You wondered why people overuse the word, “Epic” for anything and everything in the world, no matter how mundane and pointless it really is. This is especially the case in anime, as when people tell me to watch this show and how epic it is, I just don’t feel it and there is also the fact that I might’ve been underwhelmed by it and people seem to look at me weird by that. However, I knew about this anime by this time the newer Berserk movies were coming out and the fact that I listened to the DREAMcast episode 20 about Berserk, which was the one anime that I intend to review but not too soon and now here we are in 2013.
Guts, the Black Swordsman, wanders around in a mediaeval world slaying demons as they are attracted to a demonic mark on his neck. To his help he has inhuman strength gained from a harsh childhood lived with mercenaries, a gigantic sword, an iron prosthetic left hand and the elf Puck. In his search for vengeance on the one who gave him the mark, he meets many interesting persons and creatures, whom all are affected by him in one way or another.
You know, I really didn’t have any expectations going into this anime and after watching a few episodes of it, I was hooked on it in an instant. Never in my anime-viewing lifetime, had I watched an anime (or anything as a matter of fact) with a storyline that has a medieval world touch that piques my interest and got me invested in it, mainly because the whole medieval genre itself is really just dull in my eyes (and yes, that includes Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones). I liked the journey of the main character, Guts, the one man whose strength is almost God-like but he’s not exactly the self-insert character-type that I see too much in anime nowadays and if you see his past training with his guardian Gambino (not the childish one), he got the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis just surviving his everyday life of fighting to live. The writing of the show is almost Shakespeare-like, only I can understand them more and the dialogue isn’t that outdated and it’s very consistent.
Characters for the show is a very strong point in the series, as most of them have a great amount of character development and they are very fleshed out, making them more essential to the overall story and not just putting them aside for no reason and that’s what I like about the character development. They don’t just show a character, then kill them off, and expect that you care for them. You have to make us care about the characters and show them why, not just play some sad music when they might die. Guts is those characters that doesn’t bullshit around when he’s ready for battle and he might be like an unstoppable force but he often struggles with his battles; it never gotten boring seeing him slaying his enemies and the same goes to all the members of the Band of the Hawk. Griffith, the leader, has that charisma and charm about him being the leader, even if he doesn’t look that threatening up close but he has his way of getting the job done and once you get into his character more and more, you’ll question his role as a fighter. Casca is the lone female warrior character and I got to say that she is the most fleshed-out of all the characters, as she’s not treated like the fan service bait for the show but more of the strong female character that was really needed, especially if you watched some of the episodes centering around her character and what she’s been through. For most of the side characters, i.e. members of the Hawk, I liked Rickert and Judeau as they are mostly the optimistic roles while Corkus is….well, an asshole but I see his reasons for being one.
Animation is not the highest-selling point here and not because it is over a decade and some years old as sometimes vintage anime can be pleasurable to view but most of the scenes just feel like manga art but colored and more detailed. It does have the speed lines whenever action is happening instead of actually animating it, but then again, this is the work of Oriental Light & Magic and by the way, it’s the same production company that made the Pokemon anime series, so I can see why they might have to cut corners.
The music is downright beautiful, while the opening and ending themes are fairly good songs but the pieces that truly stand out are the background music like, “Forces”, and “GUTS’ theme” both done by Susumu Hirasawa, famously known for doing the haunting theme for Paranoia Agent. The score does have a slew of instruments (such as piano, bagpipes, violin, harp, flute, classic guitar, electric guitar, drums, harpsichord, synthesizer, and Amiga as well as voices) for its diverse range and its fluent state.
The dub voices, done by NYAV Post and formerly distributed by Media Blasters (AnimeWorks), are actually an okay dub with some hits and misses. The hits being Marc Diraison & Carolyn Keranen as Guts and Casca, respectively, and although I wanted to like Kevin T. Collins as Griffith but he is more of the weaker aspect of the main cast. The others performed well in their roles and overall, it’s one of those dubs that have more of an advantage of the original Japanese.
FINAL VERDICT: Berserk is truly the definition of an epic anime, from the plot, story, characters, music, and almost every aspect of this series is what anime fans should watch to understand the medium more. I would say it’s a perfect series if it weren’t for that ending and my God, that ending….. (It’s a “You need to read the manga” ending and also a cluster fuck of one. I mean, I know those who seen it but WTF?!?!?) But I still highly recommend that you watch and/or possibly buy this.
However, if you want to buy it, you better check on eBay since AnimeWorks/Media Blasters no longer holds the rights to the anime and in the future, it might be out of print.