Berserk (2016) – Preview
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?
1st Episode Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Berserk 2016 is the first time the Berserk Manga has been adapted outside of its most famous arc: The Golden Age Arc. Fans have been waiting for this adaptation for years, decades even. Berserk 2016 starts by introducing us to our two main players, Guts the Black Swordsman, and Puck, a little elf saved by Guts early in the episode. Puck was cut from the original anime in favor of making Berserk darker and grittier, leaving our comic relief character on the cutting room floor. Here Puck makes a decent avatar for the viewer, providing comic relief and allowing the viewer someone to sympathize with as we’re introduced to the gory and violent world that Guts travels through. Guts himself is given the bare minimum of content to establish his character. By the end of this first episode you have a passing idea of his personality and psyche, allowing viewers to have a moderate sense as to what to expect moving forward. Much of this content is lifted from the manga, and of the material presented here, the characterization is quite faithful.
Linny: Nothing sells how gritty and bloody a show is going to be like starting the episode off showing a field of dead bodies, and then having 90% of the characters featured die by the end of it. It’s easy to then deduce that the characters that do survive the episode are most likely going to be permanent cast members or will play important roles in the story. While the inclusion of Puck is the show being faithful to the source, it definitely felt weird to have him making weird and comical faces in a show that was otherwise rather dark and violent. Being the only source of comedic relief, Puck stands out a lot more when animated and not always for the best.
Tom: This first episode keeps things simple, attempting to pull the audience in with as quick and straight to the point an introduction as possible. Here Berserk 2016 has combined two unrelated chapters of the manga into one in an attempt to forge an introductory tale that gives the viewers everything they’ll need in order for them to jump into the big Conviction Arc that they’ll be adapting from the manga. It works well enough, and should give newcomers just enough information for the series to ultimately make sense. However, for long time fans of the franchise this adaptation is already highlighting some disappointing choices with how much content has already been left on the cutting room floor. Despite how well this episode works, it’s honestly best if newcomers venture back to watch the Berserk films or perhaps even jump straight into the manga. This adaptation will spoil one of the biggest surprises of the Berserk story, a twist better experienced rather than spoiled via flashbacks.
Linny: I’d have to agree that this new adaptation is not a good entry point for newcomers. It’s not that the episode would be too confusing for a newcomer but thanks to the amount of material cut out, the viewer might be missing out on a lot of what makes Berserk such a well beloved series. This new adaptation helps to keep true to the spirit of Berserk, even just from the death count, but for viewers to truly understand every little detail, it would be best to try the older animated adaptations first.
Tom: Perhaps the biggest flaw Berserk 2016 has hindering its efforts is its animation. While the traditional 2D animation is good it’s of limited use, relegated to extreme close ups of the characters or static imagery. Instead the majority of the imagery is realized through 3D animation. In long shots, everything looks fine. The movements are often fluid enough that it works well enough. The trouble really comes about in mid shots, where it becomes obvious the character models are lacking in facial movements and expressions, keeping them looking stilted in their reactions to big events on screen, or incapable of showing more extreme emotions. Another issue is apparent in the gif we have above, where the bandits being eaten merely slide around in the monsters mouth, with no visible injuries appearing as its teeth crunch down on them. Instead we get a pitiful spurting blood effect that hardly sells the violent imagery Berserk 2016 is trying to convey. It’s tough to look at and difficult to process as a fan.
Linny: As someone who has been casually following the Berserk series in anime and manga form, I definitely do think that this anime should have been done better to really impress and please the more diehard fans. However, if you are either new to the series, or a casual fan, and most importantly, can overlook some major CGI issues, it’s still a show that was long awaited and worth watching if not for the animation, then maybe for the story itself. However as we’re only on the first episode, we have no idea how faithful or unfaithful of an adaptation this will be in the long run. For now, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that if not visually then at least creatively, this show will help to further promote and encourage the Berserk fame and fandom.
Tom: Berserk 2016 is a mixed bag. At times it manages to recapture many of the same feelings I had when reading the manga, but at others I found the animation so damaging to what makes Berserk so impressive as a series. As a way for new audiences to experience this classic story Berserk 2016 hardly feels like a good place to start, and only really works as a follow up to the films (which they in themselves aren’t great.) As for fans like myself, it’s going to be a difficult watch, as it still doesn’t hold a candle to the original work.
Berserk 2016 is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com