Genre: Action / Supernatural
Parental Guidance Recommended
1997 Miura Kentaro (Hakushensha) / Takahashi Naohi
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In the castle town of Midland, a new king has come to power through treachery and violence. His demonic agents victimize the citizens unchecked, until the night when a battle weary soldier approaches the city. Covered in a slew of weapons and countless jagged scars, he calls himself the Black Swordsman. The sword he carries is the size of his grudge against the king, and he hunts the servants of evil with unrelenting fury.
Nearly mistook it for Rose of Versailles >>> by skysenshi
If the opening song and animation wouldn't impress you at first, look beyond. Berserk embodies the word "improvement" in every episode, in every sense from artwork to animation to storyline. In fact, I found myself surprisingly taken into its clasp somewhere along the way when I really was expecting to get bored. There are amazingly no fillers or unnecessary subplots that could interrupt the smooth plotline. Gripping was truly an adjective made for this title.
In the beginning one sees the makings of another Fist of the North Star, what with all the gore that gets even bloodier by the hour. Guts (or Gatts), the "Buster Sword" wielding protagonist, seems like a heartless bastard who does not show mercy towards his enemies as he tortures them before finally finishing them off. This is the first scene. I recommend going back to this scene as soon as you finish the last episode because it will explain everything.
Going back to Guts, his life will be relived right before your eyes as he flashbacks to a few years ago when he met up with a group of mercenaries who call themselves the Hawks. The next few volumes up to the last are purely flashback driven. What makes Berserk such a curious little package is that during this journey through memory lane, one might get confused as to who the real protagonist is. Griffith, the leader of the Hawks, seems to shine in the spotlight. You are basically looking at the story from Guts's point of view, putting Griffith up as the man of glory: Griffith has everything. Griffith is perfect. Griffith has this rags-to-riches sob story that could bring history books to shame. Griffith basks in romance. Griffith is loved by everybody, men and women alike.
Griffith's dream is the center of Berserk. He takes well into heart the saying, "The person who has grand dreams endure more than the person who has a small dream." How it gets distorted from just simply desiring the best for all, into scheming for the great ambition, is the focus of this moral dilemma. The dream is corrupted by politics, greed, battle of the social classes, and complex conspiracies. Guts's role is to provide support alongside other magnanimous Hawks, the most devoted of which is a feisty non-Barbie Doll female commander, Caska. Each Hawk is interconnected by a thread of similarity: "To protect his little heart, to forge his destiny, one grabs a sword". And Griffith uses this thread as his pillar of strength, until he loses himself when the line of equality and respect get blurred. If you are familiar with the intricacies of revolutions, or even anime like Berusayo no Bara (Rose of Versailles), you'd probably get a clearer picture of what's actually happening here.
In the final chapters, there is an obvious shift from simple human politics to the supernatural. This development can tend to be confusing, as both the historical tale and the supernatural one could stand on their own without connecting with the other. This is the reason why it is advisable to view the first episode again, just for clarity's sake. I'd also recommend not to get attached to any character. It is less burdening for the viewers this way. The ending can be quite a shock and, much as I hate to use the word, anti-climactic. It can also get a little depressing, as it is the bloodiest and most surreal episode in the entire series. Still...there had better be a continuation to this or Guts will not be the only person who's going to go berserk!
Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 9; Characters 10; Sounds 7