Berserk Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, November 21, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2002



What They Say
For over one hundred years, the great armies of Chuder and Midland have clashed upon bloodstained battlefields. Only the impenetrable stronghold of Doldery keeps the Empire of Chuder afloat as the storm of war rages around them. The Band of the Hawk has taken its place in the main offensive. Because of their actions, Midland's troops are able to march right to the doors of the legendary Chuder fortress, and challenge the undefeated army of General Boscogn. Beyond victory or defeat, many of the Hawks have something close to their heart resting the outcome of this final battle between Midland and Chuder.

The Review!
Big changes all around, as Griffith?s plans become realized and dark forces begin to become more obvious in their plans for Guts.

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 illustration for this release is a solid piece that features the princess in a somber mood very prominently while her father the king is in the background. 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 some good extras here, though one of them is a real challenge to get through. First up, we get some more very slick looking production images, giving a more detailed rough look at the show. The six minute section of outtakes from the dub continues to be one of the best, especially with the potty mouth that Caska?s actress has and Gut?s actor?s penchant for becoming Ahnold here. The really good extra that?s difficult to take is a 20 minute audio interview with Kentaro Miura. What makes it difficult is that at the authors request, no video of him is used. So they opted to go with a static image that says audio only, and provide the dialogue subtitle. I would have preferred some kind of changing visuals, such as a gallery of artwork or anything else besides one static image for 20 minutes. But if you can make it through it, Miura?s worth a listen.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This volume is just soaked in blood. With things going bloody right from the opening, we have Guts dealing with the massive crowd of mercenaries that were sent after him and Caska. The Chuder idiot, who seriously needs to die, die fast and die soon, starts getting concerned as half of the hundred men he has to deal with Guts are already dead, but such information only gets Guts more in the mood to fight. It?s such a bloodbath as things get darker and darker, and the glint of fun in Gut?s eye gets stronger.

While this had some sizeable build-up in the previous volume, it doesn?t get extended too far here. Instead, things are shifted to a new battlefield after Guts and Caska return to the Hawks and to the kingdom in general. Their return is pretty well celebrated, which is something to be seen since there?s just so many people in Griffith?s camp now. While he himself is away, his presence can still be felt in the way his army lives and breathes. The fact that he returned from an important meeting to make sure the two were all right only sends a positive reinforcement message to the troops in general.

And it?s definitely important that the troops believe in him. As the focus of the war shifts, we learn the history of a castle called Doldrey, which is situated in such a way that it is the central lynchpin of the enemy?s attacks. Originally, it was something that Midland controlled but lost early on in the hundred year war. Since then, the enemy has taken firm control of it as well as the ability to slowly beat back Midland, something that is even worse since it?s being done by one of their former territorial markers. And to make matters worse, the castle is controlled by the powerful and feared Purple Rhino Knights, a group that?s pretty much mostly armored cavalry but is damn powerful on the field.

With word that there?s dispute about succession among the enemy, the King has decided that it?s time to take advantage of the confusion and to try and retake Doldrey. Everyone under him insists that it?s a full scale attack that?s needed, but none step up to take it. Only Griffith offers to do it, but with his group only, a relatively small number of troops in the larger scale of things. With some personal reasons thrown into it, Griffith manages to leverage this attack as a major push towards his taking control of a kingdom, and it?s just beautiful to watch a plan come together.

There?s a lot of character exposition going on throughout here as well, as Caska starts to reveal more of herself to Guts while he starts to become more open about his plans with her. The relationship between the two has grown nicely and naturally from their experiences together, considering they?ve been side by side for three years now. It?s a real treat to watch how they play against each other, especially when Griffith comes into the picture. This volume really just builds beautifully upon what?s come up so far while giving some motions towards what?s eventually going to come, as we saw in the first episode of the series.

Fantastic stuff, I cannot get enough of it. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches,Dub Outtakes,Miura Interview

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.



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: 29.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Berserk