WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Castlevania and Yasuke, both of which are now streaming on Netflix.
Netflix has done a brilliant job of bringing anime-inspired animation to the masses with shows such as Voltron: Legendary Defender, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Scissor Seven and Seis Manos providing true variety for kids and adults. Two of its biggest properties, though, are Castlevania, which brings the popular video game to life, and the more recently released Yasuke, a retelling of the eponymous Black Samurai.
As much as they're focused on action, there's a strong element of fantasy and horror to both series, leaving fans wondering which is the better one to binge. With Castlevania's final season concluded, we finally have an answer.
Yasuke's Exciting Blend of History & Fantasy
Yasuke significantly changes up its real-world history by adding supernatural elements. Not only does the warrior have to protect a young girl, Saki, with mystical powers but he also fights off various monsters, magical assassins and vicious overlords such as Abraham, the demonic priest, as well as soldiers who turned on him. It creates a powerful high-octane blend of politics and drama as it pushes him to the limit. Yasuke is left fending off the evil Daimyo, her robotic legion, and attackers like the Dark General, all of whom add a deep sense of dread and terror to feudal Japan.
However, with Saki as well as Morisuke's magical army by his side, it's not as challenging. It doesn't help that we don't get much insight into his enemies, the sources of their power, or even see Yasuke coming close to death that often. When the mercenary group Abraham hired to hunt Yasuke joins him in an arc of redemption, it just feels like he's got too many deus ex machinas. Coupling this with monster designs that don't feel creative, it's more of a steampunk-era battle royale. Mind you, it's pulled off well, but the mutants and supernatural tyrants don't really impose.
Castlevania's Spine-Tingling Swords & Sorcery Tale
Alternatively, this is where Castlevania triumphs. Granted it was always going to lean more into horror given its source material -- it just has that panache to it that sends chills down the spine. Likewise, Castlevania's character designs are untouchable with the likes of Trevor Belmont, Sypha and Alucard feeling like true threats to the monsters they face. Their weapons and powers are far more impressive, crafting better fight sequences as they attempt to save Europe from bloodsuckers and genocide in general.
In addition, when it comes to Dracula, his vampire coven, the Forgemasters and their Night Creatures, Death and all the others at hand, they're scarier and have more sinister personalities. It helps that there's more nuance in Castlevania, focusing on emotion and romance too -- rather than duty like Yasuke -- with a stronger sense of family evolving as Dracula seeks Lisa out in the afterlife, and Trevor struggles with how to embrace his feelings for Sypha.
Yasuke has hints of this but it sticks to the Samurai's war and mental breakdown, which also results in many cast members not being developed very well. Given that Castlevania has been detailed more over four seasons, this is to be expected -- so maybe Yasuke will be able to match it with more episodes. As it stands, Yasuke is just a samurai story with beasts and magic shoehorned in, lacking the sense of authenticity that's so prevalent in Castlevania.