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Anime Reviews: Berserk Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King
Expectations were high for this big-budget adaptation of Kentarou Miura's famous work, but only bitter disappointment awaited within.
Title: Berserk Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King a.k.a. BERSERK Ougon Jidai-hen I - Haou no Tamago
Production: Studio 4°C
Film Length: 77 minutes
Air Dates: 2/4/2012
Age Rating: 17+ (strong graphic violence, brief nudity)
Summary: Guts is a rough and reckless young mercenary who has known only battle all his life. Born from the corpse of his mother, raised in a harsh and unforgiving warzone, and exposed to the horrors of Midland's One Hundred Year War at a young age, swinging his sword is all Guts can claim to do well--and it's enough to attract the attention of the charismatic Griffith, leader of the infamous Band of the Hawk, feared by all as "Death on the Battlefield." Guts is unceremoniously recruited by Griffith, forcing him to fight for his freedom. Griffith is victorious, and so Guts becomes the newest member of the Band of the Hawk, striving for both Griffith's dream of having his own kingdom, and for his own desire to fight for his life.
The Good: It's based on Berserk
The Bad: Awkward 2-D animation; horrific 3-D animation; story butchered by unsteady pacing and lousy direction; emotionless non-ending
The Ugly: There's going to be more of these...
I will save you a lot of pain right now: skip this and watch the 1997 series and/or read the manga instead. I could just end my review right there, but further elaboration is almost required, especially considering the hype surrounding these films and the fact they're based on one of the most beloved manga series of all time. But rest assured, this movie is awful. Just awful. How awful? Let's find out~
But first, before the lashing, what's good about The Egg of the King? Sadly, very little. Aside from an adequate musical score and adequate voice acting, all I can really say is that the Berserk story is still fairly intriguing even when it's being rushed and butchered and torn apart by incompetence. The scenes with Zodd the Immortal are pretty awesome. Guts' fight with Griffith is cool, too. I guess the raid on Duke Julius' manor was alright, as well. That's about it, now that I think about it. You'll get some mild enjoyment out of the familiar scenes, but your enjoyment will be short-lived.
To begin with the mountain of flaws this film carries, your eyes will scream for mercy after only 5 minutes of this mess, because both animation styles find fresh new ways to carve horror into your poor little mind. The 2-D animation, while it seems to be competent at first, completely misses the mark and fits Berserk about as well as your foot would fit in your coat. Bright, clean, flawlessly pretty characters are not what I think of when I think of this series. Even though the 1997 series only had a budget big enough to eat at Arby's, they put all their time and effort into making each shot as gritty, dirty, and ugly as possible--WHICH IS THE ENTIRE POINT OF THE SERIES--and the end result was an anime that perfectly represented its source material. The Egg of the King, however, looks as much like Berserk as CLANNAD does (at least CLANNAD looks like its source material...). But that's not all! I haven't even talked about the 3-D animation yet!
Not gonna mince words here. It sucks. I think I've seen more skillfully-rendered soldiers in the Berserk Dreamcast video game. Not only do the 3-D figures look hilariously out of place against the backgrounds, but they also wear unflinching wooden facial expressions, even when their gory demise is mere milliseconds away. Good thing the 3-D siege machines turn in better visual performances than their human companions; at least they're supposed to look wooden!
Though when it comes down to it, the greatest travesty committed by The Egg of the King is its miserable mishandling of the Berserk story. Honestly, if you're new to the series and have no idea what's going on (go watch the TV series instead), then this movie wants nothing to do with you. Important dialogue events fly by at ridiculous speeds, while the overindulgent action sequences bring it all to a screeching halt. Before you can even have the luxury of being able to ask what's going on, something else happens with little to no fanfare, leaving you in the dark once again. Not only are the events onscreen scarcely given adequate explanation, but they're rushed as hell. Who are those other guys in the Band of the Hawk? Did we ever even hear their names? No time for that now, we got another flashy and ugly battle to sit through!
How could it get any worse, you ask? Easily! Just make sure that the characters don't have any depth whatsoever! This is part of the reason many Berserk fans were against the reboot being a series of movies: the series is all about the relationships between Guts, Griffith, and Caska (Whoops, did you forget about her? So did the director!), and how they slowly change over time because of their interactions with each other. Naturally, a movie doesn't have as much runtime as a TV series, so your characters are going to be scant on development right from Day 1, but when you put a novice director in the chair, you're just asking for trouble. Mr. Toshiyuki Kubooka should stick to designing characters instead of directing; he's clearly far better at the former than he is at the latter.
But then comes the cherry on top: the ending. For those familiar with the story, this film decides to end on Griffith's "For me to call a man my friend..." speech. I would say that's a spoiler, but since I'm warning you to not watch this movie in the first place, it hardly matters. What does matter is that Studio 4°C skimped out on character development, padded the film with visually unappealing war battles, and ended the film with its emotionless rendering of Griffith's fountain scene, clocking in at a total of 77 minutes. Not only is that an extremely weak place to end a Berserk film, it also barely qualifies as a feature-length film with such a paltry runtime. It would be one thing if the ending aroused any emotion--then at least I could say it went out on a high note--but I was given nothing to feel. All I felt was my time being robbed and my loyalty being betrayed.
Actually, that sums up The Egg of the King quite well. It's a waste of your time, and if you're a Berserk fan, it's an utter betrayal to the franchise we love. But now with the second film, The Battle for Doldrey, already out and the third, Descent, on the way shortly, I can only hope that Studio 4°C and Kubooka learned their lesson and fixed their mistakes. God knows I'd go postal if the others were as bad as this.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 10. Bogged down by ugly visuals, poor time management, and a shameful mishandling of its material, The Egg of the King is a travesty that should never serve as any fan or newbie's substitute for the original manga or the 1997 anime series.