Netflix Levels Up Its Anime Game with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
Netflix is soon becoming the home for R-rated anime films with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf as its latest addition. The streaming platform is banking on its Witcher Universe to draw in more fans and build one of the biggest franchises on the platform, and it’s certainly succeeding.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is satisfying watch for fans eagerly awaiting season two of the live-action series. The anime film is a gory, action-packed, and overall delightful addition to the Witcherverse, bringing depth to the fantasy world as Netflix moves to expand the series backwards in time.
The anime film is set approximately a century before the events of the series, before Ciri and perhaps even Yennefer were born. In this animated prequel to the series, we follow the witcher Vesemir before he becomes the mentor of Geralt of Rivia. Unlike the gruff and grave teacher we encounter in the books, the anime film version portrays the witcher in all of his youthful selfishness and virility. This is The Witcher after all, and it appears bathtub scenes are required whether it’s a live-action or animated.
It’s through Vesemir’s young eyes that we see the downfall of the witchers. No spoiler here: Nightmare of the Wolf is essentially a tragedy, chronicling the events that led to the Sacking of Kaer Morhen, the stronghold where witchers of the School of the Wolf once trained and lived. If you’ve watched the live-action series, then you know how this ends: almost everyone, child and adult, mage and witcher, were killed in a brutal attack by fearful humans. But the anime film finally pulls back the curtain to tell us the how.
While we won’t go into details as to how this all goes down, we will share that in Nightmare of the Wolf, in true Witcher fashion, there are no clean-cut heroes or villains. Witchers have never been portrayed as noble or righteous, and the anime film doesn’t aim to change that. Instead, it adds layers to the tale of Kaer Morhen’s demise with the intricate network of ignorance, oppression, struggle, and hate that makes the Witcher universe so masterfully complex.
The problem in fantasy is that in hopes of creating epic tales, we inadvertently create self-righteous characters that, while aspirational, lack depth. But in the Witcher, conflicts are always layered and there are rarely any good guys on either side of the war. And in a unique way that sets it apart from Game of Thrones, The Witcher realm stays away from politics and focuses instead on the moral and the magical.
One its most memorable lines goes, "Fear and ignorance make good business."
Aside from its fascinating plot that gives us a more insightful look at the Continent, Nightmare of the Wolf is chockful of stunning action scenes, animation, and transitions that deserve heavy praise for its animation studio, Seoul-based Studio Mir. There is plenty of monsters, blood, gore, and guts, and even more shocking deaths. There's even a 70-year love story thrown in. But don’t let it all distract you from a few characters you might remember from the series. Filvandrel the elf makes an appearance, as well as a number of witchers mentioned in the books and games.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is another quality anime film delivered by Netflix, directed by Kwang II Han and produced by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. While the film is food for the eyes of the fans already embroiled in the Witcher world, it’s not really a watch for casual viewers. There will be references and ties to the series, and all the interconnected plot points might fly over your head if you haven’t already watched The Witcher.
Regardless, the anime film is a welcome addition to the Witcher universe that Netflix is so far successfully growing. What’s fascinating is that the platform is expanding the universe backwards as its next prequel, Blood Origin, is set thousands of years before the series.
The Witcher: The Nightmare of the Wolf sets the stage of season two of The Witcher, creating the imagery for the death-defying Grass Trials that Ciri will undergo in the ruins of Kaer Morhen. Nightmare of the Wolf is now streaming on Netflix and The Witcher, season two, will stream on December 17.