Castlevania Season 2: Ties To Adi Shankar’s Bootleg Universe

With Castlevania season 2 premiering on Netflix, showrunner Adi Shankar reflects on the Bootleg Universe short films that got him here.

Castlevania season 2 is appropriately releasing on Netflix today, the weekend before Halloween, and viewers who enjoyed the series’ summer 2017 debut will no longer have to wait for the continuation to the all too short quartet of episodes of season 1. With eight more installments coming in the sophomore season, we wanted to get showrunner Adi Shankar’s take on the success of video game adaptation thus far and get some hints as to what we can expect to see in the upcoming season.

Shankar acknowledges that none of this would have been possible had he not left Hollywood in 2015 with one parting shot via his “Bootleg Universe” YouTube channel. “I ended up putting out this ten-plus minute short film that reimagined the Power Rangers as a hard-R franchise where the original rangers were now in their 40s and dealing with severe PTSD,” Shankar explains. “After that, Netflix reached out to me via Twitter, called me in for a meeting, and I guess what came of that was this offer to make whatever I wanted and how I wanted to do it with minimal to no interference and creative control and what-not, and that spawned Castlevania as an anime.”

In essence, Castlevania takes the Dracula story to its ultimate extreme in a way that only animation and the original video game upon which the show is based are capable of, but the series captures the story in a completely different manner from the game. “The show intentionally walks this fine line [of] being its own thing because it’s set in its own universe,” says Shankar. “It’s inspired by the game universe in the same way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is heavily inspired by the Marvel comics that came before it, especially the Ultimate Universe, but the movies are their own thing. The characters are slightly different; the timeline is slightly altered. And that’s very much the world in which Castlevania exists.”

That being said, Castlevania season 2 dives right in with some familiar faces for those who have played the classic game. “There’s a character from Curse of Darkness called Hector who’s in the show,” teases Shankar. “Now, what I like about Hector was I liked the idea of using someone who is not part of the Belmont family but he’s also a human who has some magic abilities. And also actually Hector is the star of his own game, so Curse of Darkness stars Hector. There’s also a character named Isaac in the show — Hector and Isaac are together a lot in the games. Their mythologies intersect in multiple ways, and we really just open up the world of Dracula.”

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Shankar still uses the same approach with Castlevania that he used with his Bootleg Universe titles, including “Dirty Laundry” (Punisher), “In Service of Nothing” (James Bond), “Superfiend” (Judge Dredd), and “Truth in Journalism” (Venom), in that he produces the show like he would a fan video. “It was just, ‘This doesn’t exist; I want to see it exist, and I want to see it exist like this.’ And… that doesn’t have to just exist in the fan film world; that should apply to everything I do,” says Shankar. “So Castlevania was really that, you know? Even though it’s officially licensed and there’s suits involved, I wanted to approach it like a fan film.”

As for those who still pine for Shankar’s days as a filmmaker who makes tribute videos that many consider to be better than the official originals, rest assured those days are not over; Shankar still dabbles in such projects. “I do have some in the pipeline,” he confirms. “I can’t talk about them because I think part of the charm of them is just not promoting them; they just kind of appear one day. The moment I start teasing them or doing that whole thing, then how different is it from a corporate product?”

Castlevania may exist in a conventional programming structure, but the creative freedom that Netflix affords Shankar and his production team, which includes famed Marvel writer and executive producer Warren Ellis, gives the series Shankar’s signature avant garde flavor. With the positive reviews surrounding Castlevania season 1 and the confirmation that a season 3 is assured, the hungry fanbase will no doubt quickly devour the eight episodes of season 2 that Netflix sets free on October 26, 2018.

Michael Ahr is a writer, reviewer, and podcaster here at Den of Geek; you can check out his work here or follow him on Twitter. The full audio of the above interview will be available on our Sci Fi Fidelity podcast on November 2, 2018. Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Soundcloud

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