Netflix’s new anime series is not for newcomers but fans.
Geralt of Rivia is the one thing that unites all the iterations of The Witcher — the original books, hit games, or the new live-action series — and it’s Geralt. In a rare fantasy series that often follows larger stories than one person, the heart of the series is made up of the lovably sad monster hunter. This is what makes Nightmare of the Wolf an anime spinoff available on Netflix. It’s a prequel, which shifts in time to show Geralt’s mentor Vesemir. He can be charming, playful, and have a voracious appetite in life.
It’s refreshing and does a great job exploring the mysteries of The Witcher universe without sacrificing the main points of the series. Nightmare of the Wolf may not be the most welcoming start point for the franchise, but it’s still a lot of fun.
The anime movie is a time-traveling animation that focuses on Vesemir’s childhood and life at two crucial points. It’s primarily about Vesemir’s upbringing and how he became a witcher. Witchers are mutated monster hunters who, from a young age, train to kill deadly creatures in exchange for cash. He fled servitude to seek respect and money to hunt monsters. However, he was unaware of the harsh reality at Kaer Morhen, which serves as his training ground.
These scenes demonstrate the brutality of witcher training and allow us to see how people respond to trauma. Many witcher stories focus on how few candidates survive the process. In Nightmare of the Wolf, young boys are forced into a nightmare swamp to overcome seemingly impossible odds. If they survive, they are then subject to painful alchemy to increase their strength and senses. The people who make it can be as grim as Geralt, or they may hide their pain behind a lust after life like Vesemir.
The second half of the story is about Vesemir as he reaches the peak of his abilities. He is 70 years old, and he looks handsome, with a square jaw, mischievous smirk, and a beautiful, young face. He’s well-known for his ability to kill tough monsters and can now charge a high price. One of his earliest scenes depicts Vesemir in the bathtub, negotiating with an elf about his fee before finally deciding that he was too costly. Vesemir and his comrades are also faced with a dilemma because monsters seem to be rare. One witcher said, “We’re putting ourselves out of business with every monster that we kill.”
These two periods are interconnected, and they shed light on a very important relationship, namely between witchers (or monsters) and those they have sworn to destroy. I won’t spoil the surprise, but Nightmare of the Wolf answers questions that have been floating around message boards for years regarding the origins of the hunter and hunted. These new answers will change the way you view them both. These revelations may not be obvious to newcomers who aren’t already immersed in the intrigue of the Continent.
The good news is that Nightmare of the Wolf still makes for a great movie, even if you come in the cold. Animation has made the action more fluid, especially when Vesemir cuts his way through beasts with inhuman grace and makes smart-ass jokes. The smooth action is not surprising, considering Nightmare of the Wolf was created in Studio Mir by the same team that created shows like Kipo, The Legend of Korra, and Age of Wonderbeasts. Combat in live-action shows and games can feel slow and tedious, but things are faster and more dynamic in anime. Vesemir is the new lead. Geralt finds fighting tedious. Vesemir is a good sport. However, the battles are still intense. Nightmare of the Wolf is incredibly violent. You’ll see blood gushing from the limbs in just a few minutes.
Nightmare of the Wolf captures much of what made The Witcher so popular — a dark fantasy land, political intrigue, and buff men in the bathtub — but it doesn’t spend much time setting up the world. It assumes that you already care. This is especially true for the Big Twist. It won’t be much if you are not invested in the universe. The movie is still entertaining, with its gory action and many one-liners. However, it can feel like supplementary material that will keep you going until the second season.