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AKA: ベルセルク 黄金時代篇I 覇王の卵 (Berserk - Ougon Jidai Hen I - Haou no Tamago); Berserk - The Golden Age Arc I: The High King's Egg
Genre: Epic medieval fantasy
Length: Movie, 77 minutes
Distributor: Licensed in North America by Viz Entertainment
Content Rating: 16+ (nudity, violence)
Related Series: Berserk (TV), Berserk: The Golden Arc - The Battle for Doldrey (upcoming), Berserk: The Golden Arc: Descent (upcoming)
Also Recommended: Berserk
Notes: This movie is a new adaptation of the manga of the same name by Kentaro Miura, which was previously covered in the Berserk TV series.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars

Berserk: The Golden Arc - The Egg of the King

Synopsis

Guts is a young and highly skilled mercenary living in a medieval era of the Midland monarchy. During the siege of a castle, he catches the attention of Griffith, leader of a mercenary army called Band of the Hawk. As the two meet again, Guts ends up joining the notorious group.


Review

One of my favorite anime series of all time is Berserk, and for good reason. Berserk is a gritty, brutal, and epic fantasy tale of ambition, betrayal, and plenty of gory violence to go around for the more bloodthirsty fans of anime. For every ounce of blood in the action scenes, however, Berserk puts just as much thought and energy into character development and into creating a sprawling larger-than-life story of two men whose lives are changed forever by their aspirations of greatness and how those aspirations led to tragedy.

When the news of a Berserk film was in the works and that this film was going to be a more faithful adaptation of the masterpiece manga, I was ecstatic. The film was released in Japan a year ago and it was only until now that I was given the chance to see it. This begs the question; does it live up to the hype of the media and the overall expectations of this reviewer? For the most part, yes. But - there are some issues I have with it as well, sad to say.

Most of the time, when it comes to bad news, people want to hear it first, so I will follow protocol and do just that. In terms of animation, Berserk was put together by Studio 4°C, which has decided to meld CGI together with traditional 2D animation. This is not a problem for me, since such methods have been used by animation within the last two decades and sometimes this method really looks spiffy. Berserk: Egg of the King is not one of those times of such melding working well. In fact, it looks tacky a lot of the time. This film almost completely uses computer animation in all of the massive war scenes and then switches back to traditional animation. The CGI itself is of a lower quality as well, rendering characters that look more like clumsily moving marionettes than swift and powerful warriors. I guess the reason why the animators wanted to showcase the larger battle scenes using CGI, is that it might have been an easier form of animation to use and would require less work, but the film suffers as a whole when animation corners are cut.

On the flipside, when the animation transitions into 2D, it is truly a work of art. The backgrounds are lush and vibrant, giving the gritty world of the original work a much needed fresh coat of gorgeous paint. The one on one battles in the film are done in traditional animation, and the movements of the characters are more fluid and pleasant to look at. Overall, the battles, be they man to man, or army against army, are epic in every sense of the word—Its just that the two dimensional side of the spectrum wins out in the technical department.
Story wise, this anime is a double edged sword (no pun intended) as well. Considering that this is a film adaptation of a thirty-six volume magnum opus manga series, it is needless to say in order to make the first film seventy-seven minutes long, it was required to cut back on the original story. A lot. Berserk: Egg of the King is essentially a Cliff's-Notes version of the Berserk saga, and presents only what is completely absolutely necessary to the storyline to move itself along. This is a good and bad thing.

While it does condense a lot of the story into a more cohesive whole, and the pacing of the feature is faster and concise, it takes away a lot of the emotional edge of the original work. In the original Berserk, there were a lot of emotionally charged moments that are just lost in the transition to feature-length film. The film is also not too kind to newcomers of the saga, since it hints at scenes of Guts's past from the original series through the use of dreams, presenting them in the most ambiguous fashion. Only the established fans of Berserk will understand what is going on.

Moving along to a more positive note, the music to this anime is superb and as much as I fervently enjoy the work of Susumu Hirasawa on the original Berserk series, I find the score of this film to be more refined. This time around, Hirasawa has some help from the talented Shiro Sagisu, and the result is awesome. While Hirasawa's work on the original anime is more along the lines of having a rougher synthesized sound, this film's music fits a little better with its fantasy motif by utilizing an epic orchestral score that has become ubiquitous with fantasy films.

The final verdict I have on this anime is that while it is a much needed reboot of a anime classic, I felt that it could have been better. Do not think that this is a bad anime, it is a good one, but in hindsight it could have been a great one if some extra care was taken in terms of the art, and a little more time was taken to develop the overall story. However, it is worth the time and I more than likely will be watching the next three films.

A more lush and vibrant Berserk reboot that fans have been waiting for, with a weaker than expected focus on character development, and haphazard use of computer animation. All in all, it is truly a work for the die-hard fans of the original. Add an extra star if you are one of those fans. Dallas Marshall

Recommended Audience: A bloody and violent anime with some nudity and intense battles. Keep the kiddies away from this one!



Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Berserk: The Golden Arc - The Egg of the King © 2012 Warner Brothers / Berserk Film Partners
 
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