For the more casual fans, many are probably unaware that the world of The Witcher is vast, and goes far beyond the tales of Geralt of Rivia. Netflix’s new anime film “Nightmare of the Wolf” explores aspects of that world, telling the origin story of Geralt’s mentor, Vesemir. Unafraid to splash the screen with blood and gore, the South Korean anime film goes all out on monsters and tells a new yet familiar story that feels both deeply connected to the existing lore as well as its own standalone adventure story.
“Nightmare of the Wolf” may not have the coveted eye candy of its live action counterpart and probably won’t get the viewership of said series, but it most certainly demonstrates just how robust the world actually is. For anyone who has read the novels or played any of the games, “Nightmare of the Wolf” is a welcomed return to monster hunting as well as sort of a tide over until the new season drops. Filled with blood, monsters, and heart, this is a well told, well-paced standalone origin story that continues to drum up excitement for more journeys into these foreign lands.
“Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf” is directed by Kwang II Han and written by Beau Demayo, and produced and animated by Studio Mir. This is the same studio that also did “The Legend of Korra,” “The Boondocks,” and “The Death of Superman.” The animation is very much in the vain of “Castlevania,” with its manic blood and monster guts as well as much of its fight choreography. It is most certainly anime through and through, but never stalls out or shies away from a good old fashioned brutality kill. The animation is beautiful, and continues to demonstrate just how good Netflix is as selecting beautiful animated projects. “Nightmare of the Wolf” follows Vesemir (Theo James) as he becomes a Witcher and lives his life collecting bounties. The film focuses on the disdain of Witchers, with a full on purge campaign led by Tetra (Laura Pulver) who wants to eradicate the Witchers once and for all. They are (as they have pretty much always been) viewed as con artists and swindlers, and often times looked at as worse than the monsters they were created to fight. As the monsters dwindle, and new threat exposes treachery from all sides, and forces Vesemir to fight not just for his own life, and but for everything he’s dedicated his life to being.
“Nightmare of the Wolf” does quite a bit right in its anime spinoff attempt. For starters, the voice cast is solid, with James, Palmer, Graham McTavish and Mary McDonnell all doing well to breath fresh life into their characters. McTavish in particular has carved out a name for himself for being the go to Scotsman, lending his distinguished voice to countless animated projects and video games. It also gives us a whole new look at Witchers, with Vesemir being in stark contrast to the Geralt we’ve come to know. He’s charming, brash, and at times obnoxious, relishing in the Witcher life for most of the film. This is a refreshing look at an old hero, and lets us see a new kind of witcher on a new adventure. This also helps provide a better look at the Witchers themselves; they’re truly viewed in society and just how brutal creating them actually is. All of this is alluded to in the live action series, but “Nightmare of the Wolf” hammers these points home hard, casting everyone as morally gray and never fully right or fully wrong.
Betrayal is beset on all sides here in “Nightmare of the Wolf,” but even villains, red herrings and true twist reveal villains all of have believable motives that influence the story and move it along at a solid pace. Sure, there’s plenty of action and blood splashing around, but the story told here really allows everyone and everything to feel realized and complete, like this mythical land infested with monsters is alive and brimming with stories and histories to be told and shared. It is a beautiful dark fantasy, one who’s world continues to be worth exploring even if you’re relatively new to it all. And therein lies some of the struggles with the film. While this is predominantly a strength, it may also being part of the film’s weakness, too. “Nightmare of the Wolf” is truly made for fans. Not just fans of the Netflix live action adaption, but fans the entire series and world who would already be well versed in Vesemir’s origins, the battle at Kaer Morhen (one of many), and the relationship between humanity, monsters, and Witchers.
Many of these things, including the political intrigue and brutal violence are all interesting, but don’t necessarily lend themselves to a casual viewer. “Nightmare of the Wolf” assumes you know a lot about the lore and land already, and while it does provide some supplemental exposition, it doesn’t go as far as to spell it all out to everyone. It was absolutely an enjoyable ride even if you have no idea what the hell is going on, but it is definitely enjoyed more by those who already know about the Witcher. There’s a part of you that has to wonder who is Vesemir and why does he matter, and while “Nightmare of the Wolf” does a good job in telling a story that justifies learning about him, casual fans waiting until the end of the film to find out how he connects to what little they know may end up getting a bit lost. Monsters and elves and humans and mages are all elements that exist and have existed in the world of “Nightmare of the Wolf,” and we aren’t given much else outside of that to base our knowledge on.
Despite these assumptions, “Nightmare of the Wolf” is the perfect hold over for anyone who can’t get enough Witcher while waiting for the highly anticipated season 2. It doesn’t necessarily fill in the gaps and may leave less versed viewers more confused, but for those of us who truly love everything about the land, we can relish in this new expansion. It answers questions fans have had for a while and new fans may be intrigued to learn, and in the end it truly does keep things interesting. “Nightmare of the Wolf” is another solid entry into the Witcher world, and another solid animated outing for Netflix.
Toss another coin to you Witcher. “Nightmare of the Wolf” deserves it.
Watch it now, only on Netflix.