The Other Side of Animation 233 – The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

When a ton of different kinds of similar films come out in one year, you want to stand out and be able to stay on your own two feet against the competition. There is nothing worse than being the film that you reference in a negative way when you are comparing it to the film that may be similar but is the better option. This happens from time to time with certain years in animation. Why should anyone choose the subjectively weaker option, when you have something subjectively better offered to you? In this case, this year we have two different action fantasy films that take place in their respective franchises. You have the famous Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is the sequel film to the first season of the shonen action franchise, and now we have the prequel film to the Netflix live-action series, The Witcher with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. 


Directed by Kwang ll Han, written by Beau DeMayo, based on the book series by Andrej Sapkowski, and produced by the legendary Studio Mir, this is a prequel story that takes place decades ago before our lovely Geralt takes the mantle as the main character. So, what do we get instead of a story following a baby Geralt? Well, you should heighten your senses and get your silver sword ready for what I’m about to review. 

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Our main hero for this story is Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, an infamous swashbuckling Witcher and future mentor to the franchise’s main character Geralt. Vesemir is going about his days as a monster slayer, who is hated among monsters and humans alike. I mean, technically, no one likes Witchers and there has been tension among his kind due to the growing tension between humans, the dwindling number of monsters, and their futures. During one night, Vesemir encounters a truly unique version of a monster known as a Leshen, and that sets him off on his journey to find out exactly what is going on, who is behind these weird new experiments, and will he and his kind be able to survive?

So, with this being a prequel story to the main events of the TV series, how does it handle the overall story of Geralt’s mentor and his days as a younger Witcher? I think one decision that was well executed was the fact that you can pretty much sit down with this film and not have seen the live-action show or played the games, and get an understanding as to what the story is about, and the dark fantasy world in which they live. It has a sort of typical fantasy thriller experience, and you can understand who was behind what exactly, before the twists are revealed, but because the dialogue was this great mix of camp and charm, and the overall story is morally grey, it makes for a fun romp to experience. The world of The Witcher is dark, morally grey, and unforgiving. While I call Vesemir the hero of our story, he has some skeletons in his closet that make him a flawed hero. Like I said though, you are easily roped into the story as you do see the complexity of this world’s politics. What you find out about the origins of the Witchers isn’t great, but you can see their perspective in how one becomes a Witcher and how they try to survive in a world full of discrimination and hatred, and how that can corrupt anyone. Now, with all that said, the film knows it’s an action flick, and Vesemir, while having his serious and dry moments, is mouthy. He has some very action movie one-liners and is cocky, but in a fun way. He also has a sincere heart for himself and for the people he cares about. It results in a film full of some mild cynicism, but a lot of heart. It might have a script that can be a bit blunt at times with its commentary, but it never bothered me, and with some lessons and themes, it’s good to be blunt about certain things. Now, if you are wondering if you will ever see Geralt, you will, but don’t expect to see him in any real meaningful way. This is Vesemir’s story, and he’s a fun lead character. It’s one of the few prequel stories where I feel like it tells a good story that never made me think about “well, why should I care about anyone here since it’s a prequel?”. Anytime a prequel can make me say that, they are on my good side. 

Now, for the presentation, this is Studio Mir, and while the overall animation looks like a better-budgeted Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, it looks great. There is a reason why Studio Mir is a highly sought-after studio for action shows and why so many studios try to copy their direction in crafting visuals and action. There is a lot of slick action choreography and camera work to make this some of the best action seen this year. It’s a film with a ton of satisfying action and gore on screen that makes for a visceral, but fun romp! Since this is a film based on the Witcher series, you should also expect some pretty good music as well! It’s composed by Brian D’Oliveira who was a composer on games such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Journey to the Savage Planet, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Tearaway, and Papo & Yo. He brings this mix of European folk with some middle-eastern sounding tunes. The voice cast is also pretty good. You have Theo James as our lead character, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell, Tom Canton, David Errigo Jr., and Matt Yang King, to name a few of the actors seen in the film. The cast feels like they would fit right into either the live-action series or the third game. 

While I love this film overall, I do have some minor gripes. Tetra, while being a sinister villain, is not all that interesting. They fill the void with some literal last-minute backstory that connects her to an incident told offhand about the conniving nature of the Witchers. It’s not handled the best. The side characters also don’t leave an impression. You tend to forget their names, and they seem to be there to either fill out more of the world or to get killed. I think I would have liked to have seen them get fleshed out more. Maybe it’s because of the length of the film itself, but I would have loved this film to be two hours so you can give more time for the side characters to be expanded upon and to add more action. 

Even with the minor gripes, whether you are a fan of the franchise or not, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a good fantasy action film that I think fans and newcomers can easily jump into with ease. Now, do I Like this more than Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? I think in some ways, Nightmare of the Wolf is better, but only because Mugen Train requires you to watch the first season to get the full enjoyment of the film. You don’t need to watch the Netflix Witcher series to enjoy Nightmare of the Wolf. Still, I”m happy to have so many action animated features this year, and I’ll be happy to see so many get made. Now then, I think it’s time to talk about a film that I meant to review a few months back, but, well, I wasn’t able to for one reason or another. It’s time we take a look at the Funimation exclusive The Stranger by the Shore

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 215: Dota: Dragon’s Blood Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Video games have always been notoriously difficult to translate into other mediums. There have been some success stories like the very first Tomb Raider, the original Mortal KombatDetective Pikachu, and to some degree, 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog. Still, even with those few successes, it’s not like a lot of them couldn’t have been better. Even the better video game films still have flaws that raise them to mostly entertaining and not much else. Some video game films are just liked because of how bad they are. Some adaptations, however, do seem to put in the effort to trying to capture the magic, the lore, the characters, and so on behind the property, and don’t treat it like it’s another gig. However, one of the biggest challenges is to grab the attention of the viewers who are not familiar with the brand. If you can grab people who don’t play your game or read your book, then you should be on the right track. What direction does  Dota: Dragon’s Blood go into?

