ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Anime Reviews: Berserk

Updated on December 31, 2015

Though it contains one of the most infamous endings in anime, Berserk more than deserves its rightful place as a classic of 90s action anime.

Title: Berserk
Genre: Action/Drama
Production: OLM
Series Length: 25 episodes
Air Dates: 10/8/1997 to 4/1/1998
(well, that explains the ending...)
Age Rating: 17+ (strong graphic violence, mild language, brief but extremely disturbing sexual content)

Summary: Guts has always lived a harsh life, from his childhood as a struggling mercenary to his adolescence as a struggling mercenary, now approaching adulthood as...a struggling mercenary. He was born into the role, so to speak, from the corpse of his mother before being found by mercenary leader Gambino, who taught Guts the way of the sellsword. After slaughtering an enemy champion, Guts encounters members of the Band of the Hawk, an infamous undefeated mercenary group often referred to as "Death on the Battlefield." He attracts the attention of their leader, the charismatic Griffith, who (first subdues and then) attempts to recruit him, to lend his strength and join the Hawks, to realize Griffith's ambition, and to change the country of Midland forever.

The Good: Dark and gritty fantasy setting; Classical-style characters and story arc; low-budget music and animation capture the spirit of the manga flawlessly; the English dub outtakes are mandatory viewing
The Bad: Low-budget is still low-budget; the ending will make you punch walls
The Ugly: The ending will make you punch babies and kittens also

The year: 2004. The occasion: Christmas. The gift: the 6-disc collector's edition of the entire Berserk anime series. The price: $49.99. The end result: one of the best manga adaptations with one of the worst endings imaginable. I'd know about the series for a few years, unable to find a decent copy of it, but when that Christmas rolled around, I was so pumped to finally see it. This was a landmark--the pinnacle of 90s action anime, and it has found a home in the Top 10 Anime lists of many. And before long, it would sneak its way onto mine. Why is that, you may ask? Let's dive right in, shall we?

Right from the very first episode, the mood is set: gritty medieval settings, violent action, dark shadows in all facets of life, rain pouring down, a hooded man with a crossbow arm wielding a 9-foot-long sword--you know, the usual stuff around town if your town was the scariest town ever. And while the first episode is mainly a flash-forward, we still see much of the same bleakness and violence throughout the series.

The anime focuses mainly on the "Golden Age" arc of the manga, so, uhh...that should immediately send up some red flags. If the so-called Golden Age is a crapsack world where mercenaries and soldiers kill wantonly, then it's safe to say you're in for a ride. Do keep your arms and legs inside at all times. If you were looking for the perfect dark fantasy anime, you're in the right place, my friend!

Easily the greatest thing about Berserk, alongside its surprisingly-unique setting (seriously, why don't we have more of this stuff?!), is its characters. And alongside that, the storyline. There are some pretty unusual characters in the lineup, including tough-guy anti-hero Guts and the darkly manipulative yet compassionate Griffith. While other characters like Caska, Judeau, Corkus, and Pippin are interesting and unique in their own right, it's the core duo of Guts and Griffith that lift the series from "solid" to "HOLY CRAP HOW DID THEY DO THAT MY MIND HAS BEEN BLOWN" quality. Both characters take a page from Classical epics, with Guts representing the powerful soldier who fights to carve his own fate and Griffith representing the hero who rose from nothing and became a beloved icon to his people.

The story, too, follows the Classical traditions of the hero's trials to greatness, the rise and fall of a powerful man, the threads of fate that tie us to our destiny, and the allure of changing one's own fate. Berserk takes cues from Greek and Roman legends, crafting a story that tells more than just a story, giving us food for thought in between its intense sequences (and sometimes during!), while many artists and authors seem content with just having a series of interesting events that lead to feel-good conclusions. How does Berserk accomplish this? By giving us two directly opposing viewpoints! Guts' path in life involves telling destiny to take a hike and making your own way in the world, while Griffith's path involves following the signs destiny has left behind for you to become the person you were meant to be. Which one is right? Are either of them right? Or are they both right? You decide!

With that said, destiny is but one of the main themes explored in the series. It just happens to be the one that's most central to the plot.

Of course, a lot of the epic sensibilities and thematic exploration would be hard to notice if Berserk had had a humongous budget like most big-name manga adaptations tend to have. If you have a lot of style and flair and sparkles and oohs and ahhs, the point you're trying to make could go unnoticed entirely or could be completely neglected in favor of adding more shiny (Akira, anyone?). This is why, in a stunning reversal of expectation, the series' relatively low budget actually works in its favor; it's forced to be up-front and direct with its pacing and atmosphere. Instead of making action scenes highly choreographed and stylish, they have to be quick and brutal and ugly, thus allowing for more convincing and more dangerous battles for our heroes to fight. Instead of putting tons of money into a sweeping symphonic score, they have one guy with his keyboard. Luckily, that one guy is Susumu Hirasawa, and he is awesome, and the soundtrack he wrote is awesome. And they did it on a shoestring budget! All in all, the series is a lot like Clerks, in a way: throwing more money at it would have been detrimental instead of helpful, as the low-budget aesthetic is far more fitting than a glossy, polished one. (Also, my love for you is like a truck.)

Unfortunately, low budget is still low budget, and while it does help the series in some ways, it's also harmful in others. Some of the brutal battles begin to lose their edge when the animation can't properly portray the quick movements of battle or when scenes are reused to save money, and the artwork can sometimes be unpleasant to look at, though it's pretty rare. The low budget also affects the music, giving us a hilarious yet awesome opening theme (put your grasses on, and nothing will be wrong!) and a horrendously tone-deaf ending theme. But minor animation and music quibbles are nothing compared to the true horror that lies in wait...

Ladies and gentlemen, Berserk may very well have the worst ending in anime history. The key word in that previous sentence is "may," because there really is no ending. It just stops. The last two episodes throw us into a situation that is horrifying beyond all imagination, everything we've known up to this point is thrown out the window, and our heroes find themselves in the worst possible scenario with no escape, no hope, and no chance of survival. With things going as they are, our heroes are going to die and they can't do anything about it. You hold your breath, waiting to see what will happen, hoping that Guts and the others can make it through, and then EPISODE'S OVER THE END HOPE YOU HAD FUN EVERYBODY.

If there are any walls in your house that are not peppered with holes upon finishing this series, you have the self-control of a legion of Shaolin monks.

With an ending that horrendous, can I still recommend this series? Well, yeah! There are just way too many good things about Berserk to let a little thing like its rage-aneurysm-inducing ending prevent you from seeing it. And hey, with the magic of the internet, you can then follow the manga to see what happens next! Now there is no excuse!

Final Score: 9 out of 10. Berserk is rightfully considered to be one of the best action anime of the 90s, despite its relatively low budget and infuriating ending.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Willliam B 

      6 years ago

      Great review. I'm still reading the manga. It's still not finish. According to internet rumors. Warner brothers is planning to make a movie out of it.

    • profile image

      MundaneMondays 

      6 years ago

      One of the most brutal anime's out ..i love this one Zelk it's amazing

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)