In the Kingdom of Midland, a mercenary named Guts wanders the land, preferring a life of conflict over a life of peace. Despite the odds never being in his favor, he is an unstoppable force that overcomes every opponent, wielding a massive sword larger than himself.
One day, Griffith, the mysterious leader of the mercenary group Band of the Hawk, witnesses the warrior's battle prowess and invites the wandering swordsman to join his squadron. Rejecting the offer, Guts challenges Griffith to a duel—and, much to the former's surprise, is subsequently defeated and forced to join.
Now, Guts must fight alongside Griffith and his crew to help Midland defeat the Empire of Chuder. However, Griffith seems to harbor ulterior motives, desiring something much larger than just settling the war...
For my review I will simply break things down by the rating system here and explain my choices. A little background on me.. I have been a Berserk fan since I discovered the series back in 2001. This is the series that originally got me into anime and eventually manga. I have owned and watched the 25 ep anime countless times and have read and own all the currently existing manga chapters. This is my favorite story series, bar none.
Okay, lets begin..
Story: The problem with the story is pacing. The movie leaves off way to many character building moments in favor of action
and try to compress all of it in a laughably short time frame(88mins if I remember correctly). There is simply no time to make the connection with the characters and hurts immersion badly in my opinion. Many scenes were cut and not for the better. To be honest not many movies nowadays have such a short run time and it did not do this one any favors either. The movie needed another hour. Also, for those who expected something more "faithful" to the manga, this movie cuts out just as much, if not more, then the anime but keeps just enough to make sure the story can progress.
Art: To be honest the new style did not bother me visually as much as some other reviews I read have mentioned. I believe some said how.. "it made their eyes bleed" along with other colorful self mutilating descriptions of horror. I will say however, that it is hit or miss. Literally. There are some scenes that are beautiful and really well done but there are also a few parts that are awkwardly animated to say the least. For me it was not a deal breaker but something I did notice. The action segments were well done overall along with most of the still 2d scenes.
Sound: This will be quick. The original anime series soundtrack was better at carrying the mood and keeping a good theme. No contest, hands down, the end. I am glad Susumu Hirasawa was able to contribute "Aria" to the production(which is a fantastic track), but only to hear it once at the beginning intro and not as part of an overall theme was unfortunate.
Characters: I have to say, none of the voice acting wow'd me. Don't get me wrong, it was not awful but the original anime simply had a better voice cast with more versatility. Character design and shading was also funky at times with consistency. I have already mentioned the lack of character development so I won't rehash all of that again.
Overall: As a Berserk fan, its very much watchable. Sad to say though it was not what I hoped for when I was excited to see my series reborn. It could have been done so much better with all the story and material available to use from years of Miuras work. I'm also not sure their abridged version will attract the new fans they hoped which is a shame for a great series. I will admit one caveat, that as the entire movie series is not yet out my comments about character development may change depending how they handle key character and plot moments over the course of the next film. I do also realize how unfair it is to compare it to an anime which had way more content when this movie series is not yet complete. I am holding my judgement on the entire series until I can watch it fully.
My opinion with this movie: As Berserk fan its something you will want to see...but(and it hurts to say this) don't expect to much.
Just earlier this morning upon writing this review, I had the privilege of watching this movie in theaters in Japan. For the longest time, virtually everyone who has watched the original Berserk anime series have endlessly demanded more. And now that day has come upon us though not really in the most idealistic of terms. Many of us wanted a continuation of where the series leaves off, but for now, we have to settle a re-telling of the Golden Age arc which will eventually pave way for the rest of the manga to be adapted.
As for what it is covered, if you're already familiar
with the source material you of course know what to expect and it's once again faithfully adapted (spoiler: there is no blackswordsman arc at the beginning). But I feel that for those already familiar with story, you want to see it with whole new animation which the original series was harshly criticized, then new animation is what you get and it's pretty awesome. But I suppose starting from the Golden Age, it can attract new audiences as well.
The action is very fluid and I feel that the postures and the weight of the armor and swords are properly depicted in the battle scenes. There are no still shots or any corner cutting. It really felt like an animated 300 but without all the trendy slow-mos and bullet time. What I really liked in the opening battle sequence is that the soldiers on both sides show fear in their eyes and that their arms and hands do shake when in battle knowing they could die. I like how more danger is more implemented with the battle scenes. Of course the battle scenes are violent, but I feel there is more psychology behind the battles as well. I like how Guts in his earlier days is portrayed as someone who fights off his experiences and instincts. When he's on that field, to him, it's just a day at the office.
