NYCC: Castlevania, Disney Manga Take Center Stage at Viz Media Panel

At New York Comic Con 2019, Viz Media hosted a panel about the content distributor's future, including upcoming manga and anime. The panel also saw appearances from the cast and crew of Netflix's Castlevania: Warren Ellis, James Callis, Graham McTavish and Alejandra Reynoso.

The panel started with the hosts, Urian Brown and David Brothers, talking about the merchandise available from Viz Media before moving into a commercial for Shonen Jump and the mangas included inside with an online subscription through the publisher. Two trailers then took center stage. The trailer for Seis Manos showcased the brutal action of the upcoming Netflix anime. Following that, the panel played a trailer for Cat Lady, Viz Media's first video game. In the style of Binding of Isaac, the game allows players to use different upgradeable cats to defeat various enemies.

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Viz then announced several collected editions and new releases of existing books: Fushigi Yuugi: Byakko Senki (August 2020), How Do We Relationship (June 2020), Bleach: Can't Fear Your Own World (July 2020), One Piece: Ace's Story (May 2020), ACT-AGE (Summer 2020), Naruto: Naruto's Story -- Family Day (June 2020), Spy x Family (June 2020), Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru (March 2020), Monster Hunter: World -- Official Complete Works (August 2020), Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams (July 2020), Not Your Idol (May 2020), Ping Pong (May 2020), RWBY: The Official Manga (July 2020) and The Kingdom of the Gods (May 2020).

Following this, the hosts announced for the first time anywhere Frozen 2: The Manga, by Arina Tanemura. That's slated for release in early 2020. Star Wars: The Legends of Luke Skywalker was also announced for early 2020. That book will feature the work of Akira Himekawa, Haruichi, Akira Fukaya, Takashi Kisaki and Subaru.

The trailer for Castlevania Season 2 then played to introduce Ellis, Callis, Reynoso and McTavish. After taking the stage, Ellis jokingly threatened someone who had thought the series was set in England during one of the panel's trivia breaks. He joked that, although he doesn't come to America often for conventions, the "power of contractual obligations" brought him to NYCC.

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Asked how he felt about Castlevania being one of the best video game adaptations ever, Ellis said, "The thing is, I don't think I've ever seen any other video game adaptations, and I don't really read reviews." He added that friends had sent him links to terrible reviews. He then asked the audience how it had been received, which resulted in applause.

The panel was then asked how they felt about the finished project. McTavish said he thought it was fantastic, and added recording Castlevania was a "lonely, isolating experience" and that he "didn't actually work with anyone else" except Emily Swallow when recording. Ellis explained that they used technology to connect the actors across space, having at one point had people from both hemispheres working simultaneously.

Reynoso said she watched Castlevania with her father, who is a huge fan. "There was a chance to see a little of the finish product early," she revealed. However, Reynoso waited to watch the show with her father. Callis said, "I thought it was pretty remarkable," and singled out the quality of the animation and music. "It seemed to me the finished product had some real density to it, some depth," he said. Callis also revealed that he binge-watched the show after his children went to school.

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The questions then turned to McTavish, who was asked about playing Dracula. He mentioning having played the character on stage in the past and believes anyone who gets to play the character is "lucky." McTavish found him to be a character in Castlevania to be filled with "grief and emotion."

Callis revealed that he didn't realize at first that the name of his character, Alucard, is Dracula spelled backwards. Ellis joked that Callis had an "epiphany" on the third episode. Callis was then asked his favorite thing about the character, replying that, when he first saw the visuals of what Alucard was going to look like, he was "surprised" by how good looking the character was, though he wondered if he'd put a shirt on.

"The character that's written is just fascinating," Callis said. "This person who's kind of half-mortal but detached. There's a little bit of Hamlet in there, as well... this really isn't for kids. It was pretty deep. I was floored by it." He said he "feels tremendously privileged to be voicing the character."

The hosts asked Reynoso -- who before playing the magician Sypha Belnades played Flora in Winx Club -- why she kept getting magical roles, which she said the casting directors would need to answer. "We hired you off a voice audition," Ellis said, adding that she was the only lead who was hired that way. "You've actually got more of a range than you think you've got," he said. "You can actually find both a sense of innocent in a sense of joy and curiosity in the world, but you can also find that hard edge."

Asked if she feels a connection to Sypha, Reynoso replied that the character "feels personal" to her. "They give me a lot of agency with her. It's the first time I've felt that I put so much of myself in a character... That was an amazing process," she said. "I do think there's a lot of me in her." However, she did add that there are parts of her in reality that she wishes she were more like Sypha.

Ellis went on to praise his actors, explaining how important they were to making Castlevania good. "All the characters have changed so much because of the performances the actors built," Ellis said. "I just stole all of that shamelessly. If there's anything good in the show it's because of these people. If there's anything bad in the show, it's just down to me."

The hosts asked Ellis why he liked working in animation, which he compared to comics because of the ability to do anything. "Adult-oriented animation in English speaking countries is such a new phenomenon that we have much of the freedom we have in comics to test in boundaries," he said. "It's kind of like the Wild West in a lot of ways."

Ellis then offered a secret to writing great dialogue. "The secret is obviously having actors like these who can fix it," he said. "But there's no magic trick. There's no secret. Every line of dialogue has to come directly from the character's personality and mood. You have to know these characters. Once you know these characters, you hear them talking, and it just comes out. And then you make sure you're sitting in on as many of those voice recording sessions as possible so you can fix the dialogue on the fly... I've watched every episode a lot, and it's horrible for me. All I can hear is the mistakes I made... The thing about writing dialogue is the thing that looks great and funny on the page just dies as soon as someone speaks it sometimes."

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Asked if Ellis' great dialogue made things to easy, McTavish said, "It's a big help. You need really good dialogue, and Warren gives it. That is the short answer to that question." Reynoso said she was in hysterics reading the scripts, while Callis added there was nothing he wanted to change about what Ellis had written.

The panelists then identified their favorite vampires. Reynoso said it was McTavish's Dracula. Callis followed suit, though he added in the Count from Sesame Street. McTavish himself identified Christopher Lee, who played Dracula many times over his career. Ellis mentioned Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre. Reynoso added in Bela Lugosi.

The final question asked what the panelists were proud of in regards to the show. Ellis said he was proud of working with the other people on the panel and even just getting to make the show. "We're all proud of it," McTavish said, with his fellow panelists agreeing.

Castlevania Season 2 on Netflix stars Richard Armitage as Trevor Belmont, Alejandra Reynoso as Sypha Belnades, James Callis as Alucard, and Graham McTavish as Dracula. Adi Shankar returns as showrunner with the adaptation written by Warren Ellis.

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