First Impressions – Berserk

I should probably duck when saying this, but I didn’t think that was all that bad.

Berserk - 01 -1It’s probably impossible to ever separate the reaction to Berserk 2016 from the filter of manga readers’ preconceptions.  This is one of the most omnipresent franchises in animanga fandom – TV series, movies – and it’s the #1 ranked manga of all time on MAL.  As someone who has very little exposure to the story in either its original form or subsequent iterations, I’m something of a unicorn.  But in a sense, I think that makes me a better target audience.

Berserk - 01 -2The problem for Berserk, I suspect, is that there aren’t enough of us out there.  And I don’t begrudge the manga readers their angst, as I’m sure they found a lot to dislike here.  The CGI was brutal, for starters.  Was it worse than the first season of Kingdom?  Well, that is an incredibly low bar, but probably not.  But terrible it was, and the story played as somewhat disjointed for someone who hasn’t read the manga or seen the prior series.

Berserk - 01 -3Still, I did kind of enjoy it.  I felt like I got a sense of why Guts is such a beloved protagonist, and for why he’s such a tortured soul.  I thought the world-building was decent.  The violence seemed a bit for its own sake at times, though that may in part be a context issue too, but in creating a setting that’s brutal and randomly deadly I thought the premiere did quite a good job.

Berserk - 01 -4Is Berserk a show I’ll blog?  I don’t know, but I kind of doubt it.  Part of my modestly positive reaction was probably due to the ridiculously low expectations I brought in based on the reviews from manga readers and fans of the 1997 series.  But I had pretty modest expectations after the first few episodes of Kingdom (in fact I did stop blogging it for a long while) and eventually the story proved so strong that it sucked me in despite the show’s very real problems.  I don’t know if Berserk can do the same, especially given that it’s not going to have nearly as long to work with for starters.  But I’ll stick around for a while and try to keep an open mind – a privilege open to a select few of us when it comes to this series.

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20 comments

  1. I’m a big fan of the series, but I’m not sure if I hate this adaptation. Sure, the cgi looks crappy but the art of the manga during the parts this covered was pretty shoddy as well. Its a pity that the manga series is getting such a lowly budgeted adaptation, but as long as the later parts are adapted faithfully I’ll take what i can get.

    You might want to breeze through the movies at least before carrying on the series, they’re pretty important for the story that will be covered.

  2. M

    This episode reminded me a lot of the Boondocks reboot. It looked and sounded exactly like the original, but it completely lacked the spirit of what made the original great.

  3. I

    I’m in an even smaller minority whereby I dislike the manga because of how much I liked the old anime in the 90s. That anime brought out the themes of friendship and fate much more than the manga, creating a wholly better storyline, and cut out lots of excess gore and rape. The until now unanimated manga storyline also often falls back on gore and rape for little more than the sake of it. At chapter 200 there’s little shock value in showing groups of naked women being raped and then brutally killed, an which is oft repeated. It’s much the same problem with Game of Thrones right now where story and character are often sidelined for blood and tits.

    Another annoying thing is that characters in the Golden Age arc are far more interesting than those that follow IMO bar Serpico and the Skull Knight. As Guts/Gatts hardly changes as a person in his quest for vengeance it’s a rather boring experience watching anyone else develop. The only truly interesting interactions to see are those amongst some antagonists and the characters mentioned above.

    Again like Game of Thrones it started amazing but lost its way for gore and tits for fanservice’s sake

  4. A

    Guts absolutely changes as a person throughout the series, it’s quite literally a core part of the manga. And while the supporting characters in the Golden Age Arc were done well, I don’t think they’re as interesting as the characters that follow, mainly because they were only supposed to be developed up to a point, whereas the new chars’ journeys have their own stories and their own personal journeys as people. The anime also doesn’t emphasise the themes of friendship, relationships and “fate” (causality, actually) any more than the manga does, it’s the same material, but less, because it cuts out one aspect that makes Casca and Guts’s relationship more tender and mutual, and cuts out an event where they all work together as a team. Finally, while Berserk’s content can definitely be strong and offputting, to say it falls back on tits and gore pretty much ignores all the developments the manga has made and the increasing scale the story has taken. I can’t get more into it due to spoilers, but that’s it.

  5. A

    “whereas the new characters have their own stories and their own personal journeys as people” was what I was supposed to say lol.

  6. s

    ye i kinda disagree with all this but i can sorta understand where you’re coming from

  7. s

    my comment was directed at “I am me” by the way

  8. I used Knights of Sidonia / Ajin as my base Template for The CG . It’s both good and bad at times . The plot is thin . But I do like Guts !

