Netflix Castlevania Season 4 interview with directors Sam Deats and Adam Deats

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In this interview with Castlevania directors Adam Deats and Sam Deats, we discuss the themes and characters of the final season, the storytelling process, and the crazy hand-drawn action scenes of the final season. Pic credit: Netflix/Mari

Deep in the heart of Austin, Texas, far from any vampires or grim reapers that may be lurking in Wallachia, Sam Deats and his brother Adam Deats have been working hard these past five years to turn Castlevania into a critically-acclaimed animated series. What’s even more amazing is that this project was their very first time working on an episodic series.

The Castlevania Season 4 release date just happened today, May 13, 2021. The fourth and final season has 10 episodes, making the finale the same length as the third season.

Netflix has advertised Castlevania Season 4 as the “final” season in the series. Now, keep in mind that the fourth season is the ending of Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades’ chapter in the story. The franchise is based on Konami’s Castlevania video game series and has many, many stories left to tell.

Without getting into spoilers, Castlevania Season 4’s ending scene certainly left an opening for a sequel, especially when it came to Vlad Tepes and Dracula’s son Adrian “Alucard” Tepes.

And there will definitely be another Castlevania sequel (or prequel). Netflix has already confirmed to Monsters and Critics that Castlevania “Season 5” (the official title isn’t announced yet) will likely be an entirely new series, with a new cast of characters set in the Castlevania universe.

And it’s been officially confirmed that the new project won’t be a Castlevania spin-off. (Check out the news story in the link for a discussion on how the sequel could be handled.)

If you want even more details, also check out our exclusive Castlevania interview with producer Kevin Kolde. In it, we discussed the themes and characters of the final season, the Castlevania Season 5 sequel, the ethics of the depiction of gory violence, and even Grant Danasty.

The Castlevania animated series is being produced by Frederator Studios, with Studio Powerhouse Animation handling the animation work. The Deats brothers are helming the Castlevania Season 4 project as directors. In addition to Kevin KoldeFred SeibertAdi Shankar, and writer Warren Ellis are executive producers.

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The key visual for Netflix’s Castlevania Season 4 episodes. Pic credit: Netflix

The day before the Castlevania Season 4 release date, Monsters and Critics had a chance to sit down with the Deats to get all the deets on the new Castlevania episodes.

Don’t worry if you haven’t had a chance to watch the ending yet. We made certain to keep spoilers to a minimum and any discussion of specific episodes is generalized.

Monsters & Critics: The storytelling in Castlevania pulls from a variety of sources including contemporary horror. Is there a specific set of movies or types of stories that helped inspire Castlevania Season 4?

Adam Deats: We’ve consistently talked about how most of our influence for the show has been from a variety of different spots in anime and film and obviously the games themselves, as well. In terms of direct references in this season in particular I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that I would say influenced this season.

It has some bits showing the Infinite Corridor again in it and that’s definitely influenced by 70’s psychedelia horror. Other than that, I would say it’s the typical references that we’ve always gone to like 90’s anime like Berserk and whatnot. And some medieval film and stuff like that.

Sam Deats: And video games. You know, Dark Souls and Bloodeborne.

M&C: For the battle sequences, I assume?

Sam Deats: Oh, yeah, and some of the tone and <inaudible>.

Adam Deats: The primary aesthetic and whatnot.

M&C: The other day I interviewed producer Kevin Kolde and he surprised me, actually, by saying he doesn’t think there is a “biggest theme of the story.” Instead, he felt the characters are on their individual journeys and the goal of the final season is to give each character a proper ending. I say I was surprised since I had read this interview with Adam where he said there was a “central theme of reformation” in Castlevania Season 4.

Adam Deats: Oh, you’re nailing me on this.

<All laugh>

M&C: Would you care to explain why you think the final season addresses that topic thematically?

Adam Deats: I feel like a lot of this being in this position is taking the writing [by scriptwriter Warren Ellis] and kind of interpreting it through our lens in a sense. If we do go too far off the rails, the producer yells at us about it in an email or something. <laughs>

Which, of course, is bad yelling, but I’m just saying we will have a conversation then. My interpretation of the themes of the show have been that there are a lot of things going on because they kind of coincide with each individual character.

But I’d say in a general sense that it’s a lot about power structures, the cycles of violence <inaudible> which they cause, and whether it’s possible to end them. And whether it’s a worthwhile endeavor to aim for reform. If there’s a person who has done bad, can they do better?

Sam Deats: I’m much more simplistic in that I hang it on the character struggles with loneliness and love. And how to look for the best in people and the way that they deal with that. And how those things can sometimes culminate in great things such as with some of the main cast. Also, those things can go horribly wrong and affect someone in a terrible way. That’s sort of where I end up landing, not just looking at Season 4 but at the show as a whole.

