When Season 4 of the hit-animated series Castlevania wrapped up, fans everywhere despaired. The team took such time and care in crafting characters we came to love whilst introducing the videogame property to a whole new legion of viewers. But don’t despair. We now have the arrival of CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE, from showrunners Clive Bradley and Kevin Kolde. More importantly, we get the arrival of Richter Belmont, who is just getting started in what will be a momentously chaotic monster hunter career.

Pulling inspiration from Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night, NOCTURNE projects viewers forward to France, 1792. At first, Richter (Edward Bluemel) and Maria (Pixie Davies) have their focus on the French Revolution and finding ways to talk with the other townspeople without getting caught by the vampiric elite. Both notice after several attacks, however, that there are more vampires and monsters appearing. With talk about the arrival of the vampiric Messiah (Franka Potente) and the arrival of Annette (Thuso Mbedu), the gang has more than the Revolution about. No, they now have the world to save from total annihilation.

The stakes are high in CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE. With our heroes younger than their Castlevania predecessors, there’s a noted lack of experience that grounds the characters. Despite their skillset and previous traumas, they still have the naivety of youth about them. Confronted with new loss, resurfaced unresolved trauma, and more, there is much pulling them in all sorts of directions.

Familiar characters reimagined for CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE

Thuso Mbedu as Annette l Netflix
For those with concerns about whether they need to have watched the previous Castlevania series, don’t despair. CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE talks around and gives little clues here and there that provide more than enough context to get viewers up to speed. There’s an extra depth that comes with having seen the previous series, but it’s not necessary for viewers to have any prior knowledge before hopping in.

As the series pulls inspiration from specific games, familiar characters are reimagined, particularly the characters Annette and Orlox (Zahn McClarnon). Richter Belmont and Maria Renard boast similar appearances to their game counterparts and will likely satisfy fans. The characters Annette and Orlox veer furthest away from their video game counterparts but are richer for it.

We see the impact colonization and enslavement have on both characters – both directly and indirectly. Both arguably are descended or have powers connected to their heritage, deeply rooted and connecting them to the gods of their people. When it comes to the overarching theme of freedom, the writing shines furthest with Annette and Orlox. Both possess incredible strength and powers but also have an intimate knowledge of subjugation and all that is at stake when it comes to the loss of their freedom and autonomy.

Given the depth added to Annette and Orlox, people will be hard-pressed not to find these two the faves of the series so far. That is if they can make it past the heartbreaking addition of Edouard (Sydney James Harcourt).

Fluid animation captivates

Courtesy Netflix

The artistic style of CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE is like the style adopted from the Castlevania series, with an almost hand-drawn quality-like feel to it. This style aids in making the action sequences dynamic and fluid, giving the animators more flexibility with experimentation and distortion in the magics and monsters represented on screen. Camera angles and lighting help to create some impactful visual snapshots that linger.

The style also lends itself to its villains, particularly the Messiah, Erzsebet Báthory. Until she shows up onscreen, all the viewer has to go on is the hype machine surrounding her existence. When she does arrive, her appearance alone earns the cult-like status that has formed around her. Statuesque and meticulous, she is a goddess come to life. It is easy to believe that she is the one who will devour the sun and bring eternal night.

Our heroes have much to face in CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE. Some of the obstacles are easy to see. Other obstacles require introspection. At a crossroads in their lives, both the Revolution and the emergence of the Messiah give plenty for them to battle. With numerous players and their agendas, the events in NOCTURNE prove to be a brutal awakening for all. Well-paced, full of characters that both intrigue and smack you in the face, CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE is an excellent new addition to the Castlevania franchise.

Consisting of eight episodes, CASTLEVANIA: NOCTURNE will premiere exclusively on Netflix on September 28, 2023.

Sarah Musnicky
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