A wandering swordsman by the name of Guts (or Gatsu, the phonetic spelling of the Japanese pronunciation for Guts) joins a group of mercenaries known as The Band of the Hawk. It is here that Guts meets Griffith, the charismatic, intelligent leader of The Band of the Hawk. After a grueling sword fight, they become allies and fight for power against many armies on a quest for greatness. The victories of Griffith's band only bring him closer to the throne. Unfortunately, there are many who will stop at nothing to crush Griffith's goal.
One day, in a Best Buy far away from home, I was searching around for some DVDs. Looking for a new TV series to invest it, I came across Berserk. Generally speaking, opinions of this series have been quite positive. So, based upon that, I bought the first volume and watched it immediately. After this viewing, I swore to myself never to see it again. The beginning was violent, dark, angsty, and showed little to no promise for future episodes.
A friend of mine, despite my futile recommendations to not get it, did so and force-fed me the rest of the series. The force feeding became enjoyment because Berserk had some of its best episodes in the middle of the season. One of Berserk's major flaws is that it has an awful beginning, but a slew of enjoyable episodes midway through the season. To see how good this is, you must stick it out.
Berserk, like many other series, is heavily driven by the strength of the personalities of the starring characters. Originally, they come off as cliches rather than anything original, but that changes after the aforementioned shaky beginning. Guts goes from the typical hack and slash, invincible swordsman to a man with a dark and angsty past that he just can't get away from. Griffith goes from charismatic bishounen to a man who's past he'd wish he could forget, and Caska's past contains physical and psychological abuse that no one should experience. She eventually shifts away from her bitchy personality to a frail and frightened woman. The other minor characters are very real. Their main purpose may be to kill, but there are instances that show the life of a combatant when there is no actual battling to be done, something that a lot of series tend to leave in the dust. It gives a sense of realism to the anime and makes it all the more interesting.
But what makes the characters so much better are their interactions. When Guts and Griffith fight together on the battlefield, they complement each other perfectly. They each win, but in a different manner. Guts uses his gargantuan sword, brute strength and an incredible resistance to just about everything while Griffith uses his sharp intellect and quickness to put his enemies to rest.
Unfortunately, the more technical bits are only average, if not a bit below average. First off, the opening and ending themes are downright atrocious and really should never have been created, much less used in a series so dark and angsty. I mean if you like poorly synchronized music and very poor English, the themes will be right up your alley. Luckily, the rest of the music is quite impressive. The song "Forces", played during the preview of the next episode, is one of the best pieces of music Berserk has to offer and in my opinion, should have been the opening theme for the series rather than "Tell Me Why", as it is far more fitting than anything else could be.
Sadly, the ending leaves a lot to be desired. Berserk ended its run long before the manga even came close to an end (as a matter of fact, it is running in Japan as we speak), so the end was very, very open-ended. As a matter of fact, Miura Kentarou, manga artist for Berserk actually stated that the real story doesn't start until around volume 25. The TV series for Berserk ended long before that. This was a major cause of rumors of a second season of Berserk, which are entirely false.
If you can get past the shaky start, you'll be in for a treat. Berserk is worth at least a viewing.
If battlefield angst is not up your alley, go get a shoujo series and remove a star or two. — Robert Nelson
Recommended Audience: This show is extremely violent. Berserk is not a synonym for light and fluffy. People die very brutally, by the sword or otherwise. There's also quite a bit of strong language, nudity, implied homosexuality, and implied rape of minors. Obviously, this pushes its 16+ rating to the limit, this is properly equivalent to a hard R.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (25/26)
Berserk © 1998 Kentarou Miura / Hakusensha / VAP / NTV
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