I'm one of those guys who usually read the manga before watching the anime. You can imagine, then, what my sentiments were like when I began watching a 25-episode-anime of which I'd read 300+ chapters of manga. To clarify, I was preparing for a completely unripe anime-draft of a manga praised to the heavens that'd actually been worth it, and then some. To my pleasant surprise I discovered the anime adaptation of Berserk lost to its original version in nothing but length and detail.
But the main elements, the magic that made the epic manga what it is are all present in the animated version. Guts,
The Black Swordsman, is still the hapless avenger wandering in search for revenge and peace of mind. The world in which the story is set is still that medieval realm right down to the brilliant castles with their greedy landlords, the disadvantaged common folk, and the never-ending wars. And, perhaps most importantly along with the characters, the story is still the same tragedy of fate, friendship and love.
Perhaps one point of criticism for some could be the outdated artstyle. Having aired more than ten years ago, the art and animation will inevitably seem rough and simple for those (like me) who've discovered anime rather recently, through recent shows with more high-tech appearance. Upon closer look, however, I'd say that instead of a shortcoming, Berserk's old-school animation works exactly in the shows favor. The story is, after all, rough by nature and set in an age long gone, in which case the ancient animation actually accentuates the overall mood quite nicely. I wonder if the series's impact would've been the same had it been done in the 2000s, closer to this day. I dare doubt it.
An avid listener of music though I am, I rarely pay much attention to the tunes played in anime. But whereas most shows fail to catch my admiration with their musical score, Berserk did so in spades. Far more than once I found myself being chilled to the bone as the horror scenes rolled in, aided by terrifyingly fitting ominous sounds without which the anime's horror elements would've lacked greatly. In comparison, the joyful tunes of bonfire festivals, the musical elegance of the upper class's dances, and the emotional pieces of the more waffy scenes all help to highlight the sentiment of each situation. 10/10 score for this department; a true rarity given by me.
One might wonder why I've so far mostly talked about aspects many would consider minor in comparison to an anime's story and characters. Well for one, both animation and music contribute so much to the show's overall score that there's nothing minor about them in this instance. As for the other reason, if I'd start to go on detailing bit by bit what makes the story and characters of Berserk so unfathomably excellent, we'd all soon be looking at a review of more than 10,000 words. And since reading all of it would be that much more away from your Berserk-watching (or reading) time, I'm going to keep it simple. Just imagine a story so compelling and layered you'll truly find yourself gasping at times, a cast of characters so real you actually start to care for them though they don't even exist, and a high-fantasy medieval world so immersing you can almost feel the reality around you blur away.
But an adaptation from a manga as this is, there's no way to escape the shadow of the original work. An no matter how excellent an anime this is even forgetting the manga, fact of the matter is that Berserk is the greatest MANGA ever made, and the anime is just a colorful side-kick next to it. At the beginning of my review I said the anime loses to the manga in nothing but length and detail. True. But ponder on this: the anime is one of 25 normal length (a bit over 20 minutes) episodes. The manga is one of over 300 and still going on chapters. The conclusion being, Berserk anime loses A LOT to the manga in length and detail. I didn't even care to count all the scenes an details of the original work that didn't exist in the anime, and now as I'm doing so for the sake of writing this review, I can't help but note that, again, A LOT is lost when such a number of details that helped understanding the characters in the manga, for example, are nowhere to be seen in the anime. To refrain from writing a novel-length review, again, let's just say that even though Berserk manga had nothing but text and black and white drawings to reach me, I never felt nearly as immersed by the anime as I did by the original.
Be that as it may, Berserk is truly one to deserve the title "epic" in the history of anime. It is an obligatory watch for anyone who likes Japanese animation. It is a classic right there among Evangelion, Miyazaki's works, or any other anime one might deem ageless and undying. It is right there among them, shining in their midst as the bloodiest gem of them all.
What are you living for? This is the question posed by Berserk, pitting humanistic free will against nihilistic predestination. More intimately, this is the battle of human suffering in the wake of divine fate and the ambition of one's fellow man. Set in a medieval world of strife, vast green lands and blue skies obscure the supernatural demonic powers lurking in unseen shadows. One man named Griffith, graceful leader of the notorious mercenary group Band of the Hawk, stakes everything on a fate he means to forge for himself at any cost, and as he shines ever brighter the shadows nearby
grow ever darker. Ultimately, this is the story of those who are caught up in his conquest—the conquest of their hearts, of the kingdom of Midland, and of his own destiny.
One of those people is a young man called Guts, who we find introduced as The Black Swordsman. Along the way we'll find out how he came to be a warrior more powerful than any other human, with death more than just nipping at his heels from his very birth. He isn't merely your average war-torn soul—he embodies the desire to live on the battlefield, choosing to relentlessly face his fate head on and swinging a sword that might as well be a tombstone as tall as a man. His dogged ferocity endears Griffith, compelling him to draw Guts into the Band of the Hawk. Here he also meets Caska, a dark and fiery-tempered woman second only to Griffith in terms of skill and leadership; second to none in terms of honor and loyalty. And thus our tale truly begins.
It is a story about a world full of evil and brutality, of dreams and despair, where people struggle to find themselves in the midst of it all and define the meaning of their existence. Friendship and love are slow to come, but when it's there it'll bring tears to your eyes, for the relationships forged in Berserk are more meaningful than almost any you'll find in anime.
You will soon learn that there are no limits to Griffith's ambition, nor to his charisma. A leader that seems to grace his era as if stepped right out of a painting, his Band of the Hawk serves him faithfully, offering their own hopes and aspirations to his "bonfire of dreams"—for simply being near him seems to promise glory. He is also in possession of a strange relic—an egg-like pendant bearing ominous notions...
Berserk is not for the faint of heart (or the very young), brimming with violent battles and head-to-head confrontations resulting in dismemberment, bodies sliced entirely in two, blood and entrails by the bucketload, and some very intense sexuality including rape and molestation.
The quality of the animation here varies somewhat from time to time, but it is always good enough, and frankly needs no real mention because it is so overshadowed by every other quality here. That said, there are some pretty stunning moments of gorgeous animation—particularly during the action scenes—but most will likely think it looks somewhat bland by today's standards. I urge you not to let this deter you.
I'll make note of the music, since that is certainly one of the most enjoyable things about Berserk. Some viewers might recognize Hirasawa Susumu's very distinguished sound from other anime like Paranoia Agent and Paprika, and it is all extremely memorable. You will find yourself whistling along when "Forces" chimes in, and various other tunes are used to delightful effect, heightening the emotional impact of already emotional scenes.
Berserk's finale is one of the most notoriously shocking cliffhanger endings in anime history. The story arc covered by the anime is known as the "Golden Age" of Miura's manga, encompassed by volumes 4-13. One might even advise a newcomer to skip the first episode (a flash-forward that takes place beyond the ending) and save it to watch after the 25th, but this might not even be necessary—anyone who is truly drawn into this tale will feel compelled to read the manga afterward. This is such a layered and powerful story, filled with so much ugliness and beauty, that you will almost inevitably be drawn in. Berserk is a true classic.
There are three major themes that mark this series: (1) MEDIEVAL, (2) GORE, and (3) PHILOSOPHY.
This is why I think this is a great series: this combination of themes, which is already rare in anime, are very well incorporated together as a complete story.
The (1) MEDIEVAL theme brings the setting of the story. creating an atmosphere where the gore and philosophy can develop together. This also sets the pace of the story based on the technological circumstances of medieval culture. The slow nature of this large-scale medieval story allows enough time to unravel the deep characters.
The (2) GORE
theme accents the philosophy, reinforcing characters and foreshadowing the character progression by their behaviour in battle. This is a real treat to see the battle behaviour contrasting with the respective characters you've watched develop (Most notably the main protagonist).
The (3) PHILOSOPHY theme is a major feature to the characterization in the main characters. The characters and their actions are defined by their varied internal philosophies. With a very distinct difference in character philosophies and a heavy story focus on them, central story events are marked by relationships between these philosophies.
SOUND: At first glance, the soundtrack seems to be lacking with only 11 songs (Including intro and outro). However, the placement and feeling (And sometimes repetition) of these soundtracks is well done, giving the story great fluidity and emotional propulsion. Voice acting and sound effects are well done, even on dub. Voice acting most notably reflects the characters well, save for some of the demons.
ART: A rough art technique is used in this series, with unique design. Both of these accent the themes by reinforcing and elevating the serious nature of this anime (As opposed to the chibi art design). At times there is an over usage of scrolling single pictures in place of animation, which works as both an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage: it is reflective of the pacing of the anime. The disadvantage: it can be too slow (Especially in the beginning when the story is slower).
STORY, CHARACTER: Probably the greatest strength of this anime are it's story and characters. The story and characters grow simultaneously making the world of Berserk very lively. Most of the typical anime cliches are steered clear of here (with the exception of one blatant one), which really improved the effectiveness of the story and characters. With a unique and lively world, Berserk captures a lot of realism for an anime.
OVERALL, ENJOYMENT: This is definitely not a lighthearted anime. It can be embraced to the extreme of obsession (Like me) because of the interesting, deep perspectives that operate in the story. The good development quality only makes it further enjoyable. But this anime is truly for a certain crowd because of its extremely deep nature and depictions of extreme brutality. This is going to be a 'hate it or love it' sort of anime.
(Updated August 2008: Touched everything up a bit; explanations should be clearer now. =] Thanks for all the positive feedback.)
Story: 10/10 Did you get the meat for my dog, boy!?
Berserk is an amazing anime. Although I heavily disagree with starting the first episode in a time line after the last episode in the series as it has discouraged more then a few people who I have had to set strait. After you get to the meat of the story, and the relationships between Guts, and the other members of The Band of the Hawk you will find yourself in a late night cram session feeding your brain with episode after episode of Berserk. All in all this anime has everything I wanted. Friendship, love,
betrayal, and a lot of blood and gore to set the pace. All set in a very adult, and mature tone. The best part is it's is all done correctly.
Dark, gritty, detailed, and a lot of mis-placed body parts. Could you ask for more? The character animation is superb to say the least. It's more like a coalition of different styles. Makes all the main characters seem unique, and sets the world up with a more realistic feeling.
Only reason I didn't rank this a 10 is because of the opening, and ending theme songs. Which are pure crap. In no way do they fit the world, and the feel behind this anime. Not to mention they are terrible to begin with. However my DVD remote has a very useful skip button on it. Anyways the music that plays during the the show was truly a work of genius. It sets the tone for The Band of the Hawk and their rise to glory, and makes the whole project seem epic in nature.
Character: 10/10 Get in tha choppa!
Most of the characters' past development is heavily focused on Guts, while the other main characters get only a few spot lights on their history. However the feel that Berserk provides with all of the characters during their present life as mercenaries is very amazing. Facial expression, past experiences you see from watching it, and monologues mix well together to give you a true insight into everyone's mind, and current thoughts.
Overall it is something great to experience and if you enjoy a more adult themed setting there is no way you can let this one pass you by. I bought on DVD to check it out, and after I finished it I went directly back to the store, and bought the rest. You won't be disappointed, and if you do buy the DVDs you get one of the greatest bonus' ever. Outtakes of the voice actors are all absolutely hilarious.
Fatigued, broken and injured, the remnants of The Band of The Hawk make haste after their once powerful and great leader; a shell of his former self. This man's dreams, hopes and work are all hopelessly destroyed, and, as he calls out for salvation, the sky is adorned with a deep, dark red tint that masks the entire area in the colour of blood. Bone-chilling laughter fills the cold, stifling air, as the mere mortals look on in despair at the grotesque and horrifying beasts before them. The eclipse has begun...
