24 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Berserk Golden Age Chapter: The Egg of the High King – A fanboy’s review

I first saw the original Berserk TV series about 2 years ago and thought it was pretty good. By ‘pretty good’ I mean I consider it to be the greatest story ever told, better than The Odyssey, Hamlet, Citizen Kane and Big Oiled Butts 3 combined. 15 years later they’ve brought out a Berserk movie. A trilogy no less, the first of which was just released in good old illegal format for all of us dirty foreign pirate scum to watch. Early impressions: They’ve changed a few things. Very few things.

The movie covered about 10 episodes of the original, from when Guts first meets Griffith to the part where the assassination attempts start happening in the royal court. They cut out a fair amount of scenes, the most noticeable of which being there was no naked water fight. Seriously, no naked water fight means you might as well not call it Berserk anymore. Not that the homoerotic subtext isn’t there anymore. Forget subtext, Guts outright states that he’ll happily be Griffith’s whore. Berserk has always ridden on their relationship and how closely interlinked their goals in life are and how they define each other, so at the very least they got that part right.

The movie did cut out a lot of content, as I mentioned before, but the fact that the only content I can recall them skipping was the naked water fight goes a long way to showing how what they cut out wasn’t vital to the story. It did feel a bit mechanical the way they jumped from plot point to plot point, making the movie feel disjointed like you could feel the gaps where the episode would normally end or the manga chapter would cut out, but perhaps this is only noticeable to me as a fan of the original. They still got across the importance of the relationship between Guts and Griffith, along with Casca’s jealousy, which is all that really matters.

The main big change they made, apart from streamlining the story, was the animate the movie entirely in CG. As much as I hate to chime along with everyone else who talks about this movie, but the majority in correct in this case. The CG simply does not look good. It might look good compared to many of the other CG anime I’ve seen over the years, but it still looked awkward and unnatural. From the trailers I thought the character animation for the CG looked fantastic, but now having watched the movie I have to confess that those scenes I thought were great CG were actually just standard 2D animation. When they cut to the free-flowing CG stuff it looked plasticky and artificial.

The use of CG ties into something else bigger going on with the tone of this Berserk movie. In his review, psgels pointed out that it was going for a more high epic fantasy adventure rather than the gloomy gritty affair that was the original TV series, which I’d have to agree with. This does come with its own set of problems though. The fight scenes in Berserk are as bloody as hell, with characters heads being cleaved in two and arms flying around and the camera being smeared with blood. The original Berserk had all this as well, but here it felt gratuitous and immature, like you had some suger-rushing 15 year old boy off camera going “fuck yeah now cut his head orf yeah!”.

The original Berserk was harsh and brutal. The level of violence fit the tone because it was a tough world they lived in and people die and have brown smeared over everything. By no means do I have anything against high fantasy, what with the Lord of the Rings movies being my favourite movies of all time. But with this mechanical look and bright colour palette, the gore feels out-of-place. I maintain that the best fully CG anime is Fireball, precisely because the fake mechanical look to CG works when the characters are all robots. It doesn’t suit something that’s as gritty and dirty as Berserk is. God only knows how they’re going to handle what happens later on in the story when shit really gets brutal.

That brings me on nicely to my final point about this movie. This Berserk remake trilogy plans to cover the ‘Golden Age’ arc, which is exactly the same material the original TV series covered. It’s still the same old Berserk story. That story may be fantastic. The duel between Guts and Griffith where Guts bites down on the sword is still an awesome scene, as is the washed up Guts standing on the stairs after the assassination and looking up at Griffith as he gives his speech about dreams. These are still powerful scenes that show Berserk is as great a story as it always was, even in this streamlined version. But it brings so little new to the table to Berserk that I don’t get why it exists. What little it does bring, shifting the tone to a more high fantasy one, makes the darker and more brutal elements of the story seem gratuitous and silly. I’ll have to wait to watch the rest of the trilogy to make some sort of final statement on this, but I don’t think this is really worth watching. If you’re a newcomer, watch the original TV series or pick up the manga if you’re more of a manga person. At least those versions have the naked water fight.

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24 Comments

  1. Flawfinder
    Posted June 6, 2012 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Personally, I’m more a fan of Peter Jackson’s early violent films.

    Anyways, I still haven’t had a chance to see Berserk yet, but the minute CG was mentioned in the movie, I already knew the series would be better.

  2. Scissors61
    Posted June 6, 2012 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    The reason why these berserk movies exist is because they plan on adapting the entire manga which is still ongoing… very very slowly. It would be weird if the movies just started where the TV series ended considering it was over a decade old. Old school grimy TV series animation to a shiny CG movie wouldn’t be a very smooth transition.

    I could compare this trilogy to the first 2 Eva rebuild movies. Not really that much new stuff compared to the TV series. All the important plot points are still there even if compressed in movie length. It’s a good way to introduce new people to the series and also serve as a refresher for old fans to prep them for the next bit of movies with new content.

