Did he just cut a rice grain in four? … That was on top of a woman’s nipple???
This is not a mainstream anime. It does not have characters with multi-colored, spiky hairstyles. It does not have girls hitting boys and making fun of their sexual tension. It does not have laser beams, voice-dependent special attacks or transforming swords/warriors/animals. It is quite realistic in depicting life as it was in the feudal era. And yet, it is still not completely historical as everything in it is plain madness. Enjoy … or better say … gasp with it.
It looks freaking realistic! And packs numerous imagery concerning bugs, fabric decorations and cultural symbols that simply make every scene to seem like a psychological dive into the disturbed minds of the protagonists. Oh Madhouse, you beast; you are undoubtfully the king of anime shows.
Although quite alienating for the average viewer, the characters look and act appropriately for such a show. They don’t have any weird cloths or tattoos to attract the average eye. They stare, make facial expressions and move in ways that is quite reminiscent of dramatic theater plays. And yet, when they fight or have sex, you feel like they are real people, with body features and internal organs showing up as real as hell. Of course, all these are depicted in pretty grotesque ways. I mean, women are practically tortured and raped, while shown naked or in bondage. And when someone is decapitated, it’s usually not from a cut in the neck. The upper part of his head is sliced diagonically and falls to the ground while staring at us with empty eyes… Brrr! Internal organs splatter from someone’s belly on the ground… Yikes! Fingers snap and are shown deformed with a close-up shot… Puke! Definitely, not for those with weak stomachs and a high esteem of righteousness.
This is also amongst the very few series that really went into all the trouble of reconstructing the society, as it really was back then; both in historical and in cultural aspects. So, how can you NOT like the backgrounds? There were even feng-sui decorated sand yards, for God’s sake!
Visual effects are great too. Although there is way too much black in this series, even the slightest ray of light or shadow screen is there for a reason. Amazing camera angles and shots, atmospheric depiction of emotions through lines and eerie colors. A wonderful presentation that really gets to you.
Voice acting is generally flat, meaning it doesn’t have squeaky voices or young males voiced by women. And if you think about it, they really were talking very serious back then, all the time. No idealistic bullshit monologues about perky youths talking about saving the world in the name of justice. Obedience! Manner! Principle! Order! Only military-inspired themes are present.
BGM is full of actual musical instruments of that time and traditional music are heard all the time. No anachronistic J-pop or rock themes exist here. Swords sound like swords, as accordingly does everything else. They really put you in the mood to pay attention.
A minus is the use of stale images in order too “freeze time” and inflict emotions is overused to the point of yearning for some action to take place. Not that it is a series of frozen pictures. It is just that it overdoes it in this department. You can skip entire minutes without missing something important (other than the attempt to be sucked into the scene, that is).
Two handicapped samurais are ordered to fight each other for the amusement of their lord. A flashback occurs, showing the events that led to that day. We see how they were raised, trained and made to be ruthless and heartless… Is it much of a story? Not really. It doesn’t excuse 13 episodes with just that. In fact, the pacing is ssssssslllllllllllllloooooooooowwwwwwwwww. It is 90% atmospheric build-up and 10% actual plot. It sucks you in completely, but refuses to let you go, even when you start to get bored or overly disgusted. A thing that might alienate you is the fact that many events are there only for shock effect and play no overall purpose in the story. Rapes, tortures and twisted imagery are there to make you feel bad but otherwise they are not part of the plot. Plus, no ending. The series ends without even getting to the part when the two main characters fight in the first episode. Another case of stopping a series, while the manga was still under production.
Fun fact: It is directed by Hamasaki Hiroshi, who also did Texhnolyze and Steins;Gate. I sort of see his distinctive style in all three titles, so in case you liked it make sure to check out those too.
Imposing, at the least. Emotionless expressions are excused and the martial forms they use are simply mind-numbing. Not to mention the multitude of nude and mental torture they inflict to one another! They are also crazy! Lunatics! Coo coos! None of them will make sense to an average viewer, who is ignorant of autocratic societies. Still, if you do take into account the fact that the people back then were living just to (usually brainlessly) give up their lives for one of their master’s self-centered orders or train like crazy in order to become artists in their respective fields, then all this psychological madness is excused.
Women that are treated just as sex toys and breeding machines?! Yes, why not?
Samurai that fight to the death, just to please their insane master?! Sure!
People gutting themselves just to show how against they are to an order? Definitely!
This is Japan for you people! These things really happened. They are excused. They are overdramatic but excused.
Sadly there isn’t much character development. Everyone is there without much explaining and all the training and the events simply make them crazier, not different. The lack of a conclusion also means a lack of catharsis; so don’t expect anything amazing by the end of the day.
It is very shocking and memorable but the lack of an ending and the slow pacing damages the whole a lot. You will skip a lot of scenes if you ever bother to watch it again and even then you will have little to no motivation to keep going, since the only driving force will be the shock factor you already got over. So nice watch as something out of the ordinary, but it could have been far more than this. It did manage to make me fell like shit and appreciate the freedoms and sanity I enjoy today. But the incomplete story, the tooooooooooooo slow plot and the overuse of violence and sex to the point of feeling totally pointless and petty, really spoiled this deliberately bad feeling I got from it.
Berserk, Rurouni Kenshin
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 9/10
General Artwork 2/2 (realistic)
Character Figures 2/2 (realistic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (detailed)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 2/2 (artsy)
SOUND SECTION: 10/10
Voice Acting 3/3 (serious and realistic)
Music Themes 4/4 (fit like a glove)
Sound Effects 3/3 (great)
STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 1/2 (simple)
Pacing 0/2 (way too slow)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 1/2 (so-so)
Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Presence 2/2 (imposing)
Personality 2/2 (extreme)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (close to none)
Catharsis 0/2 (doesn’t exist)
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too little plot)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely gorish to the point of forever remembering it)
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 6/10
Art 1/1 (looks great)
Sound 2/2 (sounds awesome)
Story 1/3 (feels simple, slow and incomplete)
Characters 2/4 (they are memorable bastards but lack development and catharsis)