27 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

I had to write something

Berserk

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I started it because the first episode was marginally more impressive that Demon Detect­ive Nou­gami Neuro. It was only 3 days ago I wrote that post, laughing at how corny the level of violence was. Giggling at the demons’ constant references to the tearing of flesh and crunching of bones. The rest of the series was nothing like that first episode. Totally different in terms of tone, direction and purpose. And yet, in the grand story of Berserk, was every bit as important as any other episode in the rest of the series.

One thing stands out from that first impression though. I remarked at how perfect the pacing felt. Well, that continued throughout the series. Not just the pacing though. Never once was there a misstep in directing. Not once would a scene leave me thinking that they could have done that better. Not once did the story become difficult to understand, nor was a direction the story took not sufficiently foreshadowed while never being overly so.

Everything was deliberate. Every scene had purpose. Berserk is perfect.

Berserk has the reputation of being a hack and slash gory fantasy, yet the highlights of the series never came in the battles. Guts swings his sword and enemies are cut down with splashes of red paint everywhere; perhaps from a perverse love of violence you could garner entertainment from these scenes alone, but the highlights of Berserk came from the scenes after the battles. The discussions amongst the characters as they reflected on their life purpose, their relationships with each other, and the dream of Griffith.

Griffith.

A man whose dream weaves in those around him. Everyone around him cannot stop themselves from being attracted or repulsed by his sheer existence. Their dreams do not get warped by his, they get sucked in entirely and become part of his dream. To control the world and everything in it. To reach the castle in that horrid dream of his. Except for the one man he didn’t win. The one thing he couldn’t control. Berserk works like a classic tragedy. Through one fatal flaw, the great work of the hero is undone. Everything built up to that fatal flaw, and yet when it occurred it was not immediately apparent that this was the case. What happened broke the man, challenged to shatter his dream, and yet it was what kept him sane.

While I may have just marveled at the moments of calm epiphany that littered the series, that was not the true highlight. Berserk is a masterpiece in storytelling. I have been incapable of doing anything that requires mental strain today because my mind has been so full of Berserk. Not because I was trying to dissect the imagery of Berserk or anything like that. Berserk was not a confusing anime. The ending, while bizarre and creepy, made perfect sense in the grand scheme of the story. But that’s exactly it. This grand scheme of the story was what I had in my mind the whole day. Looking back and connecting the dots. Understanding the characters motivation and thought process behind every action they performed.

Every action was calculated. Every scene had purpose. Berserk is perfect.

Strangest of all was that this was achieved even by stopping part of the way through the manga storyline, which is still ongoing with the mangaka constantly delaying the latest chapters to play Idolm@ster. Yet it still worked. It all tied back in perfectly with the first episode again. The process of events leading up to the final episode felt natural.

Berserk has challenged the way I rate anime because my enjoyment of the series was far removed from those I typically enjoy. Gone were my usual catnip of fabulous characters, dramatic plot twists and Xantos Gambits. Berserk never had The Rush. The Rush is that feeling of sheer exhilaration while watching anime that you reach near euphoria. Berserk was the chilling effect that perfection coats you with. I’ve had similar experiences sometimes while watching Cowboy Bebop or Kaiba, but neither of these reached the level Berserk did. After finishing episode 14 I was left sitting in my chair for about half an hour, just letting that episode sink in and contemplate how insignificant everything else in my life felt in comparison to this Japanese Cartoon I had just watched.

I had to write this post. I had to write something about my experience with this anime, simply to get it off my chest. As I said, I’m currently incapable of watching anything else at the moment. Hopefully with this brain vomit I can move on. Watch some more of these Japanese Cartoons I am so infatuated with.

Berserk is not my favourite anime because the yardstick I use to measure my favourite is different to that which I enjoyed Berserk by. It doesn’t hold a candle to those amongst my favourites like Death Note and Baccano. Berserk, however, is the best anime I have ever watched. Every nuance was intentional. Every scene had a purpose.

Berserk is perfect.

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26 Comments

  1. Posted May 17, 2010 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    *Moves Berserk up ‘to watch’ list*

  2. Posted May 17, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    It’s one of about five shows I’ve bothered watching twice. That’s how good it is.

  3. Posted May 18, 2010 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Wow, this certainly piques my interest. I assume I haven’t watched it before because I caught wind of the “hack and slash” reputation. Now I feel I need to experience this perfection for myself.

  4. Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    There are three things that Berserk executed outstandingly well that made it so amazing, and they happen to be the three things that all brilliant anime do well: characters, characters and characters.

