The wait is over. After nearly two decades since the last animated series of Berserk graced TV screens, we are finally ready to follow Guts beyond the “Golden Age” arc into the “Black Swordsman” arc.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the return of Berserk, and for good reason. Fantasy series as a whole have taken a turn towards more Sword Art Online style storytelling and art style, as opposed to the grittier, dark fantasy people may have enjoyed in series like Record of Lodoss War. This is in addition to the fact that Berserk has such a large manga following, and they have been eager to see it brought to life.
Unfortunately, the animation style is…controversial to say the least. After watching series like BBK/BRNK, God Eater and others, the cel-shading style wasn’t terribly grating. However, I don’t think it was the best choice in establishing the Berserk universe’s tone and aesthetic.
As a continuation, Berserk absolutely relies on references to the “Golden Age” arc: Griffith and Guts’ early friendship, Guts’ relationship with Casca, the history of the Band of the Hawk and other early events are slotted in through numerous flashbacks just within the first two episodes. Obviously, having this backstory is essential to understanding and appreciating the larger universe of Berserk, so if you haven’t already seen the recent movies, it would be a good time to do so now.
The re-introduction of Guts is done largely by emphasizing the excessively violent and harsh world he lives in. Having survived a (literally) hellish experience that resulted in the death of everyone he knew, as well as the added horror of witnessing the woman he loved being sexually assaulted by his best friend and going insane as a result, those familiar with the series certainly weren’t expecting anything less than sorrow and loss right from the start. To this end, Berserk does a fair job of showcasing that nothing is sacred. Little girl and harmless old man? No chance against the demons that pursue Guts and his infernal brand.
In Episode 2, Guts finds himself captured by a pampered band of soldiers known as “The Holy Iron Chain Knights”, led by the overzealous Lady Farnese. While their poor combat skills would often make them mincemeat before Guts’ giant blade, he is still badly injured from the previous encounter. So, while Guts manages to do some serious damage, he’s ultimately taken in and interrogated by Lady Farnese regarding the disappearance of his former mercenary troop. Unimpressed, and shining a harsh light on the commander’s need to “throw her weight around”, he seems unfazed by the flogging he receives and is locked away. Puck finally demonstrates some usefulness by bringing Guts the key, and the two escape with Farnese as a hostage, with demons hot on their trail.
Puck tries to add some humor to the series, but the weight is too much for the small fairy to bear on her own. Guts is characteristically tough, while still having some brief moments of tenderness when he thinks of Casca and his former colleagues. Nobody else has really had a chance to stand out just yet, as Berserk is often the tale of Guts’ solitary journey of vengeance.
Overall, I’m enjoying Berserk so far, though I can’t help but have it marred by what could have been. Regardless, if you’re looking for something dark to add to your anime mix, don’t miss Berserk this season!
Berserk airs on Fridays and can be watched on Crunchyroll