That there, that was quintessential Berserk.
This week’s episode definitely fared better both in terms of storytelling and general entertainment. The animation and production values for this show, however, continue to be disappointing at best. Despite the animation woes that this show clearly has, It IS kind of amazing how this show and the story can continue to hold up. Berserk is a mature story, its overtly sexualised to the point of being unnecessary and the gore flows like Soda fountain at Fast Food restaurant with unlimted refills. Sex and violence, are two elements that really do define Berserk, as they defined a lot of anime in the late 80s and early 90s.
CAUTION: Images/Content shown below are very NSFW/18+, so read on at your own discretion.
Is the sex and gore really over the top and unnecessary? Yes. Is it unnecessary to the point of being uncomfortable? Oh Yeah. But I think this episode, with everything it shows, is a pretty good indication of what is in store for viewers if they decide to watch this series. Berserk is a really twisted, messed up kind of story, and it really goes to places and shows things that I’m not sure many other storytellers can even imagine, let alone dare touch.
In a lot of ways, I think this week will serve as a kind of stress test for audiences. This is definitely not the worst that Berserk’s story can offer, at least in manga form, so if this offends you, weirds you out, or makes you uncomfortable, than I’d say its a good a time as any to jump ship. It only gets worse from here on out, and personally, I’m curious to see just how far the anime is actually going to go, and what parts it will adapt. Its tough to say, if only because a lot of the manga’s content would easily jettison Berserk into hentai territory.
As such, I never expected Berserk to get a truly faithful adaption in TV series form, because a lot of that content just can’t air on television. To be honest, I think the best approach to adapt Berserk would’ve probably been an OVA series rather than a TV series. Half-hearted though it may be, the real idea behind Berserk’s latest anime series, much like any anime adaptation these days, is to renew interest in the source material. Whether this series will actually be successful in that particular endeavor, is another matter entirely.
Its hard to call this series that we have here, even a good commercial for the source material. Berserk’s manga is elegantly drawn, very graphic and this series is definitely not a good representation of the final product that it wants to steer viewers towards. And it really does feel like there just wasn’t a lot of thought put into this particular adaptation.
Given the subject matter at hand, there was always going to be the big challenge of deciding on what to show on screen, and to what degree. From what I saw this week, however, it feels like the director and the anime production staff, weren’t really thinking of how they were going to surmount this challenge elegantly. Speaking of elegance (or the lack thereof), lets address the biggest and oddest thing in the whole episode; Farnese and her bare chest.
Farnese is topless for basically this entire episode, and was topless for the last few moments of the previous one. Full frontal nudity is something that only ecchi anime can truly do, and even then there’s a limit on what you can and can’t show. My problem with Farnese’s nudity isn’t really the fact that its there, because well, I knew going in, what I was in for with this series. No, my problem has more to do with the fact that her breasts are really weirdly drawn, without nipples whenever the CGI is there, and with a sort of outlined indication when we do get those random frames of hand drawn animation.
Here’s the thing, removing the nipples doesn’t suddenly make the nudity any more or less okay, or any less offensive to those people that are offended by such things. In fact, I’d argue that its more offensive, and kind of messed up, to basically remove a part of the human body like that, and reduce it to something grotesque like the weird balls we saw attached to Farnese’s chest this week.
Look, I get that this series has a low budget, but I don’t think its excusable to 3D model a character, have them go nude, and then basically remove a detail from their body that just makes them look weird. I feel like if a show is going to make the jump and have a female character be topless for most of its episode, then it has to go all the way, rather than try to have its cake and eat it too.
In no way, shape or form is this an episode that isn’t going to disgust and weird out certain people. Nor is it, I think, okay to air on prime time television, whether its in the US or Japan. So color me very confused on this particular choice. It may have been much better, to just have had Farnese’s breasts either be obscured from view in every scene, or just covered up to begin with.
I mean, we have a scene later where Farnese gets possessed and basically straddles Guts, so subtlety isn’t the name of the game here anyway. And yes, I realize I basically spent a good chunk of this post talking about nudity and a female character’s breasts, but I think its such a hard part to ignore because of how front and center it is in the episode.
As for the episodes events themselves? I actually quite liked them. I liked how we were introduced to Guts’s current objective, and how he’s basically going around killing the monsters known as Apostles. The story of the deformed little man, and how he basically turned into a monster and butchered an entire nobleman’s family, was a pretty dark story. There was definitely a case of the story itself being glossed over, but I think that, that was fine in this case. The anime actually was able to rush through the basics of the Hound keeper’s backstory, and do it well enough in a few quick scenes.