Berserk is easily one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved series out there, sitting
at the number one manga spot here on MAL and not without good reason. The manga tells an epic tale of man versus beast coupled with fantastic artwork, interesting and memorable characters as well as some of the most grotesque and downright disturbing scenes in any manga I've ever seen. While I wouldn't consider Berserk to be a masterpiece (in fact, the more it goes along, the harder it becomes to care for the narrative as it begins to go around in circles after a while) I can appreciate what it did for the manga landscape as a whole and why it is held on such a pedestal today. However, when it comes to adaptations, they've been less than stellar all around. The infamous 2017 and 2016 adaptations are essentially, at this point, just massive jokes in the community, and for good reason to boot. Both adaptations featured some of the most awkward and jarring CGI animation I've ever seen combined with strange reworking of the original script and every time Guts swings his sword, it sounds like a frying pan hitting a piece of metal, even when cutting into flesh. It's so strange that it's actually hilarious and I burst out laughing every time I hear that fantastic "CLANG" sound. The Golden Arc film trilogy, produced by Studio 4c is overall a much better experience than these two series, with much more competent CGI animation intermixed with fantastic looking traditional 2D animation. The only problem I have with these movies is that, as expected of pumping around one hundred chapters into three films, they're rushed beyond belief which kills most of the emotional weight the original story carried since much of it had to be cut out. And finally, this brings us to the original Berserk adaptation all the way from 1997, in which, surprisingly, the only good adaptation was made by the same studio that produced every single Pokémon series! I don't know why but I find this fact to be delightfully funny. In fact, both series were being produced and aired at roughly the same time! Wouldn't it be funny if one of the episodes of Berserk was accidently placed in the Pokémon TV time slot or something and thousands of Japanese children witnessed one of Gut's killing sprees? (Yes, I have a sick mind since that thought alone brings me nothing but pleasure). Anyway, I've talked for too long now. Let's grab our behemoth of a sword, put our grasses on ('cause nothing will be wrong, y'know?) and dive into the hellish dark fantasy world that is Berserk!
Berserk starts up in the present time, where essentially the world has gone to absolute damnation! It's dark, miserable and depressing, as we see our main character, Guts, wander through the lands adorned with a cloak and a massive lump of steel for a sword, which he then uses to cut a guy in half whilst in a tavern of sorts, effectively rescuing a young girl from a group of men. Later on in the episode, we see that Guts suffers from horrible, traumatic nightmares which are accompanied by visions of demons, before having a rather kick-ass fight with a giant snake-like demon in real life! The introductory first episode mainly serves as a foundation block for the rest of the series to be built upon and is quite effective in generating intrigue from the audience, not only from the atmosphere established or the fight scenes, but from all of the subtle little hints the show gives to us without ever having to resort to using expository dialogue. Everything is conveyed through the visuals alone, from Gut's horrific nightmares to the state of the world as well as Gut's several body disfigurements from having only one arm and one eye, as well as having a brand on his neck that bleeds frequently. All of these elements are what drives the rest of the narrative as the audience is left to speculate how Guts came to be this way and why the world is in such ruin, and these questions are gradually given to us as we watch the rest of the show, since the entirety of the series is essentially one massive flashback to an earlier time of Gut's life, as we see him join a mercenary guild called The Band of the Hawk, and fight alongside a proud and rather kind man called Griffith, whom we first meet in the second episode. In fact, some great use of juxtaposition and generating audience intrigue is used once again in the first episode when we hear two men talking about King Griffith and they remark that they have to watch what they say, in fear of him. As an audience, this creates a sense of intrigue as we wonder to ourselves how such a calm, and a rather spiritual man could become so feared throughout the world of this narrative.
These elements that I've listed here, and the use of subtle hints to create intrigue in the story may seem rather strange to praise and rather counter-intuitive to do so, but the number of films and anime I've seen that simply start up with a narration of the state of the world, or directly tell us the circumstances of the characters is staggering, so I can always respect a story more when the audience is able to think for themselves, and I believe the opening episode of Berserk does this very well. All of the little clues and hints dropped in the first episode get answered and act as the driving force for someone to continue the narrative to find out how the events transpired, and by opening up with more atmospheric shots, drives the investment and intrigue of the narrative even further. Anyway, as previously mentioned, Guts joins a mercenary group called The Band of the Hawks, led by a man named Griffith, as previously mentioned, an extremely proud, respected and headstrong man, where his dream of having his own country is the only thing that drives him. The rest of the series sees Guts slowly warm up to The Band of the Hawk, as the group slowly become more powerful, taking on huge scale armies in war, eventually earning nobility from the King, before seeing everything crash to the ground in the final two episodes of the show. Berserk is not a series filled to the brim with symbolism or allegorical writing (barring a few scenes that is) but what sells the entirety of the Golden Age arc is how tightly written everything is as a whole. Everything is insanely interesting to watch unfold and the various war scenes are so well executed since the characters are very likeable (thus creating narrative tension and stakes) and what each character believes in idealistically, and how these complement each other are enough to hold the show together. Each event plays a larger factor in the story which makes everything incredibly satisfying to witness. The best example of this is in episode six, when Guts and Griffith fight off against a giant demon called Zodd the Immortal, who retreats after noticing Griffith's necklace, the Behelit, before delivering a bad omen to Guts that anyone who does stay with Griffith, will reach an unfortunate end, foreshadowing future events in the narrative. A similar omen was spoken in episode twenty-two of the show when two giant, black figures remark that the eclipse will transpire soon.
Before I continue on, I'd like to say that there were a number of changes that were made from the original manga in this adaptation, and, depending on how much of a hardcore fan you are of the original, can be a bad thing. However, despite the numerous changes, none of them was ever a game breaker for me, nor did it ruin the overall narrative and, in some instances, the changes benefited the overall show. Such an example is the opening, where, in the original manga, we actually see Griffith in the present day and what he looks like, wherein the anime we don't. I believe this to be better since it creates a sense of suspense and intrigue into the person will become down the line, rather than just showing him to the audience straight away like in the manga, although the manga beginning is ultimately better for setting up many more plot threads. The lack of some scenes in the manga doesn't inherently make the Golden Age Arc bad in the anime, only a less satisfying viewing experience all around when compared to the original. The anime cuts out the infamous King scene, where he lusts over his own daughter (did I mention Berserk is messed up?), Griffith's extensive talk with God and the Gut's meeting with the Skull Knight, who is the coolest thing ever! Again, these are missing elements in the anime are not a game breaker, but I felt to the need to point it out anyway.
Berserk is, at its most fundamental level, a tale of a man, in this case, our main protagonist, Guts, trying to search for a place in the world and a purpose for being, in essence, his own dream, rather than following Griffith's dream. What makes the Golden Age arc so incredibly addicting to watch is seeing each character grow during the duration of the show, their relationships as well as the constant plot twists and acts of revenge enacted in the story. The narrative's pacing is pretty consistent and very strong, always pushing forward at a comfortable pace, often wrapping up various plot threads while introducing new ones, keeping things interesting and fresh. What helps sell the emotional weight of Berserk is how attached we become to these characters as actual people, much like how Guts becomes more attached to the people of The Band of the Hawk himself. As Guts learns more and more about them and opens up more to them as well, so do we as an audience member, which makes the final two episodes all the more hard-hitting, in an event called the eclipse! While I won't get too much into the nitty-gritty since the scene is far more emotional the less you know about it, I will say that this scene is easily one of my favourite moments in any piece of fiction ever. The amount of emotions I felt during the eclipse is staggering, ranging from almost being on tears, to anger and downright despair. The end to Berserk is visceral, disturbing and grotesque, and this is only emphasised more in the manga with incredibly detailed artwork.
If I do have one complaint with the narrative of Berserk before diving into the characters, then that is the very final scene of the show, and how abruptly it seems to end. The final scene of the show sees Guts screaming in anger before awkwardly cutting to the ending without any resolution at all. Now, of course, I'm not expecting a resolution to the entire series, since, even after twenty years, the manga has not concluded yet (as Kentaro Miura would much rather place Idol Master than finish up Berserk) but I was expecting a resolution to the arc at the very least. Ending the show this way feels rather lazy and is honestly quite a kick in the nuts to the viewer as well. It's not something that inherently breaks the entire show for me, but it did leave me in a rather frustrated mood when I finished watching. Some other moments can feel a little trite or sometimes silly, such as in the case of an enemy character by the name of Adon, whose cowardice and stupid egotistical speeches could sometimes get annoying (after the third encounter I just wanted him to die already) , and in the case of when Zodd throws a massive, gargantuan sword to Guts during the middle of a battle to win a fight and nobody questions where this came from at all. Again, these elements are not necessarily enough to take me out of the experience, but they are slight things that annoyed me to a certain degree.
Undoubtedly, the crux of the narrative is the relationship between Guts, Griffith and Casca and how each person grows as individuals. Griffith, as previously mentioned, is an extremely proud, and, as we are lead to believe at first, a kind man, at least to his own men anyway. Stopping at nothing to attain his dream, he will do anything, no matter the cost, from sleeping with old men to gain money for an army, to sending Guts to assassinate anyone who poses a threat to him within the higher-ups in the castle. Guts and Griffith's relationship feels genuine and builds into a sense of comradery as the show goes along, with the underlying idea that Griffith owns Guts as a person. It's more accurate to say, perhaps, that Griffith eventually cannot function even as a person when Guts eventually leaves to pursue and find his own dream in life as Griffith breaks down. This character arc he embarks on, and his character, in general, is easily one of the most interesting characters, not only in the show but perhaps my personal favourite in the medium. One of my favourite scenes in the show is when Griffith is speaking to Princess Charlotte, with Casca and Guts both within hearing distance, as Griffith remarks that he believes a true friend is one that doesn't follow someone else's dream (as Guts has been doing) but follows his own path in life, which is perhaps the trigger for Guts to eventually venture out of The Band of the Hawks. The irony lies in that, even though Guts would be classified as a 'true friend' under this ideology projected by Griffith for leaving and finding his own dream, he breaks down afterwards and blames Guts for destroying his own dream, and the aftermath is rather depressing. His mental hang-ups near the end of the series are explored well enough to justify his actions, to a certain extent anyway, making for an interesting character study for someone who has to carry the burden of thousands of solder's deaths, all of whom chose to follow him.
Gut's character also receives a lot of development as well, as we see him warm up to the rest of the Band of the Hawk and finally has a place he can call home after living a life of loneliness after his first father figure attempted to kill him. The scenes were Guts is messing around with his men are genuinely charming and are some of my favourite moments in the show. Besides from being one of the most badass characters around, capable of swinging a massive sword and in some instances, taking out one hundred men all on his own, he is fundamentally a broken person at heart, with frequent traumatic nightmares plaguing his slumber. One of the best scenes in the show comes from when Guts accidentally kills an innocent child after believing him to be someone else and the implications that arise for his character as a result of this; it physically and emotionally tears him up, and he has to live on with the burden of his sin. It's genuinely one of my favourite moments in the show. Finally, we have Casca, and seeing her and Gut's relationship play out is easily one of the most satisfying aspects of the show. Casca is the only woman in The Band of the Hawkes, and probably the only woman in the entire battlefield. Her struggles with being a woman, and the entire theme surrounding it is handled pretty well, most notably when she experiences a period whilst on the battlefield and falls ill. Her slow warming up to Guts throughout the duration of the show feels natural as if it were a real relationship, and her idolisation of Griffith is explained to us and we can perfectly understand her apprehensive attitude when we first meet her. The other characters in The Band of the Hawk don't get nearly as much attention, but each, at the very least, have their own reasons for following Griffith, making them feel more like characters than emotionless planks of wood.