    For the story about the bloody and violent rise to success of one man and his merry band (of mercenaries) and his equally bloody and violent downfall, there’s so much introspection and reflection, and so much emphasis on what drives these characters and makes them tick. Even during the hack and slash scenes, there’s this ironic introspection: Gatts claims to himself that these are the moments where he’s most comfortable, because there is nothing to think about and nothing goes through his mind. But that’s just what he thinks, as we’re shown that he’s constantly thinking during these battles, and about deep things like who he is, and what he’s doing here, and why he wants to live and keep fighting.

  5. Posted May 18, 2010 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    Seriously? I don’t believe any anime is perfect. There is always bound to be a flaw within the anime, but people don’t notice since they are so into the anime. >.<

    This is one anime I must consider watching, since you seem so fond of it.

  6. Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:15 am | Permalink

    Looks like you experienced one of those rare stay of shock that only certain shows can give. I’m saying this because I experienced the same thing when I watched Beserk. After finishing it I was in plain awe of how everything played out just right. Everything leading up to the big “end” of the show.

    Berserk is awesome.

  7. Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    I’ve tried halting my episode viewing at episode 7. Not sure I can keep this up much longer, as Berserk was kicking my teeth in with awesomeness up to that point, and nothing even happened yet really.

    This summer I’m probably going to end up finishing it.

  8. Posted May 18, 2010 at 3:17 am | Permalink

    *state*

    See just talking about it it’s bringing everything back.

  9. Scamp
    Posted May 18, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    @Baka-Raptor

    It’s good enough to make me write such a nonsense post

    @Joojoobees

    If you’ve seen Claymore, the two are similar in setting but different in appeal. Claymore is very much the hack and slash appeal, and is very good in doing so. Berserk is a critics wet dream

    @Sorrow-kun

    When someone describes an anime’s appeal as being the characters, I think of those with fascinating personalities like Senjogahara or Tokuchi Toua. That’s not the case with Berserk. None of these characters would ever make a favourite character list of mine, although Griffith might be an also-ran. It’s the strength and perfection of the charactisation.

    @Hinochi

    Discounting animation shorts where there’s little chance of slipping up, there are three anime I consider ‘flawless’ where any minor discrepency is negligable. They are Haibane Remnei, Baccano and now Berserk.

    @keikakudoori

    It’s strange that I hadn’t actually heard that much praise for it. Yes it was vaguely mentioned here and there as being a good anime but I’d seen very little discussion of what made it good compared to many other famous 90’s anime like Evangelion, Bebop, GTO, Utena, Patlabor and so on. Hopefully this post might get a few more people to watch it

    @Glo

    I’m trying to remember where it really becomes amazing. Episode 14 was phenomenal but admittedly the true greatness only becomes apparent when you look back at the entire picture

  10. Posted May 19, 2010 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    “the true great­ness only becomes appar­ent when you look back at the entire picture.”

    I had a class like that in college. It was very interesting on a day-to-day basis, but I mostly occupied myself trying to keep up with the readings and the lectures. Then, in the final lecture, it occurred to me how the whole of the course, which typically seemed sprawling or even rambling, was really incredibly well planned to cover all sorts of topics, that shone light on a few common themes. Only at that point was I able to look back and appreciate how well crafted the course was. It really gave me a whole new appreciation for my instructor.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Woo, I can reply to people properly now! Watch my comment count soar~!

      Teachers like that are too few and far between. I wonder how long it took for him/her to perfect that method?

      (oh god, I instantly went to type the @ button because I’m so used to doing that…)

  11. maculid
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    Yeah, someone should have warned you about episode 1 before you started the series. Definitely not as misleading as the first episode of Gungrave but.. I can see why some people might get turned off after watching it.

    What impresses me most about Berserk is just how deliberate the violence is. Rather than draw attention away from its flaws, Berserk uses violence to aid its story telling and character development just as Sorrow-kun said.

    I’d probably rate the series higher if it weren’t for the fact that I liked the manga so much more. The characters introduced later in the manga are iconic to me and the story really does continue to get better and better.

    Which reminds me.. whats the deal with the second season of Berserk anyway.. talk about tease city.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      There was a rumour a while ago that Studio 4degree (I have no idea where to get that degree symbol on this keyboard) were doing a remake. What had happened (supposedly) was that a staff member had gotten drunk and showed someone screenshots in a pub which were then leaked online. That was about a year ago and there’s been no word since then so I think it was all a farce anyway.

      Basically, there’s no second season coming anytime soon and nobody feels like touching it, certainly not with the crazy fanbase and the fact it’s still ongoing and will be for at least another 5 years at his current pace.

  12. dirty weeabro
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    you’ve persuaded me to give this baby another shot.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      damn straight you should

  13. Gunslinger
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    hahaha another berserk fan :)

    you should catch up on the manga also some time, they pulled out a lot of its supernatural elements in the anime

    • Scamp
      Posted May 19, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      I’m generally not a manga guy but Berserk I’ll definately read. Although probably not for a while yet

  14. Posted May 19, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Ugh… Berserk. It left such a terrible taste in my mouth.
    Granted, I agree with most your review. Pacing was amazing; no scenes were wasted. Lots of action, lots of gore, and lots of blood. While gar and old school style are not necessarily my thing, I don’t mind it either. And Griffith is really truly awesome. Loved him.

