After a long winter, this new adaption of Berserk is back! My brief impressions of episodes 13-15 are fairly similar to my feelings on the series as I left it last September. I’ve not been impressed by the execution of the animation from either the CG or traditionally drawn variety. It still seems choppy to me, like it is missing frames. Art-wise I do not find the hand drawn portions considerably more good looking than the CG models used and while I never expected the art to approach Miura’s manga in beauty, I can honestly say I enjoyed the far less detailed designs of the 1996 anime more. Still by far the worst aspect of this version of Berserk is not the art design, strange shading, cg models, or even wonky animation, it is the directing. I’ve scratched my head at the some of the camera angle choices and pointless panning and cutting that I’ve seen in the first few episodes of this season, much like I did in the last.
On the bright side, this new season of Berserk has already made better use of one of the greatest anime soundtracks of all time. Last season, they tended to use the same 3-4 short clips over and over, thankfully that is not the case this season so far. Having listened to the glorious Berserk 2016 OST (which is largely EDM heavy remixed versions of the original 1996 Berserk soundtrack) in full, it has been nice to hear a wider variety of the tracks used more appropriately. I’m not quite sure if I prefer the OP/ED songs used for this season or last, but I think they are pretty good at any rate.
Forest of The Demonic Beasts
We cut away from last week’s focus on Griffith’s new Band of the Hawk to open this week’s episode with Guts somewhat offhandedly accepting Farnese and Serpico as travelling companions. While this surprises pretty much everyone else, the events of last week have surely weighed on Guts mind heavily. With his inner demon chipping away at his sanity, Guts is willing to accept any help that he can get in order to deliver Casca safely to Puck’s homeland. As they begin their travels, we see Farnese begin to self-reflect on her general lack of ability when it comes to either fighting or more mundane tasks, and she is relegated being babysitting the addled Casca. It is interesting to see Guts in this context, acting as a father figure of sorts, training Isidro to survive as Gambino trained him (with 1000% less abuse) and even giving Farnese the “I’m totally disappointed in you” silent stare after she (literally) chases a rabbit and fails to watch Casca. Still Farnese has her (secret) big brother Serpico looking out for her, as he lets Guts know what and who his priorities lay with. Somehow I think Guts can appreciate his sentiment.
While all this character development is happening, the rest of the merry band encounter their first troll. When Isidro finds the threat over his head, a small witch appears to rescue the group and drive the trolls away. The young witch warns the group to leave the forest for their own safety and departs. After re-assembling, the band presses on, encountering a survivor of what looks to be a troll attack. The rebirth of Griffith has ushered in the widespread appearance of magical beings in the human realm, including a large group of trolls which have pillaged the nearby town. The elderly survivor mentions the local nobles are off to fight the Kushan invasion, so he instead came to these woods to seek the aid of a legendary witch, who had helped him once when he was younger. The band does manage to pass through the barriers surrounding the witch’s home (no doubt due to Guts’ and Casca’s brands) and after a brief encounter with the local security, are invited inside the spirit tree. The young apprentice, Schierke,introduces herself and brings the group to her master the Witch, who appears to have been expecting them.
I have to admit, this particular section of Berserk, The Troll Arc, is my favorite arc of the story. While people are familiar with the Golden Age, a terrific and tragic arc on its own,it is essentially only the backstory about figures from Gut’s past. The Troll arc is when we finally get a sense of how the present day story begins and where it is going. I have feared how well this arc of this story will be presented to audiences unfamiliar with the real greatness of the Berserk manga (both from a storytelling and artistic point of view). The Tower of Conviction arc and the first few episodes of this season haven’t done anything to assuage my fears, but one thing I can find a silver lining in, is that for a large part the story so far has not been altered (save for the amalgam 1st episode and the horse portion which was expanded upon). So despite of what I would characterize as a disappointing presentation, it does give anime viewers who are experiencing this part of the Berserk for the first time, at least a mostly “true” version of the story. If the story can still deliver its impact despite the handicap of this adaption, people will only be more impressed should the seek out the manga.
Now do I wish that MAPPA, who is doing this season’s most gorgeous anime Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul , was doing this adaption of Berserk? You bet your soul and the souls of all your friends I do. Visually though, I didn’t find this episode too bad, especially compared to earlier episodes, well nothing leaped out at me as awful at any rate. There are some nice little touches in scenes like Casca antics in the background, some little glances from Farnese or Serpico in the foreground, or Puck healing Isidro’s bumps during conversations. Sound-wise, this week was solid, nothing was inappropriate or out of place, it is nice to hear Ash Crow in the soundtrack as well. Also, Chiwa Saito is the VA for Schierke, so at least on the audio side of things, this version has some positives going for it. Well, that just about wraps things up for me this week, till next time.