The animation is pretty consistent for the most part, with more emphasis on super detailed stills, which is most effectively used during the eclipse to convey Gut's raw anger. The backgrounds are also very well detailed as well, and the anime goes fall out with its blood and nudity, featuring plenty of bloody corpses (albeit, nowhere near as bloody and graphic as the manga). As a spectacle alone, the show is entertaining as hell! Seeing people fight each other with swords and the such in a medieval fashion will never get old for me. Berserk also has one of my all-time favourite soundtracks, with each track fitting the theme of each scene perfectly. While rather underutilised greatly in my eyes, the track called "Forces" where it was used to best effect during the third episode. Every time I hear it, I can't helped but get pumped up! The rest of the soundtrack is also fantastic, especially the theme "Behelit" which has a very mystical, fantasy feel to it. The entire soundtrack just screams fantasy adventure, with the exception of the opening however, which is so bad that it's actually great! Not only does the theme and more upbeat acoustics not fit with the tone of the show (especially in later episodes) the attempts of singing in English are absolutely dreadful, so much so that a line that is supposed to say "put your glasses on!" sounds like "put your grasses on!" (hence my joke in the second paragraph). There are some nice visuals however, most disturbing being a shot of a tree where we see a bunch of hanging bodies against a red background, which is a reference to how Guts was actually born. It's admittedly pretty funny to listen to, but it did actually grow on me as the show went on (much like grass now that I think about it!)
In conclusion, I love Berserk. It's writing is tight and consistent, always pushing the story forward, it has memorable and well-developed characters while also utilising shock factor and gore in a mature way and never abusing them to make cheap and empathetic backstories and the sheer excitement I felt while watching the show was staggering. It's easily one of the best dark fantasy stories out there, and I would highly recommend this anime for anyone looking for something more mature or darker. Berserk is a myriad of different emotions, in one package, and the eclipse, as I've mentioned various times in this review, is one I will not be forgetting anytime soon. Thanks for reading my review, and I'll see you next time!
Just always remember to put your grasses on and, by doing so, nothing will be wrong!
JUST a masterpiece ! A superb balance of everything! I don;t have the words to describe it! Everything is perfect - from the animation, through the marvellous soundtrack (a excellent work from Susumu HIRASAWA - Paranoia Agent, Paprika - just can\'t describe the emotional feeling from the music ) and finally to the magnificent story!
Yosh, let\'s cut the story into pieces -> everything is so simple , but PERFECT! 3 main charecters - Guts (The Black swordsman), Griffith and Casca. Guts is out to get the King of a country called Midland. Simple enough to be perfect, as i said. OUTSTANDING plotline and magnificent twists
withing the plot itself!
The superb story is represented with a far more great animation. The art itself is just a masterpiece, nothing less ! The atmosphere is shady, black and full of depression! What else ? The animation is based on new sequences for every hack&slash or action move (not like the one pan-camera for the action scenes in other animes ). This gives a great opportunity for different camera angles -> that in the genius hands of Shichiro Kobayashi (Angel\'s egg), Tokuhiro MATSUBARA (Pokemon -hehe..), Yuriko CHIBA (Code Geass,Planetes, work on Eureka 7 too) set on a pedestal the Art! Oustanding emotional feeling you can get just by watching. (the blood makes you sadistic >:) JUST A MASTERPIECE!)
But when you mix the animation with the perfectly made sound - your head swims ! The soundtrack is just as black and depressed just like the art! It\'s the PERFECT symbiosis between them! But the only thing that lack\'s the number of the OSTs. For 25 episodes there should be at least 1-2 more tracks. I\'m fed up with the op & ending. But afterall they are Great! The sounds when Guts slashesh horses,monsters and people is just as oustanding like the animation - you can only listen the perfectly made voice-acting and you\'ll be overjoyed !
The voice-acting is casted by professionals.
Nobutoshi Hayashi\'s as Guts make the character development even better! He\'s staff in Fate/stay night, Air, Final Fantasy: Unlimited, Initial D, Get Backers, Inu Yasha, Naruto, Shaman King and many many more. But as i said earlier - there are 3 main personages. Toshiyuki Morikawa\'s (lets say \"Devil May Cry\"as Dante and stop here...) as Griffith and Yuko Miyamura\'s as Casca (lets say also Neon Genesis Evangelion as Asuka and as performer of the ED song). It appears they are not just mere professionals...They are given a great role for the anime. The emotional relationship between the characters is deep and complicated. Great job with the flash-back episodes and development of the personality. Bow to the Outstanding coolnest of all the deeply spirited personages. It\'s like watching real live relationship! Can\'t describe it... :(
The enjoyment is far beyond exceptional! I was in deep depression after the anime. It took me around 2 days to recover! THIS IS \"Must Watch\" TITLE! For all anime fans out there - the overall score is OUSTANDING! You must not miss this! It\'s definitely NOT a waste of time.
I swore that I would never be duped so hard again after going to the movies to watch Let the Right One In, but wouldn't you know, life did it again to me!
I was lied to, severly lied to, by all those people who I heard talking about how good a story Berserk is. It's not. it's not outstanding, it's not amazing, and it isn't particularly good or memorable either. It's just.... fine I guess, even though it makes some really dumb mistakes.
But first, a disclamer: I've read up on the Berserk manga until the flashback starts. I did not do this because I was
particularly seeking to read Berserk, but rather because they were selling it in the book store, and I thought, why the hell not, so I read those chapters there. What stroke me as good was the reeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyyy nice art, the violence, the cruelty, the naked elf shota, and, in a way, Guts.
Well and truly, Guts is Berserk in more ways than one. Many of the things wrong with Berserk can be demonstrated on Guts. See, in the beggining of the manga, Guts is an asshat, a fucker who won't give two shits about anybody. He acts like some immature kid in his rebellious phase, and most of all - you constantly get a feeling that something is wrong with this guy, again, in more ways than one.
So when the story begins it's flashback and starts showing us a not-so-fucked-up Guts: whoos, there goes every last shred of the charm Berserk had for itself. 'Cause really, without him acting like a complete, emotionally wrecked asshole, Guts is an uninteresting dolt. For three- quarters of the show, he doesn't have a single sentient thought unto himself, and instead, he's constantly a bitch of Griffith, doing every single thing he commands him to, no matter how hippocritic it may be. And he never has a second thought about anything he does for him. Like I said, he's a bitch.
Then suddenly, with roughly a quarter left from the shows run, he starts feeling "crushed" by Griffith's "dream", and desperately tries to develop some sort of character for himself. I may or may not get back to this point, depending on how the rest will come out.
As previously stated, Berserk's problems can be demonstrated on Guts. So, as therefore must be, Guts becoming uninteresting means Berserk becomes less charming. Those manga chapters before the flashback? I'll be damned if there was a single one of them that played out during daytime. Alas, once the flashback starts, a lot of the story starts happening in the daytime, and that extremely strong dark vibe that the beggining gave off is pushed aside for a more mundane and infinitely less interesting world.
So, the flashback chronicles Guts' life with the Band of the Hawk, right? And that is probably pretty cool, interesting and great to watch, right? Well, it's a mixed bag. You have 99% of the Band of the Hawk that are barely two- dimensional, bland, uninteresting characters, and then there's Griffith and Caska.
Ladies first: Congratulations to Kentaro Miura, Caska is a wonderfully done charater. One of the best things about anime and manga -if not THE very best thing about anime and manga- are shoujo stories in which the primary obstacle the sword wielding heroine has to overcome isn't so much the antagonist, but rather, coming to terms with her own sexual identity. The discovery of the quality of a character like that is one of the most ingenious moves Tezuka made back in his heyday, and it's very nice to see how well Miura translates the ur- shoujo staple into seinen. Her loyalty to Griffith is proprly portrayed, her strenght is shown in a wonderfull manner, and she's an all-in-all well developed woman. That's enough of that.
Griffith is weird. There is hardly more to the guy than his "dream" this and his "dream" that. It's interesting how he's shown to be an excellent military leader, and a man of near superhuman presence, but he just isn't really intrigueing. The only characterization he ever gets is that he's willing to do whatever it takes to further his goals, even if it involves assrape, and that he's gay for Guts. Oh yeah, and he gets depressed when something doesn't go his way. And really, that's all there is to him.
(Though I like the way he acted when he first met Caska.)
But the biggest problem with the main characters of Berserk is that there is absolutely no chemistry between them. Watching these characters interact with eachother is simply not entertaing. Though it can't really be helped, since most if the interaction involves Guts, and I swear that guy could make 300 boring. (By contrast, in the manga, Puck manages to make scenes involving him and Guts interesting.)
What we are left with is the story and the gore. And boy, does Berserk deliver on the gore. Every single fight sequence involves limbs getting chopped off left and right, bodies getting cut in half, and enough blood spilled to fill the Pacific Ocean.
Too bad the gore is wasted on such lame fight scenes.
During the entire run of Berserk, I was exited about two, that is 2 fight scenes (one involving a demon and one involving Caska). The problem with all the other fight scenes was that they were all so completely lopsided. It's sorta the same problem Kiddy Grade has, except Berserk doesn't have it in spades: It's impossible to build tension in a fight scene when your protagonbist is fighting and your protagonist in invincible. True, other stories also have god mode main characters, but most of those stories make up for that (or better yet, turn it into an advantage) by making the main character at the VERY least halfway interesting. Berserk's fight scenes crash down due to what an awfully bland character Guts is (since he's the one who fights the most).
So that brings us to the story. And this is the most baffling part of all the hype Berserk gets. Because yes, it does show some huge scale military battles, it does interestingly depict royal court intrigue and life in the Band of the Hawk, and the story of the bands rise in status from mere mercenaries to royal knights, but all of it is pretty standard fare. There is nothing that stands out, nothing to make Berserk special, nothing that would validate the almost universal praise it constantly gets.
In true Evangelion fashion, the last two episodes turn things completely upside down. After a fucking cop out asshole of a fight between Guts and Griffith because Guts is leaving Griffiths merry band, and a very dumb move involving young royalty and a desperate attempt on Griffith's part to prove that he's not gay (which ultimately falls flat), the entire main cast gets transported to Hell so that a skin-and-bones Griffith can sacrifice everybody close to him and change into BDSM Batgirl to take his place as a king of Hell alongside The Lobe as interpreted by H.R. Giger, an upside down floating midget, a screaming Buddha statue and Morrigan from Darkstalkers.
Here is where Berserk actually becomes entertainig! The imagery depicting Hell is in a class of it's own, the up-to-this-point-ugly-as-hell animation suddenly makes up for all that looking like ass with hellish (appropriately) creature designs worthy of Silent Hill, the music score which might as well hade been non- existent prior to this point kicks into high gear!
Everything is beautiful!
Everything is worth seeing!
It barely has anything to do with anything that happened previously in the story!
Though Berserk's great plot twist isn't exactly a complete asspull (there is some reference to the final plot device during the course of the story), but since it's all so completely unrelated to previous events it might as well should be treated like one.
That, and the manga probably gives some sort of explenation as to how come Guts is still walking the Earth. The anime ends with a rape scene.
In the end, Berserk is a barely par effort, a slow paced slog through a barely interesting story that only makes up for it's incompetence in the very end (not unlike Trigun). It's completely unworthy of the praise it gets, it's completely stupid to read the manga because there is no way in hell it's ever going to end before Miura dies, and it's an almost complete waste of time (again, just like Trigun). I strongly urge anybody who is told that Berserk is an outstanding piece of entertainment not to believe whomsoever tells them so. It's not. And it will be long before the majority realises this. Let's hope that happens before Kentaro Miura passes away.
You wondered why people overuse the word, “Epic” for anything and everything in the world, no matter how mundane and pointless it really is. This is especially the case in anime, as when people tell me to watch this show and how epic it is, I just don’t feel it and there is also the fact that I might’ve been underwhelmed by it and people seem to look at me weird by that. However, I knew about this anime by this time the newer Berserk movies were coming out and the fact that I listened to the DREAMcast episode 20 about Berserk, which was the
one anime that I intend to review but not too soon and now here we are in 2013.
Guts, the Black Swordsman, wanders around in a mediaeval world slaying demons as they are attracted to a demonic mark on his neck. To his help he has inhuman strength gained from a harsh childhood lived with mercenaries, a gigantic sword, an iron prosthetic left hand and the elf Puck. In his search for vengeance on the one who gave him the mark, he meets many interesting persons and creatures, whom all are affected by him in one way or another.
