Anime Impressions: Berserk (Episodes 1-25)

WARNING: SPOILERS!
I should warn the prospective reader that there’s definitely SPOILERs here! I consider myself spoiler proof. After all, if it’s ruined just by someone telling you what happens, then it couldn’t have been very good to begin with, right? However, there are plenty of people out there who’d be very angry if they read on only to find a series spoiled for them. So here’s the warning…read at your own risk.


Ahhhhh……The anime of the late 80’s and mid-90’s…..Before the entry of the waif-like form, when male anime characters went shirtless, sporting basketball size deltoids and six-pack abs. When Cthulhu roamed free through the darkness, and women knew when to shout the hell up and kill something. It wasn’t just anime….it was “Man-ame!” You couldn’t watch stuff like this without growing an extra testicle!

There’s no better Man-ame than “Berserk.” I’d heard about it for years, and the people in the UW Anime Club have always described the bizarre, hallucination inducing ending to me. And so, when I first started watching it, I was looking for some weirdness. The first episode full filled what I was looking for, but pretty much everything up until the 24th episode is your standard Life As War story.

Plot:

Like many Fantasy stories, it seems to take place in a version of Medieval Europe. The main character is Guts (Gatsu?), a swordsman for hire. He catches the eye of Griffith, perhaps the creepiest bishi (“bishonen” = “pretty boy”), you’ll ever see in an anime:

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A mercenary, as well, Griffith has big plans for himself, and he’s willing to sacrifice anyone, even his loyal followers, the Band of the Hawk. The others don’t realize this, of course. With the exception of Casca, the female commander, they think he walks on water. She is the only one who sees Griffith as a human being, and a generally good-natured one at that. Howoever, even she can’t see the darkness that resides within him.

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Yep, there’s another one of my favorite anime character types. The heroic warrior female. Casca is strong physically, except for during her menstruation cycle, and doesn’t take crap from her male subordinates. I actually didn’t like her at first. In fact….I still kind of don’t like her character. Although she doesn’t actually hang off the arm of Griffith, as Princess Charlotte does:

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Casca is still fixed on fulfilling only Griffith’s dream, rather than working for her own. Griffith himself makes it clear that those who work to help him achieve his goal are merely his underlings, his servants. He does not see them as friends, or equals.

Compared to the astonishing Griffith, Guts just seems to be an “Average Joe” type character.

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Although he is incredibly strong and muscle bound by Average Joe standards, he has a hell of a time trying to fight off demons. In an anime like DBZ, all he’d have to do is power up after getting his butt kicked and blast the thing into oblivion. However, when up against an inhuman foe like the Behelit, Guts usually winds up winning through a combination of luck and cunning. He’s an easy character to identify with. He’s strong enough to survive in battle against normal, human foes, but not powerful enough to take out a demon in one fell swoop. While we rarely see Grifftith injured, Guts bares the brunt of many attacks and keeps coming back for more. Plus, he’s hot! He’s got beef-cake written all over him. And yes, he does eventually hook up with Casca, after a history of animosity:

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It should also be mentioned that, as with Claymore, the anime for Berserk only covers the first thirteen volumes of the thirty-something volume manga currently being published. There is also no end in sight for the manga, which some think will run to about one hundred plus volumes (Berserk Encyclopedia, FAQ: “When will BERSERK end?”). The anime concludes around “episode” 70 of the manga, although there was supposed to be a 26th episode that was cut due to budget constraints.

A word of warning to those who are a bit squeamish. If you catch the “Eye Candy (Berserk)” section on the main page of this site, the AMV I found on Youtube will give you a discomforting look at the final two episodes of the anime. It ends on a rape scene (which does happen in the manga, only more graphic). The anime pretty much keeps a majority of the plot in tact from the manga, although certain characters and plot elements are missing and the violence is toned down. We are not treated to seeing Guts sold into sexual slavery and anally raped as a child (as also happens in the manga). But still, be prepared for some shocking stuff that borderlines on hentai.

Despite the anime’s abrupt and horrifying ending, I plan on reading the manga. Many new characters are introduced, the plot is expanded upon three fold, and Casca is catatonic. There’s more female warriors to be had. I’m looking forward to them finding their own dreams. And to seeing Guts again.

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-Originally posted on the Anime Impressions Windows Live blog, then reposted to Blogger on 12-21-2007

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About romeomoon

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an Associates of Science and Art and a Bachelors of Science and Art. I'm the creative lead of the Lounge L33ts podcast, a regular guest on An Unearthly Podcast, write anime reviews and short stories, and create artwork in both digital and traditional media. I am a full time staffer for the Geek.Kon convention in Madison, WI. I am also an avid player of Massive Multiplayer Online Games and live stream various MMORPGs.
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