OP Sequence

OP: 「Aria」by 平沢進 (Susumu Hirasawa)

「ベルセルク 黄金時代篇Ⅰ 覇王の卵」 (Berserk Ougon Jidaihen I: Haou no Tamago)
“Berserk Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the High King”

Miura Kentarou’s dark fantasy saga about a talented swordsman and a charismatic mercenary leader makes its long awaited debut on the silver screen. Beginning with its serialization in 1990, Berserk now spans 328 chapters divided over 36 volumes and counting. It’s definitely an intimidating tome to delve into, but it’s also a highly recommended read for anyone who enjoys a great fantasy epic. However for those with less free time at their disposal, you’re in luck because the plan is for the entire manga to be animated, beginning with a trilogy of films by STUDIO4°C and directed by Kubooka Toshiyuki covering volumes 3 through 13 of the manga, the Golden Age Arc.

As a long running manga, Berserk is filled with enough characters to populate a small village, but the three most important ones are introduced in this arc: the protagonist Guts (played by newcomer Iwanaga Hiroaki), an 18 year old wandering swordsman-for-hire; the charismatic and ambitious mercenary unit leader Griffith (Sakurai Takahiro); and the woman who finds herself in between the two, Griffith’s second-in-command Casca (also voiced by a relative newcomer in Yukinari Toa). This sounds like the makings of a love triangle, and it might eventually become that way, but Berserk is by no means a simple medieval romance – not with the mysterious Crimson Behelit hanging from Griffith’s neck as a prophetic reminder of his goal to ruling his own kingdom, and not with Guts and Casca becoming caught up in their friend’s dangerous dreams and ambition. The Golden Age Arc is probably one of the most memorable stories I’ve read in manga, and one that I don’t want to spoil too much for anyone.

Much of what made the manga special were its intricately drawn brutal fight scenes with countless limbs flying around and blood spraying everywhere, so I was very relieved to find the movie had kept much of their style and carnage intact. Some people might have qualms with the heavy use of CGI, but I thought it portrayed the Berskerk’s action sequences pretty faithfully and impressively, such as Guts’ singlehandedly dismantling the entire Black Sheep Iron Spears Heavy Knights legion, and when he and Griffith became the first men to wound Nosferatu Zodd (Miyake Kenta). If you’re looking for a dose of old-fashioned medieval fighting with cutting edge anime visuals, I’d say this movie is one of your best bets.

The other aspect about the manga which made it one of my favorites is how detailed the world and its characters are. I think the movie did a decent enough job of showing Guts’ character development, even though it was nowhere as detailed as in the manga – an unfortunate consequence of compressing several volumes into what basically amounts to an action film of a little more than an hour long. Although it wasn’t really shown aside from a brief dreamlike sequence, he has been a mercenary basically since the day he was born – an unconventional upbringing which honed the impressive fighting abilities that were on display during his battle against the imposing Bazuso (Kobayashi Kendo). Guts is a man of few words as well, so it is somewhat of a challenge to portray the complexity of his character and his development with only several lines of dialogue to work from.

That said, I think the film had enough scenes and lines from the manga to convey how much Guts had changed as a person. He started off as a lonely soldier of fortune working for only food and coin, and had no aspirations in life other than to never be tied down, yet by the end of the movie Guts is no longer the same person he was before he met the Band of the Hawk. The change in his personality was a bit subtle at times, but it’s clear that he was beginning to care for the men and women who fought beside him after being scolded by Casca for his reckless charge at the Chudor forces, and even considered Griffith his friend, despite never finishing his words. Probably the most notable difference was when the shock and remorse Guts felt after what he did to Julius (Koyama Rikiya) and his son Adonis (Mizuma Maki). Given Guts’ profession, it was a surprising change of heart to see, and really served to humanize his character even further. I think what really made his change in personality stand out the most was the stark contrast between his personality and the unchanging one of the only man to ever best him, and probably the only man he considered his friend and equal: Griffith.

The Band of the Hawk leader’s personality is a far easier one to adapt, and I think the movie did a great job of beginning to flesh out his character – although it was still a bit hamstrung by the limitations of the medium. Griffith’s natural charm and charisma along with his position of leadership meant there was plenty of dialogue to use. What really stood out for me was how well the movie portrayed how two-faced he was. One moment he’s an extremely wise, ambitious, and talented mercenary leader that everyone is drawn towards like moths to a flame, and the next moment he’s almost like a young boy with his many innocent and childlike expressions. However, there were many clues that Griffith harbored a darker side, beginning with the way he tells Guts that the mercenary now belongs to him after defeating him in a duel. Casca, who appears to be in love with Griffith, misinterpreted his words, believing it to be an unusual declaration of affection to Guts. As we later found out during his moonlit speech to Princess Charlotte (Toyosaki Aki), the Band of the Hawk leader most likely only saw Guts as a tool to be used for attaining his own kingdom. We also have yet to see what role his Crimson Behelit and the ominous prophecy associated with it will play, and how it might affect his personality even more. Griffith is a very complex character whose depth has only begun to be revealed in this first movie, but thankfully there are two more for STUDIO4°C to do him justice.

