Review: The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf Prequel Works Better Than Other Anime Spin-Offs
The Witcher is a rich world with innovative concepts and an unending breadth for storytelling. This is clearly evident in the six books, three video games and countless short stories that tell these stories. It’s also one of the best things about Netflix’s The Witcher series. The world-building is so interesting that it overwhelms the other criticisms anyone can have about the series. So a prequel movie set in the same universe makes a lot of sense. But I didn’t expect it to be so good. As I’ll discuss in this The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf review, the movie shows just how to do a standalone anime spin-off to an existing property. But also how to tie it into the original content, in a fun and exciting way.
The Witcher Series Is Here To Stay
Castlevania’s own Dracula, Graham McTavish plays Vesemir’s mentor. | Image via Netflix.
The original Witcher live-action series on Netflix was a smash hit. The show brought to life this new fantasy world through the lens of the lone wolf Geralt, a Witcher. Witchers in this world are monster hunters who are mutants themselves, giving them the powers and strength to fight other supernatural creatures. The series was all about a larger story that connected three characters together in a non-linear way.
While the larger world-building was amazing, the story focused on those specific characters. Geralt (Henry Cavill) was a Witcher who seldom spoke but said a lot through his physicality. Straddled with a minstrel who spun his tales, The Witcher followed his adventures as a monster hunter for hire. Then there was Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) who sacrificed everything in her life to become a powerful Witch. Lastly, there’s Ciri (Freya Allan) a young heir to a kingdom that is on the run from those that want her dead, without realizing just how special she really is.
The series was a collision course between these three storylines, with the world and setting revealing themselves in bits and pieces. But the expansion of that world will most likely be in the spin-off content that is soon coming, set in the same universe. While a lot of that expansion may come in the live-action spin-off, The Witcher: Blood Origin. this new movie gives a glimpse. In my The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf review, I’ want to focus on just how the world and its backstory is what makes this prequel movie work.
A Prequel That Also Works On Its Own
The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf is a prequel in the true sense of the word. While most prequels are quick to fill up its content with winks and nods for fans of the original, Nightmare Of The Wolf stands alone. In that sense, the anime movie is a totally one-off adventure that deepens The Witcher’s universe that much more, with more context, history and back story.
The story follows a young boy who wished to be more and thus ended up a Witcher. Vesemir (Theo James) is one of the finer monster hunters in the land, but not everyone is grateful or can even tolerate Witchers. A Witch by the name of Tetra (Lara Pulver) dislikes Witchers and is on a campaign to destroy them. She constantly appeals to the King, with conspiracy theories that Witchers themselves made monsters to create a need, and then slay them to con and swindle the public of their coin.
The reason why Nightmare Of The Wolf works as an awesome prequel is that it’s not trying to win favour with the existing Witcher fanbase. Instead, the story of the movie stands alone, with enough exposition, character arcs and an insular story for anyone to enjoy and appreciate. Pre-existing knowledge of the Witcher franchise doesn’t take away or enhance anything in this story. Sure, there’s 1 or 2 stand up and point vigorously at the screen moments, but they are unrelated to the larger story. It’s also a prequel in the sense that the atmosphere it creates is contained to this story, but if seen in timeline order, it will explain a lot about the world we experience in the live-action series.
The Coin, The Politics And The History Of The Witchers
The women of The Witcher anime. | Image via Netflix.
With no proof, and a noblewoman in Lady Zerbst (Mary McDonnell) advocating on their behalf, the Witchers constantly escape persecution from the King. But The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf is all about how one adventure threatens to be the end of the Witchers, and how Vesemir is a crucial participant in it all. It’s an interesting concept because we get a peek behind the curtain of this world and its political landscape. Especially the fragile status that the Witchers play in this society. It’s very much a ‘kill for them before they kill us’ situation. The Witchers hunt monsters while being monsters themselves, in order to divert attention, lest the public turn on them as well. It’s really this part of the story that plays larger importance to this movie.
Despite a great character arc for Vesemir, that directly ties into the world that we experience in the live-action series. The atmosphere created by Nightmare Of The Wolf is palpable. Despite its pretty standard runtime for an animated movie, it does a lot. And, as I theorized in my Nightmare Of The Wolf trailer breakdown, the ending of the movie definitely ties directly into why the world is how it is in the live-action series. Blood Origin might expand on those elements a bit more, but this anime movie does a great job of giving us a bit more of the Witcher lore. And all the while hidden beneath it is a smaller arc of love and longing and what Witchers must sacrifice to be what they are. It’s really sweet and a little heartbreaking, to be completely honest.
The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf Review Is Spoiler Free
A gratuitous jacuzzi scene seems to be a Witcher staple. | Image via Netflix.
Given that Nightmare Of The Wolf stands on its own, it wouldn’t be fair to spoil everything in this review, so early in its release. Especially seeing that the anime movie actually doubles as a great entry point for any new audiences into The Witcher franchise. So if you wanted to step into this new world, but find the live-action series to be too much of a commitment, Nightmare Of The Wolf is a great gateway. Especially given the plethora of The Witcher content that is coming our way. Nightmare Of The Wolf is an awesome anime movie that is based on a familiar property with great action and a riveting story that is hard to not invest in.
Nightmare Of The Wolf anime and The Witcher live-action series are both streaming on Netflix now.
What did you think about the first step into the larger The Witcher universe with this anime? Let me know in the comments below.
Featured image via Netflix.
Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.