(Content notes: Violence, depictions of rape)
So today I’ve learned that the English versions of the new Berserk movies will feature the return of the cast who originally worked on the series. It’s the best news I’ve heard all week.
I first heard of Berserk, weirdly enough, when I stumbled upon the various outtakes for the English version of the anime, which some kind soul had uploaded to Youtube (they have mostly been taken down since 😦 ) Covering almost the entire series, they were a fun, cheap way to get acquainted with the series’ characters and basic scenarios, albeit via hilariously skewed versions of their characters. Griffith, in particular was inbued via the outtakes with a passion for bursting into song, which makes him my favorite version of the characters. It also made me really take a shine to the voice actors, and I credit them for helping me develop the soft spot I have for those VA’s who operate in New York City.
I eventually watched the anime proper (dubbed, of course–it’d have felt weird to watch a story based in Middle Ages not!Europe in Japanese) and liked it quite a bit. Sure, the animation was inconsistent and the people in it seemed to have bodies made exclusively of blood, but in the end it was a nice, solid tale of Middle Ages politics and war. At least until the end.
I later took on the manga, and to be honest, I wasn’t all that enthralled with it, at least at first. Gorgeous art, but Guts, the protagonist, can’t really carry the book on his own. It wasn’t until a supporting cast was established, killed off, and then established again that the book really became consistently enjoyable.
Sure, the pacing can be slooooooow. However, I don’t mind it as much as I usually do, partly because it never seems like creator Miura is padding the script to stall for time (it helps that the official release schedule for new chapters is “whenever he finishes one”). And when the product is as pretty as this, I don’t have the heart to complain. But what I most like about it is the characters and the world he’s set up.
Like I said, Berserk takes place on a fantasy version of Europe during its version of the Middle Ages, and follows Guts, a former mercenary with two goals in life: a) to kill his former boss and former friend Griffith, who betrayed and is responsible for the death of almost all the members of The Band of The Hawk mercenary group Griffith used to lead and which Guts belonged to; and/or b) make a life for himself and Casca, a former Hawk whose mental health deteriorated badly during the events that killed the rest of the group.
Oh, and there’s demons–scary, horrible demons. Worse (better) still, there’s politics.
Mostly, though, Berserk mostly acts as a balm when sequential art–both American and Japanese–hurt my soul, because it has things that those should but rarely don’t. Diverse body types! Protagonists who actually become better people throughout the course of the story! People who are older than thirty and actually look it! Prostitutes who are allowed to be actual people and don’t get killed! Politics! An aesthetic than in its weird way reminds me of the first few Zelda games (which is weird, because they look nothing alike)! A core cast made out entirely of characters I like! Artists who don’t think “kicking ass + implausibly revealing clothing = strong female character”!
It’s not perfect, and it’s not for everyone. It’s very graphic when it comes to violence, and especially so when it comes to sexual violence. It can also be downright depressing in the way it shows the absolutely horrid conditions people who aren’t protagonists or royalty lived under. Now that the U.S. translation has caught up with the Japanese, it means new volumes come out once a year, which can be disappointing when each volume can be read in less than half an hour. But every time those volumes come out…DAMN!
Like I said earlier, the outtakes for the original anime have mostly been scrubbed from Youtube. Here, however, is a collection of some of the best ones.
Content Note: Violence, nudity) (Also, Spoilers)