Region: 2 - UK
Length: 77 minutes
Japanese Dolby Digital Stereo
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
When it comes to watching the anime incarnation of your favourite manga, it can be an intense and even nerve-wrecking experience. If the characters themselves are of great significance to you and their creator has crafted a world that is so vivid and powerful it sets the bar very high for any production attempting to touch that brilliance and bring it to life on screen. When an animation studio announces such a production, it's almost like seeing someone you love with another man and just hoping that they treat her right.
The manga for Berserk, as any avid reader will know, is a dark, intricate and at times abyssal examination of the survivor, the spirit and power of ambition and the insurmountable limits of a human body. Miura knows the shadows that pervade the subconscious mind. The darkness of Berserk is the true embodiment of the sublime, from Guts's origins to the enmeshed reality of humans and the supernatural, it captures the most abhorrent aspects of humanity and reflects it back at us without a shred of mercy.
Working on a mighty epic, Studio 4°C had some serious ground to cover when tackling the behemoth which is Berserk. As someone who knows and loves the series intimately, for the greater part, I commend their efforts.
Miura is a draughtsman who can depict vast battles, intricate costumes and settings but his strength as a storyteller is in his capacity to forge characters that are tangible and ferociously individual. The incidental characters are not *simple* props whether they are battle fodder or just part of the background. My only criticism of 4°C therefore is their reliance on CGI for the populating the work of Berserk. While the choice of digital cell-shading characters opposed hand-drawn animation has its values, there is a tradeoff, that being the depth of the characterisation of the soldiers and mercenaries who fights the battles. This is at odds with the quality of Muira's manga but to be fair, it probably not an accomplishment that many studios outside Ghibli are likely to tackle.
4°C are highly accomplished animators who can meld the traditions and innovations of digital animation to great cinematic effect. The horses, sword fights and large battle sequences are composed with remarkable cinematography. The direction is masterful and it becomes every bit as exciting as any live-action fight, especially if you are a fan of the series. It is unreal to see the characters spring to life on screen in the heat of battle. Seeing Guts fight Nosferatu Zodd is a delight that any Berserk fan will love.
An unexpected pleasure of the film is the scenery which is simply breathtaking. The vivid colours of the seasons, the rural lands and kingdoms are something that is absent in the monochrome manga. It provides an exquisite backdrop for the deepening relationship that unfolds between Guts, Griffith and Casca.
Director Kukooka prevails in portraying Muira’s characters, exemplified by Griffith who is as complex and enigmatic as he is on the page.
Berserk is a triumph. Watch it big, turn it up loud and lose yourself to it. That's how Berserk works. An accomplished adaptation of a mighty narrative and I can’t wait for the next part. As a Berserk fan I now know that I can trust 4°C to do it as much justice as they can.