ANIME & MANGA - Review
16:11 - 22nd January 2013, by David West

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1

Kentarou Miura's blood-soaked tale of warriors, betrayal and revenge is given a new lease of life with the first of a trilogy of films directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1 - The Egg Of The King covers similar but not identical territory to the opening instalments of the first anime adaptation by Naohito Takahashi - which originally aired in Japan back in 1997 and 1998, but which infamously ended rather inconclusively with the plot left blowing in the wind.

However, Kubooka puts his own stamp on the material. Instead of opening with a brawl in a tavern, he begins his tale with a clear blue sky - the proverbial calm before the storm. Then, a flaming object disrupts the tranquillity of the sky as it sails through the field of vision. It's a burning shot from a trebuchet. An army is assaulting a castle - and The Egg Of The King hits the ground running. The attack on the fortress is superbly rendered as the attacking forces deploy battering rams, ladders, siege towers and the crushing power of the trebuchets to punch their way through the defences. In the ranks of the siege breakers is Guts, who only comes to the fore when the attackers slow to a screeching halt, faced with a huge bear of a man called Bazuso - who dares anyone to come and fight him. Guts duly obliges, and it is immediately apparent that this particular swordsman is cut from a different cloth to his comrades. His duel with Bazuso draws the attention of Griffith, the leader of the feared mercenaries known as the Band of the Hawk. Griffith decides he wants Guts to join his Band, but Guts never does what he's told without a fight.

Berserk has a well deserved reputation for violence and gore, but it has strong characters that change and develop (although not always for the best) as the story unfolds. At the start of the tale, Guts seems nothing more than a brute who thinks with his sword and tries to slaughter his way out of every situation. But as he becomes embroiled in the machinations at the royal court, he is confronted by the consequences of his slash first, ask questions later mentality. When he begins to bond with the other members of the Band of the Hawk, he becomes more engaging and likeable.

The film looks spectacular, a quantum leap forwards in animation quality from the original adaptation. The level of detail in outfits and backgrounds is superb, and the interplay of light and shadow in every scene is impressive. The use of CG techniques allows for dramatic camera movements, as the viewer swoops down over charging cavalry, or into the thick of a melee. The sound design is excellent, particularly the ringing clash of blades in the fight scenes. When Casca crosses swords with Guts, you can feel the power in his blows just from the prominence of the sound effects in the mix.

The original Berserk series is a fan favourite, and the manga is still going strong at Dark Horse, but this new film does the material proud. The battles are rendered in amazing and bloody detail, the pacing is sharper than the tip of Guts' sword, and the ending is sure to leave viewers eager to see what happens next.
SCORE: 4/5
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