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Guts was brought up by a mercenary group since birth. After killing his guardian in self-defence, he runs away. Years later, he encounters Griffith and The Band of the Hawk. The Hawks fight for the King of Midland, and after winning the 100-year war against the neighbouring Chuda, they become the King's personal guard. However, once they reach the top, things take a turn for the worse. Written by
Devin Hill-Mann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Medieval kingdoms, big swords, frenzied warriors, gore, nude, sex, intrigue, betrayal, demons, a quest for vengeance, and an ending that was screaming for a sequel
1) The pilot episode. It ain't shitting around with a slow build up. It begins at a point in the future where the lead character is already somehow betrayed and mutilated by his best friend, and he is on a quest to kill the sucker. The very first episode tells you with a scene from the future how the world became a dark and morbid place, where the people live in fear and demons have crawled in powerful positions of authority, toying sadistically with innocents. It is an extremely powerful plot device to hook you for what is about to follow or not. The second episode is actually the story told from the start, as we gradually see how the protagonist grows up in the battlefield, gets more powerful, wields bigger swords (I mean, REALLY bigger swords), how he makes allies, friends, lovers, and enemies. You already know how all that will have a bad outcome because of the pilot episode so you are easily interested to see how all that happened.
2) Gore, splatter, nude and sex. This almost goes without needing an explanation. Sex and violence always sell and this anime has buckets of it. Sounds like brain-dead superficial entertainment but unlike most shows Berserk is only using them as attraction and not as definition. Because to be honest, most heavy on action and/or nude series are usually nothing without these elements while Berserk works fine even without them. Plus, it uses a form of violence that is quite appealing to me; hand-to-hand and sword-to-sword battles between frenzied armored warriors. Using magic or lasers to do the same just doesn't look raw enough.
3) Interesting characters. The main three characters are interesting, even if there wasn't a ton of violence and gore in the show. You gradually see them revealing all their inner thoughts to you, their pasts, their goals, their desires and hopes. You see them getting beaten, learning from their mistakes, maturing, being broken by betrayal and coming out more crazy than what they already were. Plus, the aforementioned violence is used to bring out their weak side and hidden thoughts.
4) Political power struggles. The show is not centered on a team of warriors, strolling a generic kingdom and doing stand-alone missions. The world they live in has affected them and is affected back by them, all part of Griffith's goal to leave his mark on the world by getting his own kingdom. Along the way many aristocrats get annoyed by his continual successes and fearing their own agendas to be stolen by him continually try to assassinate him. And he reacts by plotting his own assassinations. All of which happen in secrecy, while the kingdom is at war with its neighbors. So it is not a story about a few brave warriors protecting their good homeland by invading monsters; it is a simple war of political agendas between local kings for whom gets to have all the lands for himself. And not only that; it is also about the internal double crossing the aristocrats do to one another every time one wants to steal the glory from the other.
5) Atheistic take on humanity. Although religion is a topic hardly mentioned directly in anime, over here it is openly trampled as nothing more than a false ideal to hide one's dark desires. It is extremely interesting how the show uses ideals and hopes as means for clergy and ambitious leaders to control their underlings. This was never done before so openly. It even goes as far as claiming how all the demons in the show are in reality people willing to sacrifice everything in order to fulfill their desires, even if it means losing their humanity and killing everyone they love. I really liked how monsters are not treated as generic incarnations of evil or plain misguided mortals; they are shown to be the pure form of ambition liberated by the constraints of morality, emotions and ideals.
6) Psychological symbolisms and imagery. Many parts of the show, usually those involving demons, are full of WTF sceneries, all of which have to do with basic carnal desires and fears. Unlike most shows with demonic dimensions, which are nothing but generic depictions of torture of the damned, here all the monsters and their Eclipse world are directly attributed to their personalities having been given in completely to their desires. The characters are not scared of getting crazy because of them. Heck, they are mostly terrified of becoming like that as well. Not because it is bad or wrong, but because it feels inappropriate for any human being to end up like that. Which is again very interesting as a concept.
Cliffhanger ending. This is a part most hate about the show, as it ends in the most exciting and agonizing way possible. But in reality, that is also a plus of the show as it is almost demanding from you to read the manga just to see what happens next.
The animators had lots of sloppy moments inserted in the show and most of them have to do with lack of animation and repeated footage and not with bad drawings. The drawings are in fact great. The music score is amongst the most blood boiling pieces of grudge rock and orchestrated epic music even made and easily tops even the animation part of the show. The characters have really appropriate voice actors with no stupid pitches in voice. Even the sound effects were successful, as simple as they may have been.
Bottom line, Berserk is fine dark fantasy material, with great action and story and characters. The manga version is of course continuing the story far more than where the anime stops and features far more gore and sex scenes.
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