Netflix’s new Castlevania anime series starts out like a Beauty and the Beast-style meet-cute: a bright, young girl finds herself in a dangerous, mysterious castle beset by its monstrous but beguiling owner. Despite threats of violence, they bond over a shared love of knowledge, and he entices her with his world-weary wisdom. She ultimately succeeds in thawing his icy heart, causing a violent monster to regain a sense of humanity. It’s just too bad that the Beast here is Dracula, and after 20 years of marital bliss, Lisa is burned a the stake for being a witch by the zealous locals while Vlad is out of town.
All of this happens within the first five minutes of Castlevania, and the story moves almost too swiftly from Vlad and Lisa and on towards the consequences of Lisa’s murder. Castlevania’s protagonist is actually a vampire hunter named Trevor Belmont, but the first part of the story itself is more about what Dracula does for revenge. Mainly, he unleashes a horde of demons that will kill everyone.
The series opens in 1455 in Wallachia, where Lisa arrives at Dracula’s castle seeking the scientific knowledge to become a proper doctor. She’s just stabbed a giant bat through the abdomen, so we know she means it. When she barges into Dracula’s castle and demands information, he threatens her and asks, “What have you to trade for my … knowledge?” The moment is tense. She quivers in fear. Yet, she boldly strides out of his grasp and says, “Perhaps I can help you relearn some manners!” You almost wish she’d slap him in the face.
When she chastises him for his lack of hospitality, he asks if he should take a drink from her, growing angrier. Under further harassment, she remains direct, assertive, and earnest. She amuses him; he’s charmed.
It’s her boldness and lack of fear that truly intrigues Dracula, and their chemistry quickly develops in the short span of five minutes. He entices her with what he calls “the knowledge of immortals, the true science” in his laboratory-library, and Lisa reacts with the same kind of awe that Belle has in the Beast’s library.
We can only make assumptions about what happens in the ensuing 20 years — and viewers who finish the first season will know a lot more about what their relationship produces — but for a brief span of time, it appears like Lisa’s Belle tamed the Beast in Dracula’s heart.
He travels abroad “like men do” to gain an appreciation for mankind, which is unfortunately why he isn’t around when Lisa is burned at the stake in Targoviste in 1475.
For the remainder of Castlevania’s episodes, the show then explores a truly horrifying premise: What might the Beast do if the townsfolk killed Belle, and he never truly became human again?
The answer, apparently, is to unleash a horde of demons on Wallachia and bring about Hell on Earth. But in this version of Dracula’s story, he’s humanized, and he kind of has a good reason for doing so.