Berserk is hands down my favourite manga release of recent years, an uncompromising blend of horror, action and war, this genre busting adventure has already taken Japan and the U.S by storm. It has spawned numerous tie-ins including merchandise, a video game and most interestingly a T.V series.
Being a bit of a fan I approached this series with a mixture of trepidation and high expectation. Berserk really is an ambitious manga and I was anxious to see if Miura’s epic vision could be squeezed into a 25-episode anime that entertained whilst still doing the series justice.
Berserk follows the exploits of Guts a frighteningly skilled warrior who wields a sword the size of an ironing board, scarred of past and bereft of arm Guts bears a serious grudge against Griffith the demonic king of Midland.
The first episode serves as something of a primer with a gnarled, teeth-gnashing Guts dishing out the pain and slaying a particularly nasty snake-demon, after that it’s back to the past as the series recollects the trials and tribulations that will shape Gut’s destiny and make him the snarling psycho we all know and love.
Thanks to the makers’ almost reverent adherence to the source material Berserk is every bit as exciting on the small screen as it was on the page, the epic sweep of Miura’s manga has made the translation intact, boasting intense action, drama and a sprinkling of political intrigue that’ll keep even the most ardent fantasy fan smiling.
Battle scenes provide the meat of the action, enlivened by some gritty no holds barred mayhem they crackle with a visceral energy that never fails to get the adrenal gland pumping. The cast never take a back seat to the action though, remaining at the forefront of the story throughout.
Characterization is the real name of the game and in this respect Berserk has yet to be bettered. A solid emotional core and underlying themes of brotherhood and betrayal are what really set this apart and by the time the series reaches its devastating denouement you’ll be crying out for the oft-rumoured second series.
Appearing at the height of the late nineties anime boom Berserk is a nice looking series. Whilst not exceptional it is more than serviceable for a TV show, the characters have been recreated in incredible detail and remain pleasingly faithful to their manga incarnations. There are no ‘off’ or ugly episodes and all in all this a fine-looking series.
Alongside Cowboy Bebop, Trigun and Evangelion this is one of anime’s heavy hitters and is more than deserving of a place on even the most casual anime fans shelf. It is also refreshingly old school and fans of Ninja scroll, Wiked City et al will lap this up.