    It would’ve been a pretty good series if it wasn’t for the ending.

    I understand also that the manga continues the story… etc. etc. But did they really have to cut it off at that point? Further, did they really have to have that ending scene?

    The demon rape pretty much ruined it for me, burned a terrible taste for the genre, and made me avoid Gar anime since then.

    Still, good review. The points you raised really exemplify what makes it a great anime.

    • Scamp
      Posted May 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      I understand where you’re coming and those last episodes really threw me as well. However understanding why it occured and how it worked in context through the rest of the story made me just appreciate the anime even more.

      And yes, Griffith is awesome

    • morbious
      Posted June 24, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      I totally get what you’re saying. I was completely outraged and couldn’t believe it ended at that point. “WHAT? No, no…” It was awful. But at the same time, there was a part of me admiring that they refused to pull any punches. I think that’s part of what made Berserk so amazing…the characters are generally deeply flawed and they don’t really try to cover it up or excuse it. It’s all about how the flaws and dreams of the characters inevitably snowball and build and interact with each other.

      (spoilers)

      I don’t know how you can still love Griffith after the ending. It’s Griffith’s megalomania and insecure need for control that brings it all about. But I guess you can say it was the corruption after Griffith’s sacrifice to try to reclaim his dream. And also (jealousy maybe?) Griffith trying to get revenge on Gattsu for derailing his dream by spoiling something precious to him, even though it wasn’t Gattsu’s intention, he just wanted to have his own dream and not be used.

      And again, it all goes back to the main themes of Berserk, the pull of fate and the tug of war between dream and destiny. As awful as it is it comes off as inevitable, even though we didn’t see it coming.

      (/spoilers)

      Anyways, after the terrible ending I literally had to pick up the manga right away. Well, after re-watching episode 1 to see if there were any clues how things might end up. You might try doing the same. I couldn’t accept it and I was hoping things would be “ok”. Things don’t really get better though…it’s really quite sad. At least things eventually settle into somewhat a state of peace, though a broken one.

      Much of the manga after that is how the characters deal with the aftermath of the tragedy in the last episode.

      The last episode really is the culmination of the arc of the events before it. If it ended before the eclipse it wouldn’t have made sense. It really couldn’t have a happier ending either since there is no happy ending, and any “flash forward” would deny people the experience of seeing events unfold. The manga is really great.

  15. dirty weeabro
    Posted May 24, 2010 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    I’m glad that I gave this series another shot, as my initial impression from reading the manga made me think it would be horrible. You were so right though, Scamp. I literally -just- finished watching Berserk for the first time, and I must say, it was as every bit impressive as you stated. Now I’m left with a similar feeling to what you had when you wrote this review.

    Just wanted to let you know, haha. ;o

    • Scamp
      Posted May 24, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      This comment makes me happy :)

  16. fruitpunch samurai
    Posted July 2, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    to tell the truth i did not know much about the anime because i read the manga online, loved it, read all 300-something chapters in less than a week and loving each fight scene where i could almost feel the adrenaline and being in awe to the storytelling and setting. however when i DID hear about the anime i was rather dissapointed to find how little a part of the entire story was covered and how much they left out. although i will take your word that the anime was amazing, it pains me to say that i cant imagine anything being greater than the manga

  17. Posted June 11, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    Awesome blog, scamp. As for Berserk, I first learned about it as q video game on the Dreamcast. It had hours and hours of cutscenes, although the gameplay was awesome: you couldn’t Just swing that man-sized sword anywhere: u had to be in an open area. Otherwise, in narrow alleys the sword wasn’t an option so u had to use other means. The story was strange and there was this annoying pixie character.

    I didn’t think much of it till a couple of months ago, I took a gander and tried it. Fell asleep at the first episode, wasn’t impressed. Thought it would be just another Hellsing type: action and lotsa posing. Feh.

    Oddly enough I kept watching… And I was history. By the end I was so surprised that my expectations were established ridiculously low so I immediately watched the first episode again.

    A+

  18. hint
    Posted July 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    You know how i ignored this series when i was watching Naruto… just like flushing it out with all shit. Now that im watching because of you, i think i was the one that should have been thrown away. I would have been the same noob i was back there.
    Thanks.

  19. Erif
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 3:33 am | Permalink

    Well… I just finished it.

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  • […] in gen­eral. But I’m never going to write a bet­ter post about what happened in Ber­serk than this one, so that’s not what this post is about. This is about a trailer.The Ber­serk manga is still […]

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