With only a handful of appearances compared to the two men, Casca wasn’t as well developed, but I do like what I am seeing so far. She’s pretty much the gruff, no-nonsense swordswoman I had pictured her to be, and watching the gradual change in her demeanor towards Guts has been enjoyable as well. Can’t really ever go wrong with watching a character turn from tsun to dere – although I don’t think Casca, or any character in this arc for that matter, will ever be truly dere. After getting over her initial dislike of Guts, it appears she is beginning to warm up to him, and will serve as the only thread remaining to connect him with Griffith and the Band of the Hawk. She will play a much larger role in both men’s lives, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing it animated over the next two films.

All in all, this was a fairly strong start to the Golden Age Arc trilogy and the planned adaptation of the entire Berserk saga. I think STUDIO4°C has done a commendable job with the constraints they were given, especially in regards to the characters. Visually, even if you’re not a fan of the CGI animation, the backgrounds are simply gorgeous to behold. As for the musical score, I found it to be very appropriate for the feel of the series and the main theme/motif is beginning to burrow its way into my head. For existing fans such as myself, it was a joy to see some of my favorite characters come to life along with the action scenes that I had to piece together inside my head, and I can’t wait for the next installment even though I already know what will happen. For viewers unfamiliar with Berserk, if you’re a fan of dark medieval fantasy, you owe it to yourself to give this movie, and the manga, a try. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

 

Preview

49 Comments

      1. In this world, is the destiny of man controlled by some transcendental entity or law?
        Is it like the hand of God, hovering above?
        At least it is true that man has no control, even over his own will.

        Da5id
      2. Well, Griffith looked very pleased with himself as long as God gave what he wanted from the begining. No, to be more presice Grifith would use anyone as a tool, even God, if he can get his dream to come true; this guy makes Lelouch look like a moralist.

        haseo0408
      3. Lelouch used the “gods” to trap or disintegrate or whatever his dad in the ragnarok place… nice fail bro. Lelouch actually used the gods, Griffith only hopes he could.

        kanoja
  1. This animation of Berserk is just plain awesome. They decided to start with this arc which is definitely better for drawing people in since it is the most tame. When the shit hits the fan…wow does everything spiral down fast.

    Also, I couldn’t help to grin when Zodd transformed. He’s just so badass.

    Anyway, I love it. Casca is so tsun. Griffith is so pimp. Guts is so…gutsy…

      1. Longest post I can recall was indeed by Verdant; it was the Nisemonogatari season finale post, which exceeded 2500 words…the runner up is Enzo, I think, whose season finale post for Mirai Nikki was just about 50-70 words behind (depending on what and how you choose to count)…

        ____________________________________________________________________________________________
        @Verdant

        Overall, great post; it provides a good introduction to Berserk for newer/younger readers who may not be familiar with this long-running and venerated series and brings some much-deserved attention to the upcoming cinematic trilogy…

        Zen
  2. I was amazed.

    I knew there were many missing details (my brother filled me in with Guts’s past and other details) but it’s undeniable how good this movie was on its own.

    The use of CG, backgrounds, music, acting and all those aspects of film-making that has to do with the Direction, there’s not a single thing to complain about the production values of this movie. Everything felt crafted by master artisans. I have not felt like this about not a single anime since Eva Rebuild 2.

    I’ll surely pick up the manga later, but for now I’ll patiently enjoy these movies.

    On an unrelated note: A was expecting Zetman to be something like this.

  3. Thanks for the review, verdant! I’ll most likely be waiting for Viz’s release in the fall, though the anticipation is killing me.

    How were the new seiyuu? I’m so used to Nobutoshi Canna as Guts and Toshiyuki Morikawa as Griffith.

    Mormegil
  4. To be honest after the first few minutes of “Berserk – Golden Age Chapter 01 – Egg of the High King” I almost dropped it since Ive seen the same stuff with better animation already. Better animation you may ask, but yes you read right because the animation was really horrible, both the style and the quality. After all that talk about how good it will look this was a big disappointment. Guts mostly looked like a pussy or a braindead, Griffith even more gay than before the fighting scenes were one of the worst shown ever. The only things that were looking good were the backgrounds sometimes, Charlotte, Zodd and Casca. But Casca only when she was wearing something, when she was naked her body and especially her breasts were drawn so lousily she wasnt human anymore. At least after the fight against Zodd the animation got a bit better, but was still horrible at times.
    Overall this movie was a disappointment. The TV-series already left out more than half of the stuff in the manga, but this movie cut even more out so that I doubt it would make sense to someone new to this franchise.

    This really was a disgrace to the franchise. Everyone who loves the manga and the TV show should stay away from this.
    This only leaves hope for a faster manga continuation or a TV-series which animates everything from the manga, and not only a few bits here and there.

    4/10 from me and that is generous.