You know, I really didn’t have any expectations going into this anime and after watching a few episodes of it, I was hooked on it in an instant. Never in my anime-viewing lifetime, had I watched an anime (or anything as a matter of fact) with a storyline that has a medieval world touch that piques my interest and got me invested in it, mainly because the whole medieval genre itself is really just dull in my eyes (and yes, that includes Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones). I liked the journey of the main character, Guts, the one man whose strength is almost God-like but he’s not exactly the self-insert character-type that I see too much in anime nowadays and if you see his past training with his guardian Gambino (not the childish one), he got the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis just surviving his everyday life of fighting to live. The writing of the show is almost Shakespeare-like, only I can understand them more and the dialogue isn’t that outdated and it’s very consistent.
Characters for the show is a very strong point in the series, as most of them have a great amount of character development and they are very fleshed out, making them more essential to the overall story and not just putting them aside for no reason and that’s what I like about the character development. They don’t just show a character, then kill them off, and expect that you care for them. You have to make us care about the characters and show them why, not just play some sad music when they might die. Guts is those characters that doesn’t bullshit around when he’s ready for battle and he might be like an unstoppable force but he often struggles with his battles; it never gotten boring seeing him slaying his enemies and the same goes to all the members of the Band of the Hawk. Griffith, the leader, has that charisma and charm about him being the leader, even if he doesn’t look that threatening up close but he has his way of getting the job done and once you get into his character more and more, you’ll question his role as a fighter. Casca is the lone female warrior character and I got to say that she is the most fleshed-out of all the characters, as she’s not treated like the fan service bait for the show but more of the strong female character that was really needed, especially if you watched some of the episodes centering around her character and what she’s been through. For most of the side characters, i.e. members of the Hawk, I liked Rickert and Judeau as they are mostly the optimistic roles while Corkus is….well, an asshole but I see his reasons for being one.
Animation is not the highest-selling point here and not because it is over a decade and some years old as sometimes vintage anime can be pleasurable to view but most of the scenes just feel like manga art but colored and more detailed. It does have the speed lines whenever action is happening instead of actually animating it, but then again, this is the work of Oriental Light & Magic and by the way, it’s the same production company that made the Pokemon anime series, so I can see why they might have to cut corners.
The music is downright beautiful, while the opening and ending themes are fairly good songs but the pieces that truly stand out are the background music like, “Forces”, and “GUTS’ theme” both done by Susumu Hirasawa, famously known for doing the haunting theme for Paranoia Agent. The score does have a slew of instruments (such as piano, bagpipes, violin, harp, flute, classic guitar, electric guitar, drums, harpsichord, synthesizer, and Amiga as well as voices) for its diverse range and its fluent state.
The dub voices, done by NYAV Post and formerly distributed by Media Blasters (AnimeWorks), are actually an okay dub with some hits and misses. The hits being Marc Diraison & Carolyn Keranen as Guts and Casca, respectively, and although I wanted to like Kevin T. Collins as Griffith but he is more of the weaker aspect of the main cast. The others performed well in their roles and overall, it’s one of those dubs that have more of an advantage of the original Japanese.
FINAL VERDICT: Berserk is truly the definition of an epic anime, from the plot, story, characters, music, and almost every aspect of this series is what anime fans should watch to understand the medium more. I would say it’s a perfect series if it weren’t for that ending and my God, that ending….. (It’s a “You need to read the manga” ending and also a cluster fuck of one. I mean, I know those who seen it but WTF?!?!?) But I still highly recommend that you watch and/or possibly buy this.
“In this world, is the destiny of mankind controlled by some transcendental being or law? At least it is true, that man has no control, even over his own will…” -The narrator/Void
Berserk is an adaptation of the Golden Age arc of Berserk, and at its core, this arc is a tragedy. As such, in its nature, to properly tackle what makes it to effective as a tragedy, **I will spoil the series majorly.** The rest of you who know or don't care, band with me, brothers, as we remember this beautiful yet tragic tale…
Medieval tales have almost always interested me. I went to medieval festivals
in my youth about twice or thrice, and it was always fun, eating turkey legs, seeing jousts, getting a scar on my middle finger at a knife throwing booth...yeah, those were fun times. In World History, one of the most interesting time periods was the High Middle Ages period. Not to say this is my favorite thing to explore, I prefer full blown modern warfare stories and World War history even more, by this has always been interesting to me. One such series has been the pinnacle of greatness in not only storytelling and character writing, but presenting this time period in a fantastical and fittingly brutal stage. Thus, we come to today’s topic: Berserk, or rather, the Studio OLM 1997 adaptation.
Let us define what I mean by tragedy. I don't mean the Shakespearean kind about the main character falling from grace and dying thanks to circumstances related to a lesson for the audience, I mean the kind where, like the former example, we are told that the main character goes through hell, but instead of losing his life, it's about seeing how he became the man he is at the start of the series. Hence, episode 1, which has been widely called the weakest and only skippable episode of the show, is actually very necessary. This is a story of honor, deception, purpose, and death, like the time period it presents.
I'm sure a number of you were puzzled when I called Episode 1 imperative to the viewing experience, as many people, especially popular reviewers, say to skip episode one. Yes, it only really becomes impactful in hindsight and it doesn’t really stack up to the rest of the series, but it serves an interesting utility that few first episodes serve. That’s why I say, watch it, since it frames the series in a completely different way. Rather than framing it as a simple war story that ends up having a brutal ending out of nowhere, it's one where you see how Guts became the man he is, and eventually you see his team and realize that he doesn't have that anymore, leaving you to speculate and hope that he left and that nothing terrible happened to them.
Oh how brutally wrong we were, but like the series itself, how about we rewind a bit…
3 years ago, Guts takes out an infamous warrior and is now scouted by Griffith of the soon to be legendary Band of the Hawk. And now, a journey begins as these men get involved in the 100-year war between Midland and Tudor. The narrative might not seem all that impressive, and instead, rather rudimentary upon first glance, especially when you’re done with episode 1, but the story really unfolds thanks to its characters and how human they feel. Until the episode 10 mark, what keeps the first few episodes interesting is promise. They play hints at bigger plots through memorable exchanges, such as the freakishly intense battle between Guts and Co. and Nosferatu Zodd, a demon and how after Griffith is knocked out, he accidentally reveals a behelet, a sort of necklace we see Griffith show off to Guts in episode 4 after a fun little water fight. They foreshadow big twists and remind us of the tragedy ahead as we interact with these characters who not only behave realistically but either hang around as a general likable member who often has small spotlights in battle and/or one who slowly reveals important bits about himself over time, and while that part might seem basic and that even bad shows get that down, the only reason it truly works here is because of the humanization and harmony these characters all have, carrying us over until the second half of the show, where shit gets truly real.
The first sign of trouble in terms of realizing the tragic route the series intends to go is when Guts overhears Griffith talking with the princess about a man’s dream and how he will only truly be friends with a man who also has a dream he will fight for. As a man who has only known borderline meaningless war, this sparks a flame of unease in Guts’ mind. Guts is a brilliant fighter and I love his struggles to fit in with the band and eventually, his quest to become his own man rather than just someone who fights for another’s dream, especially given what we already know about him, but not only does this pit in his stomach last, even after Guts defeats one last enemy commander and Casca and Co. captures a major castle in Tudor which causes an armistice to be held, but after one gloriously sad duel between Guts and Griffith, his journey begins, shocking and dismaying the band, but especially Griffith. Griffith has already been shown to be an ambitious but tragically sympathetic man who not only had fun and had a charismatic and borderline ethereal quality to him (which quickly made him a favorite of mine for a while), but one who found great interest in Guts, much like many of us did, but once his ambitions were somewhat fulfilled and Guts leaves, he loses his purpose and goes mad, coercing the princess into sex, whom he had many pleasant chats with and who admired and had a crush on him. The consequences are horrific, with him being tortured and stripped of even his muscles and ability to move properly for the most part. Then, we get his final decline in his humanity once after a brutal vision, he sacrifices his entire crew to the now awakened God Hand in order to become their leader.
Episode 1 is the episode that plants this seed of doubt in our heads, but at the end of the day, it could only end in one way the more you think about it as you advance through the series, especially once you reach episode 22, which is when, after many moments of buildup via Zodd in episodes 6 and 16, demons start showing up and gathering to see the man with the Egg of the King, arriving before him and his now ravaged band after a one year time skip of them getting betrayed after Griffith’s capture. The ensuing spectacle of chaos, bloodshed, insanity, and screams is both horrifying and heartbreaking, as no matter what, we actually got to see so many of the Band of the Hawk interact not only in meaningfully dramatic ways, but in truly humanizing ways that made us care for each of them despite them not being that huge a developed presence such as Pippin, Rickert, Judeau, Gaston, and yes, even Corkus. They manage this through both amazing humanization and how they slowly reveal moments for some of these characters over time such as Corkus initially being a captain of his own bandit team, and Judeau not only being the competent knife-wielding heart of the group but also a man who wants to settle down and have his own business.
While we’re at it, let’s get one last major character out of the way: Casca. She’s rather hard to stomach at first, being very, very bitchy and hateful towards Guts out of a combination of jealousy at his kinship with Griffith, but his general attitude and actions towards combat which make him come off as a deranged loose cannon to her. It’s only with her backstory that we see a more sympathetic side to her after she faints in battle over a combination of stress and fever, which Guts helps her through to nothing but scorn on her end. She eventually realizes her love for him, as he does for her, and it does come off as organic, luckily. If only she could get her temper and stress in check from time to time. While she may be my least favorite of the trio, she is still a great character with splendid development that I unfortunately can't help but downplay, which speaks volumes of how amazing Guts and Griffith are to me.
Of course, this show isn’t perfect. Many of the villains are just hateful, one-dimensional, noblemen who scheme to get rid of Griffith for being a commoner, while the others are just asshole generals who never really get fleshed out. Not to mention that this show does get a bit carried away with the concept of rape, which can be a turnoff for many viewers. There are minor plot holes as well, such as how we never see how it was possible for Griffith to arrange a fake death and then kill all those who plotted against him in one fell swoop given that we are never given many pieces to really try to figure it out for ourselves, and we never know how Griffith got the ingredients for his switched drink, or how it got switched. Not to mention that beyond one post-credits scene that only shows that Guts did indeed escape the eclipse (which we never know how) and that he finally got the sword we see at the start of the series, the show just ends en medias res. Regardless, as a glorious tragedy and human story, this show shines exponentially.
I guess this particular notion may seem iconoclast to some of you given that this anime is often considered to have mediocre at best production values. Well, that isn't really for any animation errors, but for the supposed lack of animation here. I admit, they take a fair share of shortcuts in the animation department, especially early on, and there are some things (like the waterfall in episode 20) that don't look very good. However, the character designs are fantastic and even when we see stills for a brief period used for a collision of something, they always manage to really sell the impact on those shots alone or use the animation to build up a massive impact as well. Sometimes the movements in a fight can feel rather limited though. There are also slight bits of reused animation early on, which is always a sin, especially after the 80’s, but that goes away quickly, and there is plenty more animation than people give credit for. Another thing good about that is that sometimes they'll hold on one frame just long enough to let things sink in, such as Griffith’s distraught face in episode 19 after losing fights. Another huge reason I rank this section so highly is because this show has some of the best backgrounds I have ever seen, and I am convinced that each of those were not hand-drawn but hand-painted. You can see the luscious detail in each of these and they make perfect backdrops for any given situation. Studio OLM did a surprisingly good job with this one, and so did Kobayashi Productions for the luscious backgrounds.
