Sunday, February 17, 2019

Anime at its Craziest - Berserk

Image result for berserk 1989 animeYes, I'm slow to the game. I know Berserk has been around for a long time - the manga, the animated series, the films, and some more recent iterations. But to be fair, I started watching the original show Berserk many years ago, and didn't get to the second episode. It just didn't grab me on the first go-around. But my anime tastes being what they are (that is, very very picky and primarily interested in dark narratives), I came back around. There's only so many times you can watch Vampire Hunter D, after all.

So. I said crazy. And I mean that. It's craziest at the end, of course, when Griffith finally fulfills his destiny to become some kind of bloodthirsty god, but that's not the only crazy. Guts is crazy too - swinging that humongo - sword everywhere, killing 100 men in a single sitting, and making someone cold and calculated like Griffith, whose every move is made for the purpose of ascending the Midland crown in this pseudo-medieval period fantasy, completely lose his shit by walking away from their merry band of men. The story's a whirlwind, and begs to be binged.

What I love about Berserk is how completely unafraid it is to go completely over the top, especially at the conclusion of the series where we finally get more about the significance of the Behelit, the magical amulet Griffith always wears, which protected him from a demon. Very few things actually disturb me to watch on screen, but I gotta tell you, I squirmed. And just when you think things couldn't get any more despicable, they come right back at you again. Kudos to the animators and their sick, sick minds.

The other best aspect of this epic tale is the relationship between Griffith and Guts. They are both so strong and distinct in different ways, and it was so satisfying and interesting to see their dynamic shift over the course of the show as Guts slowly became his own man, and sought for Griffith to see him not just as a soldier or a highly skilled lapdog, but to hope to be equal to him by refusing to obey him, and finally honing not just his sword, but his own sense of will and self-control. It was fantastic, and supremely satisfying to see how much Griffith's men (and woman) idolize Guts. But as much as Guts is a threat to Griffith's own rise, he is under Guts's spell too, which makes for some pretty dramatic twists in the plot that ultimately lead to this crazy, bloody conclusion.

Which is not a conclusion at all. My only regret about this show was how little we got of the cosmic forces at work behind the scenes, with the exception of the last handful of episodes. That kind of fantastical mythicism always gets me up in the morning, and I came away wanting so much more of that, less of the political drama that takes up a good chunk of the middle of the series, and I want a return to the post-demon apocalypse world in which the show begins. That's the show I've gotta see.

K. Rating: 4/5

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