(Recommended by a coasting chatter, completing the recommendation trifecta.)
It’s considered among the greatest anime of all time. I’ve come back from Hell to inform the masses that it is, indeed, a series well worth this horrible world.
God forbid we have a series that showcases violence, nudity, and genuine angst in a way that matches the weight of the situation. God forbid we go against the formulas to create a successful series rather than a great series. God forbid we take any real chances, any step outside the comfort zone of the general public’s interest. Very, very rarely do I come across a series in modern times that accomplishes the feat of doing everything it wishes to do with enough strength to bore through the details and cast aside the shackles of triviality. Arslan Senki tried and failed, Parasyte tried and failed, Erased tried and failed. Shinsekai yori is the one series that comes to mind that does what Berserk manages to do with both its story and its characters, creating a lasting experience that deserves its rank among anime’s best and most creatively ambitious stories.
Where will you ever find an anime again that has an albino man sacrifice his entire army to become a demon lord, only to rape his only female recruit and corrupt her unborn child, which she had with his second-in-command? How the fuck do you top that level of outright cruelty? This series has semblances of it, but pray to whatever God you may believe in, there is no sappy POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! present in this series. I truly wish more stories, not just anime in general, had the gall to stomach loss, tragedy, and misery the way Berserk can—on top of still being a remarkably relatable, enjoyable, and invigorating story full of themes to take to heart. Fuck.
Emotions are still reeling, as one can no doubt tell. Even peering through, this series is not flawless. There is a cushy middle sequence that isn’t very interesting in hindsight. Taking siege of castles and battles against armies full of cocky, loud-mouthed foes fill Berserk neatly to its core. One knows who will win, one knows that the plot armor is very, very thick, and one knows that, whatever happens, the first episode tells the fate of seemingly everyone involved in the next twenty-four episodes. Animation also isn’t the best. Certainly not bad, though not quite good; its best comes with the abject imagery accompanied by the satanic illusions scattered throughout and by the series’ end. Animation and fluidity are typically sound, yet suffer in meandering moments.
Oh, how gray this series is. Gray is a color so absolute in its fluctuating state. Good and bad are terms not truly understood, left to the interpretation of everyone. And with so many different representations of motivation, drive… it’s hard not to empathize with the (main) characters of Berserk. Guts (Or Gatsu?) is a spectacular lead who, while slightly hinging upon the typical male lead, grows through his experiences and strengthens himself through not only his technique and physical stature, but his resolve. I whine quite often about the overemotional screaming of male leads and how it makes them able to accomplish anything, but it can—it can—work within a very specific context, one Berserk manages to do. Casca is, if I may be honest, just a tad overemotional, hopefully not because she’s a woman and because she’s just overemotional. With a tragic backstory (like most of them) and her connection to Griffith and Guts, she handles herself as one of the strongest female leads I’ve ever witnessed in anime despite it.
Griffith, well, Griffith is perhaps the most complex character of the whole. I cannot bring myself to hate him, no matter how strong his betrayal. To some apathetic, completely cynical and self-serving twinge of understanding, I can relate to him. Griffith is the embodiment of “The end justifies the means,” and it’s explored beautifully, though only in key moments. How much does a dream mean to someone? How strongly do they feel the need to realize that dream? What are they without that dream? Nihilism is one of many themes present that define Griffith as a character, and one of many more that make up the web of Berserk’s complicated mass.
What it all comes down to is whether or not it says anything. At the core of every great piece of visual media is whether or not it resonates, whether it manages to leave some sort of impact on an emotional, creative, or intellectual level. When I watch anime that involve clichés, pretentious and/or lazy writing, horrendous amounts of sex jokes, or uninspired characters, it doesn’t resonate. It doesn’t shine. It misses. It may as well not even be there. When I watch anime like Berserk, there’s a point. It makes it seem as though my time is of value to the writer, to engross me with their passion and novelty. Creating this sort of imaginary connection, to magnify what the author was intending or to find new value within the words. God, do I love to actually think. It makes me feel alive. Berserk makes me feel alive.
Personal Score: A-
Critical Score: B+
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.