I felt that the shaky camera angles you see in the Borne films was utilized too much. The panning both zooming in and out and the circular shots try to give it a live action feel. At this point, the fighting isn't drastically defying the laws of physics so the action does feel realistic.
What I felt somewhat upset that they changed the voice cast from the original TV series who were also used in the DC and PS2 games. I felt that the new seiyuu for Guts didn't have the same intimidation and that don"t fuck with me attitude that Nobutoshi Canna had. Sakurai Takahiro did capture some of Griffith's qualities but strongly lacked his charisma. Casca's new voice actress is nothing compared to the great Miyamura Yuko. If they could get those voice actors for the games, why not for something as big as this? Was this Miura's choice like masami's when they did the new Saint Seiya oavs?
Thankfully the music is once against compared by Hirakawa Susumu. To me, not having him for the music is like not having Kanno Yoko not doing the music for a Cowboy Bebop sequel and it would also be like Initial D without the Eurobeat. The style is still the same but brought to a whole new intensity appropriate for the epicness this project will bring.
For now, this movie does a great job of being just the beginning of what is to come. I understand this is supposed to be released internationally. I hope when it hits theaters or is on DVD wherever you are, you support this movie.
(This is a review for all three Berserk movies, but
spoiling none of them, so feel free to read it)
Griffith believed that,
regardless of class and status, all men will sooner or later start yearning for their dreams.
The white haired man had concluded that
dreams support men, hurt them, revive them.. and in the end, dreams kill them.
Apropos of this, Guts had no choice but to accept that outlook of his and live by it.
In the world where the aeonian war between Midland and Tudor preserves perpetually for hundreds of years, two extraordinary beingnesses exist. The overpowered mercenary warrior, Guts, whose young years of life render him unaware of towards what direction he should focus his excessive strength to, and the Band of the Hawk. Incidentally, that unawareness of his, has him fighting in the war as an outsider and ensuingly with great skills and a great sword that man marches through death with the sole purpose of feeling alive. A series of coincidences leads Guts to join the infamous mercenary warriors...The Band of the Hawk.. and thus, with the meeting of these two extraordinary beingnesses the story is being set into motion. At the same time, expected aftermath of this union assisting in the war as a Midland force, is the tide of the war to turn in their favor.
The core of the story however lies further, in the individuals leading the band of the Hawk.
Griffith is the definition of nobility, dignity and later on of ambition and obsession.. A role model to his subordinates as well as capable to convince anyone in following him. The white demon with the baronial and angelic form and conduct is the source of inspiration, dreams and desires in the series.. Only, when Griffith comes across Guts, that flawless balance in his predisposition slightly wavers... For the reason that Guts has every potential in becoming Griffith's equal, to be what they dare not utter-a friend- And when Griffith senses that possibility, perhaps subconsciously, he keeps Guts close to him. Be it out of fear of losing the gem he found within the rocks. Be it out of fear of something equal to him existing, he does, and thus a bond of pure and omnipotent friendship is formed. However, Griffith's ambition shines too bright, so bright it engulfs Guts whom stands beside him contributing in that very ambition. And after three years of mutual sympathy and respect, three years with the sweetness of the word friend in the tip of his tongue, his belief is shaken. Because equality to Griffith means being made of the same material, and equality is what Guts' soul desires. Consequently, the only solution in finding a sun of his own is to further away from him, but Griffith's light is long used to Guts' shadow it would wither had he left his side..
Because, if Griffith was a river, he was the mountain.. he flowed through him while he owned the conditions to his survival.. If Guts crumbled, he would perish.. And if Griffith evolved, he would thrive.. none of them knew, none of them admitted, that if one was to change shape, both of them would decay...
And then Casca, whom found in Griffith's face everything she, as an individual, considers to be meritable or deems as wondrous. Because their meeting to Griffith might held the meaning of saving her, but for her it meant reviving her. Casca, who unlike Guts, Griffith's light enhances hers, not putting shade to it..
