Time, being an unforgiving element of existence, eventually swallows all. This is a strange yet indisputable law that goes unspoken yet is known to all. Human kind can retain knowledge of the past in various forms, but eventually time comes to take it all. In one way or another the past will be devoured, forgotten to many, altered to some, helplessly held onto by all. Thus is one burden of life, a component of reality that cannot be overcome, and so we learn to live alongside it.
Kentaro Miura’s Berserk tells a story that, for all intents and purposes, should have been taken by the passage of time long ago, lost to modern minds, left only in the memories of those that once experienced it…but the tale woven throughout the cult-classic is one that defies what it is I’ve just detailed: Some things, though very much of this Earthly realm, remain even against the ruinous nature of time. While some memories fade, scars do not, and when the brand you bear is a constant reminder of the apocalypse and the death of what you once were…it will take more than time to erase something carved so deep into your soul.
I would like to extend a special thank you to Madman Entertainment for allowing us the opportunity to review the re-release of the highly-acclaimed original Berserk Anime series.
In the castle town of Midland, a new king has come to power through treachery and violence. His demonic agents victimize the citizens unchecked, until the night when a battle weary soldier approaches the city.
Covered in a slew of weapons and countless jagged scars, he calls himself the Black Swordsman. The sword he carries is the size of his grudge against the king, and he hunts the servants of evil with unrelenting fury. – Madman Entertainment
Berserk tells what is, on paper, a very simple story: It has a moderately-paced progression that hits all the standard notes, but ends in a way that will leave audiences in nothing less than absolute shock and awe. THIS is Berserk’s defining element. The final arc of the series, which covers one grander arc, is one full of gore, horror, and sexual domination, unlike anything audiences have seen before. While Berserk, throughout it’s prior episodes, is indeed an Anime that simply doesn’t pull punches, it is it’s final few episodes that will remain for many years to come as the most memorable aspect of the series. Up until that point, though, what you’re met with is very much a standard Dark Fantasy storyline.
Most of the characters throughout the series play similar roles to one another: If they’re not doubting Guts and exclaiming that they despise him, they’re complementing Griffith on his ability to lead and/or his pure battle prowess. Guts and Griffith are truly the only two to actually feature any realistic character development. Secondary characters like Casca, Rickert, and Judeau eventually show signs of growth, but it is only at the very end of the series and, in my humble opinion, far past the time wherein which it actually counts.
When watching Berserk, you’re essentially watching the evolution of Guts and Griffith, anyone else featured as a part of their story is exactly that…just a part. Nothing more. To be honest though…it’s their story that you want to see the most, so in a way the series is just giving us what we want. Still, I would have liked to have seen more depth in it’s characters. When comparing this series to the new trio of films; overall growth across the entire character cast is much more obvious and enjoyable, but seeing as I’m here reviewing the series, well…you know.
Being a product of the 90s, Berserk doesn’t have the best visuals, especially when compared not only to today’s Anime but more specifically when compared to that of the aforementioned film series. Berserk is dated, to say the very least, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be enjoyed. Much like Sailor Moon, it takes a certain level of open-mindedness to deal with the lacklustre animation quality of the time, but if you’re like me and somewhat of a completionist, it is a necessity for you to experience this series alongside everything that was produced after it; the films and the new, also lacklustre Anime series.
Thankfully what Berserk does have is a fantastically sombre soundtrack that lends itself well to both scenes of utter carnage and scenes of bleak sadness. It is a soundtrack with gravitas that forces your attention with every new track played. It is, unfortunately, the series’ only good auditory aspect considering the English voice acting performances that left much to be desired. To be fair; Christopher Kromer, who leant his talents to the character Guts, was a standout cast member. His screams, be they related to physical or mental pain, were breathtaking, and his natural acting style made Guts actually somewhat relatable, if you can believe that. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast simply could not keep up.
Berserk is simply one of those Animes that, despite what time has done to it, will continue to be popular. Guts is seen as one of the most formidable Anime characters of all time, and the story the series tells is one that, despite what I said, is compelling. You want to complete it, you want to see it all the way to the very end, and when you do all you want is to see what happens next. This is Berserk. It starts off slow but ends on a heavy note that leaves you feeling weighed down by some metaphysical force powered by raw emotion. This is Berserk.
For Madman Entertainment to release such a wonderful Limited Edition version of the series in this day and age is one hell of a good mood. The series is far more popular now than it ever was. Not only do we have a set of three brand-new films based on the events of the original Anime, we also have a contemporary Anime that tells the rest of the story, and despite the fact that many consider it to be a visually terrible addition to this series’ long lineage…they’re still watching, because it’s getting a second season.
Berserk will remain popular for years and years to come. If you’re a fan of the new movies, and you’re a fan of the new series, than I’m sure you’ll be a fan of the original. Granted, it IS dated, but those of you out there with the capacity to enjoy Berserk will enjoy it regardless of it’s presentation. Essentially, this series is your chance to experience what captivated audiences in the late 90s, what started this series on it’s illustrious journey, and what inspired many modern Anime series’ like it.
The only step now is go back even further and read the Manga, but before that I would suggest this; the original series. It’s not perfect, but nothing in this world is. Time may have taken away some of it’s worth, but it hasn’t taken it all, and there’s much to be gained through experiencing it. Berserk is Berserk, no matter what year, no matter what generation, no matter what time has done to it. This is Berserk.
Madman Entertainment are now selling Berserk: Series Collection (Limited Edition) on their online store: Click Here