Six episodes in and the 2016 version of Berserk is moving along at a rapid pace. While the previous episode was mostly a setup of the people and characters surrounding the refugee camps around St. Albion, this episode gets the ball moving for many of the main players.
Please be warned some of my discussion will mention the manga and may include spoilers for any events of the series covered up through this episode.
The majority of this episode has the spotlight on Nina, a prostitute in Luca’s cadre who has seemingly contracted a disease and (to her credit) refuses to “work”. The subsequent reveal of her membership in a hedonistic cult was pretty out of left field. But considering the situation, living in a miserable squalid refugee camp at the mercy of a pretty harsh church, perhaps it’s not such a stretch to indulge in a bacchanal with a bunch of cultists who are going to hell anyway. Her fairly tragic attempt at finding love and companionship is actually sort of par for the course in the Berserk universe.
One of my favorite character designs of all time, the Skull Knight, makes appearance and advises Guts not to be concerned with more than one person... Casca invariably wanders into trouble, but seems to be protected by some sort of spirit (manga readers will know who this is). Unfortunate young man Joachim is seemingly rescued from drowning by something. Also the backstories of Mozgus’s Inquisitors, Serpico and Farnese are all touched on briefly. Actually many things seem like they are touched on a bit too briefly for my tastes (more on that later). Throughout all of these events, a pair of creepy eyes seem to be watching over everything.
Lets me speak a bit on the “artistic choices” made in this particular adaption which I know are probably troubling some viewers. Berserk has never shied away from showing us the most sordid and terrible aspects of humanity (or non-humanity). This particular adaption hasn’t had any qualms faithfully presenting the manga’s events, it does however omit or gloss over much of the depiction of those events. Concerning the nudity and sexually explicit imagery present in the manga, I get it. I’m actually not terribly perturbed at the non-presence of genitals or the like. If you had to choose between omission and a clear screen or large black bars or shadows in your broadcast, which would you choose?
The biggest criticism I do have of the current series is although it goes ahead and shows us what happens in original source material, it loses a lot of impact in its storytelling. Beyond the clunky movements of the figures, scenes like Guts conversation with the Skull Knight, Nina’s turn on Joachim or Nina’s confrontation with Luca, are all pale shadows of what they could be. Even if this anime shows you a relatively complete version of the events that occur, it feels like you are getting a rushed supercut of events. Moments are never allowed to linger or breathe. The viewer is simply moved along to the next bit. The camera is frenetic, constantly spinning, panning and moving unnecessarily. Even the episode structure can be weird, with credits sometimes rolling fairly early, only to have disjointed story bits shoved in afterwards. While I may have promised not to complain about the CG, there is still plenty about the general storytelling that doesn’t sit right with me.
I don’t want to be “that guy” but really, if you haven’t had the chance yet, it would be to your benefit to find and read the manga version of these scenes. The difference in impact vs this anime adaptation is undeniable. In many ways an animation with voice, music, movement and control of pacing, should have an advantage at delivering emotional nuance or the gravity of a scene, but this 2016 version has been lacking. Even in previous episodes, scenes that should be gut punches feel like hand waves. I promise not to harp on too much about the manga either, but if you aren’t connecting with the show at this point, its worth a shot.
Don’t get me wrong though. I still enjoy watching this series, even as it is presented. If only just because Berserk at its core, still has a real “humanity” to its substance than a lot of anime. Though considering my issues with its execution, I’d place it behind shows firing on all cylinders artistically like Sweetness and Lightning or Mob Psycho (so far). Anyway, I’ll see everyone back next week to talk more Berserk (2016) as I continue to cover for ShadowHaken
Please go ahead and leave any of your comments, frustrations or arguments below. You can also find me posting an OP/ED of the Day every other Thursday (I posted some blues this week, in English even, for those of you that miss the Engrish OP/ED’s of the 1996 Berserk).