Berserk Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, August 04, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2002



What They Say
Led by Griffith and Guts, the Band of the Hawk has become the most powerful military force in the Kingdom of Midland. However, it is the fate of those who succeed to attract the ire of those who do not. Griffith walks freely among the King's court, but the ministers and nobles each have their own scheme. Even on the battlefield, the natural element of the mercenary, supremacy is unreachable for the Hawks. They are superior in terms of tactics, mobility and striking power. However, some soldiers are beyond the rules of war, and the limits of human comprehension. A monster guards the path Guts and Griffith must travel. Known as Zodd the Immortal, he is notorious for harvesting thousands of heads in battles during a span of nearly three hundred years.

The Review!
Guts and Griffith continue their tale here with both of their reputations growing considerably as each battle brings them more and more notice.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
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 volume number even appears on the front cover, a general rarity these days. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
There?s a good selection of extras included here. The art gallery showcases some really great pieces of artwork, pieces I?d love to have framed. A production artwork gallery also gets shown here with some good black and white pieces showing off the designs. The dub outtakes prove to be done right here, with some hilarious moments, including an infamous band camp comment related to a sword. A textless version of the opening sequence is also provided for those like me who just can?t get enough of that song.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Berserk continues its strong pace with this volume, bringing another four episodes of a series that just keeps me sitting on the edge my seat, eagerly anticipating each moment. These episodes did a solid job of bringing up both Griffith and Guts as the strong warriors they are, as well as setting into motion more of the mystery of Griffith?s little red object.

The opening battle of one of the enemy castles goes well, though there comes one snag as the legendary Immortal Zodd is apparently deep inside one of the chambers. Nearly fifty of Gut?s men have gone to fight it and not returned, leaving him furious and ready to take care of the problem himself. After all, it?s only a legend and Zodd is just a man. Reality starts to take a back seat however when Guts finally encounters this somewhat misshapen and massively built man. Their battle is intense, with Guts being tossed around like a rag doll at times, but still managing to get in a couple of good moves. Of course, that only serves to enrage Zodd, which causes him to reveal his true demonic self.

This provides one of those few moments where Guts begins to show real fear in the face of an enemy. Rather than going bombastic and spouting cool lines, he merely tries to pull himself together and to find a weakness. The arrival of Griffith helps, and lets the two men begin to work together as only they seem really able to, to try and defeat this creature of evil. The revelations from the battle are blunt, but leave enough open for the viewer to wonder how they?ll play out.

In keeping with the feel of the show, Griffith and Guts take some downtime as they both ended up rather badly messed up after their battle with Zodd. Having Guts walk around the castle with a crutch and having Griffith as bad off as he is, being kept in bed, shows that neither man is invincible and do indeed take beatings. Griffith makes out worse in one sense since he ends up with numerous visitors in the form of ministers and other politicians, but he also smartly uses such sessions to ferret out their stances and just what the balance of power is. Guts simply goes back to his training, taking the downtime as a chance to build up his strength even more.

The downtime also lets us get to know more of the secondary cast, such as the King and his daughter Charlotte. She?s not really expanded much, though she becomes a central focus for a bit, beyond someone whose not enamored by warriors and killing and is very much an introvert. The main character from this level that we get acclimated with is one of the generals, one whose seeing his position of power slip away to this mercenary noble. While there isn?t much subtlety to him, I found it to be a pleasant change from those who simply go slimy and friendly with an enemy.

Most likely my favorite part of these episodes was the next large battle, where the Hawks get assigned to take out an extremely strategic point that the enemy has control over. Watching both sides is an interesting exercise, as you have the very calculating man who uses unorthodox methods with the end goal of winning in Griffith to the brash and bombastic Andol, whose belief in his families history and place in the world to be more than enough to get by on. It?s a classic thing of old vs. new in some sense, but also deals with the problems of a larger empire that?s going about conquest, in that not always the brightest and most able generals and commanders are in the right positions of power.

This show only continues to grow on me, providing a very dark and violent show with characters that are self-sure about their capabilities but know when fear is something that happens and must be dealt with. The secondary cast of the Hawks gets something of the short end of the stick for these episodes, but the main growth of Griffith and Guts is well done here. I can?t wait for more.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Production Sketches,Dub Outtakes,Textless Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
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