After a quick set of flashbacks to remind you of the events from the first film, The Battle of Doldrey wastes no time in getting straight back into the action. Flying heads are everywhere as you’d expect (I lost count this time after about 12), battles are all extremely well set up and choreographed to boot – but while the film stands out in many areas, it starts to fall short in others.
In terms of its character development, The Battle for Doldrey is somewhat lacking in comparison to that of the first film. Saying that, it covers what I feel are the most important parts well. You’re given a glimpse into Casca’s past and how she was introduced to Griffith, well placed within what I feel is one of the best moments of the film between Guts and Casca. Not only does this show the dedication that Casca has to Griffith, it shows just how lost Guts is as well, trying to find a purpose amongst the bloodshed. The other particular moment comes into play at the latter half of the film, which shows a character’s fall to madness – though the execution may come across as a little humorous at one point despite the fact it’s meant to be pretty serious. Outwith that, it’s rather limited in what else is shown. This is something that shouldn’t surprise me considering there is only so much they can pack into three films.
Saying that, the main focus this time round seems to be more on covering the major battles than just the characters themselves, so we’re greeted with some more bloodshed from the fights incoming. I’m fine with this in many ways as the battles are so well done that they keep you hooked. It’s definitely feeling more like the films are aimed at covering the action from the series than anything else but my only issue is that, whether it’s because they want to tackle the battles mostly or not, something feels…off. While it still feels like anyone can enjoy this, there is that feeling inside me which thinks this will really appeal most to those who are fans of Berserk already and less to the newcomers. Missing scenes here and there feel like they’ve neglected some pivotal plot points all round (especially one particular scene that is missing from the end of the film), but at the same time, it doesn’t entirely hurt the story around the band of the hawk. Instead, it removes some of the story’s depth.
For the most part, The Battle for Doldrey’s hybrid style of animation looks and feels great. It does still go a little ‘too CG’ at points, some parts being way too evident and a little distracting. It’s definitely a pretty film to watch though, and they really do catch the feel of medieval Europe in the designs of the castles, landscapes and dress sense. Sagisu Shiro’s soundtrack again stands as very powerful in it’s execution, from helping to bring out the adrenaline from battles to the tension between characters. It really captures the spirit of Berserk.
For those interested in extras of any kind, I’m afraid to say that – like the first film – there aren’t any to be had. You get your options for audio and chapter selection, and that’s all there is. The dub itself is fairly passable for those that prefer an English cast to the Japanese. While I would still recommend the subtitles and Japanese voice track, I think you’d be ok going with either. I’ll also note that i had an issue in playing the preview at the end of the film for some reason; it would just stall then skip to the credits. It could have been an issue with the DVD itself and it may not happen at all to anyone else or on the BD, however. This is just a warning in case others find the playback fussy.
Overall, the film is still extremely enjoyable for the most part. It doesn’t feel aimed so much at the new audience the first film would have brought in, but more at those that have read the manga previously. There are moments which are covered too swiftly, and moments where are just not covered at all, and that’s a shame. But for all the flaws in that respect, The Battle for Doldrey still does a damned good job at covering the atmosphere of the series, and all that bloody combat we’ve come to love.