    Flytaggart
  5. ok Fly, you are just too picky and I bet that you cannot accept changes, that’s all.
    the story of Berserk is not that complex or hard to understand so even if the director cut off some materials, it’s still acceptable.
    well, I don’t totally deny your viewpoint because I also think that the 3D CG at some scenes is quite ugly. I know that this is a comeback of a legendary title so there will be many different opinions. But just don’t let people down with that 4/10.

    BLACK
    1. You get me wrong here, the animation isnt the reason I gave this one only a 4/10 since animation is only something supporting for animes. The main negative point is that this movie just animates the same stuff like the tv series while still cutting even more stuff. I already disliked the tv-series for letting out all the stuff that happened before tv-series began or stuff like the Black Dogs, the assassins, the Skull Knight, things about Gutts, Casca, Charlotte, the King and many more things that were presented in the manga.
      Its not me beeing picky its you having too low standards. The manga is a 10/10, the tv-series a 8/10 so I dont think its picky to hope for an equal quality which the movie didnt have. Youre just happy there is something new about this franchise and because of that youre wearing rosecolored glasses and think everythings great while it isnt.

      Flytaggart
      1. And btw, my scores are only going after how much I enjoyed something not the animation, character development, story or anything else. It just shows that I didnt enjoy the movie so it gets a low score.

        Flytaggart
      2. As someone who hasn’t interacted with anything Berserk, I felt this was a great movie. I’ve been prodded by verdant on a number of occasions to start the manga.

        Also, the CGI animation reminded me of Valkyria Chronicles without the watercolor-y effect.

      3. Agreed, I expect it to follow the manga more, but I guess that is difficult with such a limited time.

        If only this was a full remake Fullmetal Alchemist style with alot of episodes. O well, disappointing watch overall.

        Aecen
  6. You just got to love Berserk.
    IMHO the only problem I have with the manga:
    Show Spoiler ▼

    Anyways, the movie is quite true to manga (well maybe moving bits and pieces around but I’m fine with that) and the CG ain’t that bad to look at when you get used to it.

    mumei
  7. Wow just awesome! Though I’d much prefer to have a steady stream of chapter releases. I think new comers to Berserk, if they watch this, are going to want to immediately dive into the manga for the remainder of the story….which is still in the author’s head lol. Some folks joke that we may even see the 2nd coming of Christ before Berserk finishes 😉

    animeE
  8. It was a nice movie, but the CG parts didn’t look all that stellar compared to the actual animation parts. The CG movement was not as good either. It’s convenient when you need to show 100s of soldiers fighting on the battlefield from a bird’s-eye view, but the detail looks like crap when showing the chars up close(for the CG parts).

    The most painful part of this movie was still Julius’s son getting killed. Just as it was in the TV series, it was heartrending to see him struggling to stay alive (T_T). The TV series had that music playing, but here, the silence gives a more chilling effect on the whole thing.

    frubam
  9. great movie, just a recap for those who have already seen the show. But i did enjoy the amazing animation quality on 1080p. I cant wait to see from where the show left off.

    Meshedi
    1. 3 movies, covering the Golden Age and possibly a teaser for Black Swordsman, then followed by a TV series covering the reset of the series. Basically the movies are a remake of the TV series adaption years ago.

  10. I had already read so many bad things about the CGI, that I went into this movie without any real expectations. Probably a good thing, because, while the CGI really was out of place in several scenes, I still greatly enjoyed the movie. Everything that wasn’t purely CGI looked great, the charadesign didn’t disappoint and I am suprised to read that Guts’ and Caskar’s where voiced by newcomers.

    yeahair
  11. Hello, nice blog for serious anime fans you got here, nice to see personal projects getting the upper hand on commercial ones. I too have a personal blog (non-comercial) but for hentai fans. Our audiences are hand to hand in these matters and I don’t know if you would like it, but stop by – just click my name (I don’t want to spam)
    Maybe we even get to exchange links

  12. The manga is intimidating and recommended for a “great fantasy epic”, but if you wanted (a lot) MORE and can be satisfied with just a “book” with no illustrations, then you can pick up The Malazan Book of the Fallen” series.

    If Berserk is a huge series in manga form with its 36 volumes, Malazan is the true epic of fantasy literature without compromises. It is finished at 10 books, ranging between 900-1200 pages each, and some three million words.

    You’d find a dark and gritty story having a lot of common, and even a character comparable to Gatsu and his humongous sword who’s as brutal, if not more (but you’d have to wait for book 4 of the series). Malazan is also a lot more in depth and mature, yet filled with huge setpieces and battles.

    Dert
    1. Nah, it’s not a sequel or anything. The movie does start from volume 3 of the manga, but I believe it actually comes first chronologically in the story, so you don’t need to read the manga at all.

  13. There’s a RAW at nyaa

    Don’t suppose you could review it now and include a nice gallery of pics. 🙂

    Or do you need English subs?

    *Note: apparently it was ripped from a Chinese copy so there’s some minor censoring for the nudity

    framefreeze100

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