Jun 24, 2009
JesuOtaku_ (All reviews)
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.


Thanks for reading!