He trusts nothing but his own sword. He has no place to call home. The lone mercenary Guts travels a land ravaged by a hundred-year war. Moving from battlefield to battlefield, his skill and ferocity eventually attract the attention of Griffith, the leader of a group of mercenaries called The Band of the Hawk. Desiring Guts's power to help him achieve his goals, Griffith succeeds in recruiting the distrustful Guts by challenging him to a duel and defeating him. As the Band of the Hawk fight together and their bond as a unit grows stronger, Griffith and Guts's bond deepens as well. With their continued success on the battlefield, Griffith achieves the first step toward his lofty goals: his band of mercenaries becomes recognized as a full-fledged army within the Midland Kingdom. Despite all their success, Guts begins to question his reasons for fighting for Griffith's dream, which, unbeknownst to Guts, is destined to bestow a monstrous fate on them both.
Let me start by saying that I am a very big fan of the manga and anime. However, I would say that this movie is a terrible summary for the amount of time it covers, so much so that I would be inclined to believe that it make me disinterested in either the manga or show. Some of my reasoning being... Story: The fact that it's a compilation of points within the Gold Arc is somewhat off-putting. Sure it's not going to be able to replicate the anime or, for that matter, the manga. I wouldn't expect that. Rather, I would expect it to do what it did, just better. Better in that it maintains what one feels for the development of characters and progression of story as presented in the other works. I would say that you can see this in other anime movies that followed a pre-existing series. A good example is the Gurren Lagann movie. Granted, it changes a few things around, but overall it is in close quarters, if not the same room, as the series. This movie (Berserk movie) is in the same block as the other works but in a whole different building. One small thing that comes to mind is how Berserk feels very much dirty and medieval where as the movie presents more of a clean idealized version of the Renaissance. That, I believe, takes away from what has been established in the other works. Another issue being that one cannot become invested, or reinvested for those familiar with Berserk, in the characters and their experiences given who fast they blow by certain scenes. There are a few more problems I have with the film in regards to the story, but I wish for this section not to take up too much of the review. Animation: The animation is actually really cool, yet, it's incredibly too vibrant and flashy compared to the dark and gritty feel Berserk normally has. This style could work with something else, just not Berserk. Now, I can see someone making the argument that "That's just how the anime looks!" True, however, the manga has this style as well. Even the most current still have that dark and gritty feel. Also, the CG modeling that can be seen in many of the battle scenes feels too awkward and is ultimately a hindrance to the overall presentation given that it clashes with animation style seen in the rest of the film. If said CG modeling were not present, I’d give the animation 9.5 or 10. Sound/Music: Now, I like Susumu Hirasawa. His music is one of the defining characteristics of the Berserk anime. So much does the music reinforce the emotion in the scenes it’s presented in that to be without it makes one feel empty or lacking. Yeah, there’s the new track Aria, but the one time it’s played, it doesn’t heighten the intensity of the battle scene it’s in unlike Forces which when heard by itself makes the blood and adrenaline start to pump. Perhaps I am overly biased towards Hirasawa’s music, but the fact that there really isn’t any throughout the movie, and especially in certain scenes where music is somewhat crucial, is most disappointing. Characters: The characters are who they are in the anime and manga, but one doesn’t get the chance to really know them well enough to care about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Granted one can make the argument that the movie is for those familiar with the Band of the Hawk and those they encounter, but even still, that doesn’t excuse the oh so little amount of work they put into connecting the audience with the characters.
=Reviewer's note= This ratings on the movie are based upon having watched the anime tv series and having read the manga several times. The review may contain a few spoilers. Story: The whole movie feels as no more than an 80 minute compilation of the larger events taking place within the story without telling the actual story behind it. In between the events there are gaps of months, even years! Complete chapters of vital storyline were left out of the movie and let's not speak about the little in between events that lead up to the important events. One of them being the reason of count Julius' assasination attempt on Griffith, or how Guts actually came to be the captain of the Raiders earlier on. Nope, it just jumps from one event to the other. Animation: Flawless? No. Well done? Absolutely! I'll probably have to rewatch it a few times to pick flaws out but there's nothing here that ruined the movie experience. You can see one thing very clear though, it's a Studio 4°C production, no doubt about it. Sound: It's not like the old anime tv series at all, but to say I am truly disturbed by it, no. The music is well made and fits. Voice acting is also something I don't have anything bad to say about. Characters: Well here's another thing that where I was greatly disappointed by. The movie revolves mostly around the war of Midland with Guts and Griffith as lead characters, Caska as a side character and a bit of extra attention for the Behelit, there's hardly any screentime for the rest of the cast we came to know and love in the manga and tv-series. Even the Hawk's core crew has been degraded to irrelevant side characters. As for character development of the main cast, there hardly is any to speak of. Overall: All in all I have to say that I am quite disappointed by this movie, I am fully aware that with the time limit for a movie they had to consolidate some things to make it all fit but they consolidated way too much for my taste. As I said earlier, the movie feels as a compilation that rushes through the events taking place in the first part of the Golden Age arc without explaining how or why. The things that make Berserk special for me simply aren't there.
This movie is a revamped summary of the first part of the anime. The "revamping" of the animation was really not that spectacular but it was nice as a die hard fan of the original to see the story get a bit of an upgrade. It definately doesn't reinvent the wheel here, if you've seen the original anime series than this is just the first arc with new animation. If you haven't than you may very well be upset and confused as the pacing is way too fast and the movie doesn't take the time to explore certain story elements that the anime did. The characters are not at all developed in this movie with the exception of Guts and Griffith. Even Caska is left out of the lime light here. I enjoyed watching this movie simply because I LOVED the anime. I believe these three movies will cover what happened in the anime then set the stage for a sequel to the 1997 version. Which in my opinion would be phenomenal.
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