10 shows like ‘Castlevania’
Netflix has been stepping into the world of original animation over recent years with one of its greatest achievements being the animated series, Castlevania. It’s an American animation based on a Japanese video game of the same name, so it has a lot of ties to Japanese anime in the way of storytelling and animation style. The first season hit Netflix back in July 2017 and ended with its fourth season in May 2021.
The show follows three main characters — Trevor Belmont, the last living member of the Belmont family, a family of monster hunters, Sypha Belnades, a Speaker who travels the continent recording events but also wields extraordinary elemental magic, and Alucard, the offspring of Dracula and a human mother — as they face off against monsters, demons, and vampires as well as the more corrupt and vile of humankind. Castlevania is not for children, it contains graphic scenes of gore and death as well as sexually explicit scenes.
The series is witty and clever in its storytelling, not afraid to poke fun at itself from time to time, but also delves into the depths of what evil can look like with some episodes getting very dark and nihilistic indeed. It also includes some phenomenal fight scenes especially when we see our trio working together. Castlevania was a great commercial success for Netflix as it ranked within the top 20 digital in-demand original series in the United States, UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and more. The critical response was also very positive and got better with each season.
In May 2021, Netflix announced they would be working on a spin-off series, set in the same world but with a new cast of characters. The show will focus on Richter Belmont, Trevor and Sypha’s descendent, and Maria Renard, and will be set during the French Revolution. The release may be some way off yet, so for fans of Castlevania here are some great animated shows that have similar themes, animation styles, or characters that you may enjoy while you wait.
Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate are anime adaptions of the Hellsing manga using the same characters but deviating heavily from the source’s storyline. The anime revolves around the Hellsing Organization, which is in place to protect England from supernatural threats. It is run by the formidable Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, whose greatest weapon is the vampire Alucard. The show follows newly turned vampire Seras, Integra, and Alucard as they fight the threat of a revived Nazi vampire battalion.
The similarities are fairly obvious in a lot of ways. The Hellsing Organization is not too dissimilar to the Belmont family, with Integra playing a similar role to Trevor in holding up the family business of hunting monsters. The Alucard of this show is not like the Alucard of Castlevania though, Hellsing’s Alucard is actually Dracula himself rather than Dracula’s son. With plenty of fight scenes, bloody deaths, and gore-filled scenes, Hellsing is definitely a great show to watch if you are missing the supernatural side of Castlevania.
Claymore is a Japanese anime set in a world where demons called ‘yoma’ spread fear and death. Fighting these demons is an organization that employs elite warrior women that are half human, half ‘yoma.’ The women all have silver eyes and carry huge claymore swords, earning them the name ‘silver-eyed witches or ‘Claymores.’ The general population very much distrusts these warriors, fearing their demon side and incredible strength; imagine a scenario where Witchers are like Geralt but female, and you aren’t too far off. The Claymores can use their demonic side to help fight against stronger demons but they must be careful not to give in to their demonic powers and turn, the result would be their extermination at the hands of their comrades.
Like Castlevania, the show is set in a somewhat medieval time period with European-style towns and villages plagued by demons. Just as Trevor Belmont finds himself shunned for what he does, so too do Claymores. Claymore has great female characters with strength and power, similar to those seen in Castlevania, and their abilities make for interesting fight scenes. This is another great one to watch for its similar premise and dark tone to match.
Berserk is one of the original dark fantasy anime and has inspired scores of other manga, anime, and games, including Castlevania. The two main characters are Guts and Griffith. Guts serves under Griffith in his band of mercenaries, the Band of the Hawk. Guts, armed with a huge sword and a serious amount of strength seeks out the one that betrayed him and the women he loved. Like Trevor, Guts is constantly hounded by demonic beings, but won’t let anything, not even death, get in the way of his revenge.
You can certainly see how Castlevania was inspired by Berserk as our own cynical hero, Trevor Belmont takes on death himself at the end of the final season. Castlevania has similar themes and styles to this trendsetting animation with fans of both series even noticing the odd nod to Berserk within the Netflix animation. Any fan of fantasy anime should give this classic a watch.
Demon Slayer is very similar in its premise, demons wreak havoc and destruction as they seem to need to feast on humans to sustain themselves (with the one exception of Nezuko), much like vampires. Demon slayers exist to seek out and kill demons, undergoing arduous and often fatal training in order to do so. It is a world that also contains an element of magic as demon slayers wield forms of elemental magic in their weapons to attack which is beautifully animated even if the fight scenes are not quite as interestingly done as in Castlevania.
Our main protagonist is Tanjiro, a boy who sets out to become a demon slayer after a demon attack that slaughtered all of his family except Nezuko who was turned into a demon. He befriends others along his journey as they seek out the shadowy figure of the demon leader, Muzan, the first human to turn into a demon and murderer of Tanjiro’s family.