    As a long time berserk fan who saw the anime a decade ago and continued on with the manga (which is the most epic manga ever. You should read it Scamp), this movie wasn’t so bad IMO. The CG didn’t bother me as much as other people. It was pretty janky especially the beginning fight scenes though it did get better and more fluid after that… or maybe I just got used to it?

    So yeah I liked this movie because I didn’t really remember much of the finer details in the old anime (like the naked water fight). Maybe people who watched the series only recently would be more critical to it. Also I don’t see the difference between the dark and gritty series to this “high fantasy” tone movie. It both feels the same to me. Golden Age arc was mostly high fantasy from what I remember. It only got grim dark at the second half of it and if you read the manga past that arc… it only gets darker.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 6, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      I’ve heard that the only plan to cover the Golden Age arc, so I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that they’re covering more. Also while I get the idea that the Golden Age is not as dark as later portions of the story, watching this movie highlighted how fucking gruesome the action and the tone still is. Don’t let the later content blind you to that

      • Scissors61
        Posted June 6, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Yeah I was also wondering where I got my info from so I used my google-fu to find where exactly. I initially saw it on myanimelist but its also mentioned on wikipedia and ANN.
        “According to the official twitter, the film project of Berserk will last more than a decade”
        “According to Newtype, the 2011 film will be the first part of a project that will adapt the entire story from Kentarou Miura’s manga. ”

        Of course this might depend on the success of the trilogy. Kentaro Miura’s health…. Idolm@ster….

        MAL source
        ANN source
        wikipedia source

      • Scamp
        Posted June 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        Huh, I guess you’re right. Maybe they’re promoting it as a series of trilogies? That seems like an awfully strange move though

  3. Mike
    Posted June 6, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    I haven’t seen the film yet, but it strikes me as weird that the naked water fight is gone. It’s a jarring and awkward scene, but it’s also a really important one plot wise and thematically. What do they do instead to have Griffith explain to gutts the beherit and his ambitions, and how do they show the humanizing of gutts? I guess a weird naked water fight is a strange choice for showing the opening up emotionally and learning the ability to accept others as friends for the protagonist, but that’s how it was in the original and the manga. Seems like important stuff not to be left by the wayside.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 6, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      They do that scene after they’ve had the fight with the big demon thing and are chatting outside the palace. It’s also the place Griffith talks about the thing around his neck, which I thought was a bad move myself. Making that thing open its eyes showed that there was more magic in this world before revealing the big demon thing. In this version the big demon thing sorta comes out of nowhere

      • Mike
        Posted June 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        That’s not preferable and sounds a little bit odd, but I’ll withhold judgment until I see it. I’m not one of those fans that want the films, and whatever else comes next in the Berserk project be it more films, OVAs or a TV series to slavishly present every panel exactly from the manga, but you’re correct, the way you describe it makes it sounds like it throws the pacing of the story off a bit.

        Based on your review, I might as well wait until the blu-ray release comes out–maybe until all 3 are available here in the states. I think there’s an enormous amount of stuff to be excited about here, but this doesn’t sound like the most ideal start to the project.

      • Scamp
        Posted June 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Probably better to wait for all three if you’re not an impatient bastard like I am. And considering you’re a Berserk fan, you have been clinically proven to be the most patient person ever

  4. luffyluffy
    Posted June 6, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    I’ve got the movie torrented, so I guess I might as well just delete it.

  5. Chipp
    Posted June 6, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    You should just watch the first episode of Kingdom (the new animu).
    It has got really godawfulhorrible 3D in it.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 6, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      I saw the trailer. It looks like it might make my terribad viewing schedule

  6. goober
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Berserk manga’s artwork is so intricate and detailed that it’ll never be faithfully adapted to anime

    • DarkEnergy
      Posted June 7, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      Sadly, I think you’re right.

  7. blish
    Posted June 7, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    citizen kane and the lord of the rings… **sigh**, tho i agree on your half-synopsis of this as compared to its anime original.

  8. Posted June 8, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    I’ve spent the last month reading from the start of the Berserk manga up to the end of volume 32 and I’ve just finished watching this film. I’ve taken a brief glance at the TV series as well, but haven’t got around to watching that yet. Perhaps over the summer.

    Anyway, I think your problem with the presentation of it as a high fantasy adventure instead of harsh and gritty is somewhat unjustified as the Golden Age arc chronicles the one time in Guts’ life in which he is truly happy. Terrible things happened when he was younger and even worse stuff happened later on. What we see in this film probably comes across as energetic and positive as it does is because that’s what it is like for the main characters: for once they are more than mercenaries, they have a dream and they have friends to realise it with.

    I fully expect this to change dramatically with the next film when life is less peachy for the Band of the Hawk, but really, until the end of the third film it lacks the reason to go super grim. Setting aside the point in time that the film shows, I felt that the assassination scene succeeded in achieving the atmosphere you described. Though I was not particularly impressed by the jerky framerate effects (poor quality makes me feel sad but for the wrong reasons, Studio 4C) I thought the close ups on the faces of Adonis and Guts and the way that he clasps the kid’s hand was very poignant and was effective at highlighting the shittier side of life in the world of Berserk.

