Berserk (2016) Review

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Let’s get this out of the way. Berserk (Created by “Kentaro Miura”) has seen its fair share of issues in terms of production. Always relying on a small team to adapt the manga series, loads of hiatuses, and a general lack of funding have hindered Kentaro’s work from ever being completed anytime within the last two decades (seriously…this came out in the late 80’s…) thus the anime adaptations have suffered the same lack of releases. It’s why after the mid 90’s release of the anime series there was a long break (we’re talking over a decade) that any form of a Berserk anime was released. This is until a project in the form of 3 movies were animated by “Studio 4°C”). Then it was announced that finally a true anime series was coming out for Kentaro’s work that fans (the cult few that have stayed true to the series) were elated. Unfortunately, studios  “Liden Films,” “GEMBA,” and “Millepensee” didn’t handle Berserk (2016) well thus leading to a slew of issues that I will save for mostly last.

In case you’re new to Berserk (though you shouldn’t be if you plan to watch this show) I’ll do my best to explain the series in only several sentences. Guts, a mercenary who joined the Band of the Hawk and ended up branded after an event called the Eclipse, finds himself searching for revenge against his former leader/friend Griffith and a cure to his love/former companion Casca’s destroyed psyche.

Facing the demons that hunt by night to use him as a sacrifice (the brand’s effect) he ends up involved in a hunt when a woman leading a small regiment is tasked with bringing in Guts now titled “The Black Swordsman” (not Kirito as many love to say). Now for the most part the manga fans will be angry because while the main core of Berserk hasn’t been changed much, a lot of story elements, characters, and moments have been removed to save time for the 12 episode season (there is currently as of writing this a season 2 airing). If you’re not a manga reader you won’t notice many of these elements however, I found that despite the removal of a lot of story elements from the original source material, the show still had enough of an impact to care about Guts and his cohorts as well as care about the story unfolding.

Too often animation is choppy, melded poorly with 3D CGI and traditional 2D. This on top of an odd overly sketched character design leads Berserk (2016) to look just ugly overall and rarely ever pleasant to watch.

Ignoring the animation, sound wise Berserk does a good job of capturing the voices of Guts, Casca and Griffith (voiced by “Hiroaki Iwanaga,” “Toa Yukinari,” and Takahiro Sakurai respectfully) and music is once more handled by the master himself “Susumu Hirasawa” leading to at least a pleasant experience in the sound department (maybe not so much the frying pan sound effect of Gut’s large dragon slayer sword…).

The weakest part of Berserk (2016) is hands down the animation, which is why I saved this specifically for last. The studios I mentioned earlier were clearly not capable of dealing with something as dark and violent as Berserk. Too often animation is choppy, melded poorly with 3D CGI and traditional 2D. This on top of an odd overly sketched character design leads Berserk (2016) to look just ugly overall and rarely ever pleasant to watch. The opening is probably the strongest animation as its just a traditional 2D style and I’ll be honest, should have been the main style of the whole show. If one were to look at GEMBA & Millepensee’s works prior, you’ll realize they were simply a poor choice to handle this dark fantasy epic. Their works consist of mainly shorts and moe like anime…why they were the teams chosen to lead such a venture baffles me to no end…yet it makes understanding the animations short coming more understandable.

Let’s be honest. Is Berserk (2016) the worst anime out there, no. There are some strong elements in the form of the still dark story and visceral concepts, plus a strong music and voice acting accompaniment. Yet the very poor visuals will make most turn away the second the first episode launches. I hear that the Blu-Ray versions to be released have altered scenes and fixes but nonetheless that wasn’t applicable to the series originally, thus why I award Berserk a (C-). Berserk fans will forgive the failures, but most will barely accept them and newcomers will see this as a failure or near failure. If you want to hear my thoughts feel free to click the link above.

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Blade Ninja

Writer at AniRoute
Writer, anime reviewer and considered by many to be an old soul.

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