In the last 10 years we have seen the media grow in which the saga The Witcher, work created by the Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, has been portrayed. True, his reputation in video games is undeniable. Netflix is betting on the series given the success of its first season, to the point of having a spin off on the doorstep. We have seen comics and their arrival in manga is expected shortly. What was left to see? Well, an animated story. Is about The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf.
Sapkowski created his world, The Continent, with somewhat clear rules. We know what sorcerers are and where they come from. That they take them to the schools of the Wolf, the Bear, the Snake or the Cat and there they are put under the test of the herbs. We know that few survive. We even know the origins of magic and its monsters within this universe due to the Conjunction of the Spheres. We are aware of everything, but we have not been told in detail.
In all the media of The Witcher we have also met Vesemir. The patriarch of Kaer Morhen. We know you are a respected authority figure. A veteran sorcerer in a profession where dying is young. We are fond of him. But we never knew his story. No wonder that, taking advantage of the natural voids left by this universe, Netflix focuses on filling them to the delight of fans. Come from the books, the comics, the games or the series.
The School of the Wolf
We will skip the Byzantine discussion if this project is really an anime or not, since the concept for many goes through a designation of origin. What is clear is how they seek to give it that aesthetic close to Japanese animation that characterizes series such as Avatar. No wonder South Koreans are behind Studio me, who were responsible for The Legend of Korra.
We have in this tape, with a little less than an hour and a half in duration, two premises that run in parallel. The first is to learn about Vesemir’s youth at its peak. We see not only his peculiar attitude as a young witch, respected among his people, but also tells us from his perspective how it changed what it means to be a witcher in the complicated political relationships of his world. Let us remember that, at least in books and games, the plot does not tempt the heart by uncovering the sewers under the noble courts of each kingdom (where Redanian intelligence is not at ease).
On the other hand we are witnesses to another point that the books and their derivatives did not let us see: how a witcher is forged. Yes, as we mentioned, it is very clear that there are mutations involved. Strong training and extreme cruelty. But one thing is to give it as something understood. Another is to see it with your own eyes. More with the savagery that animation allows when portraying what is in the head of a writer or screenwriter.
You don’t need mutations to strip a man of his humanity
The plot maintains the custom we saw in the series of jumping between timelines. Only that the difference in ages that Vesemir has in one period and another makes everything less confusing about what those changes were in the first season. We see him being a puberty in some sequences, while we observe his best years of “youth” (let’s not forget the delayed aging of these beings) in others.
Beau DeMayo He is credited as the main screenwriter for this film. We could honestly talk about his best work, considering two things. The first is the study of many issues that the lore of the franchise left unresolved and the way in which he ties these ends together. If you are a veteran of the saga you will find important answers that Sapkowski did not have the time (or, knowing him, the interest) to solve. If you come from the series or the third game, you will notice some attractive references to both portraits.
Even details that were left loose throughout years of stories, stories, quests and games of Gwent have been shown in little more than an hour of history. An example: we know well that sorcerers and monsters arrived with the Conjunction of the Spheres. But the relationship between the two remains little clarified. At the same time the reader or player was left to imagine the relationship between magic and witches. Moreover, little is said about the links between a witcher and his life before what was the test of herbs. Well, if you pay attention you will find key data.
Even the characters that the series has the luxury of featuring fulfill key roles. We see, for example, a patriarch before Vesemir in Deglan. He is an experienced sorcerer, but whose context dates back to ancient times. Therefore, the way he sees monster hunting is different and reveals more about the origin of this peculiar profession. Gilcrest it exhibits the bond between the sorceresses and the governments of which we were told so much, but little we could see. We even have in Illyana to a warm romantic interest who has much greater empathy compared to the divisive love triangle Yennefer-Geralt-Triss.