    In terms of the CGI, I was skeptical from the start, unlike you and upon watching the movie, perhaps due to my low expectations, was not nearly as offended by the effects as you seem to have been. While I didn’t find it outright eye desecration, It came across to me as alright just as long as it kept moving at a decent pace. My only hope is that once they get past the section covered by the original manga they will decide to ramp up the animation quality and go all out.

    Besides that I think I pretty much agree with you on everytihng. Especially the naked water fight. While they managed to allocate the information on the behelit to another scene, I rather enjoyed that scene in the manga and I felt while not necessary to the plot, I think that as a key scene in developing the relationship between Guts and Griffith, it was sad to not see it there – although CG Griffith ass might have been eclipse level scary.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 8, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

      No you see, that’s the point I was trying to make. I know shit gets way darker, but you forget that it’s still a grim and gritty series at the start. I was wondering why the violence made me uneasy in this movie, and that’s because it feels voyeuristic when placed in this high fantasy setting, while it fit with the grim tone of the last iteration

      • Posted June 9, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

        Oh dear, it appears I can’t handle reading comprehension today. Sorry about that. Also I have a bad habit of playing Devil’s Advocate (God Hand?) which I hope you won’t begrudge me for.

        Granted, Berserk is a grim and gritty series, as you say, from the start. However, how the viewer interprets these grim and gritty events is largely down to the perspective of the main characters. Undoubtedly everything that unfolds fits your description, but if the main character – the figure the audience is meant to identify with – doesn’t give a damn about something, why the hell should the people watching do so either? (excepting of course where said something involves another sympathetic main character). As viewers we pay particular attention to the grim and gritty nature of Guts’ backstory and his future as they bring him suffering, but for the segment of the story covered by this film, no harm comes to him or his allies and consequently anything that could come across as being dark that happens to anyone else remains by and large invisible because it’s someone else’s problem.

        As for where violence fits in with this, I have to agree that it is uncomfortably voyeuristic. It gets hard to avoid the pitfall of “because it’s Berserk”, because regardless of tone, Guts does what he does because that’s what he knows how to do and just because times are happy doesn’t mean he’s going to be more dainty with his sword strokes. Perhaps they could have had more of the finishing blows done offscreen or something? I’d imagine there are all sorts of things they could do to rectify it, but I think the reason they made it so visceral was most likely for the very reason you found it offputting: It appeals to fifteen year olds after some good old senseless violence.

        While the Berserk manga is published in a seinen magazine, all you have to do is look at some of the other things that run alongside it to see that it is at least partially tailored to that sort of reader: Detroit Metal City screams senseless vulgarity with every page and Nana to Kaoru features copious amounts of BDSM. I reckon that Berserk is multifaceted in its appeal in that the delightfully complex characters are intriguing for readers looking for something beyond violence and sex and the beautifully drawn battle sequences are there to draw in the less mature readers. Personally I love everything about Berserk, but let’s face it, the blood probably draws in a lot more sales. Berserk is probably not something that is strictly speaking intended for minors to get their hands on, but much like Grand Theft Auto or just porn, kids will do anything to get their hands on it and that is a great source of cash.

      • Scamp
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        All fair points. I guess its been ever since I saw Hellsing Ultimate that I’ve been railing against this sort of unnecessary gore and violence when it’s just there for juvenile glee

  9. The Big Guy
    Posted June 9, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    To be honest, I prefer awkward CG to still pictures every other frame during the fight scenes in the TV series because they had no budget (or simply didn’t want to animate the scenes, which is lazy). People tend to forget that… Also, this is only the first 8 episodes, which (if I remember correctly) really weren’t as gritty and harsh as you remember it. They even had that odd comic relief character enemy general guy that had some hilarious outtakes. The real grit of this series comes after the war and when everything goes to hell, literally.

    The creators are pulling a Kara no Kyoukai with this series, the first three being Golden Age (now with Skull Knight) and the rest covering Black Swordsman and other arcs. These are the setup movies, basically.

    • Scamp
      Posted June 9, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Guuuuuys are you not reading the post!?! I’m not talking about what happens later in the story. I’m talking about what I saw in this movie. I felt the violence was gratuitous and didn’t mesh with the high fantasy tone the movie was going for. This has absolutely nothing to do with what happens later on in the story. Whether the story gets grittier doesn’t subtract from the fact that what happens in this movie, compared to bascially every single other anime other there, is still gritty, dirty and violent

  10. Gamal
    Posted August 6, 2012 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    As an aspiring filmmaker and a lover of Berserk i was so disappointed with the 2012 Berserk the Egg Of The King movie that i took the 1997 TV series and edited into a 2 hours and 35 minute movie (2012 movie is only 80 minutes). For me the egg of the king movie has no heart and no soul with no character development. This is how the movie should have been http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-B8BiZ4JP0

  11. mrsticky005
    Posted November 5, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    At last someone who gets what Berserk is truly about:

    HOMOEROTIC NAKED SPLASH FIGHTS!

    LOL.

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