Berserk Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Berserk

Berserk Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     September 03, 2007
Release Date: September 03, 2007

Berserk Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
In the castle town of Midland, a new king has come to power through treachery and violence. His demonic agents victimise the citizens, until one night, a mysterious warrior comes to destroy them. Known as the Black Swordsman, he has long held an unrelenting grudge against the king.

Before the twilight of Midland, a young mercenary named Guts fights for his fortune on the front lines. There he meets Griffith, who is charismatic, graceful, and deadly. Griffith's mercenary company, the Band of the Hawk, is a powerful military force and the talk of elite political circles. Between the strength of Gut's anger and Griffith's ambition, the face of Midland will never be the same...

Contains episodes 1-5

The Review!
It's a sure-fire hit filled with blood and guts in the latest new series from MVM.

I listened to the English language track primarily for my main review, and noticed no dropouts, distortions or other technical problems; this is a pretty standard stereo mix with most dialogue coming through the centre channel. The same can be said of the Japanese track from the areas I spot-checked.

One area where Berserk is beginning to show its age is in terms of video. Presented in its original full frame ratio, the picture is quite grainy and often you can see some little nicks around the screen. It also occasionally takes on a bit of a blocky look, especially during the darker and higher movement scenes.

Subtitles are in a yellow font which is easily readable, and I only noticed a couple of instances of spelling errors in them.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

The main menu starts with a brief introduction as all the selections animate on screen, and then in the background images in the style of the cover art for all of the characters revolves and rotates around. The show's logo and volume number are in the top right, with all the selections on a parchment of sorts at the bottom of the screen. One of the show's signature themes plays over this menu. The two sub-menus are static, with no music, and in the same style, with just a piece of artwork running down the right side.

For the first volume, the main attraction is a selection of dub outtakes, some of which are quite hilarious and leave you wanting more. There's also the textless opening, the US trailer for the show and two galleries; one of line-art production sketches and another of full colour artwork from the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Berserk is a bit of a strange choice for MVM to release. It's quite an old series, having debuted on Japanese TV 10 years ago and was released over five years back on DVD in the US. On the other hand, you almost wonder why it's taken this long, as the series is a complete fit in the kind of show that generally does very well over here " it has plenty of sex, blood and violence, and while that is no longer the sole kind of show we get over here, it still helps with sales.

The series itself starts a bit unusually, in that the first episode is actually chronologically the last. It's a brutal introduction that serves its purpose brilliantly, as it paves the way for what's to come and leaves you hanging to find out exactly what changes in the world to make it so dark and devastated. In this episode, we're introduced to Guts, also known as the "Black Swordsman" for the devilishly over-sized sword he carries on his back. He sees a girl being humiliated by some of the king's men in an inn, and swiftly kills them all.

The deaths soon reach the ears of the minister, who wants to have this legendary swordsman killed. But his plans go slightly awry when he meets Guts and his heavy sword, and the one thing you're left wondering after the encounter is who is the "Griffith" that Guts is screaming for. Thankfully, we're not left in the lurch too much, and the series quickly makes the first of several time shifts, this time back into the past when Guts is far younger.

We follow Guts as he takes down a massive fighter called Basuzo, and catches the eye of many people including a group of mercenaries known as the Band of the Hawk. One of their members, Corkus, decides he wants to face off against Guts and takes two other Hawks to do so. Unfortunately, even on horseback they're no match for Guts, and he easily takes care of them, leaving two dead and Corkus just wounded. And thus, the story of how Guts becomes a part of the Band of the Hawk begins, as he is eventually stopped by Caska, the second in command and only female member of the Hawks, and then ends up in a duel for his freedom with the leader, Griffith.

With Guts a member of the Hawks, who are then a lowly bunch, fairly small in number doing the odd job here and there, we get introduced to the many faces that will become pivotal to the story. Then, once the Hawks complete their first mission with Guts, the story jumps a further three years in the future as the mercenaries are establishing a very good name for themselves, with Griffith in particular attracting the attention of the King of Midland, and making plenty of enemies along the way who are envious of their success.

For a series so shrouded in brutality and filled to the brim with violence, Berserk is very emotionally charged and surprisingly character orientated. Though the story itself is strong, it's clear that it's the characters and their interactions that are the focal point. Essentially, Berserk is a tale of two men and those who are intertwined with their destinies; Guts, the wanderer who gets caught up in the Band of the Hawk and finds some meaning, and Griffith, the man with great ambition who is only looking for ways to achieve greatness. As such, the relationship between the two is the point around which everyone else revolves, from Caska all the way down the ranks to the likes of Judeau and Rickett.

As main characters, Guts and Griffith are perfect as their personalities are so contrasting yet they clearly form a strong bond from the very moment they meet. Both ooze charisma in their own ways, and watching them having their chats be it about Guts or with Griffith talking about his ambition, it's simply mesmerising. There's just such a raw feeling about the both of them that it's hard to take your eyes off them. And when you add Caska in to the mix, a woman who is so clearly in awe of Griffith's ambition and is completely jealous of how Guts takes his attention away from her, you have the foundations of a superb story.

That's also not to take anything away from the supporting cast, because each of the main Hawk members are unique in their own way, with their own little quirks and traits. Judeau is like a dependable sibling, always there to say the right thing and wiser than his appearance suggests, Pippin, the quiet big oaf with a big heart, Corkus the more sneaky and treacherous one, who will take time to win over, and Rickett, the youngest and most innocent member of the group. Putting them all together in this one story just leaves you with one of the best casts you are likely to find in anime.

With the story being completely compelling throughout the first five episodes, laying the foundations with the first and then showing you the beginnings of how things will come to pass later on, and a great bunch of characters, you have to figure something will give. It's not the music, which is extremely fitting most of the time with the right mix of sombre tones and battle cries, and an excellent opening theme that to this day I can still sing along with word for word, but it is the animation. With the show airing late at night and being relatively low-budget, the animation suffers a fair bit; it's not smooth a lot of the time and often reverts to slow motion or stills to depict the action. For a select few, this might be enough to turn them off, but most people will be too engrossed in the story to even notice too much.

In Summary:
Berserk gets off to a brilliant start in its first volume, getting the mix between violence and character moments spot on, and establishing a great story filled with an amazing cast of characters; it's hard not to enjoy Guts' gung-ho ways and be intrigued by Griffith's ambition. After watching the first volume, it's hard not to be excited in waiting for the next volume to see how the story begins to twist and turn, and its release can't come fast enough. Already this series comes highly recommended " it's something special.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),English Subtitles,Production Sketches,Art Gallery,Outtakes,Textless Opening,Trailer

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.


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