Berserk 2016 – Mid Season Review
Original Air Dates: July 1st, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: In a medieval world of monsters and men, a lone black swordsman walks the land. After stumbling upon a poor elf tortured in a local bar, Guts, this mysterious swordsman, saves the Elf. The elf, Puck, follows after Guts wanting to thank him, but quickly discovers the swordsman is cursed and wherever he goes evil is sure to follow. Puck joins Guts on his quest against the demons of the world in an effort to exact his revenge for the darkest day of his life. But can Guts succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds?
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: At this point, there’s simply no denying that the CGI used in this series is bad beyond belief. Movements are often jilted or under defined, looking stiff and extremely fake, which is disappointing given how popular Berserk is and how long fans have been waiting for more anime adaptations of the series. On the other hand, there’s something to be said about the facial shading style being used. This shading helps to sometimes lend an eerie look to characters and in certain close ups, it even adds to the grim and tense tone of the story.
Tom: The 3D animation’s minimalistic approach just can’t keep up with Muira’s original art work. I’ll concede that, at times, the 3D animation does a capable job, particularly during more static scenes, or frantic action sequences. It’s during the action heavy moments when the stilted nature of the animation is hidden thanks to the chaos on screen. But during less chaotic events, Berserk (2016) struggles to hide its rough and minimalistic animation through tight camera angles or quick cuts. But it’s all too apparent that the models aren’t really interacting with each other in any meaningful way and pulls more keen-eyed viewers right out of the story. It doesn’t help that Guts’ 3D model is off, with a face far thinner than his original manga design. Strangely enough, the 2D animation fixes this, providing a Guts much more in line with reader expectations, but then sits at odds with the 3D model.
Linny: The art style and the narration are often very abstract in nature when depicting some of the more sexual or more violent parts of the story leaving the viewer more confused than intrigued. This is partly to be blamed on the animation style and quality as the abstract style, combined with the sub par quality, makes for some puzzling and mood ruining imagery. For example, blood is often depicted in such a manner that it either ends up looking like red glass shards or globs of mud/bugs being flung around. This could in turn be a result of the show runners trying to depict the more graphic parts of Berserk while keeping the show broadcast friendly and while that intention is understandable, the execution leaves much to be desired.
Tom: Beneath the visual flaws what makes Berserk, well, Berserk, is still very much there. The strength of the narrative, and the characters, shine through the abhorrent animation and even so through the concessions made to cram this arc down into twelve or so episodes. For example, in order to condense Berserk into this run, several arcs have been skipped over. This means in episode 3 we have entirely new content created to act as a bridge that carries us into the Tower of Conviction arc. In fact, despite this original episode having been written by Muira himself, it’s easily the weakest of the series. the trouble is it shoe-horns in far too much, and lacks the narrative flow that’s made Berserk work through its lengthy print run. But these unfortunates missteps aside, the rest of the story comes across against all odds and it becomes unsurprising that Berserk (2016) still has something to offer newcomers, even if they don’t know just how poor an adaptation this is. Berserk (2016)’s ability to pull in new viewers, despite all its short comings, is a testament to the underlying quality of the original work.
Linny: Now the next criticism I have is a minor one, as it is something that viewers can easily skip over, but it’s about how this show does its next episode previews. Each segment is played as a conversation with various lines, which hint at what to expect in the next episode but often the lines themselves and the tone in which they are written clashes heavily with the somber nature. The dialogues can sometimes be extremely vague too so the viewers may end up feeling like it wasn’t even a real preview at all, left with no real idea of exactly what to expect in the next episode.
Tom: When it comes to the characterization, Guts’ portrayal remains on point. He’s the same hardened Black Swordsman we’ve come to love over two decades and despite the troubled animation, he’s just as powerful a character as in the manga. The anime does an admirable job of portraying Guts’ development as he steps away from his quest against the apostles and Griffith and comes around to the idea of protecting Casca, the woman he cares for and loves. But seeing as we’re cramming things in, the other characters, like Farneze and Serpico, feel rushed. Farneze’s scenes in particular lack the impact created in the manga and while the message still gets across, it feels muddied somehow. There’s no word on the length of this adaptation, but I suspect we’re looking at the Conviction Arc receiving a single twelve episode season, with possible follow ups assuming Berserk (2016) sells well at all. Additionally I was quite happy to see Puck throughout this, offering up his usual complete relief to pull away from the exceedingly dark atmosphere. However, due to Berserk (2016) feeling far less dark and brooding than the manga, it makes Puck’s comic relief feel unnecessary.
Linny: Puck has been an issue of contention for viewers who preferred his omission in previous adaptations or even newcomers who felt his nature and personality clashed with the darker tones of the show. For such viewers the good news is that Puck’s role seems to be significantly downsized in the rest of the show. While he does still have an occasional line or two, the amount of source material crammed into the show means that Puck is one of the casualties whose airtime keeps getting reduced to make room for everyone and everything else.
Tom: Compounding issues with the animation are the bizarre audio choices that crop up from time to time. For example: Gut’s sword doesn’t always make the sound you might expect. At one point in Episode 5 it sounds less like a thick slab of metal and more like a clock tower bell toll. Perhaps more troubling is the way they’ve chosen to portray the poor, addled, Casca whose voice doesn’t quite communicate the trauma she’s suffered through.
Linny: Casca is definitely one of my main issues of discontent, or specifically, the voice acting done for her character. The sounds that the VA makes to denote Casca’s loss of mental stability sound more like an adult doing a bad impression of a baby’s gurgling. It’s disturbing for all the wrong reasons and even ironically funny. It’s obviously going to be hard to perfectly denote and display Casca’s mental condition through her ramblings but this infant like babbling does nothing to sell and establish her tragic past.
Tom: As Adaptations go, there’s no denying that Berserk (2016) is impressively disappointing. The art hinders the impact of the story, the characters, and detracts from the franchises quality at near every turn. What’s keeping it afloat, and probably what non-manga readers are picking up on beneath this troubled production, is the truly powerful and wonderful writing that has kept Berserk in the hearts of so many fans for decades. This time-worn tale still manages to shine through all the damage this production has done and it’s a testament to the sheer quality of Berserk. While it is a shame Berserk’s newest anime outing lacks the visuals to do the series proper justice, at least the power of the writing still holds true. I suggest long time Berserk fans steer clear of this adaptation, and for those newcomers who are enjoying the anime I strongly urge you to eventually dive into the manga and appreciate Muira’s work in what still remains the best way possible.
Linny: As someone with a more casual interest in the series, even I cannot deny that this adaptation has its fair share of issues with its animation being the biggest. There’s already a huge dislike for CGI animation among anime viewers and the quality of CGI used is not only going to turn those people away but maybe even those who are generally more forgiving. For better or worse, Berserk has a devoted and respectable fan base who will support this adaptation for lack of better options but they definitely deserve better than this. For now, the manga remains the best way to truly experience and appreciate Berserk. If you’re someone who strongly prefers anime to manga and don’t have a huge issue with low quality CGI, this adaptation should still be an enjoyable experience but for everyone else, you might be happier sticking to the manga and the older adaptations.
Berserk 2016 is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com