Welcome, all, again. We will in this installment discuss Berserk, an action/fantasy series following the exploits of the warrior Guts as he tries to rescue a former companion from the chaos of civil unrest and inquisition. This is rather straightforward storytelling, allowing the easy accumulation of supporting characters and accretion of subplots. And if the themes of intolerance and institutionalized evil are somewhat commonplace, they bear repeated examination. (After all, such things do not independently manifest themselves, but are carefully cultivated by people for use against people. Lovely, no?) I will, however, state that I am openly dissatisfied with one element of the show, and it’s an important one: the animation. CGI animation just isn’t my thing–I miss the fluid continuity of movement in more traditional animation. Still, this show enthralls!
Guts is a warrior seeking revenge upon the man he once followed, Griffith, who led a mercenary group called the Band of the Hawk. But Griffith had larger ambitions, and was willing to literally sacrifice his loyal followers in order to gain power (fans of C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy might recognize similarities to the Neocount of Merentha). Beyond Griffith, only three of the former mercenaries survive: Guts, Casca (the companion and love whom he longs to save), and Rickert, who was away during the sacrificial rites. Rickert now works as a blacksmith, while Casca has lost her mind. That would be bad enough on its own, but she was branded with a symbol that summons evil spirits and ghosts. Such is never a good thing; is worse during a religious inquisition; and is worse yet when the victim hasn’t the wits to know what’s going on or why. Casca is in deep.
Guts bears a similar mark, but with far different results. Although he is often attacked by the spirits he attracts, he is occasionally able to establish more beneficial relationships with them. It would even seem that he is not without allies in the spirit realm, even if such arrangements are simply driven by convenience. (Shared goals and common enemies have redirected history often enough.) Guts even has the regular companionship of an untainted magical entity, the elf Puck, whom he rescued from violent abuse. Oh, and a hunk of steel that might make Detroit proud, but carried as a blade. A really huge, devastating blade.
And the rest is pretty much who’s getting savaged for that particular episode. As I mentioned earlier, the storytelling is pretty straightforward. Guts encounters living or semi-living or even undead things, and then fights them. There is violence and carnage and death. And then more violence and carnage and death. But isn’t that exactly what attracts us to this type of show? Darkness and slaughter and hateful fate. . .this is good stuff! Good, bad stuff! So grab your best scowl and settle in for one ugly ride.