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At one point in Castlevania Season 4, Isaac says, “A hammer can build a house or it can crack a skull.” His monsters prefer the latter approach. Pic credit: Netflix

M&C: Sam, prior seasons had these quiet, emotional moments or scenes of introspection that really developed the characters. What particular moment stands out in Castlevania Season 4?

Sam Deats: From Season 4? Can I talk openly about Season 4? Okay. I can, right?

Adam Deats: You can always just talk vaguely about it and list an episode.

Sam Deats: I direct some moments of reflection early on in the season. Alucard always has those best moments. In season 3, he always has these wonderful moments where he’s conversing with the other characters and reflecting on something in the world and sort of developing his new perspective. We’re seeing that culminate at the beginning of the season and where things are sort of going but you’re not entirely sure. I think that’s really interesting.

Sam Deats: I do love just these really short moments where Trevor and Sypha get away from everything at the beginning of Episode 4 and just have a little heart-to-heart. It’s just a brief moment but I think it’s one of the few chances that they have to be together in all the chaos. <laughs> And have a short chat. I think those types of things are just really nice and important. I like those slow moments.

Castlevania Alucard
In Netflix’s Castlevania Season 4, Alucard is wearing the outfit from Ayami-Kojima’s depiction of the character in Symphony of the Night. Pic credit: Netflix/KT

M&C: Definitely. The narrative in Castlevania Season 4 is essentially broken up into several main perspectives because Alucard is by himself, and the other vampires. Alucard, after being manipulated and abused [by Taka and Sumi] last season, he has to make a choice to shun or aid humanity once again. Did the team have multiple ideas on how to show him making that choice?

Adam Deats: I mean, it was in the writing. We kind of played out the writing as it was there. There were maybe some minor adjustments in the storyboarding.

Sam Deats: I think at the end of the day, this was where Alucard has always been meant to go, you know what I mean?

M&C: Gotcha. Storytelling in a TV series can sometimes be an organic process since there’s a whole team of people influencing the outcome. Was there any scene or story arc that dramatically changed from conception to final version?

Sam Deats: There is but I don’t know how spoiler-y, it’s a little on the spoilers side.

Adam Deats: What episode, Sam?

Sam Deats: In Episode 6. That’s a big one.

Adam Deats: Yeah, I suppose so.

Sam Deats: There’s a big battle that we added at [my] request. I was like, “I really want to have this big, epic fight here. And can I please do it?” <laughs> Basically. When it came to the storytelling and all that stuff I don’t think it was a huge add but it was definitely a lot of work. <laughs>

M&C: Speaking of a “lot of work,” the animation style draws inspiration from modern action cinema and the amazing gothic art of Ayami Kojima. Season 3 had crazy hand-drawn battle sequences like the Legion; that big ball of bodies. How does Castlevania Season 4 up the ante?

Adam Deats: Oh man, I think it ups the ante in a big way in Episode 9. Unfortunately for you guys, we can’t talk about that.

Sam Deats: I can say just from a numbers perspective. We worked with a whole bunch of very great animators. A big part of what makes this show look the way it does is that we hand-pick all these animators and hand-assign a plan for these shots, give them correction, all that types of stuff. I think there’s five to six times much of that going on in Season 4 as there was in Season 3 at the very least. As well as significantly more work in-house on vampire things.

There’s just so much more action in Season 4. Instead of seeing the scale of everything from the perspective of the number of bodies in a giant ball, it’s more of just like the sheer number of great-looking action shots throughout the season. It was just several times the number and, hopefully, in my opinion, the quality, especially towards the end of the season.

M&C: Basically, the number of keyframes was through the roof in comparison to previous seasons?

Sam Deats: The number of, specifically, the hand-crafted shots. Yeah, the number of frames is through the roof this season in comparison to previous seasons, I think. It’s always been kind of a frame-y show for how detailed it is, a little too much for how detailed it is. This season was crazy, especially… I’ll just say Episode 9. <laughs>

M&C: It’s the final season. Any message you guys want to say to the fans moving forward?

Adam Deats: We love you guys! Thank you for sticking with us this whole time. When I stumbled into the animated TV business five years ago I never even once ever expected to be able to work on a show like this.

I’ve always wanted to work on something that had a clear and concise beginning and end, [a show that] went somewhere and was trying to do something really specific and not just run until it dies. I feel like we actually got to do that and so this is one of the proudest moments of my career. So, thank you.

Sam Deats: Same here. This has been an absolute honor. We have just the best fans. They’re so wonderful. I had just an amazing time working on this show. I hope everyone will keep watching as we make whatever comes next.

M&C: Sounds awesome. Looking forward to watching it. Thank you guys!

Castlevania Season 4 is currently streaming on Netflix.

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