When Netflix first released Castlevania, it brought to life a beloved video game franchise with stunning animation and a star-studded voice cast. The series, with its slick presentation and attention to its dark themes, quickly became a success. Naturally, Netflix decided to capitalize on this triumph by continuing the saga with Castlevania: Nocturne, a spin-off that adapts the well-known entries of the franchise: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Created by Clive Bradley and produced by Kevin Kolde, Castlevania: Nocturne captures the essence of the original series. The animation style and storytelling are just as deft, while the action remains unflinchingly brutal. Set 300 years after the events of Trevor and Sypha’s story, the show follows our brooding protagonist Richter Belmont, superbly voiced by Edward Bluemel. Richter is a vampire hunter operating during the height of the French Revolution. He is accompanied by Tera and Maria, a mother-daughter duo who are both powerful magic users and French revolutionaries. Along their journey, they encounter Annette, a sorceress with exceptional abilities, and Edouard, an opera singer. Together, this group faces the challenges that lie ahead.
While Nocturne introduces more recognizable characters such as Richter, Annette, and Olrox, the show is not afraid to reimagine them. Richter, though admirably portrayed by Bluemel, faces the challenge of embodying the roguish and sardonic demeanor of Trevor Belmont, the protagonist from the original series. Annette, on the other hand, takes center stage and receives a complete reinvention. Thuso Mbedu delivers an outstanding performance as Annette, skillfully portraying her range of emotions. In Nocturne, Annette is portrayed as an ex-slave from the Caribbean who embarks on a mission in France. Gifted with ancient magical powers, her character becomes one of the most compelling elements of the series.
Edouard, initially a minor character, undergoes significant development, adding complexity and depth to his arc. Viewers will find his relationship with Annette particularly intriguing as it contributes a fresh perspective to the mythology of the show. The villain Olrox, now an Indigenous character, receives an origin story that showcases the acting prowess of Zahn McClarnon.
While Nocturne excels in many aspects, one criticism is the portrayal of the vampires themselves. In the original series, vampires were multi-dimensional characters, ranging from intriguing queens to menacing figures like Alucard and Dracula. However, in Nocturne, the vampires come across as one-dimensional, with Olrox sometimes leaning towards the clichéd villain trope.
Of all the villains introduced, the most captivating is the vampire messiah, Erzebet Báthory, portrayed by Franka Potente. Although her appearance is mainly in the latter part of the series, Bathory’s presence adds a sense of terror and enigma reminiscent of the iconic Dracula character. Unfortunately, her limited screen time leaves viewers longing for more.
While Nocturne sets the stage for a potentially more impactful second season, it does suffer from some aimlessness. Certain characters, like Tera and Maria, feel underutilized until the final act. However, the exceptional animation and trademark style of Powerhouse Animation Studios shine through, making the action sequences a visual delight. This display of talent is a testament to why Castlevania could only be realized in animated form.
Despite its imperfections, Castlevania: Nocturne remains an enjoyable and exciting addition to the franchise. Season 1 may primarily serve as a foundation for future developments, but it still delivers everything fans love about the series. Castlevania: Nocturne premieres on September 28th, exclusively on Netflix.