Berserk doesn't have a lot of tracks. Excluding the OP and ED, Berserk has a total of only 9 tracks, hence many of the more memorable tracks get repeated a lot. Even still, the OST by Susumu Hirasawa is among the best I've heard in a long, long time. “Earth” is such a lovely and uplifting tune that makes any triumphant scene 10 times more epic, and “Gatsu” is an amazingly somber and peaceful track that is always used at those calm and human moments to excellent effect. However, at the top is one of the most exhilarating and roar-inducing tracks ever conceived: “forces”! It makes these medieval fights that much more epic and just makes you want to let out a fucking warcry! Unfortunately, the OP and ED do not hold up at all. “Tell me why” by Penpals is laughable, full of quotable hilarious engrish and an opening guitar riff that is insanely off-key. The ED is also very forgettable, as if it were an afterthought.
The dub starts off shaky, and there are plenty of mediocre at best minor performances throughout, though luckily, the major characters are decent and some even improve. The only role I recognize is Mike Pollock (Eggman from Sonic) as General Adon, and he has arguably the best performance here. Steve Stanley does do a pretty good job at capturing Griffith entirely though, which is rather odd given that the acting isn't really that great on its own, but it just gels with Griffith so much. Overall, the dub is decent, especially for the time.
Despite the only ok first episode, this series was immensely enjoyable, partially thanks to the amazing OST (bad OP and ED notwithstanding) and the surprisingly good action, but mainly for the awesome cast of protagonists we embark on this journey with, making all the more depressing when we see them being brutally killed. Not gonna lie, I felt overwhelmed there. Still, this series is so much fun and gets me in such a great mood, as if I'm viewing a true epic. It's not perfect, heck, some episodes are nowhere near as good as others, but man was this a joy to watch.
Berserk 1997 is a glorious and heart-wrenching tragedy, and one of the best stories I've seen in a good while. Its cast is beyond likable and it's nothing but an epic of medieval proportions. It's surprisingly well put together for what I've heard, and you know what? This show deserves no less, for all of the reasons I mentioned above. Even if you are bothered by the kind of content this anime shows, this epic classic is more than worth checking out for the characters and background OST alone. Well, with all that said, I bid you adieu.
SUPPOSING that Griffith did nothing wrong — what then?
Is not every philosophical query subject to intense debate and perspective, as opposed to the dogmatic ideologies of “Thou shalt” formed by the traditions of past “truth” seekers? Reinforced, of course, by the power structures of the political and social elite, whom wish to subjugate the free exercise of thought via strict punishment and/or ostracization, forcing the majority to acquiesce to a slave morality. But these “slaves” — sheep, if you will — are passive, meek creatures whom simply wish to get by, rather than transcend their fears to transform themselves into a
creature of higher worth. A “worth” that is worth remembering. Only when one embraces an uncomfortable disposition among the masses, does he become capable of owning himself. A reward that is beyond monetary value. A reward that must be earned through a rigorous process of self-affirmation, courage, and perseverance. But to achieve — nay, master — such things, one must oblige themselves to a process of metamorphosis, in which they constantly push their boundaries in the pursuit of their own personal meaning.
Enter: The Spirit of a Camel.
Guts is a man of poor circumstance. The lack of a biological mother and father in his life, fuels him to seek attention from an abrasive mercenary known as Gambino. A man who displays no concern for the welfare of the young lad, and even exploits him as a form of retribution for the loss of his wife, Shizu. Guts, nevertheless, clings to the sordid Gambino as surrogate father, filling a void that he deems must be filled; regardless of the character of the individual who occupies that pivotal role. Despite this inequitable partnership, Guts ameliorates his sword technique (partly due to Gambino’s influence) and overall strength to impress the detached master, and, hopefully, receive his praise. Yet Gambino displays no pleasure in Guts’ accomplishments — in fact, he loathes him. And as the jealous rage proliferates inside of him, Gambino takes drastic measures to eliminate the young “apprentice.”
Guts, fortunately, dodges the sword guided by malice, but ends up alone and without a clear path forward. By demanding the maximum out of himself, however, Guts jumps through various hoops to test his abilities and earn capital to sustain himself. But being a beast of burden has its limitations, namely: being trapped in a metaphorical penitentiary of societal norms/rules of which he does not question, let alone press upon. This subservient mindset allows a capable “master” to maneuver him as he pleases, without fear of negative repercussions.
The Eminent Lion (Hawk) Emerges.
Via winning his services in combat, Griffith (Lion/Hawk) attains another load bearer (a particularly strong Camel) to deploy as he see’s fit — as if he were playing a game of chess. While resistant at first, Guts learns to appreciate the battle strategies and wisdom of the young Lion. His support is not as ardent as the other members of the Band of the Hawk; however, Guts admires Griffith’s passionate determination in realizing his ultimate goal. A goal that Griffith dares to dream, unlike any other. Because he values the freedom to sculpt his own destiny with his own hands, rather than being moved via invisible strings by the will of the “puppeteer” (i.e. the Monarchy). While others place faith in him, Griffith pursues — relentlessly! — his goals. An eternal yearning that necessitates a myriad of personal sacrifices, for the end justifies the means. Perhaps Griffith wanders too far from decency to be considered “worth it” — but would any venture be “worth it” if one feared the associated dangers or the scrutiny of more “rationale” people?
Dreams involve risks. And “Thou shalt” NOT take unnecessary risks, says the Dragons (the various generals), as they advise the king to forgo the capture of Doldrey.
“I will” defeat the Purple Rhino Knights. “I will” capture Doldrey despite the 1:6 odds. “I will” ascend to new heights. And, “I will” create my own reality.
After the decisive battle, Griffith and his comrades receive all the adulation one could hope for. The war was over. The Band of the Hawk were heroes. And Griffith was one step closer to realizing his dream.—Yet, despite all this, Guts’ mind was in a state of tumult. With Griffith’s philosophical musings regarding friendship still ringing in his head, Guts felt unsatisfied with his “tragic” disposition. The weight of Griffith’s dream weighed on him long enough, to the point of feeling imprisoned by it. As such, the newly born lion (Guts) seeks liberation by rejecting the genteel life of the autocracy that Griffith created for him through subtle manipulation, in exchange for a self-defined existence. For a life with boundaries, forced expectations, and strict social norms is no indication of a “good” life, but an echo of what others purport as ideal. A safe life is thusly abandoned. But what else is there? A Dionysian affirmation of life, but of course! For a placid existence in avoidance of the “horrors of night” is no life at all.
Having caught wind of his intentions, Griffith aims to terminate Guts’ new journey by reinforcing his power (NOT strength) over him. The resulting confrontation is more significant than a competition of sword-play. It is the realization that Griffith is no longer standing on a “staircase” above Guts, but, rather, they are on EQUAL footing. While Guts took the next step in his evolution, Griffith has stagnated. What made the young prodigy special, was achieved by another. Truly Devastating. Grief-stricken, Griffith accelerates his plans to a point of no return. In opposition to his Apollonian demeanor, Griffith rolls the dice for a chance at ultimate glory. But, alas, it does not come to pass. As he descends into the abyss of the Midland “Hell” (a necessary precursor for events to come).
The dream is extinguished. Even when Griffith returns to the Band of the Hawk, it’s quite clear that a different life is in order. In fact, after hearing a conversation by Guts and Casca — one in which Casca pities Griffith, and implores Guts to fulfill his own dream — Griffith trembles in ways he has never trembled before. He is afraid. But the will of the lion gleams brightly inside of him. Reminding him that the dream is not finished. And before Griffith’s vision fades, the last stage of the metamorphosis reveals itself: a child. A carefree, self-propelling creature that is in a constant state of play and perpetual creation.
The acceptance of the last form, however, requires an acknowledgment of his past sins. If Griffith succumbs to the remorse of his past ill-deeds, then he will become paralyzed with sorrow, and unable to construct the crimson bridge to the kingdom. But the goal is within reach. And all it takes is a sacred “YES.”
“I submit.” — Griffith
The Übermensch is born and the eclipse is commenced. Comrade after comrade fall to the hideous barrage of monsters. Limbs are torn. Skin is slashed. Organs are eaten. And all hell is unleashed upon the remnants of the Band of the Hawk. Guts, despite the impossible odds, harnesses all his rage to vanquish the gruesome foes. One by one, they fall. Yet in the process, his humanity becomes less apparent. Unfortunately, this leads to a climatic event in which he goes completely berserk, to the point that his future self is much less a human, and more of a monster.
“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
So, the question remains: did Griffith do anything wrong? Insofar that any human is capable of wrong-doing, the question requires necessary context. Griffith did not conscript his brothers-in-arms, they volunteered on their own accord (except for Guts, who lost fair and square). Griffith sacrificed his comrades for his dream, but were they oblivious to the dangers warfare? Regardless of the way they perished, death is always around the corner in a campaign of bloodshed, anyone that deludes themselves into thinking otherwise is neglecting reality. And did you see a ring on Casca’s finger?
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
Berserk is one of the best series I've ever seen, in a different league than most anime, which are too often filled with pointless, arrogant ideals shouted by quasi-female, one-dimensional characters in dire need of a haircut.
Berserk is different. I first downloaded it because I heard it had a lot of action and violence. It turned out to be a bit more than that.
Guts is a battle-hardened mercenary whose only knowledge and pursuit in life is massacring a never-ending stream of enemies with his sword. He's good at it.
The series begins when he comes across the Band of the Hawk, a feared group of
mercenaries led by Griffith, a young man with endless ambition and correspondingly tremendous talent, bravery, and intelligence. He has a dream to rule a kingdom, and has no qualms about doing or sacrificing anything to attain it.
Throughout much of the series, he is portrayed as being golden and invincible; he is always met with success, triumphing at whatever he aspires to, and his meteoric rise to his vaunted kingdom seems inevitable.
Throughout this time, Guts is his ace, the fearless commander of the Hawk Raiders, who carries out his ordered assassinations, destroys entire troops of enemies, frequently saves his life, and is the only man the distant Griffith shows any empathy towards.
During this, Caska, a female Hawks commander whose love is spurned by Griffith, feels outrage and envy at Guts, whose help in Griffith attaining his dream far outstrips her own capabilities.
This period of the story, which occupies over half the series, is told with exquisite humor, original plot lines, and excellent action sequences supported by an epic musical score that conjures up images of battle and bravery.
Beyond this, the characters seem real, believable, and unique, whether it be the insidious court minister Foss, or the stoic, good-natured, Hawk mercenary Judeau.
The best way to judge the story and plots is whether it would translate to a good book. In Berserk's case, this is certainly the case.
If this were only the story of how a kingdom was won, it would still be a great anime, but Berserk goes far beyond that, with a twist that crystallizes its themes of loyalty, betrayal, ambition, personal goals, and destiny, as well as the interpersonal relationships between the main characters Griffith, Guts, and Casca.
In doing so, the series shifts into a far darker realm of fantasy horror, which is continued by the manga.
There are few anime series which are truly amazing and exceptional in any manner, regardless of what's written about them, but this is most definitely one of them.
It's amusing to look back at my first impressions after episode 1 of Berserk. I laughed at how corny the level of violence was, giggled at the demons’ constant references to the tearing of flesh and crunching of bones. The rest of the series was nothing like that first episode. Totally different in terms of tone, direction and purpose. And yet, in the grand story of Berserk, was every bit as important as any other episode in the rest of the series.
One thing stands out from that first impression though: how perfect the pacing felt. Well, that continued throughout the series. Not just the pacing
though. Never once was there a misstep in directing. Not once would a scene leave me thinking that they could have done that better. Not once did the story become difficult to understand, nor was a direction the story took not sufficiently foreshadowed while never being overly so.
Everything was deliberate. Every scene had purpose. Berserk is perfect.
Berserk has the reputation of being a hack and slash gory fantasy, yet the highlights of the series never came in the battles. Guts swings his sword and enemies are cut down with splashes of red paint everywhere; perhaps from a perverse love of violence you could garner entertainment from these scenes alone, but the highlights of Berserk came from the scenes after the battles. The discussions amongst the characters as they reflected on their life purpose, their relationships with each other, and the dream of Griffith.