    This is my first time with this franchise / years of watching anime this never caught my eye. So I have a neutral start point . So even if it was not that great it has momments

    That being said I am amazed at all the pre-hype and the steaming site fans were happy to land it rather than the other site / boy that did not last long as they turned on the anime in a vicious way ! So a supposed top grab is going down in flames already like Big Order last season. At least I havec some interest in this!

  9. R

    I actually was thinking that you would be the best blogger for Berserk because you’d give an unfiltered and unbiased view that an anime deserves — whether it’s a direct adaptation or an inspired reimagination. No pressure, of course, and totally understand that we have a super busy season this summer.

    As for the CGI, I actually didn’t think that was bad at all, but I’m one of those who sat through and adored Kingdom from start to finish. For as long as the story and characters are good, I won’t be bothered by CGI.

    I’m not a manga reader, and my only exposure to Berserk was the Golden Age Arc films. The films had too much gore and sex for me to take, but I did like the story and the characters — I liked the different themes that were tossed out and I liked the relationship between Guts and Casca. I know nothing about the upcoming story, but I’m curious to see if it will be better than the Golden Age (my only exposure). One thing though…I don’t want to see Guts being tortured for the whole run — this will be too unbearable to watch.

  10. I’ve never watched the original series, movies or manga so all I have to go by is THIS 1st episode. I like it and will continue to watch and see where it goes. Am also gonna go watch the original series on Netflix. I’m not bothered by the CGI either. Hell I watched 2 seasons of Kagewani.

  11. C

    I pretty much agree with your review. The CGI did have one advantage — it let the animators create some wonderfully atmospheric sets and environments. The battling skeletons looked schlocky, but that was really the worst of it.

    Not being a reader of this manga, I don’t know whether to expect any nuance down the line, or if the show in going to fall into a dull “battle of the week” mode. We know from Sidonia and Ajin that mediocre CGI can be redeemed by strong scripts; the Berserk ep 1 script was serviceable, but nothing more. Nevertheless, I’m going to give this a few more episodes.

  12. n

    Ahh, Shiro Sagisu. I knew I was getting some Eva vibes

  13. I can watch this. It’s not the atmospheric 1997 series, but it’s still Berserk and its protagonist isn’t the poorly characterized, common angsty teen that populates so much of anime. So there’s some relief here.

  14. M

    Don’t understand the comments in some places about Berserk (1997) looking bad for the time. The fuck do they know? Very few anime of that decade were perfect A+ visual treats 100% of the time anyway.

    As for 2016 Berserk I’m not feeling the music, animation, and direction (bar scene was rather disjointed), so I will be watching for the storyline only.

  15. E

    What are they adapting exactly? They seem to be running on the assumption that the viewer has watched/read the Golden Age arc.

    Berserk’s violence can be really gratituous (I expect the worst of it like the troll rape to be toned down) but I still love the series. Hope they adapt the Count arc well.

  16. They aren’t doing the Count arc, just speeding through the necessary stuff to get to the Conviction arc.

  17. Unfortunately the CGI sort of killed it for me. Also the short length will end up either making them rush and skip over events in a story where every small detail is important or force them to cut things off too early for the story to really gain traction and become something really compelling. 🙁

  18. H

    I was fine with the CGI (liked Ajin, don’t mind this too much, though it kinda hurts with the traditional style mixed in).
    What I can’t stand is the weird skipping around through 6 volumes worth of content, introducing characters that should be introduced later and leaving out characters that should be introduced now.
    It doesn’t matter whether or not the arc they skipped will be introduced later (which I read elsewhere), didn’t work for the travesty that was the Tokyo Ghoul anime, probably wont work here.
    Imagine if they broke up and skipped around the Greed Island arc and didn’t introduce Bisky until Chimera Ant because “reasons”.
    It’s just like them saying “psssh, who needs character development amiright?”.
    But oh well, if they’re giving it the TG treatment, I’ll just think of it as such…

    sigh*… at least they’re adapting my favorite arc…

  19. M

    HxH has got it good compared to Berserk.

  20. D

    I’m a manga reader (fell behind years ago, but from what I’ve heard they haven’t progressed much since), but I liked it. The manga has absolutely beautiful artwork, which is a pretty harsh contrast to the clunky CGI… that said, this kind of story just works better in motion, at least in my opinion.

    I know you’re probably unmanageable busy from running this site on top of your regular job, but I would strongly recommend you read the manga chapters that precede the part of the story this anime is adapting. It’s one of the greatest stories I’ve ever read.

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