Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
At last, SUMMER 2016 is here and most anime will debut during the first two weeks of July. The first one to air was the newest incarnation of ‘Berserk’, based on Kentaro Miura’s ‘Berserk’ manga and a sequel to the ‘Golden Age Arc’ film trilogy. It’s the second anime series with the ‘Berserk’ name after the 1997 anime of the same name. Almost twenty years later, the new series will cover the events of the ‘Black Swordsman’ and ‘Conviction’ arcs.
Guts, the protagonist of the ‘Berserk’ universe, may have survived the events of the Eclipse, but his freedom is not without consequences. He bears the God Hand’s mark on the back of his neck, a guiding beacon for all kinds of hungry demons and nasty spirits that will haunt him for the rest of his life. The only thing left for him is revenge against his former friend and comrade, Griffith.
If the general summary seems a bit disorienting to you, you probably are new to ‘Berserk’. The series assume that you are familiar with the three movies of the ‘Golden Age’ Arc, so do yourself a favor and watch them before you start watching these episodes.
In contrast to the laconic writing of its 1997 counterpart, this series starts with a brief but clearly overwritten introduction about the solar eclipse that foretold the coming of an angel of darkness.
“On that day, a dying sun rose above the multitude of nations.”
The introduction along with the quite impressive opening credits (with a theme provided by 9mm Parabellum Bullet – インフェルノ) are full of reference moments for those familiar with the backstory.
A few years later, a lone swordsman, Guts, walks into a tavern. What starts like one of those often-told anecdotes is actually parallel to the opening scenes of the 1997 series where Guts saves a harassed girl. This time, Guts saves a young mercenary boy who wants to make a name for himself using his sword, and an elf being tormented from a pack of thugs. The elf that introduces himself as Puck, follows Guts as he leaves the tavern after beating the crap out of the thugs.
The rest of the episode is half story – half full of grit. Particularly the grit can’t be emphasized enough. Shin Itagaki, the director, is known for the horror elements of his work (especially in ‘Full Metal Alchemist’ and ‘Gurren Lagann). Guts, wandering into a dark and menacing forest, is picked up by a pair of good Samaritans, a god-believing old man (Adolf) and his young daughter (Collette) who have also offered the protection of their carriage to the little blue elf, Puck. Even though they kindly offer Guts a moving roof over his head, food, and wine, he warns them that he’s been possessed by evil spirits.
The evil spirits soon make their appearance. A small nightmare thingy tries to feed on Gut’s nightmares, and an army of undead skeletons unearths to kill him. Their first victim though is little Collette. Guts and his sword, which mostly resembles a ‘hulking mass of iron’, go on a massive undead killing spree. At the same time, the forest’s trees wake up and are hungry for flesh, and Collette becomes possessed and kills her own father.
Guts defeats the skeletons, destroys the big chunk of dull wood, and slices little Collette in two. That last part is proof that the series is going to touch some emotional chords during its run.
If you get past the credits (ALWAYS GET PAST THE CREDITS), you’ll see that Guts is eventually surrounded by the Holy Chain Iron Knights who have been investigating the events leading to the solar eclipse.
From the religious comments during the carriage scene and Guts’ mockery of Adolf and Collette’s death, it’s evident that story-wise the writers will touch some familiar themes like death, war, and the purposeful journey.
The CG models of the ‘Berserk’ movies are back with some big bold manga-style hatch marks that are quite nice to the eye. The ratio of CGI compared to traditional hand-drawn animation (which is gorgeous) is even higher than that in the movies.
Most fans are torn apart because of the excessive use of CGI and the sometimes chunky animation.
I am not one of those fans. I believe that anime must experiment and provide fans with fresh approaches to everything from animation to storytelling. I am not very fond of the result, but I am very curious to see what this series has in hold for us.
NEXT: July 8, “The Holy Iron Chain Knights” “Seitessa Kishidan” (聖鉄鎖騎士団)
©KENTAROU MIURA(STUDIO GAGA) HAKUSENSHA/BERSERK PARTNERSHIP