Though set in Japan rather than a European setting, it’s still placed in a historical context. The elemental magic, worked into their weapons, is not too dissimilar from the elemental magic Sypha uses. This show, though with some level of gore, is much less brutal and is more suitable for children aged 12 and up than the more adult Castlevania.
Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan has to be one of the most popular anime globally in the last decade, its storyline and animation style has pulled in tons of fans worldwide. Set in a somewhat Germanic world in a middle-age period, humanity has been forced behind walls as Titans, giant humanoids that devour humans, roam the land. Only a select few, the Survey Corps, dare venture out and face the Titans.
Young Survey Corp recruit, Eren Jaeger, vows to wipe out the Titans after watching his mother devoured in front of him after the outer wall is breached. The twist comes when, during a second breach, Eren is almost devoured and only saved due to the fact that he can transform into a sentient Titan himself. He uses this ability to aid the Survey Corps but the mystery of his transformative abilities leaves everyone on edge.
The setting and tone are similar to Castlevania, a beleaguered medieval town with humanity cowering under the threat of being devoured certainly isn’t far off. If you’re missing the darkness and gore in Castlevania, then Attack on Titan will certainly provide that in buckets.
The Legend of Vox Machina
The Legend of Vox Machina is a new Amazon Original adult animation that is based on the Dungeons and Dragons gaming style, following a bunch of ragtag misfits of all creeds, elves, gnomes, a human, and even a goliath barbarian. Set in a fantasy world, the group are considered a bunch of low-life degenerates before they decide to put their skills to use to help save the kingdom. They fight using magic, weaponry, and in the goliath Grog’s case, sheer brutal strength. Though there are a couple of storylines throughout the first season, one of the main ones does focus on the group going against a vampiric force, much like in Castlevania.
The Legend of Vox Machina is a much more American animation in style compared to Castlevania, and though it has plenty of horror and gore the tone is much lighter, thanks to the raucous group members and the bawdy jokes of one particular gnome named Scanlan. If you like the Trevor Belmont style of humor — sarcastic and foul-mouthed, as well as more adult themes (though they are often played for comedy) — then this show is well worth a watch.
Devilman Crybaby is a Japanese animated series that is full-throttle, it starts crazy and does not let up the entire time. It is extremely graphic in many of its explicit sex scenes and the level of violence is high.
Protagonist Akira is possessed by a strong demon, Amon, after his childhood friend Ryo returns from the Amazon and confirms the existence of demons. Akira’s will is strong enough to overpower Amon, allowing him a measure of control, but the world descends into chaos with humans committing atrocities toward one another and taking everyone that Akira holds dear away from him in some of the most brutal ways.
This is not one to watch without a small amount of mental preparation beforehand. Like Castlevania, it deals with the concept that humans at times can be just as evil and corrupt as the monsters. The show wanted to use humanity’s response to Devilmen (humans possessed by demons) as an allegory for bigotry. It is extremely adult in its themes and visuals, and the animation style is abstract with scenes that are trippy and disorientating.
Yasuke, released on Netflix in 2021, twists history, setting the story in an alternate reality where advanced technology and magic exist. In the show, Yasuke is plagued by the memories of his benefactor, Nobunaga’s, loss and death at the hands of the Dark General. Yasuke hides his identity as a boatman named Yassan trying to live a peaceful life, yet fate has something else in store for him. When a woman begs for his help taking a sick young girl, Saki, north to see a doctor, Yasuke finds himself pulled back into the conflict he has tried so long to escape.
Like Castlevania, Yasuke is an animation in a historical setting with magical elements. The character Yasuke is similar to Belmont at the start of his journey, in the sense that he is a once-proud warrior now alone, an outcast yet is still willing to defend what he believes to be right. Season one is now on Netflix with season two in the works.
Samurai Champloo makes our list because of the relationship between the three lead characters, waitress Fuu, ronin Jin, and outlaw warrior Mugen. Thanks to fate and Fuu cheating on a coin toss, the three embark on a journey to find the samurai “who smells like sunflowers” taking them all the way across Japan. Along the way, they have many adventures, with some of their past lives catching up with them, but continuing on to find Fuu’s mysterious samurai. The combination of hip-hop music and a modern script placed in feudal Japan is really well done.
The three characters and their relationships with one another are not too dissimilar from that of Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard. They are different personalities, with raucous hotheaded warrior Mugen, cold and aloof Alucard, and persistent and resourceful Fuu, coming together for a common goal. Though you could draw parallels between the male characters from Samurai Champloo and Castelvania, I think Fuu and Sypha are quite different in regards to their personality and strength but they still serve to hold the group together.
Blood of Zeus
Heron, son of the god Zeus and Electra, a human, becomes aware of his true heritage and is thrust into the fray of a war between Zeus and Hera. Heron must battle demons, gods, and giants in order to protect humanity alongside the Amazonian warrior Alexia. Its level of violence and fantasy element is similar to Castlevania, and the themes are very similar. If you loved the animation style in Castlevania, then Blood of Zeus won’t disappoint.