Berserk Vol. #6 -

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. #6

By Chris Beveridge     May 28, 2003
Release Date: May 27, 2003

Berserk Vol. #6
© Media Blasters

What They Say
When Guts first joined Griffith and the Band of the Hawk, the wheels of fate were set in motion. Since that time, Guts has learned the lessons of the battlefield and embraced his own path. Griffith has tasted ultimate victory and ultimate defeat. Caska has cast away her dead dreams and found new ones. Now all of the pawns are in place, and the Great Eclipse draws near. The terrible truth behind Griffith's destiny is revealed as the sun turns to sackcloth and the seas to blood.

The Review!
Hehehehehehe. I love it when a show completely manages to make viewers furious at it with its ?ending?.

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, the look and feel of the covers finish out here with a powerful shot of an enraged Guts holding a naked unconscious Caska. 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 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.

Finishing out the series here, we get a great selection of extras for the die-hard fans. The dub outtakes bring some excellent moments here, including a brief musical moment that surprised the hell out of my wife. The outtakes run for just over ten minutes here, so there?s a ton of humorous bits, screwups and general amusing goofs. There?s a TV spot commercial for one of the ending episodes that?s particularly well done as well as an ?encore? version of the opening sequence. One really great extra is a full two and half minute version of Forces done up as a music video of sorts to animation from the series; it?s a real treat to watch and sounds great. The one extra that really wowed me here though is the Paint It Berserk one, a four minute or so segment that has some of the artists from the show painting artwork on the side of the road on embankments while people pass by. It?s done up in rough ?guerilla? style footage and is a treat to watch.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With these four episodes, the first ?arc? of Berserk comes to a close and the opening pages to the next one begins, though that second arc (as of this writing at least) is not animated, available only through the manga. As such, some people will definitely feel cheated by the final episode and its lack of closure, though a good segment of fandom will be used to such things, having seen it happened on US TV with a good many science fiction and fantasy shows over the years. Suffice to say, Berserk ends in quite possibly one of the most devilish of places.

And the final episode is the episode that completely breaks all the rules about what can be done on TV in my mind. The hype previously went to Excel Saga?s final episode, but in comparison, what they did here is nothing short of mind-blowing in my view.

With this being the finale, and so much to talk about, consider the rest of this review to be quite spoilerific.

With the Band of the Hawk still pretty much in ruins, the group is down to the core folks and the few stragglers who won?t give up hope of freeing Griffith and returning to their former glory. Caska is intent on this, and now with Guts back to help and do the job, there?s definitely a sense of possibilities among those left. Caska, taking Guts, Pippin and Judeau with her, heads to a secret tunnel that will lead to the lowest level in the prison where Griffith has been held for the past year.

Everyone else, many still recovering from their last fight, take refuge some distance away and try to lick their wounds. The general chatter around the fire is everyone insisting that they?ll make it in the end and that Griffith will save them all. Unfortunately, their fates are already sealed, as we follow the youngest member getting some water down by the river, where he suddenly finds himself face to face with a beautiful if decidedly evil looking faerie of sorts. It whisks around him, leaving him confused as to what it means, until he arrives back at the camp where he comes across a number of hideous monsters that have pretty much eliminated everyone? and then they all turn on him.

This is the first sign that things are not going to be the same any longer. While there have definitely been hints of the supernatural and some sizeable appearances by unexplainable creatures in the past, it?s this point here that marks them as becoming a formidable force within the storyline itself. The elimination of the Band of the Hawk is essentially completed here, leaving only Caska?s group and their small band of compatriots that will help in their planned escape.

The journey of Caska and her group into the bowels of a different kind of hell is surprisingly easy, as there are supporters within the kingdom under the direction of the Princess who help them, bringing them quickly to the best entrance to the dungeon. With few guards, the group makes their way to the lowest level and enters the cell easily. Their initial response, in not seeing anyone there, is of confusion. But once they realize that the heap of flesh on the ground is actually Griffith, it?s shocking. The once proud and strong man, the person who shined resplendent in his silver armor and striking hair, is now nothing more than skin stretched over bones and a metal helmet bolted onto his head.

Guts takes to him immediately and tries to comfort him, but instead finds himself locked onto Griffith?s eyes, their pure haunting look saying so much. The damage done is vicious. Not only a year of torture in and of itself, but his tendons cut on both his wrists and ankles and his tongue cut out. The visuals at first are bothersome, but hidden by the shadows and the gloom of the cell. Later, after having escaped from the dungeon and fighting their way past the many guards that showed up, we get a much better look at Griffith.

With Griffith being recaptured by one of the king?s commanders and having trapped Caska?s horseback group, he holds Griffith up easily and pulls the cloak off of him, revealing just how awful he has become. The moment is devastating to the remainder of the Hawks, their minds having tried to get past their first shock and just to deal with the troops that were after them and the need to get to safety. When finally confronted with it, it?s more than most can handle.

Though it?s likely not intended to elicit a chuckle, I had to when Guts simply had enough and raced up the rocky incline and simply skewered the commander and took Griffith under his arm, all while continuing to skewer more soldiers. Guts performance since they left the cell has been a top notch one, taking the violence of the show quite far, covering him and others in a fair amount of blood.

With a small band of folks left after all of this, the entire group is unsure of how to proceed. Griffith is rewrapped in bandages, still wearing the helmet as well, and kept in one of the wagons. A lot of emotion comes through the stare of his piercing blue eyes, as he continues to watch the affection between Caska and Guts. His mind is definitely racing as he tries to cope with his madness, fighting back the very though that he might be mad. His mind is definitely working on a different level though, as he sees an image of himself as he used to be standing before him and point towards a castle we?ve seen hinted at before. The additional image of him as a youth running towards it spurs the bony Griffith to pull himself up and to engage the horses, causing the wagon to head off into the sunset while the rest of the Hawks try to decide what their path should be.

