Sep 4, 2010
Moonlith (All reviews)
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Perhaps one point of criticism for some could be the outdated artstyle.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.