Berserk – episodes 1 to 13

April 3, 2005 on 10:35 am | In Berserk | 5 Comments

It is a sad fact that many anime fans go on first impressions. If you were to do that with Berserk, you would be hit by a first episode that is entirely unrepresentative of the whole, and quite uninteresting at that.

In a medieval land, war constantly rages between the Midland folk and the Chuders. The Midland armies have a trump card: a group of mercenaries known as the Band of the Hawk. After three years working under the Midland monarchy, the Band of the Hawk are granted official regiment status and their leader, Griffith, is knighted.
This political context is that which surrounds the three main characters: Guts, a man forced into the Band of the Hawk; Caska, a woman who has spurred herself to victory by rejecting stoicism; and Griffith himself, ruthlessly in pursuit of his dream.
When the series begins, and you would be hard pressed to remember this, Griffith appears to have become the King of Midland, and Guts, going by the name “The Black Swordsman” is out to get him; Caska’s whereabouts is unknown. The first episode cuts, in the last thirty seconds, to the distant past and chronicles Guts’ entry into the Band of the Hawk and the band’s subsequent rise to official status.
Dark glimpses of Griffith’s mysterious “Egg of the King” pendant give suggestion to the future that awaits.

The first episode of Berserk is likely designed to give the viewer a feel for Guts’ “bad ass” nature and the extreme violence that the series promises; it does not. The action in this episode is largely confined to Guts charging people, and the results of his violence are displayed as still images with animated blood spraying from them. This is hardly inspiring.
Repeat viewings, when one understands what is going on, might make the first episode a better prospect; as an introduction to the world of Berserk, it fails.

The strength of Berserk is in its characters; there is a political undercurrent, but for once it plays in the background to the development of the tricky relationships between Guts, Caska and Griffith. The characters take the story with them, rather than the story carrying them along – at least, from the second episode onwards.
While Griffith holds them together, it seems that on the whole this is about Guts and Caska’s relationship. Caska is both jealous as a warrior and a woman; Griffith gives all of his praise and attention to Guts, and shows an interest in the princess of Midland. Caska’s past led to her being a highly strung woman in the first place,
The only real criticism that can be levelled here is the writers’ reliance on the “female warrior fails because she is on her period” device – firstly because Caska seems never to have had this problem in more than ten years of battling, and secondly because it is a contrived way to suggest that women have no place in melees and need Guts to look after them.
Around the pivot of Caska, the series is turning.

The casting is generally right on, but the Guts of three years’ before the “modern past” period of the story is not suited to Hayashi Nobutoshi’s voice; it may have worked better if there had been three different Guts actors for each stage of his development.
The highlight is Miyamura Yuko’s turn as Caska, which gives her a chance to play her usual angry self but with a dramatic edge; she is definitely nice to watch.

On the other end of the production scale, the OP and ED are laughable. From the beginning of “Tell Me Why”, the viewer is struck by the hilariously untuned instruments. Then the nonsensical lyrics kick in. There’s a certain charm to the song that means one can keep going back to it and laughing. “Waiting So Long”, on the other hand, is not actually very good at all. What does “spending my glass” even mean?
This is all a pity, because the song used for the next episode previews is excellent. “Forces” is reminiscent of the powerful music of Millennium Actress. This sort of music is very modern but manages to transcend ages; it is an inspirational battle song.

Berserk is less bleak than one might imagine; at times it has just the lightest touch of comedy while maintaining the characters’ horrific pasts. Worth watching for the characters, and because every anime fan should listen to these superlative OP and ED at least once in their career.


  1. That’s a really bad review… for starters the first episode isn’t meant to promote horrifics of the series. It’s pretty damn bloody anyhow… but that’s not hte point. THe point of the first episode is to draw intrigue. When you see that first episode doesn’t it more then make you wonder “how did this happen? What is he doing there? Why is he fighting?” Its supposed to pull you in. It’s a lot like a report or a debate. In order to hook your listeners you have to come up with a suitable anicdote. This isn’t an anicdote at all, but it serves the exact same purpose. So from the get go, your wrong. Moving onward you have to realise that not only are the characters detailed with their own personal backgrounds, but how these backgrounds somehow relate. Caska, Guts, AND Corkus for instance all come from the same place.. the battlefield. You completely left out the other characters focusing your review on Caska, Guts, and Griffith when there are obviously more characters who build this story. Everyone in the story has a purpose or reason for being a part of Griffiths Band of the Hawk. As for the Egg of the King it’s evident it plays some role in all of this but it would never occur to anyone until you saw the remaining episodes… and lastly… don’t do a review on half a damn series! That’s ridiculous! Do it on the hwole thing and actually observe it as a complete work.

    Comment by Anonymous — April 19, 2005 #

  2. I was going to say more to this, but then I realised that none of your points are really valid. The point of a review is to be subjective, and everything that you say is essentially “this is a bad review because I do not agree with it.”You say yourself that the point of the first episode is to “pull you in”. In my case, it failed to do so. You make fundamentally the same point as I did – the intention of the first episode. I chose to receive it differently.As for your criticism of my mention of only three characters … what. The idea of a review is not to mention everything that happens in a series. I aim not to provide a list of ingredients for the recipe that is Berserk, because lists are simply boring and show little flair or imagination.A review can be a fairly concise, and mention key points that the writer found worthy of note.On a related matter: have you heard of primary and secondary characters, the idea that not all things presented have an equal weight?The Egg of the King: You have not heard of foreshadowing, I take it. The Egg should only be thought about in retrospect, then, and there should be no idea of even hinting at its meaning. Fair enough.On your own final note, you miss the point of the site entirely. The subtitle is a “quest for culture”. A journey through anime, seeing how perceptions change as episodes wear on. Also, you appear to have not heard of “impressions”.Why you would choose to read this one review, this review alone, I can not understand. I have so many others that you could go out and criticise!If you have a better stance on Berserk, set up your own site and write your own review. That is the traditional way that mankind has advanced itself; not through petty complaint, but through constructive self-improvement.Of course, your anonymity suggests that you exist in a void, and will not even heed this. I do not think that I have fed the troll. Rather, I have attempted to enlighten my fellow man in the finer points of such things as “opinion” and “structure of text”.

    Comment by Alex — April 19, 2005 #

  3. That’s telling ‘im!Heehee, “anicdote.”

    Comment by Chaz Andross Primrose — April 20, 2005 #

  4. I love Berserk, and for someone to say that it has flaws is sometimes a tough pill to swallow.
    I respect your review, and the points you make. The other guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, whether he and I both agree on the show’s excellence or not.

    Comment by nathan — November 29, 2005 #

  5. Man its just your opinion.Berserk is quite popular amongst my friends

    Comment by Cody — June 29, 2007 #

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress with Pool theme design by Borja Fernandez.
Entries and comments feeds. Valid XHTML and CSS. ^Top^