Berserk Box Set -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A+

Maniac Grade: A+

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Japan
  • Released By: Vap Video
  • MSRP: ¥30,000
  • Running time: 650
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Berserk

Berserk Box Set

    February 02, 2002
Release Date: March 20, 2001

Berserk Box Set
© Vap Video

What They Say
The DVD boxed set consists of 7 discs containing all 25 episodes of the '97-'98 big hit anime show. Remastered from new prints. Special features include: Box with art illustrated by Kentaro Miura, DVD case(s) for 7 discs, a special "Berserk" calendar with artworks by the character designer.

The Review!
Audio: The audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, and is quite vibrant like the video. Whether you hear swords and armor clashing, flesh and bones being crushed, or cries of agony and victory, the sound for this show is right on. It also does a good job of conveying the music which is very fitting for the show. Most of the music is either instrumental, or features a single vocalist with a chorus and was composed by Hirazawa Susumu. The song that most will argue is the best is ?Forces? which really invokes the power of great battles and warriors, which this show has in spades.

Video: Here is where Berserk really shines, with a very clean, high bitrate transfer. The quality of the transfer is very good, with artifacting kept to a minimum. The only real complaint that can be made is the occasional noise (not quite sure of the technical term for it) that shows up at the bottom or top of the screen during scene changes. This is clearly an issue with the master materials, as the LD copies exhibit the same issue.

Packaging: The whole series is contained within a very slick Digipak, much like the X-Files. While many have a distaste for the digipak and would prefer keepcases or even jewel cases (which are supposedly the norm for VAP releases), I really like the setup. The cover picture has an image of Gatts that just really hooked me from the moment I saw it online at AMOTokyo, until I had it in my hands and to this very day. The backside has small slices of the various backdrops in the series, with an English translation of the very opening sequence. The actual holder for the discs when folded out completely shows a very cool painting that is also part of the extras.

Menus: The menus are well crafted, with a small CG intro showing the Dragon Slayer and the Kanji text from the opening of the first episode fading in and out. The selections for the episodes are listed while a small video runs in the background flashing various clips from within the episodes, with the flaming half image of Gatts in front of it all. Each episode can be selected, which leads to another short CG animation overlooking a castle. Talk about service here folks, the normal number of chapters within an episode is 9 or 10! While the opening, credits, and preview are all in that count, that?s still quite a bit.

Extras: Contained on just the seventh and final disc, there are more than a few extras. It plays right after the final episode is completed. There are of course the standard textless opening and closing sequences. There are also the music videos for the opening theme ?Tell Me Why? by The Penpals, and the ending theme ?Waiting So Long? by the Silver Fins. It?s unusual, but both songs? lyrics are entirely in English, something not seen too often in anime. Also included is a special video entitled ?Paint it Berserk?, in which artists are seen in a major Japanese city painting walls. The painting they are working on happens to be the images used for the fold-out digipak, which was also an advertisement for the series. All the while ?Tell Me Why? is playing in the background. Non-disc extras include a small 30 page booklet that includes interviews with cast and crew, and a small calendar. The paper the calendar is printed on is a uniquely textured paper, making it feel like an older type of parchment.

Content: The opening scene is quite a different one, with Kanji characters being revealed across the screen, proclaiming that man has no control over his own will and that his destiny is controlled by some entity or law, like the hand of God. Then, a man can be seen crafting a gigantic sword, while someone watches with great interest. This person happens to be the one-eyed, branded focus of the show, Gatts. Within the course of the first episode, Gatts can be seen cutting people in half with this 7-foot sword (known as the Dragon Slayer), being tormented by demons, shooting people with a rapid fire crossbow (attached to his prosthetic arm), and blasting a giant lizard with a cannon that is a part of his metal prosthetic forearm. You can even see this hero torturing the giant lizard by the end, and you start to wonder what you?re getting into. Fitting of a person who calls himself ?The Black Swordsman? and a wild first episode, yes? If you?re having Fist of the North Star flashbacks, don?t be surprised? but the series does not continue on this way (it?s not quite as over-the-top). At the end of the episode, the camera pans into Gatts? eye, and begins a flashback. The rest of the series is a chronicle of the events that occurred before the first episode. There are no more references to the first episode for rest of the series, until the very end at which point the realization sinks in that the first episode is also the last episode. The first episode makes much more sense after seeing the whole series, although I was drawn in to watch the whole series of Berserk again.

What could you possibly want from a series that takes place entirely in the past? Berserk is a fully engrossing story that features rich character development that focuses on more than just the main character. Gatts? story is one that could be considered incredible, with exploits that have him become a legend in his own time. Starting as a loner, Gatts soon joins a mercenary group known as The Band of the Hawk after losing in battle to Griffith, the Hawk?s leader. His involvement with the Hawks is crucial, as he plays many roles for the Hawks and for Griffith personally. With the aid of Gatts? unbelievable fighting abilities and strength, the Hawks are able to garner much more respect for themselves by winning battles. The Hawks soar higher and higher over time, but we all know what happened to Icarus when he flew too close to the sun?

The Hawks are Griffith?s vehicle for his ambition, an end to a means? but not for Gatts. Gatts is sometimes found wondering why he is risking his life (during battles no less!), and for what reasons he continues to fight. Since Gatts claims he only finds satisfaction in swinging his sword, Gatts becomes the commander of a squad, an assassin, slaughters 100 enemies in one night, and performs many other seemingly impossible acts. Within the Hawks, Gatts also makes friends with his comrades, Caska, Corkus, Judeau, Pippin, Rickert, and others. With all his admiration for Griffith, Gatts eventually sets out to find his own ambition, and even that must be fought for?

Berserk is certainly a very different gothic-medieval type show, favoring down and gritty combat, with some supernatural overtones instead of magic and other fantastic elements. Fights are a mainstay of the series, with some of the bloodiest sequences I have ever seen. Gore is just everywhere during battles, with high-pressure and projectile blood that hasn?t been seen in most any anime for quite some time. There are hidden agendas within the series, which allows for some backstabbing plots and some political intrigue. It helps to see what the aristocracy is doing in the backgrounds while wars are waged for their benefit, while they are busy plotting someone?s downfall. Also, the animation seems to be done completely in cells with no CG whatsoever, at a time when CG is the norm for many action type series. Instead, manga-style freeze frames are used throughout during many sequences be they action or profiles of characters.

A wild ride throughout, Berserk is a spectacular series that will no doubt have a large following in the ?States with it?s release coming very soon. The only complaint that will be wide spread is the ending, but I won?t spoil that for you. Highly recommended.

Special thanks to Gersen for DVDsubber, and Brad Nightscales for scripts from the Scriptclub.

Japanese Language,Gallery of production material,Special promo footage made for free rentals at video rental shops

Review Equipment
PC with DVDsubber software (PowerDVD XP filters), 19? Samsung Syncmaster monitor, Klipsch 4.1


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