes its time to introduce viewers to new allies and enemies while effectively establishing the players that will shape the course of this narrative and the conflict that follows.
Based on the novel by William Thackery, Vanity Fair follows the rise and fall of poverty-stricken Becky Sharp as she manipulates her way through the social ladder, gaining money and reputation along the way. There’s nothing and no one Becky will not use to get the prestige she long craves.
Becky is not your traditional heroine. She’s unapologetic in her pursuit and selfish in her greed. She’s not a character you’d traditionally root for, but while her choices were deplorable, you cannot help but admire her determination and conviction in using her assets to secure a better life for herself. Her downfall was in alienating the allies she made in favour of her own prestige and stepping on the toes of those who lent a helping hand along the way. No, Becky Sharpe is not your ladylike heroine, but she is unwavering in her confidence and ambition, making her antics frustrating and entertaining.
The supporting cast of Tom Bateman, Claudia Jessie, and Johnny Flynn provide an additional layer of intrigue to this tale of love and manipulation as their characters are directly and inadvertently shaped by the actions of miss Sharpe. It is in their blind love, their naivety, and selflessness that heightens the tension as the series progresses. At 7 episodes, Vanity Fair is a binge-worthy mini-series that is addictive, manipulative, and highly entertaining.
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