Region: 2 - UK
Volume: 2 of 3
Length: 77 minutes
English Dolby Digital Surround
He trusts nothing but his own sword. He has no place to call home. The lone mercenary Guts travels a land ravaged by a hundred-year war. Moving from battlefield to battlefield, his skill and ferocity eventually attract the attention of Griffith, the leader of a group of mercenaries called The Band of the Hawk. Desiring Guts's power to help him achieve his goals, Griffith succeeds in recruiting the distrustful Guts by challenging him to a duel and defeating him. As the Band of the Hawk fight together and their bond as a unit grows stronger, Griffith and Guts's bond deepens as well. With their continued success on the battlefield, Griffith achieves the first step toward his lofty goals: his band of mercenaries becomes recognized as a full-fledged army within the Midland Kingdom. Despite all their success, Guts begins to question his reasons for fighting for Griffith's dream, which, unbeknownst to Guts, is destined to bestow a monstrous fate on them both.
Berserk is a title that commands great respect from many fans of the manga. The three film franchise that extols the most pivotal portion of the plot – known as the Golden Age – has been the first time that Muira's characterisation and technical skill has been given such an illustrious form beyond the pages of the manga epic.
Studio 4°C undoubtedly triumphed in the first chapter with their fusion of CG and 2D animation to create a cinematic experience that was able to capture the interest of a wider audience than ever before. If anything the second film is yet more accomplished than the first. The animation features a greater synergy of the animation stykes and is an incredible visual experience. Blended with an exceptional score that escalates the depth and drama of the series by Sagisu Shiro, it continues towards a conclusion that is impossible to resist.
The film does make an elective decision to leave out a rather significant element of the plot that is actually instrumental in the Band of Hawk's rise to glory and this involves the putrid ex-lord of Midland Gennon. One suspects, without spoiling the manga or the film, that perhaps the directors and producers decided that the reflection this part of the original story would have on Griffith for the viewers was better left implied than presented. Does this work? Not entirely as I think that it leaves a great deal of room for confusion for viewers who have not read the original story. Then again, while the films certainly have explicit content, the surrounding scenarios of the characters – particularly Guts and Griffith do not detail the specifics of their tragic and unsavoury pasts. From the first film, Guts's childhood is presented as an semi-abstract nightmare that is never touched upon again. Is it really needed? I suppose it all depends on how deep you wish to delve. It's an excellent hook for getting more readers for the manga.
Berserk part II is an incredible work for Studio 4°C. I find exceptionally difficult to fault them at any stage and they excel themselves in making movies that are accessible to even an audience far beyond anime fandom. For this I extend them the deepest gratitude as Berserk remains to this day the most significant work in my encounters with all world culture.
The characters develop in a way that is truly complex and fascinating and without knowing the scenario of things to come, it is extremely unpredictable and exciting.
The animation of Griffith is splendid and accesses a great deal of Muira's characterisation and expression from the manga. The rise of Griffith shows that the moral fibre of his character is of twisted sinew that tightens and snaps before the film draws to a close. His face and icy gaze are at times frightening yet always enigmatic and beautiful.
Guts grows further in this film and becomes a hero on the surface, a near sublime slaughterer in battle and yet his character tells volumes beyond his stoic façade. He is at times incredibly gentle, a softness that resides within the fires of a spirit that struggles ever for a purpose and to survive.
Casca, the other essential player in the equation of the Golden Age arc unfolds a little more during this chapter. Her disdain for Guts and jealousy of him is turned in time into something more than camaraderie but never is it a single thread of emotion that she feels for him or indeed for Griffth. Her frustration at the shortcomings of femininity in an archaic world of men and battle are deeply affecting. She never ceases being a fierce fighter but is able to read her leader the Hawk's commander before they act better than the others.
These films reward re-watching and the readers of the manga alike. It has perhaps one of the greatest animated sex scenes ever and never ceases to reach toward the vision that Muira created in his on-going epic.
If you watched the first, you will be unlikely to resist the second as it is every bit as alluring to find out what happens in the unimaginable conclusion to the arc is it is to be drawn into the spiral of causality!