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.
Berserk is perfect.