Berserk Vol. #5 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Berserk

Berserk Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     April 25, 2003
Release Date: March 25, 2003

Berserk Vol. #5
© Media Blasters

What They Say
Griffith stands at the peak of victory. The remaining opposition attempts one final act of treachery, and for that they will burn. Guts fights as Griffith's right hand till the very end, and now that the status of the Hawks has reached its peak, he has decided to take his leave and find a new path. But, to call his sword his own, there stands one obstacle in his path: the promise he made when he lost that fateful duel three years before. As the band of the hawk watches, guts and Griffith draw their swords once more. As Caska looks on, the dream of her past and the dream her present face each other.

The Review!
Ah, such a lovingly frustrating show. Each of these episodes plays out so wonderfully that I?m practically enthralled for the entire disc. Yet we?re so close to the end?

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Though only a few years old, the series has a pretty basic stereo mix that?s done fairly well. There?s some directionality across the forward soundstage throughout the episodes but nothing sent to the rear speakers. Dialogue is nice and clear and music makes good use of both stereo channels.

The transfer on this volume continues to look much like the Japanese release. There?s the usual grain that?s inherent in the film and it adds a lot to the quality and feel of things, giving it a much darker and almost film-like feel at times. Colors look great, blacks are nice and solid and there?s no visible bleeding. Cross coloration appears non-existent here and there?s hardly any noticeable aliasing as well.

Packaged in a red keepcase, this is a great looking release utilizing the gorgeous illustration work available from the Japanese box set. The cover insert is a mix of blacks and browns for a background with the illustration placed in the center below the English logo and the Japanese version of the logo. The illustration for this release is a great piece that has Caska looking a bit more bedraggled than usual and holding her blade and apparently naked. The back cover provides a collage of animation shots from the opening episodes and a brief summary of the show and the number of episodes. The discs features and production information is all clearly listed. The insert provided has the two logos and lists the chapter stops for each of the episodes.

The menu layout is really nice, using the hanging bodies from the tree as the background while music and animation plays. Selections are laid out across the tombstones. Access times between menus are nice and fast and the general look and feel of all of them is good. Definitely a menu we liked.

The extras here are pretty solid and surprising to some extent as well. We get another round of great outtakes, though some of the earlier ones still rate much higher. But overall, these are some of the best outtakes I?ve heard from any series. There?s a brief but good looking preview of some of the Berserk related toys coming out, which is where more of my money will end up going. The best extra here though is a nearly eighteen minute interview with series producer Toshio Nakatani, which goes into great detail about how the series got off the ground and the potential pitfalls and problems they had in producing such a violent show. You can tell it?s new since he has the Media Blasters box sitting next to him on the shelf. Great stuff.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Whenever I start one of these reviews for this series, I feel that there?s simply no way that I can really express how great this show is. So much of it is dependent on the actual full mood and setting and the wonderfully scripted dialogue that it can?t be conveyed in this way. Suffice to say, this content portion is heavily spoiler-full.

This volume is no exception at all, and only continues to get better and better. With things starting off with the death of Griffith by poisoning that was used to hook us on the last volume. Of course, things go in such a way that that Griffith managed to deal with it properly, and has set things into motion that will bring about an interesting resolution to it all. With him apparently dead, the scene shifts to where the conspirators all gloat, which includes the Queen this time. Their chatter about the event is amusing, especially with them all getting together so soon after the event. But after the minister leaves and the remainder begin to realize that they?ve been taken for a ride, only then do things really get interesting.

The visual of Griffith standing outside the burning building, with that near smirk on his face as he looks at the Queen, is almost poetic. The way that he?ll actually go the required distance to accomplish his goals is just one of the most attractive things about this series.

When all is said and done here though, Guts has finally made his decision to move on and to not live under Griffith?s dream anymore. The overwhelming weight of such a dream has swallowed up much of Guts own dream and he?s finally come to the point where he needs to move on in search of his own destiny. This goes over poorly with just about everyone, and ends up leading to a very tense duel between him and Griffith. Going back to their original fight, Griffith brings up the simple fact that he owns Guts and has owned him since they first fought against each other. The closing of that circle with this standoff brings things to an interesting place, and not at the exact end of the series either.

And as with any great series, such a duel brings real changes to the storyline. With Guts now off in search of his own dream, something that will allow him to stand equal to Griffith and not be lost in his shadow, Griffith ends up dealing extremely poorly with his first true defeat. His inability to control Guts leads him to a reckless action, one that in the end provides him with a shortcut to his ultimate goal but also the quickest route to the start of everything. And taking that reckless risk, from a man who is so calculated in everything he does, says so much about his state of mind in losing to Guts. The resulting damage ends up causing the entire Band of the Hawk to be on the run, splintering and whittling away as they try to avoid the price that?s now on their head, though Caska does lead them admirably.

So when Guts comes across them some months later, with what few die-hards are really left of this once mighty army, he falls in quickly with them in their plan to rescue Griffith. But while the reunion is heartwarming in general, it?s the very honest and open dialogue between him and Caska, as well as their eventual bonding, that plays out the best here. The culmination of their relationship, the change of Caska from being an absolute follower of Griffith to a woman who has to follow her own heart, is a natural evolution based on how the Band has grown and changed since they were first introduced. And much like the violence in the show, the sexuality between the two is equally as open and plainly done, giving it a beautiful raw passionate feel that you can imagine would exist between the two.

I absolutely love this series. It?s primal, raw, passionate, cold, calculating and violent. It?s such a mix of pure emotions and actions that it draws me in completely and holds my attention for every frame. This is a rare series, a series that will continue to have an impact on me many years after seeing it. I simply cannot recommend it enough.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Outtakes,Toy Preview,Interview with the producer

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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