January 25, 2010

Bento Bako Weekly: Berserk

More articles by »
Written by: Kristin
Tags: , , , , ,

Title: Berserk
Kentaro Miura (mangaka), Naohito Takahashi (series director)
OLM (anime production), Dark Horse (manga), Anime Works/Media Blasters (anime)
25 anime episodes, 35 manga volumes and still going (the anime covers the first 13 volumes)
The manga began in 1990 in Japan, the anime ran from1997-1998. Media Blasters began releasing the DVDs in 2002.  The DVDs can be found individually, in a collector’s “Season One” box set (Box of War), and was released again last year in a complete series thinpak set (which runs about $45 standard).
Genre: Bloody fantasy.  Lots of spewing blood, slicing off of limbs, rampaging demons, rape, sex, nudity, various adult themes….  It’s an adult show from start to finish, so don’t let your kiddies watch it.

This show is fantastic.  In fact, there’s only one thing that would prevent me from calling this a truly great show.  That, dear readers, is one of the most annoying endings to a series I’ve ever seen.  Everything about this show is great – the characters, story, music, animation, bloody violence, character relationships.  But then the show ends on what is hard to call anything other than a cliffhanger.  It stops, mid-story, and in fact, mid-battle.  It’s easy to assume that the creators of the anime planned to continue with another season, and there were talks of such a thing, but it never happened.  For a show that’s over a decade old, it isn’t likely there ever will be another season.  However!  Don’t let this discourage you!  You won’t regret sitting down to watch this, despite the bizarre ending.  And if you’re really into it, you can also read the manga from where the anime leaves off.

I realize there’s been a sort of yaoi overload in my column recently, so I decided to give you something completely different today.  Berserk is a down-and-dirty violent fantasy series.  It’s about war, purpose, ambition, life and death, love, and friendship.  The show opens with a man known as the Black Swordsman, who wields an enormous deadly sword that cuts down anyone in his way.  During a gruesome battle, something reminds him of a man he once knew, and the series quickly goes back in time to a much younger version of the swordsman, a scrappy orphan named Guts.  The rest of the series will follow Guts from his training under the mercenary leader Gambino, to his meeting with legendary mercenary leader Griffith and his Band of the Hawk, and the life changing events that result.

When he first meets Griffith, Guts is single-handedly taking on the Band of the Hawk.  After watching for a while, Griffith steps in and insists that Guts fight him one-on-one.  His terms are only that if he wins, Guts must join his mercenaries (basically, that Griffith will “own” him).  Miraculously, Griffith’s impeccable skill with his sabre manages to beat Guts’s immense (but undisciplined) strength and great sword.  Not everyone is pleased with this new addition, and many become jealous of the attention Guts receives from Griffith.  Guts becomes Griffith’s other half, taking on the most dangerous missions, and eventually becoming the leader of his own division.  Griffith trusts him completely, and Guts becomes the foundation upon which Griffith’s ambitions are built.  Griffith has long harbored great dreams, believing himself to have a greater destiny than some nameless mercenary, wanting even his own kingdom to rule.  With Guts at his side, this goal slowly but surely comes closer and closer to fruition.

Yet while Griffith’s dreams are coming true, Guts is only along for the ride.  He eventually realizes that his entire life has been helping Griffith accomplish his goals, rather than accomplishing any goals of his own.  The result of his own desires manifesting, separately from Griffith’s, causes a cataclysmic  event no one could have foreseen.  A fortune teller once told them that their fates were bound together, which is a big theme of the series.  The opening dialog of each show asks the viewers if there is a guiding force, and states, “At least it is true, that man has no control, even over his own will.”  All of the characters struggle with or against their fates.  Or get caught in the fates of others, like the Band of the Hawk’s only female member, Casca.  Behind only Griffith and Guts in terms of skill, this woman commands her own division, and takes over the entire band in the future.  She struggles with her feelings of love for both great men, and gets wrapped up in their destinies in some truly brutal ways.

The show is about as well animated as other shows of its time, which is to say, that it looks like a show from the ’90s.  But it’s well designed, well animated, has an excellent soundtrack, and there’s plenty of blood spewing all over the screen to satisfy any action fan.  The opening and closing themes are fantastic, especially the opening song “Tell Me Why” by Penpals, which is accompanied by a terrific animation sequence (check it out here, and here’s a video of the ending theme for those interested).

The English translation is kind of goofy on occasion (like Guts yelling out, during an internal struggle, “Anything to get rid of the voices!”), but mostly it’s fairly solid.  The core voice actors are pretty good, especially since a show like this could easily get really cheesy and out of hand.  Though some of these guys do seem to be having a bit too much fun sometimes, especially when performing an evil laugh.  For the interested, Guts is voiced by Marc Diraison, Griffith by Kevin T. Collins, and Casca by Carolyn Keranen.

Really, this one was far better than I had been expecting when I rented it via Netflix, but I’m very happy I went for it.  It should appeal to fans of shows like Record of Lodoss War (the first series) and Claymore.  There are some nice DVD extras too, like art galleries, interviews, production sketches, clean credits, and English VA outtakes.




  1. Nice review, Kristin! Glad to know that there are other female readers who like a good, bloody adventure saga as much as I do! I confess that Berserk never really clicked with me, but I’ve certainly shelled out ridiculous amounts of money in support of titles like Hellsing and Shaman Warrior.

  2. Kristin

    Thanks for stopping by, Katherine!
    I do so love a good bloody adventure every now and then. When the senses are so overloaded with moe school girls, something so entirely opposite is a great blessing.
    I regret that I did not jump onto Shaman Warrior. I looked at a preview of the title while I was working on a Previews recommendation list, but the series was on its final volume. It looks like a story that would be right up my alley though, so I hope I eventually get a chance to pick it up.

  3. Ok, now this anime sounds freakin’ cool!!

  4. InfiniteSpeech

    I tried to get into the Beserk anime and just couldn’t do it 🙁 It was hard for me to get a hold of the episodes back then so maybe that had something to do with it because there were several long lapses and I just lost interest and moved on to other things.

    I was always told to read the manga as well and that the anime can’t compare to it but maybe I’ll go ahead and give it another try via netflix myself!

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by, and Kristin Bomba, Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: Good Morning! New Bento Bako Weekly: Berserk anime review! […]

  6. billy

    I agree with Andy. This sounds awesome!

  7. Kristin

    You guys should definitely check it out! Rent the first disc on Netflix (if you have it) and take a look!

  8. Aecen

    I enjoyed parts of it, but I really couldn’t get over the bad ending. It made me look into the manga, turns out they left out and entire important character.

  9. Kristin

    A whole character, really? I didn’t know…. Not from that part of the story, at least. I didn’t think anyone super important was left out, except maybe the Skull Knight; but since they stopped the story where they did, they didn’t need him.

  10. InfiniteSpeech

    Looks like i’ll be checking out the manga as well to get the full story then.

  11. […] Berserk volume 34, by Kentaro Miura.  “Faced with the Kushan emperor’s horrific new form, and the bloody swath of destruction and spawning demons he leaves in his wake with every step, the soldiers in Griffith’s new Band of the Hawk must assume their true unholy form to battle the emperor, revealing their true faces to the citizens of Midland.  How will these tormented refugees react when the discover that their would-be rescuers are as monstrous as their enemies?  And could this titanic confrontation threaten to unleash even greater horrors upon the human world?”  $14.99, August 2010. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Website Protected by Spam Master