So the last episode of the much maligned 2016-2017 Berserk adaption has aired. What to make of it? Rather than focus overly on this version’s numerous visual shortcomings, which are easy enough for everyone to see, I’d like to go more into the portions of story events that this version chose to show (or not show) us.
The City of Humans
Recapping the events of the final episode is an exercise in anti-climax. Guts and co arrive at the port city of Vritanis, where the armies of all the countries of the Holy See are gathering to repel the Kushan invasion. Schierke who was raised in the woods is overwhelmed at the crush of humanity, but uses her magic to avoid trouble with the (very religious) city guard. She and Isidro get into an argument about how she should blend in, and he accidentally damages her hat, not realizing that her clothes are among her few remaining possessions given to her by her master. She runs off into the city in tears, and eventually runs across the spirits of numerous Kushan slaves who were hung near the docks. Outraged, Schierke uses her powers to compel nearby guards to burn the bodies and release the tormented spirits. Sonia, the young seer of the new Band of the Hawk, stumbles upon her. The two girls talk about how their unique abilities make them outcasts among normal humans. Then the pair run awry of a band of pirate slavers collecting Kushan children along the docks. Isidro and Mule (Sonia’s bodyguard) appear and also intervene to help save the children. Afterwards, Sonia invites Schierke to join her, but Schierke declines, stating she has a place to go home to. The episode and series ends with some hijinks at a local bar, and Guts thinking on the Skull Knights words that he may encounter apostles and the White Hawk that leads them, soon.
And There We Have It
My major (non-animation related) criticism of 2017 Berserk was the pacing and general direction. Moments of tension or emotion are allowed to speed by when they could use time to breathe or build. Inconsequential scenes are lingered upon and there are camera pans galore that serve no purpose. Storylines are introduced far too late in the series and subsequently dropped (the rescue of the princess is relegated to an abstract flashback). Probably the most baffling decision is to end the last episode and the series itself in the place where it simply leaves off. If you look at the storyline covered by the series as a whole, there seems to be a natural end point somewhere around the events of episode 22.
There was a lot of material cut out of the story itself in these final few episodes, which was not normally the case for the rest of this adaption of Berserk. Despite leaving out the Moonlight child, the introduction of Ganishka and his armies, the rescue of Princess Charlotte, and the reappearance of Azan, things still feels like an overreach with too much trying to be crammed into the final two episodes. I will once again encourage any who have not yet done so to seek out the source material. If there ever was an anime series whose purpose is to overwhelmingly drive the viewer to read the manga, I’d think Berserk is it. As things stand, it could be another decade or so before any more Berserk is adapted to anime, and we all collectively hope it will be handed off to a team better suited to the material.
The Kite and the Owl
One thing that is notable for me from the events in this episode (all the problems aside), are some of the parallels in some character arcs and relationships shared between Guts younger companions and Guts himself. While not nearly as tragic or traumatizing as the events that Guts has gone through, there are certainly some themes that Miura has worked in the lives of many of his characters. Sonia and Schierke’s friendship does remind me of Guts and Griffiths in their younger days. Sonia with her extreme insight and (somewhat crazy) absolute belief in the path she is following, and Schierke who has a lot of ability in her own right, but also a lot of pain and vulnerability. Schierke is seeking to adapt to her changing circumstances and rely on new group of companions. The two girls find that they are friends now, but how will the two react when they find that they are on opposing sides? Isidro and Schierke’s relationship is vaguely young Guts and young Casca -ish, with the constant bickering and misunderstandings, but mutual devotion to their leader.
As the final credits rolled over this final episode of Berserk 2017, with a young Schierke wearing her first “normal” dress and the group instigating a bar fight (episode 1 of 1996 Berserk began in a bar all those years ago), I was left a bit wistful. I wondered if Berserk during the golden age was ever this lighthearted, if only for a moment... But then I remember, this is Berserk and it only does this to set you up for a heartbreaking fall. We can all admit that this is certainly not the adaption of Berserk we hoped for, or even wanted, but many of us watched anyways. For all of you that have followed along with us here on AniTAY, I thank you.
Until next time.