A man whose dream weaves in those around him. Everyone around him cannot stop themselves from being attracted or repulsed by his sheer existence. Their dreams do not get warped by his, they get sucked in entirely and become part of his dream. To control the world and everything in it. To reach the castle in that horrid dream of his. Except for the one man he didn’t win. The one thing he couldn’t control. Berserk works like a classic tragedy. Through one fatal flaw, the great work of the hero is undone. Everything built up to that fatal flaw, and yet when it occurred it was not immediately apparent that this was the case. What happened broke the man, challenged to shatter his dream, and yet it was what kept him sane.
While I may have just marveled at the moments of calm epiphany that littered the series, that was not the true highlight. Berserk is a masterpiece in storytelling. I have been incapable of doing anything that requires mental strain today because my mind has been so full of Berserk. Not because I was trying to dissect the imagery of Berserk or anything like that. Berserk was not a confusing anime. The ending, while bizarre and creepy, made perfect sense in the grand scheme of the story. But that’s exactly it. This grand scheme of the story was what I had in my mind the whole day. Looking back and connecting the dots. Understanding the characters motivation and thought process behind every action they performed.
Every action was calculated. Every scene had purpose. Berserk is perfect.
Strangest of all was that this was achieved even by stopping part of the way through the manga storyline, which is still ongoing with the mangaka constantly delaying the latest chapters to play Idolm@ster. Yet it still worked. It all tied back in perfectly with the first episode again. The process of events leading up to the final episode felt natural.
Berserk has challenged the way I rate anime because my enjoyment of the series was far removed from those I typically enjoy. Gone were my usual catnip of fabulous characters, dramatic plot twists and Xantos Gambits. Berserk never had The Rush. The Rush is that feeling of sheer exhilaration while watching anime that you reach near euphoria. Berserk was the chilling effect that perfection coats you with. I’ve had similar experiences sometimes while watching Cowboy Bebop or Kaiba, but neither of these reached the level Berserk did. After finishing episode 14 I was left sitting in my chair for about half an hour, just letting that episode sink in and contemplate how insignificant everything else in my life felt in comparison to this Japanese Cartoon I had just watched.
I had to write this review. I had to write something about my experience with this anime, simply to get it off my chest. As I said, I’m currently incapable of watching anything else at the moment. Hopefully with this brain vomit I can move on. Watch some more of these Japanese Cartoons I am so infatuated with.
Berserk is not my favourite anime because the yardstick I use to measure my favourite is different to that which I enjoyed Berserk by. It doesn’t hold a candle to those amongst my favourites like Death Note and Baccano. Berserk, however, is the best anime I have ever watched. Every nuance was intentional. Every scene had a purpose.
I think everyone who has saw this anime would come to the same conclusion, it is a masterpiece.
It has all the Shakespearian package (friendship, love, treason and death), perfectly combined. The way the story is told immediately gets you onto the medieval, kind of magical world, all the characters are deep and well developed and you can’t help to identify yourself with any of the characters or their ideals.
The only flaw that I could see in this anime would be that for some animated scenes, it often uses the old water painting technique (static image to show a scene and the camera would just
move around that image), but it’s easily to ignore it once you start getting in to the story. It also has a slow start but by episode 3 you’ll get hang to it.
The anime follows accurately the story of the manga, so if you have read it you won’t get disappointed.
Personally, I think this is just an advertisement for the manga, but for all the right reasons. Yes, I will acknowledge that it ends at a bad place but there are reasons for that. First off, when the anime ended, it was technically caught up with the manga so they really couldn’t continue yet, but the bad news is, the anime still cuts out a lot and I felt they really rushed things through, but still covers the central basics with the characters and themes. I say what really brings people into the anime outside of the action is definitely the themes this anime has
on friendship, acceptance, fate, destiny, and life in general. It really makes you think in that kind of way. The characters all have their uses and they all stand out where you really get to know them. Also, I liked how Guts and Griffith really contrasted each other in terms of personality that you would have to see to understand because I don’t want to spoil it. But I just felt that the absence of the Skull Knight, or Knight of Skeleton and Puck and when they fought that other aristocrat in the manga just really stood out to me. I do have a strong pet peeve when adapting anime and I just felt that those elements being cut out I wouldn’t say offended me, but still bothered me because of how passionate I am of the actual manga.
Well, the character design is very faithful to Miura-sensei’s art style, but I just feel it’s not the same without his way of shadowing and cross hatching. But going on, the designs of the core characters really come across as threatening and intimidating where you just want to say to yourself, “I don’t want to mess with this guy.” The fights are pretty intense, brutal, and gory. Guts’ fighting style where he just goes for broke is very appealing because he’s just a man that’ll do anything to win. Even though he really has no graceful form like a fencer, it’s just his experience and his instincts really define his fighting style and makes it really exciting. The designs of the monsters are really gruesome and scary as well where you may have nightmares of being chased by them in a place where you can’t escape from them.
I’ll open up this part of the review by saying, the dub sucks, don’t bother watching it. But I still feel that the dub from the Dreamcast game was much, much, much superior and very excellent. I felt that Nobutoshi Canna was born to play Guts, or Guts was created to have Canna voice him, I don’t know, but they clicked like peanut butter and jelly. Miyamura Yuko, the voice of Asuka from Evangelion is also an excellent choice to played Caska. Caska sort of reminded me of that character and I felt Miyamura’s talent brought that presence into the show. So with these two names alone, you got a very excellent voice cast in which they represent their characters in a very accurate and believable manner. Other names I wanted to mention is Morikawa Toshiyuki as Griffith. He was just very charismatic but yet very cold. And Utsumi Kenji was simply born to play Zodd.
The music is also pretty frickin’ sweet if I say so myself. You got heavy metal, mystical music, midevil, you just got a whole bunch of things that really represent the dark atmosphere of this series. It’s also cool that the composer, Hirasawa Susumu was brought back to do the music for the games on Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 and still keep that feeling of intensity in this franchise. Despite being dark and gritty, it’s still very intense and addicting. Especially one of the insert songs, Forces.
Well, in case you haven’t been listening, I personally recommend you read the manga instead of watching the anime. I just feel you’re being cheated if you’re more familiar with it. I hear all kinds of rumors on why they won’t continue Berserk such as violence. I say fuck that shit. I feel we’re owed that much. Anyway, I say the closest you’ll get to more Berserk anime is playing the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 games, which I recommend you do get and I personally like them a lot. Even though I have criticized the anime for its execution and length, I felt that the music and the voice acting brought a different kind of definition to the franchise which gives it a different sense of identity rather than just the story and the art of the manga itself which makes the anime very worth watching .
Now, you may or may not be able to tell by looking at this show that it’s about as ugly and grizzled as its demon villains. The animation is bare-bones in this show, absolutely putrid sometimes, and guess what? I almost don’t care, because the story is an absolute masterpiece. Equal parts political intrigue and fantastical nightmare, it sucks you in like few stories can. If I may be hoity-toity for a moment, it reminds me of the great Greek tragedies and blood-stained Roman myths where grandiose characters with small tragic flaws would be lifted to the heights of great godhood before inevitably crashing down
to their human foibles. When I was little, I spent many an hour I should have been doing homework reading the classic D’aulaire’s book of Greek myths, so seeing a story where even the greatest of men are cleverly controlled by twisted fate, cursed treasure, and omens that tickle at their ankles for years only to gobble them up in their finest hour brings on big bloody buckets of nostalgia for me.
In practical terms, the writing is brilliant in this show. Gutts is all brawny impulse and no tact, while Griffith is the snake-tongued philosopher with high ambitions, and they complement each other perfectly, each man drastically changing the other as the story constantly churns forward. Although I only wish I could say it was for the better. Tragedy, remember? Mixed in with these titans you have Caska, who is probably the most relatable character, and surprisingly, a strong woman in her own right instead of just being a fanservice-feast. She is fiercely loyal to her commander Griffith, and despises his upstart new lieutenant, but of course things are gonna change the more those two firecrackers cross paths. Although I only wish I could say it was for the better. Tragedy, remember?
On the technical side of things, I refuse to even mention the animation because it bloody well speaks for itself, doesn’t it? It’s bad. Enjoy the detailed art stills and pretend you’re watching an unusually colorful manga, pretty much. At least the art is good, it just rarely moves, and when I say “moves,” I mean jumps around like an epileptic reindeer.
The music is an odd blend of pounding medieval instruments and passionate folk singing that really serves the series well and sounds downright amazing.
The Japanese track is fine for this show, nothing horribly special, but the English dub is more hit and miss. Gutts is good, Caska is great, and all the incidental characters serve their roles appropriately, but Griffith’s English voice is a detriment to his character. He flitters wildly between overly wooden and overly melodramatic but never really hits the mark, sounding like he’s higher than a kite in a dark room most of the time, not at all bad, but kind of uncomfortable and too distant to be half as charismatic as he’s supposed to be. Overall, it’s entirely listenable and mostly quite good, but Griffith’s soliloquizing is certainly its low point.
If I chose to ignore the animation completely, I could have given this a perfect score, honest-to-goodness. Maybe. But I’m definitely not gonna. You know why? Because just when the biggest bombshell of the series lands and tears your invested mind and heart to ribbons, the show ENDS. That’s right. It’s got a “read the manga” ending tacked onto the most mortifying cliffhanger I have ever witnessed in anything, period.
In the end, I don’t even know how to describe how badly this “ending” skewers Berserk as a rewarding experience, so I’ll cheat and use an impossible metaphor. It’s like I’m eating a sub sandwich and within the first bite, *gasp,* an epiphany! This is the best sandwich I’ve ever tasted and the words “eat fresh” don’t begin to approach its otherworldly power over my taste buds. Suddenly, a slack-jawed demon with a glandular problem leaps out of my sandwich and chases me around the room attempting to sing like Mae West while making improper gestures at me. I pitch the sandwich his (her?) way and it eats it before it hits the ground, flips me the bird and leaves. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Say, “Wow, that was the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten?” I paid for it in more ways than one! It all depends on your perspective, but my conclusion is that while I’m glad I saw the series, that horrible non-ending and the below sea-level budget drops it two potential letter grades and changes a series I could imagine watching over and over again into one I’ve sworn off possibly forever after seeing it, eh, twice. At least that’s what I say, but in a few years I may endure another delicious 6-inch mindrape with that sexually confused little (big) prankster, after all he’s not so bad once you get to know her.
All in all, a rare example of classical dramatic tragedy with a gripping plot, legendary characters, and lots of blood and guts in every sense of the word, but the decrepit animation and complete lack of an acceptable conclusion really hurt its potential.
*THIS IS A PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF MY VIDEO REVIEW THAT CAN BE SEEN HERE:
What follows after is unknown, but what came before is a tale of friendship and of camaraderie. It is a tale of hardship and of sacrifice, fuelled by the pursuit of one man's dream. Unfortunately, it's a tale without a proper conclusion. You ever watched something that had you completely engrossed with what was going on and then RIGHT when it gets to the most soul-crushing and depressing part, it suddenly ends? No? Well too fucking bad. That's what the deal is with Berserk. This is my third time watching the anime, and even though I've forgiven virtually EVERYTHING else that was wrong with this
show, I can NEVER let such a gigantic middle finger of an ending slide, especially given how much was cut out of the manga (albeit with Kentaro Miura's approval).
Let's start off with what this show does right: despite the absolutely horrendous animation, the story is more than enough to make up for it and despite Berserk's infamous reputation for being one of the most gruesome mangas of all time, various changes were made for the sake of pacing and in the process, many of the manga's more explicit scenes were either modified so that they weren't as gruesome or were cut out of the picture entirely. Themes of friendship and ambition are also further emphasised, rather than causality and the supernatural. If you've been hesitating to give Berserk a shot because of its reputation, the anime will certainly be able to give you virtually everything this series has going for it (i.e. the story, the characters) with a fraction of all the baggage it comes with.
