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Review: Castlevania: Nocturne

A Revolutionary Return to the House of Belmont’s Quest

The first trailer for Netflix’s Castlevania was released in May of 2017, creating an animated adaptation of an extensive series of games originating back in 1986. The games follow the Belmont bloodline and their never-ending quest to vanquish Dracula, a dreadful vampire who resurrects every one hundred years to unleash terror upon the land. Each new entry introduces a new member of the Belmont family, usually aided by a descendant of Belnades, a powerful sorceress, and Alucard, the dhampir (half-human, half-vampire) son of Dracula. Netflix’s first adaptation follows Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, and Alucard’s journey to defeat the vampiric forces of evil in 1476 Wallachia.

However, Netflix’s new adaptation picks up nearly 300 years later, centering around the iconic Richter Belmont, known from his debut in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair and his later appearance in Super Smash Brothers: Ultimate. Richter is friends with Maria Renard, a young sorceress, in Revolutionary France. These two undertake a mission to support the revolution by defeating the vampiric aristocratic class, while also fighting to prevent the return of the ominous Vampire Messiah. Animated in beautiful detail by Powerhouse Studios, Castlevania: Nocturne presents a dramatic tale of pain, punishment, and purpose.

Similar to the original Castlevania cast, which had Richard Armitage (Thorin in The Hobbit, Francis Dolarhyde in Hannibal) as Trevor Belmont and Graham McTavish (Buck MacKenzie in Outlander, Sigismund Djikstra in The Witcher and Ser Harrold Westerling in House of the Dragon) as Dracula, Castlevania: Nocturne shares a similarly stellar cast.

Edward Bluemel (Sean Wiley in Sex Education) gives an emotional and driven performance as Richter Belmont. He’s joined by Pixie Davis (Annabel in Mary Poppins Returns, Amanda in Utopia) who plays Maria Renard with wonderful wit in one of her first voice roles. Finally, Thuso Mbedu (Nawi in The Woman King, Cora in The Underground Railroad) delivers a moving performance as Annette, and Zahn McClarnon (Big in Reservation Dogs, Akecheta in Westworld) presents a nuanced and menacing Olrox. 

The protagonist of the series, Richter Belmont, began his life haunted by tragedy. Witnessing the death of his mother Julia Belmont at the hands of the vampire Olrox, a powerful magician, left a deep wound in his heart. At each close encounter with death, his mind becomes clouded with the terror he felt as a child, alone and afraid. Richter makes attempts to counter his fear and solitude by supporting Maria and her revolutionary cause with his combat skill, finding comfort in whoever he has left. However, his post-trauma reaches a climax upon coming face-to-face with his mother’s killer years later, fleeing from the confrontation in abject dread. This moment breaks him, as his distress and grief overwhelm his mind. These painful displays of emotion make his character truly shine. Contrary to his earlier ancestor Trevor, who approached life with a much more stoic, hardened mindset, Richter’s emotions and humanity are visible from the start. This only strengthens his return to his comrades later, as he learns the natural experience of fear. By not letting his fear control him, Richter Belmont’s emotional arc is completed by the end of Season 1 in a beautiful yet open way, leaving the audience to wonder how his character will evolve next. 

Beginning as the show’s primary antagonist, Olrox asserts himself as a dominating force, controlling every moment of the scene with his menacing aura. We learn from his opening lines that his motivations align with Dracula’s before him, killing Trevor’s mother as he states how “your mama took someone from me I loved, just as much as you loved her. So, she had to die” (A Common Enemy in Evil). Olrox thus fills the hole that Dracula’s absence left, being an antagonist driven by grief and hate.

Despite his evil intent, the audience can sympathize with his cause, acting in honor of his stolen loved one. He even voices this to Richter, saying, “I know that feeling. That pain, that hate, that burning unendurable need for retribution” (A Common Enemy in Evil). Olrox is only humanized further as the season progresses, struggling to find his role in the grander schemes of the vampires he meets in France. Not only struggling with his loyalties, he grapples with his emotions as well, denying his innermost feelings towards a new person in his life, defending his heart from the agony of loss once more. These factors help make Olrox into a narrative powerhouse, whose complex character and conflicting interests kept me hooked in every scene.

Each episode in the show is accompanied by a masterfully composed soundtrack, done by Trevor Morris and Trey Toy, the former being known for his work on Netflix’s original Castlevania soundtrack as well as the score for The Vikings. Being able to balance both dramatic, haunting pieces with operatic singing done by Ari Mason and Sydney James Harcourt is impressive on its own. Morris also integrates electric guitar into his more active pieces, adding a thrilling element to the composition. Some of my favorite tracks include Divine Bloodlines, both the original and the trailer version, Little Boy Belmont, Lamento della Ninfa, Eclipse, and Just a Myth, each with a unique element to perfectly fit the scene they’re used in.

These swelling scores are overlaid on scenes animated by Powerhouse Studios, who fill each moment with painstaking detail, from the lines on characters’ faces, the dynamic movement of a vampire-slaying whip, to the breakneck speed of a vampire charging, Powerhouse never fails to impress with their beautiful coloring and dynamic style. Taking experience from animating the first 4 seasons of Castlevania, they imbue each confrontation with innovative choreography, framing, and visual effects, whether it be a roaring flame or splattering blood. These stunning visuals combined with excellent sound editing allow each crack of the whip and punch thrown to feel heavy and full, bringing life to the world on screen.


Castlevania: Nocturne presents a fresh and exciting return to form for a widely beloved series, bringing innovations to the world with an exciting cast of characters, electric animation, and a fascinating narrative that’s sure to give fans both old and new something to enjoy. With a second season greenlit after only eight days of its release, Castlevania: Nocturne’s acclaim is more than warranted and leaves much to be excited for in the coming season. 

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About the Contributor
Archer Holman
Archer Holman, Staff Writer
My name is Archer Holman, and I like to draw, listen to music and write. I write reviews on video games, movies and TV.

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