Her will is admirable..
The fact that she only wants to fight for the person she looks up to, inspiring..
And her feeling of dispirited melancholy for not being able to stand at the point she desires beside him, sorrowful...
On the whole, all characters in Berserk meet the necessary development.. At a point where you may not even notice, but ultimately you end up with a complete global view of everybody's personality and stand in the anime. Those three however, remembering their initial attributes
Griffith, intact purity and charisma
Guts, valiance and immeasurable kindness
Casca, a true Artemis and Athena
it becomes enthralling following the course of these attributes alterability.
(always adjusting logic and objectivity in the terms and concept of the
respective story, a human who kills insatiably is by no means immeasurably kind irl ;) )
Yet another strong asset in Berserk, is the quality of the battle scenes, which even though they do not contain magic, flashy spells, Rasengan and Santoryu in general, they are addicting to the eyes and fit to keep you at the edge of your seat. Furthermore, aside brute strength, those scenes could also be characterized by intelligence, the strategies Griffith is coming up with in particular, to many viewers the capture of the impenetrable fortress of Doldrey might seem similar to the battle for defending the Ring of Isengard in Lord of the Rings, or at least not less riveting. At the largest part, the desire of the characters to conquer the world becomes your instant desire. The strain in Guts' billion muscles as he faces powerful opponents or intimidating number of enemies becomes fleeting strain in your respective number of muscles. The length of the series do not allow much development in political affairs, however the general vibe of the civilization and culture in Berserk feels like the one in Game of Thrones, multi-dimensional and partly rotten.
When it comes to the direction, it has to be said that it is simply amazing, be it because it's a movie and they took greater and more careful care of it, be it for the reason that it is a rerun and they know what to improve, the point is that the scenes succeeding each other will never get you bored. One might easily watch all three movies in a row, for the plot is unpredictable the battles enthralling and the characters alluring.
And of course the strategies during the war, as well as the vibe of thousands of fists raised in the air swinging their swords might remind you of Lord of the Rings.
The massive palaces and castles, the mythical atmosphere, the rotten predisposition of the privileged and the overall medieval culture might remind you of Game of Thrones.
However, the red Behelit hanging around Griffith's neck, extends beyond Macbeth's tragedy, it's the monopolistic touch that only a mangaka can add, the mystery and the darkness that gathers all good concepts together to transform them into Berserk...
As far as the artistic part is concerned. For starters, the art in the manga is known for its high level, known for the detail each panel contains as well as the fluid, realistic and clear fighting scenes. Therefore, the movies that are its adaptation and an improved version of the tv anime, bring forth the dynamic attributes of Berserk in all of its glory.. Studio 4°C had Toshiyuki Kubooka take Miura Kentarou's masterpiece and elaborate it into an action, fantasy and seinen adventure as the perfect prologue to the source. The water feels alive, the color of the trees appealing and the stone and marble all castles and towers are made of, coarse or silky inside your very palm.
On top of that we have Susumu Hirasawa performing-he also composed it-Aria, the insert song in all three movies. Aria, a dynamic, epic opera insinuating everything that will follow in a most effective and dulcet way. And then, Shiro Sagisu composed and arranged the soundtracks for the series.. the piano and violin everytime leaves fly around a serious conversation.. the opera in between the dust caused by the horses galloping and the steel meeting steel... and the heavy organ heightening the tension at crucial moments.. All in all, music in Berserk has a feel of professionalism and it sure is a notable component of the show.
In conclusion, a characteristic that needs to be noted is the broody, hectic and dark part of the anime.. as far as the first half of the third movie, the show is so worthwhile that one who doesn't enjoy blood in particular might not mind it...The conclusion of the story however takes an incredibly different turn towards dark fantasy that made me rush over to the pc next day to confirm whether what I had watched last night was real.. At first glance, the conclusion of the movies seems unreasonably unjustified, like there is no explaining why the author would create such an appealing, sophisticated story only to give it that kind of ending.. but then I found out that in fact, the movies are a fascinating prologue to the manga.. so for those who can not handle violence, be aware that the third movie contains 18+ material.
Berserk is the story of the venerable Lord Hawk, the woman whose emotions shifted her structure into a warrior's metal one, and of Guts, the man owning every shred of the word valiance, devotion and integrity all wrapped into the concept of outrageous swordplay and ominous fate... a story bringing its title to life.
