Finally, after nineteen years of absence, Kentaro Miura’s dark fantasy series Berserk is back with a TV anime adaptation. Seriously, in the years that the last Berserk anime series was airing Bill Clinton was still serving as President of the United States and you were hearing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” every ten minutes. I count myself among many longtime fans of the series that have been waiting years to get a new series. (I enjoyed the movies but it was just a rehash of the Golden Era arc.)
Before I dive into this review, there’s something that needs to be said. This series is a continuation of the story from where the original series and movies left off. As such, if you haven’t watch or read anything about the series at this point, you’re missing a lot of story and spoiling significant aspects of it for yourself. While I do think it is possible to jump in at this point, I would highly recommend you watch or read the prequel content.
There’s certainly a legacy to consider, but there’s also a need to view Berserk Episode 1 on its own. Did the first episode of the sequel series do its source content and animated predecessors proud? The short answer: Yes. The long answer is a bit more complicated.
“The Dragonslayer” was an excellent first episode on a couple of fronts. I’m happy to say the thing I believe it did best was capture the essence and feel of Berserk as a series. The episode followed content from the manga at a sound pace and, in my opinion, never felt too slow or too fast. The flashbacks within the episode were kept short and portrayed extremely well; viewing the events from Guts’ nightmares felt distinct from anything we’ve seen.
Many things come to mind when thinking of Berserk. However, the most prevalent in my opinion would be dark, relentless story cruel to its characters paired with intense and extremely violent action. “The Dragonslayer” captures both of these things well. We’re not given much time to appreciate the characters of Adolf and Collette, but they’re compassion to Guts gave us enough to experience the remorse he felt due to their deaths and the subsequent bisection of Collette’s possessed form. Pair that with the badass fight of Guts, a platoon of skeletons, and a Tree Demon, you’ll find that you have an episode that encapsulates a story start-to-finish with its fair share of action.
With all that said, let’s address the elephant in the room: the animation style. Since we first saw a preview of the series, many people have expressed their distaste with the 3D animation. It’s like Knights of Sidonia but in a fantasy setting, which doesn’t work as well in my opinion. When the series gave us glimpses at highly detailed, 2D versions of the characters, it made me wish that the entire series could have been in the style. However, I won’t say I hate the style. It’s not exactly what I wanted and it is definitely flawed at times but it’s not so bad that it ruins the series for me.
Beyond the 3D animation I’ve been very impressed with the style of the series, namely the sound production and music its paired with. The sound effect of Guts’ Dragonslayer smashing skeletons to pieces was beyond satisfying. The soundtrack of the first episode has been fantastic and a few tracks were stuck in my head for days after I heard them. Above all others, Susumu Hirasawa’s “Hai Yo” has been on repeat in my head since I heard it. Nineteen years after its release, I still listen to “Forces“, a track the musicians made for the original series. “Hai Yo” is my new “Forces“.
Overall, I’m definitely happy with Berserk Episode 1. While I take issue with the animation, it’s nowhere near enough to stop me from enjoying a new adaption to a series I’ve loved for so long and its a price I’m gladly willing to pay for new anime Berserk content. So for now, I’m going to see if this new style grows on me before I make any more judgments or criticisms about it. Beyond the animation, everything is fantastic. The style, the themes, the characters, the action. You name it. I’m so happy Berserk is back and I can’t wait to see where this new series takes us.Tweet