The Hound keeper also sounded good. The voice acting had an obnoxious quality to it, but it worked well with regards to this specific character. There was a sense of pathos and pitifulness to the monster that Guts took down this week. The monster’s story of basically being shunned by everyone, including the one young woman that was initially kind to him, was definitely not easy to take in. Plus the visual of the lady’s corpse being decorated on the wall, definitely brought the horror element back, front and center.
Guts was pretty much Guts, and took out the monster, without really gleaning much information about the godhand. If you’ve seen the movies, you know who the godhand are, how they relate to Griffith and the festival of sacrifice that basically kicks Guts’ whole revenge story off. Its definitely something that plays a key role in the story. Of course, beyond just having Guts take down another monster this week, the episode really served to open Farnese’s eyes to the particular world that Guts inhabits, and just who the guy really is.
Farnese is actually a tough character to like, but I think her character arc is definitely an interesting one. Her whole crisis of faith, and the big question of why she does a lot of the things she does, are pretty strong ideas that the story brings up. The spirit that possesses Farnese, definitely does bring to light a very important question. Did Farnese torture Guts because she was doing the “lord’s work”, and did she whip herself in repentance? Or was it a selfish, self serving act to satisfy herself? That’s a pretty mature concept right there, albeit hard to see amidst all the sexualization that goes on as this particular idea is presented.
But that’s just what Berserk is, its clever, but its also extremely crude at the same time. Farnese gets possessed by the spirit after Guts’ little battle with the Hound Keeper, and it almost looks like the end of the line for both Guts and Farnese. The two are literally saved by the bell, or in this case, the sunrise which causes the spirit possessing Farnese to vanish. And you have to imagine, for someone as prideful as Farnese, this whole situation, is earth shattering, more so than it would be for anyone else. How she adjusts and changes from her experience with Guts is definitely going to be key to her character arc, moving forward.
I will say that I did like the fact that Farnese didn’t suddenly just switch gears, and still has that stubbornness and stupid pride in her. Even more interesting, however, was Guts and Serpico’s little tussle. Serpico’s definitely a bit of a mysterious character, one that’s undoubtedly hiding his true skills and capability. I’m sure it was obvious, but it is worth remembering that it was Serpico that actually knocked Guts out in episode 2, not Farnese. So there’s a lot of unknowns surrounding Serpico and why he puts on the facade the does, which is exactly how should be. Serpico is, at least, one aspect of the story, that this anime is doing quite well.
Finally, it is worth noting that this same episode does hint at upcoming events in Midland itself. The king of Midland dies this week, and there’s murmurs of the Hawk returning in the capitol in the upper echelons of the kingdom. Manga readers will definitely know what this particular little scene, both with the dying King, and the princess Charlotte actually mean, and how they relate to Griffith. If you haven’t seen the movies, at the very least, then well, a lot of this won’t make sense. It is also interesting to note that a particular subplot regarding Charlotte and the King, was thankfully removed from the animated version of this story. Manga readers will definitely know what I’m talking about here.
But all of that said, it is kind of concerning that the anime is hinting at the political situation of Midland this soon. It does definitely point to the fact that the anime series intends to hit a particularly big story arc very soon. And that means, that it will probably end up skipping through a lot of content. I certainly hope that the story remains cohesive, but this adaptation definitely has the odds staked against it.
Thankfully, this little hint and look at the Kingdom of Midland, was just that, a hint. We are still moving on with Guts story, and the preview definitely has the story going back to the main character. So… As a whole, I’d say that this episode was actually an improvement over the first two. Granted, episodes 1 and 2 weren’t particularly good, but Its nice to see an upward trend rather than a downward one. I actually found myself enjoying this episode a lot more, and that’s saying something, especially given the weird artwork, the choppy and very noticeable cuts between CGI and hand drawn animation, and the other technical issues that continue to plague this series.
The technical issues aren’t just there either, they’re there and they are atrociously inexcusable. Its hard to see a series in 2016 be this unpolished, and frankly this unprofessionally done. At this point what more can be said about the production values? They just make add to the other reasons to not watch this show (as if we needed more). Having said that, for me… If Berserk can continue to somehow be entertaining despite its technical faults, then it’ll definitely be a show that some fans like myself, will be able to watch. Hopefully, the upward trend started by this week’s episode with the storytelling just continues and somehow brings the animation to a less distracting level. I’m rooting for this series, even if, I guess, I question why I’m even watching it sometimes.
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