Naturally, everyone goes following after Griffith, but he does manage some time alone. Once the wagon tips over and he?s flung into a shallow lake, we get the unsettling yet beautiful image of this destroyed man in a helm set against the blood red and yellow sunset along a rocky background. When he tries to take his own life by forcing a sharp outcropping through his neck, only to fail and lean closer to the water, you almost wish that he had been able to carry through with it, but know that giving up just is not in his nature. Not after surviving a year?s torture. When he pulls his hand up from the water and realizes that the Behelit that he had lost some time ago is in his hand, a real shiver is sent down your spine.

Even more so when the facial features, arranged in a most random way, begin to move into their proper place and the eyes open. When Guts finally arrives and tries to comfort him, he?s shocked to see the thing in Griffith?s hand, and that not only is its eyes open and shining out, but that they?re bleeding tears, much like Griffith now is. With the image of Guts holding him against the same sunset, the black sun of an eclipse begins to move into place and the near ravings in Griffiths mind becomes all the more clear.

The truly surreal begins here, as the land and sky, everything anyone in this group can see, turns to red and black. A closer look reveals the entire background to be ghoulish faces, some crying out and struggling from where they are. Hundreds of humanoid shaped demons appear across the landscape as do a wide variety of indescribable nasties. And four powerful unique types, the ?angels? of the land in essence, also appear, from a small Buddha like figure to a several hundred foot tall pasty white woman with beautiful black feather laden wings and gorgeous blue green hair.

As we learn, Griffith has come to this place to make his final choice, to descend to the depths of hell and die or to ascend to his place as one of the ?angels?, to become a new demon prince among this kind. Griffith is grasping at anything now that will get him to where he has always wanted to be, so it becomes no surprise as he is absorbed into one of the structures and begins to change. Guts fights furiously to save him while the higher level demons pontificate on the fate of everyone in the area. As they talk, each of the humans there finds themselves branded with the demons mark, and those marked are hunted down by the demons as sacrifices to be made to their new prince, as each sacrifice, each horror and sorrow and pain serves to bring about his metamorphosis.

Violently, disturbingly, we watch as each remaining member is killed off. Some are quickly eaten up by these distorted and hideous creatures while others fight on. Those we know fight hard to protect a bewildered Caska, such as Pippin pushing her aside to force back several large creatures, only to be finally overwhelmed. Judeau does his best by taking her on horseback and trying to flee, only to realize that there is no escape from this realm. When they?re forced off the horse, he holds himself over Caska to absorb the attacks against them, leaving her near tears in trying to understand why he?s going through all that for her.

Caska and Gut?s fates become intertwined again, as she?s brought to an area close to the base where Griffith is changing. With Guts in the sea of blood that?s now there, he?s in shock over everyone else being dead until he sees the naked form of Caska being brought down and ready to have a spike go through her crotch. She?s saved momentarily though as Griffith emerges from his change, his body now a full fleshed out lean yet powerful build, with only parts of his face visible below the helmet turned carapace. The look is very much that of a very taut bat, with a vicious grace and evil intent. When he swoops down before Guts and takes Caska from the creature, Guts tries to keep hope alive of something good happening.

When Griffith then takes Caska under his dark fleshy wings and begins to rape her, Guts loses all control and tries to attack, only to have one of the demons lunge forward and grab his arm, keeping it firmly locked in its mouth. Guts rage, combined with the visual of him being so overly bloodied, his hair short and spiky from the wetness of the blood, takes on a beautiful level here, something very pure and primal. He wants so desperately to save Caska but is trapped himself that he eventually cuts off his own arm, only to have some of the vulture like creatures swoop down and crush him against the ground.

The ending visual of this torment for both Guts and Caska is extremely powerful. Set against this most evil of settings with the multitude of blood red faces, the demons and the laughter of the higher demons above them, I was beside myself with how strongly such a sequence resonated within me. There is just such a raw passion to it all.

Of course, that?s one of the absolute worst places to end such a show, even though there is a brief bit after the credits that remind you that you have to watch the first episode again to bring some amount of closure to it. With as ?bad? an ending as this, it?s going to take a real die-hard fan to truly enjoy it and to be able to recommend it to others. Knowing that it ends in a bad spot does help to offset some of the potential anger about it. I had warned many people about it going into it that they?ll get hooked hard on the first batch of episodes and be upset at the end. But my hopes continue to be that enough people got into this to force through a continuation. And I take additional solace in the fact that the manga has finally been licensed, so there will be more sense of closure there.

The Berserk TV series is something that?s very rare in anime. It?s a very strong male-heavy show that doesn?t make any bones about it, but provides enough moments and ideas in it that women can definitely get into it if they go with the right attitude about it. There is very little give and take in this series, as the characters know that to survive they must continue to take and take. Strength, whether real or perceived, is the key to survival and is a strong focal point here. But the other focal point is the ties that bind us all together, and in a day when most series are romantic comedies and other light hearted kind of shows that rarely address anything, it?s extremely refreshing to see a series that has characters that make mistakes and have serious consequences to them. To have a series where strong and powerful men realize that there is much to be gained by actually being close to other men and supporting them and their visions.

Berserk is a series that reminds me why I love anime. Strong unflinching stories, consequences, loves and death, all tied together into an overall epic adventure. The entire series will remain with me strongly, but it?s the final episode here that will resonate much longer than the majority of anything else I will see in the anime world.

Highly recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,TV Spot,Forces full Version,Paint It Berserk,Outtakes,TV Opening Encore Version

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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