Before “The Last of Us” and “Arcane,” it was Netflix‘s 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 based on the Konami video game series. Now, the spinoff series “Castlevania: Nocturne” moves the action forward 300 years to the time of the French Revolution. With the new time period comes new themes, an expanded worldview, and a big change to the show’s visual style. Unsurprisingly, the biggest change was in the action, all thanks to one invention: Firearms.
“We had guns,” director Sam Deats told IndieWire. “A rifle-axe was my favorite thing, inspired by a trip to a New York museum that had a whole display of different weapons mixed with guns, and I just wanted to incorporate some of that in the show.”
“Castlevania: Nocturne” follows Richter Belmont, a descendant of the original show’s monster hunter, Trevor. Orphaned after a vampire killed his mother, Richter discovers a conspiracy involving the French aristocracy and a group of vampires worshipping their coming messiah. The show introduces a new and bigger team, fresh powers, cool and creepy creatures, and more — but the time period is the ace up the show’s sleeve. For one, the era allows “Nocturne” to start out with more color than the franchise is known for.
“Theme-wise that kind of works because things start off a little bit more stable and they become a little bit more chaotic as the season goes on,” director Adam Deats said, explaining that the colors turn darker as the season progresses. Likewise, the linework on the characters is thinner and more elegant. While the show still plays in the gothic and elegant space of Ayami Kojima’s designs, the line work takes more inspiration from ’90s projects like Nobuteru Yuki’s designs for “Record of Lodoss War.”
Setting the series amid the French Revolution provides more than opulence and vibrant colors, though; the period was filled with chaotic violence across the world — not just in France but in the New World as well. The show vastly expands its world by bringing in the Americas, mostly through the season’s best character, Annette, a powerful sorceress from Saint-Domingue (now Haiti). Through Annette, the show explores slavery and its role in revolutions (there would not be a French Revolution without the Haitian Revolution) as well as the role of vampires in colonization. It is also an avenue for the show to give us a rare positive representation of Haitian Vodou and its Yoruba roots.
That technology — and its limitations — gave the show a challenge in how to incorporate the weapons into the action choreography, as the characters have a different set of abilities than in the original, with not only guns but more magic involved. “We established that the Belnades influenced the Belmonts in the original show, so now Richter can use magic,” Adam Deats continued. “We had to figure out how to make Richter more than Trevor 2.0 and sprinkle the influences from the greater ‘Castlevania’ universe with our own take on 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 how much they integrated into society in the centuries since the original. “We’re starting from a place of history and then finding the right balance between history and fantasy,” Kolde said. “We ground the story in historical elements and don’t shy away from them.”
Indeed, one such example of the world of “Castlevania” vastly opening up in “Nocturne” is the character of Olrox, the Aztec vampire with a backstory we barely scratch the surface of. Through cryptic lines of dialogue, we know he’s been around for a very long time, and his allegiances aren’t exactly clear. “He’s learned to work in different spaces and dresses for the part but always keeps pieces of his past with him through his hairstyle and jewelry,” Sam Deats explained. “He’s seen a lot of things,” Kolde added. “His story is interesting because of how complicated he is as a character.” Olrox brings to mind some of the great ambiguous antagonists of “Castlevania,” like Isaac or Carmilla, in their complicated allegiances and morals.
Of course, even with a 300-year time jump, this is a universe with undying vampires, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that “Castlevania: Nocturne” ends with the return of fan-favorite character Alucard, the son of Dracula himself. According to Kolde, the plan was always to build up to the return of Alucard and explore how the vampire has changed over the years. Meanwhile, Sam Deats teased, even if “Nocturne” is all about the new cast of characters, “We still have new things in the cards for Alucard.”
All episodes of “Castlevania: Nocturne” are now streaming on Netflix.