I first saw the original Berserk TV series about 2 years ago and thought it was pretty good. By 'pretty good' I mean I consider it to be the greatest story ever told, better than The Odyssey, Hamlet, Citizen Kane and Big Oiled Butts 3 combined. 15 years later they've brought out a Berserk movie. A trilogy no less, the first of which was just released in good old illegal format for all of us dirty foreign pirate scum to watch. Early impressions: They've changed a few things. Very few things.
The movie covered about 10 episodes of the original, from when Guts first meets Griffith
to the part where the assassination attempts start happening in the royal court. They cut out a fair amount of scenes, the most noticeable of which being there was no naked water fight. Seriously, no naked water fight means you might as well not call it Berserk anymore. Not that the homoerotic subtext isn't there anymore. Forget subtext, Guts outright states that he'll happily be Griffith's whore. Berserk has always ridden on their relationship and how closely interlinked their goals in life are and how they define each other, so at the very least they got that part right.
The movie did cut out a lot of content, as I mentioned before, but the fact that the only content I can recall them skipping was the naked water fight goes a long way to showing how what they cut out wasn't vital to the story. It did feel a bit mechanical the way they jumped from plot point to plot point, making the movie feel disjointed like you could feel the gaps where the episode would normally end or the manga chapter would cut out, but perhaps this is only noticeable to me as a fan of the original. They still got across the importance of the relationship between Guts and Griffith, along with Casca's jealousy, which is all that really matters.
The main big change they made, apart from streamlining the story, was the animate the movie entirely in CG. As much as I hate to chime along with everyone else who talks about this movie, but the majority in correct in this case. The CG simply does not look good. It might look good compared to many of the other CG anime I've seen over the years, but it still looked awkward and unnatural. From the trailers I thought the character animation for the CG looked fantastic, but now having watched the movie I have to confess that those scenes I thought were great CG were actually just standard 2D animation. When they cut to the free-flowing CG stuff it looked plasticky and artificial.
The use of CG ties into something else bigger going on with the tone of this Berserk movie. The movie is going for a more high epic fantasy adventure rather than the gloomy gritty affair that was the original TV series. This does come with its own set of problems though. The fight scenes in Berserk are as bloody as hell, with characters heads being cleaved in two and arms flying around and the camera being smeared with blood. The original Berserk had all this as well, but here it felt gratuitous and immature, like you had some suger-rushing 15 year old boy off camera going "fuck yeah now cut his head orf yeah!".
The original Berserk was harsh and brutal. The level of violence fit the tone because it was a tough world they lived in and people die and have brown smeared over everything. By no means do I have anything against high fantasy, what with the Lord of the Rings movies being my favourite movies of all time. But with this mechanical look and bright colour palette, the gore feels out-of-place. I maintain that the best fully CG anime is Fireball, precisely because the fake mechanical look to CG works when the characters are all robots. It doesn't suit something that's as gritty and dirty as Berserk is. God only knows how they're going to handle what happens later on in the story when shit really gets brutal.
That brings me on nicely to my final point about this movie. This Berserk remake trilogy plans to cover the 'Golden Age' arc, which is exactly the same material the original TV series covered. It's still the same old Berserk story. That story may be fantastic. The duel between Guts and Griffith where Guts bites down on the sword is still an awesome scene, as is the washed up Guts standing on the stairs after the assassination and looking up at Griffith as he gives his speech about dreams. These are still powerful scenes that show Berserk is as great a story as it always was, even in this streamlined version. But it brings so little new to the table to Berserk that I don't get why it exists. What little it does bring, shifting the tone to a more high fantasy one, makes the darker and more brutal elements of the story seem gratuitous and silly. I'll have to wait to watch the rest of the trilogy to make some sort of final statement on this, but I don't think this is really worth watching. If you're a newcomer, watch the original TV series or pick up the manga if you're more of a manga person. At least those versions have the naked water fight.
There is a ton of new anime each year and it can be hard to keep up with it all. Movies are especially tricky since they are a mix of original features and follow-ups for TV shows. Here on MyAnimeList, you can find the best films of 2012 in order to cross a few things off that endless To Watch list.