Anime Review: “Berserk”: Gory, Yet Satisfying

Written by Alex Bowman September 28, 2012

“Berserk” is an anime series that I find very difficult to convince people to watch. Despite having a well crafted story that has all the empirical intrigue on the same level as “Game of Thrones”, this anime tends to turn people off due to its graphic content. It’s brutal, it’s violent, and with a protagonist named Guts, “The Black Swordsman”, this show really pushes the envelope with how much graphic content can be fitted into a 30 minute serial. So if you get squeamish at the sight of blood then I highly recommend you look away. For those of you with higher constitutions, I recommend sitting down and checking out this show.

Our Story Begins…

The first episode starts off with introducing the main character Guts (yes, that is his real name) as he carves his way through demon heads in a fantasy world heavily inspired by 16th century medieval Europe. The remaining 24 episodes are shown through one, long flashback when Guts used to be a part of a band of mercenaries called the Band of the Hawk, where he developed a strong friendship with their leader, Griffith, and a romantic relationship with the only female member, Casca. Each episode follows the Band as they wage war both inside and outside the Midland Empire.

Let Slip the Dogs of Nitpicking

This anime is by no means infallible. Despite having a great set of characters and a well written story, the show does tend to take a few arrows to the knee from time to time. The soundtrack really doesn’t fit with the fantasy world that we are supposed to be immersed in; the intro music is way too cheery and light hearted, which will not prepare you at all for the content you will be subjected to, and the outro music is so depressing it would make Trent Reznor have a good cry. The dialogue is a bit cheesy at times and the costumes go from practical to ridiculous at the drop of a broadsword, but despite these nitpicks the story and the characters are what prevent this anime from falling into the obscurity pile.

The Wow-Factors

The story for “Berserk” is extremely well written; the setting and the characters provide a great deal of intrigue and analysis. The main focus of the plot revolves around a question that is presented by the narrator at the beginning of every episode: is humanity predominantly good or evil? Every episode does a wonderful job of exploring the best and worst of human nature while also tackling themes regarding companionship, loyalty, fate and isolation. The wars being waged on the battlefield fit very nicely with the backstabbing and scheming being conducted inside the courts, which is meant to showcase the brutality of both the noblemen and the soldiers who fight for them.

Our three main protagonists are all characterized very well with rich motivations and engaging back stories. Guts is the textbook definition of a Byronic hero; a loner who feels he doesn’t belong anywhere while constantly struggling with causality. You will become very engaged in his story when you start to question whether or not he is someone to be emulated despite his violent tendencies. The same can be said for Griffith; his character constantly struggles with the question of whether or not he can change his fate and if his actions are justified whilst in pursuit of his goals. The decisions he makes in his quest for power will really make you think twice about rooting for his success. Casca is also a key element in regards to the superb writing; she is a tough no-nonsense warrior that has to survive in a man’s world while trying to overcome her conflicting feelings she has for both Griffith and Guts. Her love triangle does a great job of flushing out her character arc and providing a break from the constant battle scenes that tend to exacerbate their necessity.

 In Summation

“Berserk” is definitely worth giving your undivided attention. You may become either uncomfortable or just plain bored with the constant barrage of fighting and gore but the engaging political stratagems and character development is what will keep you invested up until its final episode. If you are willing to wade through the blood and guts to get to the empirical intrigue and amazing characterizations then you will find yourself enjoying this anime from one sword fight to the next.

My Rating: 7/10



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