If you take away all the raunch that Berserk and other such dark fantasy stories like Game of Thrones come with, you'll find that its story is quite a delight. It's a careful mix of medieval politics and war drama with plenty of fights to spare along with a ghastly nightmare caused by a generous helping of cruel irony thrown in toward the end because why the hell not? The driving force behind the story is our main man, Guts, a guy with a troubled past and no ambitions in life who happens across Griffith, a man with ambitions larger than life itself who leads a mercenary troupe known as the Band of the Hawk along with their ascent as they become the #1 military force in all of the Kingdom of Midland. If you're the kind of person who prioritises a great story and characters over aesthetics, Berserk was practically MADE for you.
While the actual animation is nothing short of revolting, the art direction itself is quite nice. The visuals are murky and ugly at times, yes. However, this contributes pretty damn well to the overall atmosphere of the show. It's exactly the kind of look that an animated dark fantasy story *should* have. Furthermore, when Berserk wants to look good, it looks REALLY good (i.e. pretty much any scene taking place inside Midland and not a battlefield). Going back to that absolutely repugnant animation, I have to give props to Oriental Light & Magic for at least not re-using footage like OTHER shows that came out at the time did (i.e. Evangelion, DBZ, Gundam Wing) and whilst it doesn't improve by a considerable margin, there IS a noticeable change in quality between the animation of Episode 1 and the animation in later episodes. It's still not very nice, don't get me wrong. But it's NOT as gut-wrenchingly unpleasant as it would seem.
Furthermore, when it comes down to audio quality, Berserk has it down-pat a good 90% of the time. The OST is composed of medieval/folk tunes which set the mood perfectly every time. Really, the only flaw I can find with it is the fact that the OP theme grates on my ears in a fashion similar to the first OP of Rurouni Kenshin or the 2011 reboot of Hunter x Hunter's OP. I'm sorry, but upbeat rock music does NOT befit a dark fantasy story like Berserk in the slightest. Who in their right minds at Oriental Light & Magic thought that this theme was a good fit for this show? Seriously... the 1990s were full of awesome OPs (i.e. Rurouni Kenshin OP 2, Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Serial Experiments Lain, etc.) and you'd THINK that Berserk would fall into that group, but it sadly does not.
The voice-acting is also deserving of mention because BOTH the Japanese and English tracks are absolutely spectacular. I recently completed Berserk subtitled rather than dubbed like I have the first two times, and I have to say... I'm absolutely torn between Nobutoshi Canna and Marc Diraison as Guts. I mean, I'm biased toward the English dub because that's what I'm more familiar with, especially given that the dub actors reprised their roles for the Berserk movies but I honestly didn't have any idea as to what to expect from the Japanese track, so it completely threw me for a loop when I found out how good it actually is. This is one of those instances where deciding between the dub and the sub boils down to a technicality. If you can't handle the fact that the dub has trouble matching up with the mouth movements on occasion, go with the sub. If you find that you can't keep up with the subtitles for whatever reason, dub all the way.
Lastly (and this is more of a technicality than something that is actually good), it's also the only adaptation of the Berserk manga which feels "complete" in some way, shape or form. While I personally prefer the Golden Age Arc movies to the 1997 anime, the fact still remains that the latter are just that: films. While I do happen to like film adaptations in general, the fact still remains that there was a LOT more cut out of the movies than there was in the 90s TV series despite the vastly superior visuals. If you're a stickler for accuracy when it comes down to adaptations, the anime is definitely the way to go rather than the films. It baffles me as to why there has to be this sort of dichotomy between accuracy and visual quality but alack, there is and when it comes down to accuracy, the ugliest duckling wins hands-down. Oh if only it were the other way around :(
With all of that praise out of the way, let's get on with what Berserk fails at. Let's start out with the obvious: the animation. I've never watched Violence Jack, but I'm pretty sure that even Violence Jack has better animation than Berserk does a good majority of the time. HATUL will definitely disagree with me on this one, but there is absolutely NO excuse to have a show that came out post-1995 with animation that sucks even more than Neon Genesis Evangelion's at its absolute worst. We're talking about the anime that had its last two episodes re-using animation footage and animated in pencil, for God's sake! How the fuck is it even possible to beat Gainax when it comes down to cutting back on animating something?
Throughout the course of Berserk, there was not a single battle which was properly animated. I suppose the final three episodes are a partial exception, but even then... it's far too late in the series' run to actually excuse the fact that whenever someone makes an attack, it cuts away from the actual blow and just shows a blown-up and detailed art still before cutting back to the battle at hand. There's barely any gore at all, outside of a severed limb or two (if we're lucky) and all we ever really get are splashes of blood. I did say that the anime tones down on some of the more explicit stuff from the manga, but you see... I'm a guy who just absolutely adores carnage and if I'm denied my precious carnage, I get VERY salty. Say what you will about Evangelion, but at least Gainax had the sense reserve all their effort for the action. Here, it feels like the animators *barely* tried. At least shit's moving? I don't know what else to say, really.
As for the ending... anyone who's ever watched the anime shouldn't disagree with me on this one. I can handle the fact that there was a good deal of stuff left out from the manga (including characters like Puck and Skull Knight), and I can easily forgive the various changes made for the sake of adapting the manga efficiently. But what I absolutely CANNOT forgive is the fact that the anime ends on the most mortifying cliffhanger EVER with no attempt made to tie together the events of the first episode with what transpired in the rest of the show's run. We didn't even get so much as a sequel OVA or what have you which even tries to rectify this mistake. Say what you will about Samurai X: Reflection, but at least that was an attempt at RESOLUTION, which the 90s TV series has a glaring lack of.
Were it not for the incredibly atrocious animation and that complete middle finger of an ending, I'd easily recommend Berserk to anyone who's craving a good dark fantasy story. When it comes down to depth and complexity, Berserk easily has the edge over OTHER similar fantasy titles like Attack on Titan and Claymore. Hell... if you're able to forgive those two facts alone, you'll definitely love the everliving Christ out of this show. The fact still remains that most people probably won't, especially given that it's no better than a glorified trailer of the manga. Hell... it wouldn't even do you much good to pick up the manga where the anime left off because even though the manga's story remains intact for the most part, there were minor details that eventually become major that were left out ever since the anime began. Sure, I could tell you what these details are, but they wouldn't really make a lot of sense unless you actually read it.
With all of that in mind, Berserk gets a solid 7/10 from me, and let's face it... that's actually pretty generous especially when you look at exactly what we got. That shit ending REALLY affects any sort of re-watch value that the show might have had, the show is ugly as all hell and has extremely repulsive animation which REALLY won't sit right with people who've only watched newer shows that came out within the last 5-8 years. I'll admit that my initial impressions of the anime were INCREDIBLY hard to shake off and it took a LOT of effort on the behalf of one of my friends to actually get my views to change somewhat. But I just cannot agree with the praise that people give the 90s TV series despite all of these glaring flaws. This is a one-time watch, through and through and despite the massive amounts of praise the manga gets... the anime doesn't hold a candle to its source material and is incapable of standing alone like an anime adaptation *should* do.
If you really want to experience the story and characters of Berserk "properly," and want to know what happens post-Eclipse, do yourself a favour and read the manga.
Some helpful information.
- The Berserk manga is currently licensed in North America by Dark Horse Comics. To clear up a bit of a misconception, older Berserk volumes were once out-of-print up until late last year due to a lack of demand. Thankfully, Dark Horse got their shit together and actually re-printed them!
- The Berserk anime is currently unlicensed. It was once licensed by Media Blasters, but they lost the license a couple of years back. Official DVD copies are rare on Amazon and are non-existent on Right Stuf. The Berserk DVDs also have some of the most hilarious bloopers and outtakes I've ever seen.
- All three films in the Berserk: The Golden Age Arc trilogy are currently licensed by Viz Media and is available on Blu-ray and DVD. Let's hope that if Studio 4C does any more Berserk movies, Viz will be the one to license them all. Either them or Funimation, I'm good with either.
Epic storytelling comes in different forms to guarantee that it can achieve its goal of telling an intriguing story filled with plenty of mythology around it. In the realm of high fantasy, there are enough to go around these days. However, it does not often happen to come across a series that wants to create an intriguing, tragic tale of betrayal and fate, but also tries to appeal to the action crowd with blood inducing carnage. In which case, Berserk fits perfectly with this description in with good precision.
Like I mentioned before, the main themes that surround Berserk are how humanity cannot control its fate
and the consequences of betrayal of one’s brethren. We follow our main protagonist, Guts, and track his dark history from the past to the present where he joined a group of mercenaries to help with their conquests. The story emphasizes in great detail with the development of Guts as a strong character and also to the leading people of his mercenary group. His leader, Griffith is portrayed wonderfully as a tragic figure who reveled in leadership and power only to be sunk to the bottom after a broken relationship. There are no words to describe the absolute jaw-dropping climax near the end. It encapsulates the sadness and tragedy that makes you think of how this came up to be over one significant event. All of which are written solidly enough to make it worthy of being a prime example of tragedy done right.
Another character worthy of being praised is Casca. Her entire character is of a very robust woman in stature, and thankfully her role is handled maturely. Her relationship with Guts has a nice build up to their eventual romantic relationship, which feels incredibly poignant to the narrative and realistic to its core. Although Casca is the definite highlight of Berserk’s supporting cast, the rest don’t reach her higher standard of quality. It almost feels as though some of the people in the Hawks were just there to fill up the roster and nothing else. None of which seem to have much of an impression whenever they are on-screen. It is entirely possible that because Guts, Griffith, and Casca have so much charismatic presence in their roles that the rest seem like cardboard cut-outs. That can’t be a good excuse to at least try to make them somewhat noticeable or likable as our main heroes.
Most of what you hear about Berserk is the fact that it is heavy on the violence and gore. What ultimately saves it from being just a one-note gorehound show is how it feels right with the tone. There is no unnecessary level of carnage that all of the sudden sprouts up, it keeps it to where it can be perceived without any sign of problematic tonal shifts. Battle sequences put off so much blood that it practically blocks most of the screen on impact. They serve a purpose to capture the gritty nature and medieval fantasy lore that lives and reeks of danger.
Eventually, this leads off to the discussion of Berserk’s animation. While certainly not bad by any means, the animation does not put enough flair or style to the epic landscape and battles. The budget for the show was not up to snuff what the creative studio, Oriental Light and Magic, wanted to construct the art and animation. Several moments that involve odd and quirky animation movements in the action sequences and the character models look underdeveloped in specific animated sequences. The art design does, however, capture the great detail of the original manga’s gritty artwork. Showing the characters’ emotions look extremely dynamic and alive from how the art details anguish and despair so haunting from the story’s next climax.
In spite of the average animation budget, what is the opposite side of quality in the technical spectrum is the dramatic orchestral score. This being done by the acclaimed composer, Susumu Hirasawa, a man who has not composed much, but has been significant for the music for Paprika, Millennium Actress, and Paranoia Agent; all of which are directed by Satoshi Kon. I would not hesitate to compare Hirasawa to Yoko Kanna, who composed the music for Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell, in that they both love to experiment with different types of styles to their scores. For Berserk, Hirasawa manages to combine elements of soothing guitars tuned to a more ambient soundscape with standard orchestral music. I am combining them to make one hell of an ear full to take in, especially Guts Theme, which is one of the best highlights.
One controversial matter that pertains to the story of Berserk is the final episode. Without spoiling anything about what goes on in the ending itself, the way to describe the troubles that inflict comes from one simple reason: To make people read the manga. The ending itself peters out at the very end and comes off as really anti-climatic. Considering the events that were leading up to the conclusion were some of the most grueling and unsettling moments in the entire show, it just seemed like a cheap way to end a scenario of that magnitude. However, it is best not to sway the ending too much on the quality of the show and only mention it as a minor flaw to the narrative structure.
