Berserk Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B-
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Berserk

Berserk Vol. #2

By paul     August 02, 2002
Release Date: July 30, 2002



The Review!
Audio:
The audio problems I was experiencing in previous volumes, namely that sound effects and music were mixed too loudly, seems to have been reduced considerably from the previous volume. Of course, these episodes are mainly dialogue-driven, and the cacophonous background music is practically non-existent, or I might just be getting into the story more fully. Unfortunately, there is a problem in the Japanese audio on the first episode on the disc, in which the audio drops out for about a second. Nothing important appears to be lost, and the problem is almost certainly in the source materials, but the result is jarring for a moment.

Video:
The gritty feel of the first disc is carried on here. The latter three episodes on this disc look pretty darn good, properly blending bright outdoor scenes, with moodier interior-lit scenes. Only the first episode here – the darkest episode on this disc – looks grainy and washed out.

Packaging:
The rating for volume 2's packaging gets demoted, perhaps unfairly, because it is a single keep-case package, albeit a damn sexy one. The disc is a match for the stunning first volume. This time, we get a rather creepy look at the Behelit peering out from a fractured skull, with the demonic Zodd looming in the background. Another red keep case rounds out this ominously appealing package. If I were a sociopathic parent, I'd be demanding Best Buy take this abomination off the shelves where children can see it, but since I'm not, I love it.

Menus:
The menus are truly creepy, using thematic elements from the show effectively. The main menu shows a withered tree with vaguely human-like shapes hanging from it and carrion birds flapping about. The menu items are engraved on tombstones in the near ground, and the only reason the menu loses points is because they are bit difficult to read and counter-intuitive. Submenus are simpler, and thus, more effective. The chapter menu is a little difficult to navigate, as it takes too many actions per page to change episodes. Still, it's a creepy and wonderful experience.

Extras:
Extras include a surprisingly satisfying Art Gallery, a handful of production sketches, the requisite English-dub outtakes, and a clean opening. How much you enjoy these extras will depend on how clever you think the English actors are, and how much you can stand the opening song.

Content:
(Please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers.)

We get underway here with another dramatic misfire, another disappointing monster bash. This time, Guts's Raiders have come across the immortal warrior, Zodd, a knight whose reputation as a ruthless killer has preceded him for generations. After Zodd kills 50 of Gut's men, Guts runs in after Zodd and gets the crap beat out of him. Then Griffith runs after Guts and gets the crap beat out of him as well. Then Caska runs in after Griffith, and, well, she doesn't get the crap beat out of her, mainly because Zodd gets bored and leaves before she gets there. Actually, at that moment, I was empathizing with Zodd more than any other character in the series.

Of course, this episode wasn't nearly as bad as the episode's first episode, mainly because the whole thing was kept grounded in reasonability by the everyman reactions of the White Hawk soldiers to the gigantic demon their commanders are fighting. Having never seen anything even remotely approaching the supernatural before, their utter sense of wonder and disbelief keeps the show from derailing itself. This will be a show with demons and monsters but it will not be about them. It will be a story about more human emotions, fears and ambitions, and I'm learning to appreciate that about this series.

Things get headed in the right direction with the next episode (episode 7), quite easily the best episode in the series up to now. Guts and Griffith are recuperating from their beatings in the previous episode, and things take a quiet turn. Griffith's military victories have brought him to the attention of the king, and he is well along the way to becoming a major member of the king's trusted inner circle. Along the way, we get to see the workings and intrigues of the court, as well as the internal chemistry of the White Hawks during a brief respite from fighting.

If episode 7 was the best up to now, the next episode (episode 8) is a close second. The show seems to have finally uncovered a budget for animation. For the first time in the series, we have a combat scene that actually appears to be directed, instead of hastily edited together out of still drawings. There were plenty of establishing shots, a sense of location and movement, and an attention to tactical detail. (It's not quite as good a job as, say, A.T. VOTOMS, but I was getting frustrated with the series' action scenes up to now.) Also, we finally get to see the violence of armed warfare, instead of having it all go on off screen. Moreover, there's a general improvement in frame rate during the actual fighting. Things looked and sounded much better than previous episodes. This was finally a fight I could actually get into, and the only part I didn't like here was the comic relief provided by the oafish enemy commander, making a return appearance from the previous volume. I was hoping he'd die, but I'm sure he'll show up again.

The final episode on this disc is a bit of a letdown after two solid episodes, though it is certainly no slouch. Continuing with his military victories, Griffith is now dangerous enough to the royal court, that some of the ministers and nobles have decided that he must be eliminated. The assassination fails, of course, thwarted mainly by the mystical Behelit Griffith wears around his neck. The episode ends in the middle of the story, with Guts marching forth on a dangerous and critical mission of revenge for Griffith.

If the characters were the sole redeeming quality of the previous volume, they are the shining jewels this time. Griffith is as interesting a character as we've seen in anime in a long time, gentlemanly and ambitious, kind and conniving, all at once. Guts himself has found himself fully in the service of Griffith. Compare the haughty and selfish swordsman from the second episode to the loyal and loyalty-inducing commander here. Caska seems relatively unchanged, though the chemistry of her non-relationship with Guts makes fireworks on the screen every time they are together.

The only character who really seems wasted here is the king's daughter, Princess Charlotte. Part of this is the nature of the character, being a little young and nave, she is both afraid of and attracted to Griffith. But a bigger part of it is the clumsy way she is acted, given less to dialogue than bland little whimpers. She appears to be developing into the crux of Griffith's plans for ambition, but at this time, she is little more than the weakest member of an especially strong cast of returning characters.

In my previous review, I complained of the relatively poor animation and production design. This volume does much to correct some of the previous volume's problems, tightening up the storytelling and delivering the stunning battle sequence in episode 8, though I can't shake the feeling that this is a good show wearing the clothes of a mediocre one. Even so, I'm finding myself really getting into the story and the characters here. Though some isolated parts of the show are really poorly done, I'm getting acclimated to the quirks of the production, and the whole of Berserk is truly greater than the sum of its parts. There's really nothing here to distinguish the show from the hundreds of other anime titles on the market today, but I'm starting to feel more comfortable recommending it to people who are looking for a decent action series with some depth and a nice historical/fantasy feel.



Review Equipment
Panasonic Panablack TV, Codefree Panasonic RP56 DVD player, Sony ProLogic receiver, Yamaha and Pioneer speakers, Monster cable. (Secondary equipment, Pioneer 105s DVD-ROM, ATi Rage Fury Pro, ViewSonic A90f, PowerDVD 3.0)

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