BLU-RAY REVIEW: Berserk - The Golden Age Arc 1
The Egg Of The King Hits Hi-Def Home Video...
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If you're an otaku (manga and anime fan) and you've yet to check out Berserk, you're doing yourself a major disservice. Written and drawn by Kentaro Miura, the Berserk manga premiered in 1989 and was later serialized in Japan's Young Animal publication. With over 35 volumes of the manga released and a 25 episode anime series under its belt, Berserk continues to impress fans even 20 years after its original debut. Now, thanks to VIZ Media, classic fans and newcomers a like can ignite their imaginations with the newly released Berserk - The Golden Age Arc 1: The Egg of the King home video animation.
A fantasy/horror series set in a medieval Europe-inspired world, Berserk follows an orphaned mercenary named Guts, his mercenary leader Griffith, and their group of mercenary warriors called The Band of the Hawk. The story's plot reveals the various ambitions, struggles, and desires of these warriors as they work towards common goals as well as find themselves at odds after Griffith's ambitions cause frightening and horrific consequences which affect the fate of The Band of the Hawk and leave the entire kingdom's fate in the balance.
The original 25 episode anime series, which covers two of the manga series' many story arcs, debuted almost 15 years ago (1997) and continues to garner praise from classic fans. However, seeking to update the animation, attract new fans, and adapt even more of the series to animated form, VIZ Media has releases Berserk - The Golden Age Arc 1: The Egg of the King in the hopes of seeing this series receive the attention it deserves.
For new fans of the series who are looking for an engaging new anime to pick up, Berserk - The Golden Age Arc 1 will be a welcome addition. It features a majority of the major plot points which make the series exciting and entertaining while keeping the story moving quickly and without the deeper, more thorough character development and story of the original series. Major plot points - like Guts' introduction, Guts' and Griffith's first battle, the duo's duel with Nosferatu Zodd, Griffith's introduction to the Princess, and Griffith's monologue about friendship - are all included in this new release to ensure the story moves forward. This keeps new fans who're only now picking up this anime engaged while keeping the total length shorter and more to the point. This is of course important as new fans must understand the story's major happenings as well as find value in the characters' relationships and the underlying conflicts between the various factions and characters.
Unfortunately, where this new release falls short is a lack of character development and story depth. For fans of the classic anime and manga, there are understandable and immediately noticeable gaps in the story. This is obviously to be expected considering the first nine episodes of the anime have been condensed to one 77 minute movie. The relationship between Guts and Griffith seems well developed in the new release, though other pivotal characters and their relationships to Guts and Griffith (specifically Caska, Guts' future love interest) are cut short as are some of the battles and action scenes which have likewise been completely disregarded or shortened considerably.
Thankfully, the updated animated video looks great in the new 1.78:1 aspect ratio. New cell-shading CGI animation techniques are used to bring to life the story, which, while reminiscent of the original, features bolder, brighter colors and tighter, more fluid animation. The audio too is impressive with a quality English and Japanese voice cast. One thing worth noting for diehard fans: both Guts' English and Japanese voice actors are different and there will be noticeable differences on both audio tracks compared to the original TV series. Likewise, composer Susumu Hirasawa returns to Berserk with the movie's new theme song. However, this single theme in no way compares to the brilliant soundtrack originally created for the TV series and any diehard fan will find the lack of more of Hirasawa's gorgeous work in the movie disappointing.
With luck, this new release - Berserk - The Golden Age Arc 1: The Egg of the King - will attract new fans and re-ignite old fan's passion for this brilliant series. The world of Berserk is intense, filled with passion, action, adventure, horror, and relationships which rival even the best written prime time dramas. With this new home video release, a sequel scheduled for later this year, the latest manga volume shipping in March of next year, and a variety of new collectibles available for purchase (including an impressive line of Max Factory Figma figures!), there are a lot of exciting things in store for Berserk fans.
If you've never tried Berserk and want to watch an engaging, entertaining anime that's touches just the tip of the iceberg to a much more complex, creative, and imaginative world, be sure to pick up Berserk - The Golden Age Arc 1: The Egg of the King on DVD or blu-ray home video today, available wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsley