‘I have a reputation. And people accept it because of the heroic and handsome thing. But teenage girls conjuring things from the Otherworld? They start building piles of very flammable wood.’
Richter Belmont says this to his magic-wielding friend Maria when the two decide to alert the Church about a sinister vampire uprising. Set in the 1790s, against the turbulent years of the French Revolution when cries of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ rang through the air, Netflix’s 2023 animated series ‘Castlevania: Nocturne’ is a lavish spin-off that’s spread over eight episodes.
Directed by Adam Deats and Sam Deats, this follow-up to “Castlevania” focuses on the rise of Richter Belmont, the last remaining descendant of the renowned family of vampire hunters. Orphaned at a young age, Richter is raised by his witch-aunt Tera, whose spirited daughter, Maria, also possesses magic and harbors a passionate desire to overthrow the monarchy. When whispers of a new vampire “messiah” begins to circulate, Richter and Maria join forces with revolutionaries Annette and Edouard to thwart the night creatures from seizing control of their world. While Maria and Annette have their magic, Richter is armed with the legendary Morningstar Whip, which he inherits after his mother dies at the hands of Mizrak, an ancient powerful vampire.
While the 2017-2021 “Castlevania” series featured the nearly invincible Dracula as its primary antagonist, who is based on the infamous historical figure Vlad the Impaler, the writers of “Castlevania: Nocturne” also drew inspiration from the real world for the series’ villain. Erzsebet Bathory is the evil vampire “messiah” who seeks to rule the worlds and extinguish the sun forever. This character is based on Countess Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian noblewoman who allegedly tortured and killed over 600 girls and women in her castles. To help build suspense and intrigue over this antagonist, the creator don’t let viewers have a proper look at Erzsebet Bathory until episode 6 and tease us with only the briefest glimpse in episode three. The mysterious Mizrak however was a little more interesting, not just because he slayed a Belmont, but also because his loyalties remain a little dubious throughout the runtime.
The animation isn’t the best; there have been few improvements since the 2017 series, and the graphics become rather choppy when the characters walk, reminiscent of playing a glitch-y game from the early 2000s. But at least the color palette is more in line with the gothic themes of the story. “Castlevania: Nocturne also explores the conflicted and paradoxical nature of men who serve the church and the corrupt nexus between the clergy and aristocrats. The abbot has a secret pact with the Marquis to quell revolutionary uprisings and maintain the age-old status quo between the wealthy and the oppressed. However, the exploration is rather tame in comparison to just how fantastically it was done in season one and two of “Castlevania,” where it pitted Dracula against The Church.
Richter Belmont, Maria and Annette are the primary fighting trio in the series and even though they are great characters, their banter is not as fun as I was hoping for it to be. On the other hand, these new heroes have more solid back-stories. The young Richter suffers from PTSD and is haunted by visions of watching his mother die right in front of his eyes, while Annette, a former slave-girl, also witnesses her mother’s murder and escapes her owner’s clutches (a vampire at that) with the help of Edouard, a wealthy Opera singer. While Maria and Annette are very serious for their age, at least Richter has a sense of humor. It is up to these three young comrades, to help stop the uprising of the blood-thirty Erzsebet Bathory and her generals. The odds don’t seem to fair and there are plenty of battles and blood, although not quite as gory as the older series.
Regardless, “Castlevania: Nocturne” is a worthy successor and ends in a way I really wanted it to! Ever since a “vampire messiah” was mentioned in episode one, my mind drifted towards wanting a specific twist, and I kept wishing it would happen, and it does, even though it’s at the absolute end. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say this – season one closes with an epic cliffhanger, and damn, there better be a season two soon! Watch the series if you liked “Castlevania”.
You can stream “Castlevania: Nocturne” on Netflix.
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