OP: 「Inferno」 by 9mm Parabellum Bullet
「竜殺しの大剣」 (Ryuu-goroshi no Taiken)
“The Branded Swordsman”
Much like Guts himself, Berserk fans are cursed – no matter how many times our favourite manga gets an anime, it will never be the adaptation we want or deserve. I don’t even know where to begin in describing this episode, but all I can say for sure is it was one disappointment after another. If I had attempted to write this post immediately after finishing the episode then you could expect some vulgar exclamations, but given time to consider everything the anger I felt at first has turned to disappointment. The most obvious reason for this was the terrible, awful, hideous, CGI. I almost feel bad for posting screencaps of this episode… But I and many other Berserk fans knew it was coming and had prepared themselves for it. I thought I was ready to swallow what we were given, but this is probably the worst example of a 3D anime in recent memory. At least titles like Ajin and Sanzoku no Musume Ronja have some creative flair to them. Here there are some attempts at creativity, but it almost always fails, and the result is art and animation that I’d expect from a cheap PS2 game from 2001.
But it’s not even the bad art or animation that make this episode so unbearable – it’s the directing. As I mentioned in the Summer 2016 Preview, Itagaki Shin is at the helm here, and if you didn’t know he’s the director of several seasons of Teekyuu and its spin-off titles. I actually think Teekyuu is smartly directed for what it is; it blitzes through the gags at a breakneck pace, speeds up the dialogue, and the rushed nature of the jokes becomes funny in itself. Sadly, that rushed directing also translates here. There were so many panning shots that barely gave any time for the viewer to actually see what was on-screen, and the whole thing felt so zoomed in. It almost seems like none of the original vision from the manga is present here, which is especially painful. Fans of the manga will tell you how great a read it is, and the artwork and panelling is a large part of that. Take that away and replace it with swift, shoddy directing and the whole thing feels cheap and difficult to care about.
Thirdly on the disappointment list is the simple fact that this isn’t a very good adaptation of the source material. A few years ago I was of the belief that adaptations had to stick to the script, but I’ve now changed my view that a director’s vision can shine through if they change certain things and the result pays off. I’m fine with an adaptation not following the manga word-by-word, but this is just taking it too far. By the end of this episode it appears we’re rushing through 6 volumes (apparently), and are missing out some of the exciting sub-arcs from early in the manga. We cut forward to see characters that don’t appear for hundreds of chapters, and the preview shows that this isn’t going to follow the story in any sensible way. We’re jumping from one event to another with no thought for what comes between and how much world building or set-up is excluded. In a perfect world, a Berserk anime would take its time, linger on the scenic shots, make Guts’ struggles come across on-screen, rather than rush through the content to get to the major moments later on in the run.
If you did enjoy this episode, then I’m glad you were able to looks past its many flaws. If you’re totally unfamiliar with Berserk then this may not be too bad, but it’s also a real shame if this is the first impression you get of such a well-made, highly acclaimed title. This does not reflect the quality of the manga, and it goes to show that Berserk fans are unlikely to ever get the anime adaptation they want. There are so many little details that irk me as well, like Casca’s dark skin from the manga and 1997 anime being bleached to the point where she’s practically glowing, or Puck’s humour feeling totally flat, but I’ve pointed out enough things that I didn’t like here.
I was actually considering blogging this even if this first episode wasn’t especially good, if only because Berserk is a noteworthy franchise and plenty of people are sure to check it out. But I presume many, like me, will be tuning out after this premiere. It was one of the biggest disappointments in quite some time, and my expectations were already low to begin with.
ED: 「瞑目の彼方」 (Meimoku no Kanata) by Yanagi Nagi