Berserk

Rating: 3½ Rampages

Gatsu, Caska and Griffith

Synopsis:
Berserk narrates the story of Gatsu, a dark knight wandering through Europe in a low-fantasy Middle age. Behind his neck a mysterious brand attracts the creatures of night and bleeds when they are nearby. Who branded Gatsu? And what is he looking for? Or is he just escaping from someone or something? Soon the story fades into a flashback and we discover his origins, in a world in which one have to fight to survive he soon learns how to use a sword and accompanies his fellows as a mercenary soldier in the Hawk company.

Review:
Here comes another flip-flop review. A few weeks ago, I grabbed the battle song from Berserk (Forces) and fell in love with it. So after hearing such a kick ass song for a show I wrote off after two episodes, I figured...eh, why not give it another look. Now after borrowing one of my friends' tapes up to episode 14, I would really like to see the rext of the show.

The problem with getting into Berserk is the fact that it has a very poor introduction. The events of the first episode take place *after* the ending of the 26 episode series. Everything about the opening episode is classic fantasy shonen, and has nothing to do with the story that starts from the flashback in episode 2. Once it gets into the real story (the 25 episode flashback sequence) this show really starts to get interesting. Gatsu is very hard to like as he has practically no redeeming qualities at the start; he doesn't talk much, is easily angered, very violent temper, and seems to hate dealing with other people in general. As time goes on, he does grow more likeable...he slowly starts to forget some of the pain of his rather ugly past and begins to feel at home with the Hawks.

The real star of the story, however, is the stunningly charismatic Griffith. Right from his first appearance, he steals the show; calm, brilliant, kind to his men and utterly ruthless to his enemies, Griffith is incredibly fun to watch. You know from the start he has some sort of hidden agenda, but get very little in way of hints as to what he really is after. Berserk is really the story of Griffith, as Gatsu experienced it; all the others are just side players.

Both opening and closing songs are torturously horrible; some j-rock band trying desperately to sound like Nirvana and singing in nigh-unintelligible English. A drugged cat yowling delriously while sharpening its claws on a blackboard would sound more musical than the crap we get in Berserk. The animation tends to vary from good to mediocre--Griffith and Caska are wonderfully drawn, but many of the secondary characters are rather ugly and flat. Some of the background shots are very nicely painted, but a lot of corners get cut on animation-heavy scenes. The soundtrack (minus the opening and closing songs) is extremely good and the battle song, 'Forces', is just kickass. As I said in the first review of this, be warned if you aren't a fan of blood and guts as this show is only slightly less gory than Makai Tensho...though the anime pales in comparison to the manga (which could quite possibly have Cronenberg fainting) it's still unrelentingly vicious. Don't make the same mistake I did and write this show off after the poor beginning; sit down and watch at least four episodes...chances are you'll like it even if you're not into ultra-bloody anime. As with most shows, it's the story that matters...but trust me when I say you don't need to hear either of the credits songs.

Availability:
Only available fansubbed at this time.

Black Sun Over Midland
Griffith no Miko's Berserk Hall