Berserk stands on the top of anime that could’ve had the intensity and power to become more of a masterpiece than it already was. Many ideas come with the story and its progression through each separate concept play off each other very well. Despite this, it only comes down on that dream by just a light step down. What is left is nothing short of a noble effort that, while not magnificent, can be admired for the brilliant character development and the story that goes with it. Yes, it is a pain that we have to read the manga to continue the story, but no one said life was fair.
This is my 100th review for MAL! Before I start this review, I want to thank all my MAL friends and everyone who has ever said that they enjoyed one of my reviews, as well as those that gave me the constructive criticism I needed to become a better reviewer and a better writer in general.
Today I will be looking at one of the most critically acclaimed, lauded anime of the last 25 years. Berserk is difficult to review because so many critics that are far more articulate than I am have already looked at it. What can I possibly say that hasn't been
said before? Probably not much, but I will try anyways. Fun fact: the words Berserker and Berserk come from the Norwegian poem Hrafnsmál, written by the Viking poet Þorbjörn Hornklofi in the 800s AD.
Oh and spoilers!!! Is it even possible someone hasn't seen Berserk?!
Before I dive into the story, I must first explain some background history. Berserk wasn't just another dark and moody medieval fantasy, it was in many ways rather revolutionary for fantasy as a genre! The Berserk manga came out during a time when much of fantasy was still trying to closely emulate Tolkien and Lewis. There were some darker fantasy authors like Zalazny that revelled in sinister schemes and dirty politics, but even he wasn't THAT dark in the end. In these fantasy novels there was good vs. evil and good always won in the end. There were evil men, but Mankind was unquestionably good as a whole. Berserk started as a manga in 1990, a full 6 years before the first Game of Thrones novel was released and made dark fantasy the norm, completely changing how the West writes fantasy novels. Berserk was a trend setter and a series with some serious balls!
Berserk is the tale of a badass, ruthless mercenary named Guts who wields a giant sword and slaughters everyone with his unstoppable rage and fury. The title Berserk is a reference to the medieval Berserkers on whom Guts was based. Guts was found under a corpse hanging from a tree and was brought up as a child soldier by a complete douchebag named Gambino! Gambino not only abuses Guts and forces him to fight to the death at age 9, he even sells Guts for a night to a Moorish warrior, who brutally rapes him. Fortunately, Guts later commits patricide and lives out 1/2 of the Freudian dream. Guts later joins a mercenary band called the Hawks after losing a duel to its fabulously gay leader Griffith. The Hawks do very well as a group and kick some serious ass before many are slaughtered fighting a giant demon that calls itself Zodd the Immortal! Zodd is one of the most badass characters in the history of anime. He gets his arm cut off and beats the shit out of Griffith with his own severed arm, as a sort of reverse Beowulf. Zodd is about to kill Guts and Griffith, but he notices Griffith's weird and freaky necklace and mysteriously buggers off. After the Hawks win the war that had been raging for 100 years, there is a fallout between Guts and Griffith and Guts leaves the Hawks. This really effects Griffith, who is heavily hinted to have romantic feelings for Guts. Griffith decides to channel his rage into banging the princess for no reason, even though this is a horrible idea and completely out of character for the cold, calculating Griffith. However, the writer needed the plot to advance. Griffith is captured by the king's guards, tortured, and kept in a dungeon for a year before the rest of the Hawks find Guts and get him to help them rescue Griffith. At first Griffith contemplates living life as a cripple with Casca looking after him, but he decides instead to use his magic necklace to summon 4 Arch-Demons and sacrifice all of his loyal followers in order to become the 5th Arch Demon and form the final “finger of the God Hand”. Griffith does this because…if you haven’t figured it out yet Griffith is a HUGE asshole! Griffith even celebrates the occasion by raping Casca in front of Guts while demons hold him down, simply because he knows Guts loves Casca and that would piss him off. The anime ends with a massive “fuck you” ending to the audience and fades to black with Guts screaming in agony. In the manga it explains how Guts and Casca escape Deus Ex Machina style with the help of the “Skull Knight” whom the author uses shamelessly whenever he has written himself into a corner.
Honestly, I felt the manga really goes downhill and becomes increasingly generic as the mangaka seems to give less of a shit every year. It has been going on for 20 years now and the chances of it ending with a satisfactory conclusion are virtually zero. The Eclipse ending at least completes Griffith’s transformation to evil and ends as a strong parable for the corrupting effects of power. Although the Godfather did this a bit better in my opinion because Michael started out likeable and wanted to NOT go into the family business. Griffith ALWAYS wanted to rule the world and was a complete sociopath from the time we met him. In a flashback from Casca, we are shown that at one time he cared about his men and was even willing to sell himself sexually to an old man in order to get war funds rather than risk his men in raids. However, apart from this one flashback in a single episode, Griffith is basically a complete douchebag and this lessens the impact that his turn to evil has on the audience.
The characters in Berserk are quite memorable and like the plot were HIGHLY influential on anime that followed. Let’s look at Guts character. He is an ex- child soldier with a highly abusive father figure that hates him because he blames Guts for the death of his wife and eventually tries to kill Guts. The impact of his own father trying to kill him makes Guts steel his heart to the point that he is physically repulsed by human contact. As stated by Griffith, “Guts kills simply to confirm his own existence and test the strength of his will”. All of these traits and the EXACT SAME backstory were used in Naruto for the character Gaara! Guts’ giant sword was also the main inspiration for Cloud’s giant sword in Final Fantasy 7. Griffith is one of the most famous anime antagonists of all time! He is up there with Char, Johan, Light, and a short list of legendary anime bad guys that everyone has at least heard of. Casca was a fairly strong female role that didn’t conform to anime stereotypes and was pretty badass. That is until after getting raped she loses her memory and becomes Nyuu from Elfen Lied, only worse. However, that is just the manga and I am reviewing the anime today. Other supporting characters include everyone’s favorite Judo, Pippin the strong man, and Corkas who is the comic relief asshole because this series really needed more assholes! Also Sir Adon was already the comic relief asshole, so I am really unsure why Corkas needed to exist. Overall, a strong and memorable character cast.
The art in Berserk is at least better than the god awful CGI in the first movie, but it is still honestly quite poor. The use of still frames and recycled animation is worse than DBZ and Berserk was made in 1997 with a decent budget and only 26 episodes. Eva was made 2 years earlier than Berserk and had WAY better animation…except for the last 2 episodes that is. At least the character designs for the main characters are solid, although extras tend to all have the same face.
A lot of people really like the Berserk OST, but unfortunately I am not one of them! I thought it was rather mediocre for the most part. It doesn’t have a lot of diversity and uses the same decent quality pieces over and over again like the track “Behilit”, which is played more often than “Rocky Top” at a UT Volunteers game!
Parts of the show are truly entertaining, while other sections can get a little slow in my opinion. Also the extremely pessimistic outlook of the series can get quite wearisome. There is a reason that most stories offer if not a happy ending, at least some kind of hope or bittersweet. Berserk is like a Greek Tragedy of old and this can be fairly hard to write. As mentioned before, the author really should have not done the present day stuff, scrapped Puck, and just had the Golden Age arc as a modern day Greek tragedy. That would have done much better in preserving the series artistic integrity and legacy in anime history.
Overall: 8/10: (10+10 +5+6+7)/5 = 7.6 rounding to 8
Many prominent anime critics including JesuOtaku and Bennet the Sage consider Berserk to be the single greatest anime of all time. I…am not one of those that think that. I highly respect Berserk and think it is a very good series, but it has some flaws and I can’t really consider it the greatest ever. In addition, Berserk doesn’t quite “hit the spot” for me as far as my personal tastes go. Overall though, I would HIGHLY recommend watching this series.
The first thing I’m going to say about Berserk is that you really don’t get the full effect of what you’re watching until you finish it.
It was one of the first anime I watched as an adult and at the time I was just looking for something with a bit of violence and gore but I ended up with much more than that.
The story I’m not going to talk too much about. There are a few differences between the manga and anime but the characters are the same. And it’s with the characters that this story draws you in. the first
episode may have people believing its going to be shallow, nothing more than a large man ripping monsters to bits. Watch beyond it. After I watched it I wanted to know others opinions on it, so I started reading up on it on review sites. What I found was a lot of reviewers saying how they regretted giving up on it after the first few episodes and leaving it so long before they gave it the chance it deserved.
I’ll try to provide some insight into the story without giving away too much. Its set during a sort of medieval setting, with kingdoms at war and mercenaries for hire to do battle. This story follows a group of such mercenaries known as the Band of the Hawk. They are led by an ambitious man called Griffith. A leader so charismatic that those who join the band of the hawk become swept up in his ambitions, his crew admire him and want him to realise his dream. Joining Griffiths army is the protagonist Guts. Griffith and Guts develop a sorta bromance (wish I didn’t have to use that word) with Guts not only becoming Griffiths best general but one of the few people Griffith respect almost equally. There relationship is hard to explain without me writing pages about the characters. Basically the anime is a series of skirmishes between armies and some politics, all of which are just set pieces to strengthen the bond between the Band of the Hawks. Until Guts leaves the Hawks, to try and make himself someone who isn’t just following another mans dreams but has dreams of their own. His departure causes consequences for the Hawks that couldn’t be foreseen. Resulting in ending that hits you because you cared what happened to these characters.
Each of the lead characters were fleshed out by how they grew to care for each other and how its revealed the ways they ended up joining and respecting Griffith.
The art style in the anime suits the setting and character perfectly. Its well animated most of the time with it occasionally going into a still painting effect. The first time I saw it do this it bothered me but then it became part of the atmosphere and somewhat appropriate.
I watched the dub and felt that all the actors did their roles well, their voices appropriate for their characters. Some of the music was fantastic, actually above the bar of what I had expected for this series.
About halfway through this review I realised how long it was getting so I’ll stop now and just say that if it ever gets continued that I hope the company that does it keeps it as similar to this as possible. I would love for it to continue and it to seem like it had never ended in the first place.
It's bad anime. It is below averange level for grown-up people.
I didin't read the manga, I don't know how's with it, but this anime is bad. If you haven't watched it, you can of course but I tell you - go with some other series with high rating. You won't waste a day of your life this way.
I don't know what do people that claims it to be 10/10 see in it, maybe it's because they loved the manga or they watched it in school and feel a sentiment.
Well I didn't read it and I'm not in schoolage, and here's how it looks for me:
Good thing in it for me at least is medieval setting, knights, kings, castles and all - wich can be in some degree enjoyable.
Now bad things:
It's not so easy to stand the old-fashioned art and poor animation it has but it's somehow understandable as this series has its years (although it's not SO old). Anyway it could be not a flaw if the plot and the feeling were good. (or awesome like in Cowboy Beebop)
But the story is infantile. The unvincible hero with posture of a bodybuilder, silly and kind of funny combat scenes, flat dialogues, not much of depth - what's this? He-man? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? I bet I would be enjoing this like hell... if I was 10 years old. I would write in this review it's kind of cartoon for kids and if you're a teenager go ahead and watch it but what with all this bloody violence and the final rape scene? Then for who this anime is except Berserk manga fans? It's just poor.
I could count many examples of its silliness but take this one. What's with this name of the main character - Guts? Give me a break. With his posture and overall macho image in anime it would've been good if this series were mentioned to be humorous. But it attempts to be serious. And he's running, swinging his big sword, defeating countless groups of enemies by himself. Again - stuff for kids. If there were some humorous thing about it, some wink or just another interesting things in this anime it could've been different. But there's no such thing!
Opening theme is silly for my taste so my personal sound raiting goes down a little too.
In summary it can be a little entertaining but it absolutely can't be compared to other high rated anime like Samurai Champloo, Cowboy Beebop, Genshiken or whatsoever, you get the point. It doesn't deserve even 8/10 and it's for sure no masterpiece.