Before The Last of Us and Arcane, it was Netflix and Powerhouse Animation’s Castlevania (now in its fourth season) that broke the video game adaptation curse with a highly stylized, anime-inspired horror-action show that based on the Konami video game series. Now the spin-off series “Castlevania: Nocturne” shifts the action 300 years to the time of the French Revolution. With the new time period comes new themes, an expanded worldview, and a major change in the show’s visual style. Not surprisingly, the biggest change in action occurred, all thanks to one invention: firearms.
“We had guns,” director Sam Deats told IndieWire. “A rifle ax was my favorite piece, inspired by a trip to a New York museum that had a whole exhibit of different weapons mixed with firearms, and I just wanted to incorporate some of that into the exhibit.”
Castlevania: Nocturne follows Judge Belmont, a descendant of the original series’ monster hunter, Trevor. Judge becomes an orphan after a vampire kills his mother and discovers a conspiracy between the French aristocracy and a group of vampires who worship their coming messiah. The show introduces a new and larger team, new powers, cool and scary creatures, and more – but the time period is the ace up the show’s sleeve. For one thing, the era allows Nocturne to start with more color than the franchise is known for.
“Thematically, it works because things start out a little more stable and get a little more chaotic as the season goes on,” said director Adam Deats, explaining that the colors get darker as the season progresses. Likewise, the lines of the characters are thinner and more elegant. While the show is still set in the gothic and elegant space of Ayami Kojima’s designs, the lines are more inspired by ’90s projects, like Nobuteru Yuki’s designs for Record of Lodoss War.
However, the series’ announcement in the midst of the French Revolution offers more than just opulence and bright colors; This period was marked by chaotic violence around the world – not only in France, but also in the New World. The show greatly expands its world by incorporating America, most notably through the season’s best character, Annette, a powerful sorceress from Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). Through Annette, the series explores slavery and its role in revolutions (without the Haitian Revolution there would be no French Revolution) as well as the role of vampires in colonization. It’s also a way for the show to give us a rare positive representation of Haitian Vodou and its Yoruba roots.
This technology – and its limitations – presented the show with a challenge in incorporating weapons into the action choreography, as the characters have different abilities than in the original and not only weapons but also more magic are involved. “We discovered that the Belnades influenced the Belmonts in the original series, so Richter can now use magic,” Adam Deats continued. “We had to figure out how to make Richter more than Trevor 2.0 and mix influences from the larger Castlevania universe with our own interpretation of Richter.”
As showrunner Kevin Kolde explained, the French Revolution gave the writers an opportunity to build on the role of vampires in the world and their integration into society in the centuries since the original. “We start from a place of history and then find the right balance between history and fantasy,” Kolde said. “We anchor the story in historical elements and don’t shy away from them.”
In fact, an example of how the world of Castlevania opens up completely in Nocturne is the character of Olrox, the Aztec vampire with a backstory we know little about. We know through cryptic lines of dialogue that he has been around for a long time and his loyalties are not entirely clear. “He learned to work in different rooms and with different clothes for the role, but always keeps parts of his past with him through his hair and jewelry,” Sam Deats explained. “He’s seen a lot,” Kolde added. “His story is interesting because he’s so complicated as a character.” Olrox, with her complicated loyalties and morals, is reminiscent of some of Castlevania’s great, ambiguous antagonists like Isaac or Carmilla.
Of course, even with a 300-year time jump, this is a universe with immortal vampires, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Castlevania: Nocturne ends with the return of fan-favorite character Alucard, the son of Dracula Kolde’s plan was always to prepare for Alucard’s return and investigate how the vampire has changed over the years. Meanwhile, even though Nocturne is all about the new cast of characters, Sam Deats teased, “We still have new things planned for Alucard.”
All episodes of Castlevania: Nocturne are now available to stream on Netflix.