Sunday, July 21, 2013

Anime review: "Berserk"

"Berserk" is among the first anime I have ever watched (among first 10, of more than 200 that I watched until now) and it was one of my favorite ever. I even read the manga, at least the published volumes at the time. Curiously, the manga is still ongoing after more than 20 years! So when I saw that something new from the franchise has been coming out, I was excited. My excitement waxed when I saw it was a collection of three movies with the same material as the original anime series, but there was no chance in me missing that. So when the movies were finally dubbed, I jumped right at them...

These three movies in "Berserk" franchise depict the youth of the main protagonist, Guts. A parent-less child, he has grown up with a mercenary band and later become a freelancer wielding in impossibly big sword. During one his jobs, a siege, he single-handedly slays a famous mercenary. This attracts the attention of the Band of the Hawk and their charismatic leader, young Griffith. Initial reluctant, Guts is forced to join them, but later he distinguishes himself and become one of the leaders, strucking a great friendship with Griffith and love-hate relationship with Casca, another young, but female leader. The Band exploits the long-lasting war between Tudor and Midland, so much that King of Midland promotes them to nobility...

I realized that I almost described the whole plot of the movies... The reason for it is that these three movies depict only the "Golden Age arc", which is only the prequel of this story. The real action actually starts after, but this story is also very interesting. Especially when the more fantastic elements of it come forward: the Crimson Behelit, Zodd the Immoral, the God Hand... After mostly classical medieval fighting anime, this aspect of anime is very surprising and increases the tensions... Especially when the Eclipse comes!

"Berserk" belongs to dark fantasy and action genres, with lots of fighting, blood and violence. It is somewhere between shounen and seinen series. I really liked the setting, which changes much from realistic medieval to full fantasy, including a lot of themes. As setting, character change and grow (or descend) during the anime. It is no wonder this is one of most appreciated mange for lots of people.

But this is all applicable to the series itself; but what about these three movies?

The movies are pretty much true to the manga, but they skip some of the details. To those unfamiliar to prior anime or manga, this shouldn't mean much by itself. But on the other way, the original anime, "Kenpuu Denki Berserk", which was 25 episodes long, had much more room to show details and establish a more complex setting and provide the viewers with full "Berserk" experience.

Also, the "Golden Age" arc is not the beginning of "Berserk" manga. Mange starts with current Guts (I will avoid spoilers) and his fight against Apostles, and then he has a long flashback to his past - which is actually the "Golden Age" arc. Original anime follows this principle so it is more successful in hooking new fans. These movies concentrate solely on the "Golden Age" which, in my opinion, is poorer choice. Because, if they have any attention to continue the plot with new movies (and I read rumors that they do plan so), they will be forced to skip this part.

One of the most notable aspects of this anime is the very extensive use of CGI animation. While I don't like it myself, some people do - but I think that most will agree it was done not so good here. It just doesn't look natural. It has some advantages, like that architecture is very detailed and realistic, but moving people are just bad and too generic.

The anime stays true to violent nature of "Berserk", which means that there is a lot (really, a lot) of blood, nudity, sex, violence. When I saw the animation, I though they will "adapt" the show to wider audience; but they didn't and I appreciate that.

I don't remember the music from the original anime, but here is very good.

The final verdict? Even though I liked this new adaptation of "Berserk", I would not really recommend it. For those unfamiliar to the series, I would direct them to the original anime "Kenpuu Denki Berserk", which captures the feeling and experience of manga much better - this version is inferior in this respect. The movies are not bad, but I would really recommend the only to those who haven't watched or read "Berserk" for long time and just want a quick reminder. To everybody else, go watch the original.

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