Berserk Vol. #05 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 13.95
  • Pages: 236
  • ISBN: 1-59307-251-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Berserk Vol. #05

By Eduardo M. Chavez     March 15, 2006
Release Date: October 01, 2004

Berserk Vol.#05
© Dark Horse

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Miura Kentaro
Translated by:Duane Johnson
Adapted by:

What They Say
He is Guts, the Black Swordsman, a warrior of legendary prowess. Relentless, fearless, merciless. As cold and brutal as the iron of the massive sword he wields and bent on revenge against the unholy forces that have branded him for sacrifice, especially Griffith, one of the demon lords of the Godhand. But Griffith was once a man, once the leader of the Band of the Hawk, a renowned cadre of elite fighters with a young Guts as its fiercest champion. Though forged in a crucible of cruelty and violence, nothing could prepare Guts for a confrontation with Nosferatu Zodd, a superhuman beast who slaughters Guts' comrades as easily asa scythe cuts wheat. Even Guts and Griffith are no match for the abomination's power... but something Griffith wears around may well be!

The Review
Presented in a wide B6 Berserk is right to left like the original (the original size is a B6). The cover for this volume features a collage with the main characters of this volume - Guts, Casca and Griffith. The image has been shrunk down a bit, but it is not reworked like other Berserk covers. The opposite cover has a bound hardcover design. They place the original logo here above the huge blurb but they completely leave out the trademark elf that is on the back of every Hakusensha Berserk tankoubon.

Logo Check! - The logo is pretty ugly if you ask me. Big funky letters shadowed and overdone a complete contrast to the simple but period-looking font used by Hakusensha. I found this even more frustrating especially when I consider that there are existing English logos out there. In addition, unlike what was done for other Dark Horse manga - Trigun and the Ring - the spine does not have kana/kanji.

Inside the original volume header art and chapter header art is all there with kanji (wow!!). Printing problems are practically gone. This volume really would have been a good indicator with all the line work on Zodd and all the shading. Dark Horse does a solid job with the reproduction finally giving this series the quality print it deserves. And as usual this volume seems to be free of alignment issues rounding off a good presentation.

This volume is rated 18+ and comes shrink-wrapped.

The art to Berserk is pretty rough to start off, but through this volume things start to look a lot sharper and more similar to his current designs. Guts is looking pretty young here and in general he has the characteristics of an elf. His designs are very rough with his muscle tone looking fit but not exceptional. Eyes are a little funky, his ears are pointy and that jaw line is a bit too sharp for my taste. Casca as another example of a raw design from Miura. Her dark eyes, often filled with emotion, are almost comical (she looks like a bug). All of the designs change through time as Miura begins to become comfortable with what kind of roles his cast play. Having them mature relatively quickly also helps fix those elfin looks. This is the volume where those changes take place, as we get to see Casca, Corkus and Guts begin to resemble the designs most Berserk fans are familiar with. (Rickert as an elf is one thing but Guts is laughable!) And if you want to see how far Miura has come just in this volume, look at pages 166-167. Wow!

Backgrounds are outstanding. Miura must of have done some research as he has taken some of the better castle building traits and added it to his fortifications. I love the castle with the active river as a moot. Miura built up a thick tall wall with drawbridge standing on a river bend; cross the river and climb a hill to reach the castle. Looking closer he has built in a few towers, a church and a farm plot to cover many of the basic needs for those residing in the immediate vicinity. Very fancy.

This volume begins a string of excellent battle scenes from Miura. He is able to capture moments where armies charge each other and individual sword fights equally well. Always emphasizing weaponry and detailing the scope of each confrontation to give readers a better sense of the assertion of will at any given moment.

SFX are not translated. GRRRR!! Don't ask me why they don't do this, but it is very frustrating.

The rest of the translation is very good which is typical Dark Horse. My issues with aside text appears to have been fixed; so, Dark Horse is no longer adding text bubbles to panels for asides.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a rough introductory period, Guts' place among Griffith's Hawks will be tested for the first time. He has been given the dangerous but critical job of covering the rear of Griffith's troops; a job that is often replaced for those who hold the position seem to frequently not return to camp. This was almost a cruel punishment for whatever insult Guts inflicted on Griffith but Guts accepted. As difficult as the task was and even with his lack of familiarity of his new unit Guts handled the situation like any other mission - by following while merciless almost reckless fighting for his own survival.

As readers find out, Griffith selected Guts for the position as if the long-swordsman were the only human capable of ever doing this job well. Not only did Griffith's plan succeed on the battlefield, but it cemented a relationship that would end up becoming quite lucrative for the young leader of the Hawks. The gamble won him increasing acclaim that would quickly accelerate his ascension up the ranks of favoritism in the eyes of regional lords. Yet none of this could have occurred without that reclusive warrior. And Griffith would quickly come to understand that as his star began to rise. As if pre-destined, Griffith's success would come to rely heavily on Guts. And, maybe their union was!?

Were Guts' arrival and his choice to stay because of Griffith's charisma or are there other reasons behind this? Guts knows there is something unique about the Hawks. He has felt that since the first battle he fought within their ranks. Could it be the freedom and the comradery that allows him to be his own man even in a unit? Is it the promise of a new kingdom? Or has he truly become Griffith's property, unable to ever become his own person?

Guts will begin to gain power of his own. He will command his own men and their lives will thus be in his hands. Is this his destiny or is he only doing this to fulfill is bloodlust? Dog or man destiny has him forever tethered to the battlefield, but his reckless ways will no always be suffice in combat. For those moments, the Hawk will be watching and waiting.

In this volume readers are presented the den of the Hawks. We get to see how this band of youths, led by a young, charismatic and ambitious leader, will quickly develop from mercenary band to Imperial guardsmen. Their ascension to such ranks, usually unattainable by those outside the knighthood or the nobility also created a personal problem for them as outsiders. This gang, with their solidarity and determination, is bent on creating a new world for themselves. Maybe the ambition of the individuals might not be what drives them, but their hope for the future as a whole motivates them to continue to excel and take risks. However, the Band of the Hawk is not as much of a group concept either, for as every member (well almost) will agree their future has been and will be in the hands of their leader. With his rise they will see a better (though still difficult) life. Who knows what his fall might bring them, conversely.

Miura not only shows the Hawk's connection to Griffith, but he also cements their role in life on the battlefield as well. This part is possibly even more important in its subtlety. The Hawks are mercenaries their lives are obviously continuously in war (literally and metaphorically). But their new lives should have given them hope; however Miura begins to create another huge downfall in Guts' life he chooses to make a significant change impossible. Therefore, the class structure with its prejudices and betrayal is left in place always lingering in the minds of those who cannot attain their dreams.

By learning a bit more of Guts' past and the relationships he makes along the way, Miura starts to fill in the life of the man that became the Black Swordsman. We see his potential, his leadership and his first real encounter with the monsters that always seem to show up when either he or Griffith is around. There is a tragic feeling to all of this, especially when considering how young Guts is. His relationships and pride end up growing on him, but you know all that will be lost right! A killer does not close his heart without some loss, so let the good times roll until then.


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