Despite all of the above, there is a huge disadvantage: the plot does not take the time to give context to the world. You must come to this part of the franchise with notions of what The Continent is, what sorcerers are, and what their roles are. There is no introduction to it, and that may be its main sin. An uninitiated viewer may have trouble grasping what is happening and its relevance. Even this lack of information can lead to a lack of interest at all. Meanwhile, while tying up loose ends, when you already know the story, the plot is not without a sense that everything leads to a known and predictable path.
I believe in the sword
The animation is far from perfect. It is very evident that part of the “charm” and “anime style” is not just the big eyes and “mature” themes. Also to jobs where the fluidity of the frames per second is reduced, while the cells are recycled. Come on, we are talking about a relatively low-cost job. Although not less compliant for that.
Yes, the books allow you to imagine a Witcher as a warrior who dances sword in hand slicing creatures and harnessing magic. Video games have to struggle to make these scenes interactive and visually appealing. The series needs a budget so Henry Cavill Fulfill this role and kill both monsters and human vermin with your bare hands. Well, animation has that advantage: you can bring your imagination to life with greater freedom.
The character design is attractive and is in keeping with the “adult action anime” aesthetic that you want to print. Meanwhile, as we talked about how the plot served the mission of providing key answers, we cannot deny that the action stands out. And a lot.
It takes Vesemir no more than five minutes to show how a warlock has superhuman abilities and magical elements to exterminate a supernatural threat. With a luxury of violence, brutality and visually attractive details. The savagery in various sequences where witchers and sorcerers show what makes them unique has no mercy. Neither are those in which it is made clear to the observer that this world was built in a dirty, dark and mature way. Which, well, has its charm.
Take care of an old man in a profession where he dies young
Whoever writes this noticed a nice dubbing job to Latin Spanish. It is, at the end of the day, a story in which details will be revealed in a world that has been building for more than three decades. There are newcomers who will always seek to pay the greatest attention by listening to the story in their language. The work is little more than correct.
As for veterans and big names in the industry, Gerardo Reyero He hits a role that suits him but does not put him in the spotlight. While Sergio Gutierrez Coto, who voiced Aragorn, plays in an interesting way a Vesemir who remembers the best of this iconic character from the saga The Lord of the rings. Although, of course, with a touch a little more earthly. Even Humberto SolorzanoLike Deglan, he paints a fine portrait of a patriarch with features of disenchantment.
Perhaps the weakest point in terms of vocals is in the relatively younger players. Be careful, they don’t do it wrong. But the difference in intensity is remarkable, although they are consistent with what their characters represent. Emilio Treviño has charm, but he lacks a little bit to portray the will of the young Vesemir. Edurne Keel sounds interesting but not as passionate as Gilcrest seems to require, while Alicia Velez stays a little below the potential that Illyana have. To this we must add that the dialogues have slight inaccuracies when adapting to Spanish, something that jumps when you see one version after another … or you see the subtitles, let’s go.
Kings die and kingdoms fall, but the magic remains
Outside of books and video games, we are facing the best media piece in The Witcher saga. It is congruent with his universe, answers doubts (canonical or not, we already know how jealous Sapkowski is with his material) and results in an attractive story. It is a must have content for any fan of the franchise, without a doubt.
We are not, of course, before a perfect piece. We are not even facing an animation work that exceeds the merely outstanding. It is a product built to draw attention to a future stage of the television series, created along with the way you see this universe. It ties up the dots but does not give context. It does not serve, therefore, as a piece to enter this world. We could even say that if you have played the titles but have not read the books or seen the series, you may also find yourself confused in some sections.
The animation is compliant and visually appealing. But it is far from the best in the industry, although perhaps it is part of the charm that exists when requesting an “anime” (whether or not it is because it does not originate in Japan). Even the dubbing work is good, albeit spotty (but not without outstanding performances).
We therefore have a remarkable job. We are facing a valuable story, an enjoyable and clearly important story when discovering beyond what we know in a Continent that for decades has kept many secrets. It is time to reveal answers. Although with its flats, it is an outstanding film in the attempts to create anime in the West.