While I would have liked to begin with a witty, intellectual line about how great Berserk is, I just couldn't find the right words to do it. For some reason, Berserk defies any attempts at clever analysis, meaning that I'm left with no option but to say it how I feel: Berserk is hands down one of the best anime around. It may not turn out to be one of your top favourites; it may put you off with its dated appearance; and heck, its final episode is likely to leave you royally pissed. Regardless, I'll bet you any amount you name that it will still knock your socks off.
As unfair as it seems in hindsight, Berserk's opening scenario of innocent tavern girls getting bullied and monsters terrorising villages reminded me too much of some of the demon hentai I've come across. Needless to say, my expectations of Berserk thereafter hit rock bottom; by the end of the first episode, however, I had changed my mind all over again. What I discovered was that while the setting looked like a shit idea, the character and plot developments were something else altogether. Gatts' encounter with the demon lord in the first episode instantly raises the question of how a man could be so remorseless, and the subsequent flashback begins the epic story that provides the answer.
What is surprising about Berserk's plot is how well its various elements come together: take the story of a man who wants greatness at all cost; add a corresponding tale of a man who thinks of nothing but fighting his next battle; stir vigorously with demons and gore; sprinkle some ingenious military-political manoeuvres on top, and what you get is a potent blend of fantasy action. Moreover, Berserk has a knack for pacing and structure; just when I think the messianic plot themes and cataclysmic battles couldn't be more melodramatic, Berserk presents a touching flashback during which the characters reveal something interesting about their pasts. I'm not usually a fan of flashbacks since they interrupt the flow of a story, but in Berserk's case, they feel more like a vital part of the experience than a convenient plot device. For example, the story of Caska's first encounter with Griffith had me glued to the screen as intently as any of the scenes of clashing armies and monster fights. In fact, Berserk had me so engrossed that every episode felt like it ended ten minutes too early.
This only leaves one glaring problem, namely the fact that it doesn't end. I can't emphasise this strongly enough, but Berserk comes to the kind of screeching halt that could feed a rant for pages and pages. The anime covers perhaps a quarter of the manga's plot, and to make things worse, it stops halfway through an arc! Even pre-warned I still wasn't prepared for just how abrupt the ending turned out to be. For many, the disappointment will be acute; and for that kind of pain, I can only recommend the manga as a cure, which continues with the same (if not better) level of quality.
Apart from the extravagant monster designs, Berserk's concept looks lifted straight out of some generic high fantasy novel; with knights in full armour, moats and castles, shining fairies, and swords aplenty, there is really nothing too exceptional about Berserk's European universe.
At its worst, Berserk suffers from an impoverished budget, which is evident considering the frequent use of still shots and the low number of frames in some of the action scenes. I have never been particularly bothered by either of these flaws if the story is good enough, and in that regard, Berserk more than compensates.
Problems aside, some of the character concepts are pleasantly surprising; Griffith's icy appearance, Caska's unusually dark skin, and Gatts' rippling build and oversized sword are instantly eye-catching. Also, while the action sequences may not be much more than adequate when compared to more recent anime, I do like their gritty approach to violence.
Berserk's soundtrack is not particularly varied; almost all of the intense scenes with a score use only a slight variation of the same theme. However, the little there is makes for a pleasant listening experience and never gets old despite the repetition. Besides, the lack of variety is probably due to the fact that Berserk relies far more on natural background noise to create tension.
Although faced with a script that is occasionally laden with cheese, Berserk's Japanese voice actors still manage to deliver some truly emotional dialogue. For instance, the villains issue macho threats and chuckle with nefarious delight, but the protagonists tend to have serious tones which are full of subtle nuances. Notably, Griffith has a softer voice than I expected, although it fits his cool, intelligent demeanour like a glove and even makes him seem doubly sinister on occasion. Predictably, the American cast are only half as good; I could only stomach a few episodes of their daytime drama acting. If possible, avoid them at all cost.
What is impressive about Berserk is that it has no weak cast members to speak of; not one of them falls short of delivering a convincing performance. Granted, the stock characters such as Princess Charlotte remain far less developed than the protagonists, but they still manage to fit the story to a tee. As for the central characters, they are unexpectedly complex and emotionally engaging on every level:
Gatts is a traditional tortured hero type who carries the burdens of a dubious origin and a disturbed past. What makes him a great lead character despite being a stereotype on the surface is that he embodies, in the bluntest way, what makes a person likeable; he has a raw, honest personality which, despite his reticence, still comes across as touchingly vulnerable. Besides, he may not be people-friendly, but he kicks a lot of arse and he saves people, and he does it all with a sword twice his size.