Based on the hit Valve series, specifically Dota 2, this “anime” series is created by Ashley Miller and produced by Ashley Miller, Ki Hyun Ryu, Eugene Lee, and Steven Melching. The show came off of the heels of 2020’s Dragon’s Dogma, which to many, was a failure of capturing that video game’s spirit. Luckily, one of the bigger selling points outside of being a show based on a popular video game, is that it was produced by Studio MIR, the same studio behind Avatar The Last Airbender, Netflix/DreamWorks Voltron, and helped out with the best cartoon of 2020, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. So, does the show succeed in being faithful and good to newcomers? Well, let’s pick up our dragon-slaying swords and take a look! 

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Our main story involves Davion, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, a famed Dragon Knight, who, well, specializes in slaying dragons. After coming to the savior of a town in dire straits of getting attacked by a dragon, Davion and his cohort encounter a woman, well, a princess in hiding named Mirana, voiced by Lara Pulver. While making sure she and her compatriot get out of a situation at a bar, Davion then hears the word of the captain of the guards going deep into a pit where a supposed Eldwurm, basically a dragon that rules over others is hiding. As he finds the captain of the guards, Davion realizes an evil force known as Terrorblade, voiced by JB Blanc, has taken the captain over and wants to possess an Eldwurm known as Slyrak the Ember Eldwurm, voiced by the Candyman himself, Tony Todd. Davion and Slyrak defeat Terrorblade for now, but the fight leaves Slyrak in a dire condition. Davion decides to give him the warrior’s death, but Slyrak pulls a last-minute move and ends up bonding with Davion. Luckily for Mirana, she and her right hand find Davion in a forest at a later point with no memory of his actions. The three then go on an adventure to do a few things including helping get Davion his memory back and to get back these special lotus flowers that were stolen from Mirana. The plot gets even denser when the story gets entangled with a cult-like group, a sorcerer that lives in a hidden tower, and so much more. 

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Yeah, that is right off the bat, the biggest problem with this show. For the first eight episodes, they build up a very Game of Thrones-style world-building with it focusing on a few heroes from the game, but filling it up with heavy amounts of lore, backstories, and multiple plot threads going on all at the same time. It gets to be a touch overbearing. It has a much more interesting world than say, Netflix’s previous anime based on a fantasy video game, Dragon’s Dogma. While Dota does have a familiar fantasy setting, it’s not as rampantly sexist, misogynistic, or filled with flawed ideals like feudalism and slavery are a good idea, and redistribution of wealth to the poor is bad actually. Yeah, Dragon’s Dogma didn’t have a great story and these elements flew past me because of how boring Dogma was. Anyway, major elements that the show introduces early on are either pushed to the side until the last episode or are sidelined for other story beats. For example, Terrorblade only shows up in the first and last episode. When I got to the final episode of the first season, it hit me that this was a season made to set up everything for the next season more than make the first season more impactful. There are no real satisfying arcs for the main characters and it ends on a fairly annoying cliffhanger for a second season. 

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Now, this isn’t to say there weren’t any story beats or characters I liked, but when it feels like the story isn’t going anywhere, or is going down another side path instead of sticking to the main road, then it feels grating to binge. However, I do like the characters. While they might be the more familiar and safe characters to base a series on, they are more compelling and likable than a lot of dark fantasy show heroes like in Dragon’s Dogma, where Ethan is a fairly bland and unlikable lead character. I know it’s not fun or fair to drag another show through the mud because it subjectively failed, but no matter what criticisms I have for Dota: Dragon’s Blood, it does what Dogma should have but didn’t do. I like Davion as a typical male swordsman, Mirana is a solid level-headed archer, and her right hand Marci is the best character in the show. There seems to be a bit more energy put into the characters and they aren’t simply trying to be like Game of Thrones. I want to be around these characters, and when the show focused on the drama of said characters, you can understand their point of view of why they are doing what they are, well, doing. 

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Animation-wise, I think it was smart to get a studio like Studio MIR on board with this project. The combination of 2D and CGI for the larger monsters makes for some great animation. The action is well-executed, and the characters are very expressive. You can even get subtle little details through some of the more unique characters like Marci who is one of the most expressive characters who doesn’t even say a single word. The English dub is also pretty good. Doesn’t hurt that you have a stellar voice cast that includes Yuri Lowenthal, Josh Keaton, Lara Pulver, Tony Todd, Troy Baker, Kari Wahlgren, Freya Tingley, Stephanie Jacobsen, Anson Mount, and JB Blanc. The music composed by Dino Meneghin is solid, but I wouldn’t call it the most memorable soundtrack. It kind of has a Game of Thrones and familiar fantasy-sounding tunes, but they get the job done. 

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While flawed and a bit too ambitious for its first season, Dota: Dragon’s Blood is a solid fantasy action series. It has a small selection of interesting characters, a great voice cast, good action scenes, and an interesting lore-filled story. I’m not entirely sure if it’s loyal to the source material, but if you want something to raise your spirits after a lot of mediocre fantasy epics from recent years, this show is one of the better ones. I mean, you can argue it’s not great, but does your series have Tony Todd as a giant red dragon? Of course not. Next time, I have another screener for a Netflix film! You will have to wait and see what it is! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!