Berserk Anime Review
/ TV Series / Action / 16-up
Will destroy any notion of normality and cuteness in anime; doesn't come highly recommended enough.
...A humorless Fist of the North Star does epic fantasy.
WOW. That is a pretty good initial description of this 25 episode anime based upon a slice of Kentaro Miura's original manga. This dark fantasy anime is the best of its genre, and is the anime which revived me from my anime-rut. From the opening episode Berserk had me glued.
Berserk's basic plotline, as implied above, focuses on the hardships of the protagonist's, Guts, life and the loss of everything he knew close to his heart, and the continuous struggle for survival. Throughout the story, elements of Betrayal, one's Destiny, Demonic Horror and wild fantasy emerge. However, two major ideas emerge from these coalescing aspects - following one's dream and altering one's destiny. Guts, of course, exemplifies these ideas, extremely, and often ponders about his thoughts to the viewers openly throughout the anime.
However, even though the anime only covers a small portion of Miura's 25 volume (and counting) manga, and follows the original source material closely in plot details, numerous attributes of the manga, such as the excessive violence and rape has been toned down, with even several key characters being removed. Certain episodes are affected more than others, with one episode later in the series being majorly edited. This will only affect Berserk purists, however, the anime allows itself to stand upright on its own. This would even, I believe, provoke more people to seek out the manga version for themselves.
Secondly, the opening episode is actually set AFTER the final episode. Majority of reviewers of Berserk have criticized this move, but I believe it enhances the experience, as it pushes viewers to find what happened to Guts' and realize that he is re-experiencing this himself as he reminisces about the events which lead to the pilot episode.
Berserk is an extremely dark, horrific, violent world. Nothing is sacred. Pedophilia, rape, murder, assassinations, conspiracies run rife throughout the Berserk world. This show does not hide any cuteness at all. Guts' life are testament to this, such as being born from his dead mother's womb, and forced to kill his adoptive father, and the way he kills his opponents in battle with graphic detail. This attitude is one of the major reasons of why Berserk attracts me so. No holds barred. This show is not for kiddies who do not understand why Uncle Guts hacked off the nice man's arm off. The red cell count runs rife in Berserk, but is not done in a manner to promote more viewers a la Ninja Resurrection. It plays a very key element in the storyline which will reveal itself in due course of the series.
Whilst in this dark world, every character in Berserk has his/her own background which explains his/her reasoning throughout the story, from simple excuse of survival to deeper thought provoking situations. This gives each character a sense of purpose throughout the anime, and all add to the overall affect of the storyline of Guts' life.
The animation quality throughout the series is well done for a TV series, with original cels utilized I believe instead of the more modern trend of computer aided design. So don't compare it to Love Hina or any modern anime series. The characters are extremely well defined, as is the clothing and weaponry throughout the series. At the end of the series, I knew each character by name, clothing, and weaponry. However, throughout the series, recycled cels are utilized, especially in battle scenes. This was no problem in my opinion, as every anime production is on a strict budget, but it wasn't detrimental on the anime.
Another gripe I have came across in reviews is the number of still frame shots with in the anime, to save actual animation. Many criticize it as a revenue saving exercise (which it is) but in Berserk's case I believe it enhances the moment in which it is utilized, which is usually a defining moment in Guts' journey. This gives a perception of history taking place, a unique character defining moment in which Guts' actions transcend all time and space and human barriers. (That was freaky ain't it?)
The English dub was fairly well done, and I enjoyed Guts' voice actor. But however, throughout the anime, I swear I continually heard "surfer dude" stereotype voices. That doesn't bode well with me in the context of a dark fantasy medieval world. The Japanese acting was superbly done. Guts' seiyuu Hayashi Nobutoshi, who voiced Nekki Basara in Macross 7 and Parn in Record of Lodoss Wars was excellent. A true standout in my opinion, which was excellent since the anime focused on his character of yet trying to confine it to a review would be, well, impossible. Berserk is Guts.
Writing a review for Berserk was difficult for me. There was so much I wanted to say and a series which will grab you and pull you in. However, this is not for those who expect at least ONE character who is cute and normal. Berserk will destroy any notion of normality and cuteness in anime again. Berserk doesn't come highly recommended enough.