Griffith, as far as the anime is concerned, is probably Berserk's strongest standalone element (in the manga, Gatts is definitely more interesting). He is beautiful like an angel and radiates the kind of charisma that moves armies and topples kingdoms; what's more, he is inhumanly cunning and generally the kind of character you can fall for over and over again. However, the guy is also undeniably fucked up. As Griffith leads the Band of the Hawk to glory and wins hearts as well as minds, there is always an element of doubt concerning his true intentions; of course, this only serves to make him all the more engaging.
As the only female to have a significant role, Caska exceeded my initial expectations; she doesn't have big tits or bare long legs, and she has both common sense and superb fighting skills. Intelligent, a leader within the Hawks, and harbouring an intense loyalty to Griffith, she is a character with a distinct purpose. Caska's only downfall is that, as the series progresses, she gets forced back into a predictably misogynistic role.
With regards to the supporting cast, the members of the Band of the Hawk are easily the most memorable, with Judeau ranking as my favourite; whilst he may be young and have relatively little screen time, his wisdom and perceptiveness when it comes to his comrades is refreshing. Corkus, on the other hand, is another great character whose relentless dislike of Gatts provides for some much-needed comedy; I also like the fact that he adds a more pessimistic nuance to the Band of the Hawk dynamic. All in all, these are the kinds of characters for which I harbour deep nostalgic feelings; their strong personalities and intricate development makes them difficult to forget.
The bulk of the story follows a loner (Guts) who is forced to join a mercenary band (The Band of the Hawk), while coincidently altering the course of history by doing so. I do enjoy the twinge of mysticism that pops up now and again, particularly with the uncanny luck that follows the main character. I found that it gave humanity to most of the main cast of characters by each having their own dreams and origins. The battles are very well thought out and beautifully gritty, a style usually missed with this type of anime. I am saddened however, that they had to cut so much out of the story due to it being too graphic. The Manga reveals that very clearly. The musical score was very well done and fits the overall theme very well. Overall, this series is quite well done. You grow to like the characters by their dynamic personalities, enjoy the battles for action, and look at the subtle humor for a brief respite from the intensity of the series. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who loves in depth characters and lots of action.
While watching this anime, you need to agree to its 2 terms: turn your brain off and enjoy the bloodbath.
I'm talking about turning your brain off because of some illogical fallacies or cliches of the genre. I guarantee you you will be confused after the last episode, so don't turn it off [this sentence doesn't make much sense on its own - watch the anime and deal with it].
Animation-wise, this anime is - simply put - bloody hell. In a good sense. There are some anatomical errors but who cares when they're flying half the time.
The sound is decent, the soundtrack is carried by ~3 songs and they're enough. The intro is horrible and I always skipped it, unfortunately.
Overall, I enjoyed the show very much, definitely one of the best things in its [unfortunately] relatively small genre of dark fantasy.
(Warning: not a native english speaker XD)
This is my first review and i felt that this show deserved it. Despite all the previous reviews saying that there's a deep plot behind Berserk I have not found it anywhere in this show (I ignore if the manga is better). Berserk is a massive loop of the main character killing people with very bad animation and unjustified pseudohentai scenes.
The characters are predictable, the relationships that are developed between them are predictable and the ending of the show was very predictable (I figured out in the 2-3 episode). I don't know how i managed to watch the entire show (maybe because I had nothing better to do) but I'm starting to realize that the so called epitome of anime (evangelion and a long etc) could have been written by my 5-year old sister.
Predictable and dull.
I kinda like it.
-Ohh, I want to become the king of the world... Uhh
Good. It would be nice if it ended well, or wasn't shamefully trying to get you to read the rest of it either. Even for those faults it is very good.
The animation lets the show down. It feels dated when you are watching it, and even if you take its age into consideration it is not that original. It can, and should, be forgiven for this though
The music is good, although it is used inappropriately in places. At times the tone of what is happening and the tone that the music is trying to create are at complete odds with one another. I would normally only watch dubbed anime, with subbed versions being a last resort if I can not find the episode or title I am looking for. That being said I had to watch the subbed version of Berserk, the dub is really quite bad.
The best thing about the show. They develop way beyond the stereotypes that they appear at the start. This is very enjoyable but makes the abrupt ending all the worse.
The physical aspects of this anime let it down, but I would still say it is excellent. It is very violent though which may not be to everyones liking.