Volume 1 - War Cry

Starring (voice): Nobutoshi Hayashi, Toshiyuki Morikawa and Yuko Miyamura
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 03 September 2007

In medieval times a man lives or dies by the sword. Our story opens with the arrival of The Black Swordsman who rescues a bar girl from the castle guards, soon the inn is reduced to blood gore and violence. He is Guts, a man born of his dead mother womb and taught to fight for everything he joins the ranks of the Band of the Hawk, but their success will lead him to a dark place in his soul…

Berserk is an anime adaptation of Kentaro Miura's original manga. The twenty-five episode show was originally made in 1997. The show tells the story of Guts, an orphaned mercenary warrior, who serves under his friend Griffith in the Band of the Hawk.

The disc contains the first five episodes of the show. Although the show has been toned down from the manga it still remains a particularly violent piece. For such a popular show the animation is, sadly, often very basic, with too many static shots or shots with minimal movement, though this is counterbalanced by the inventive fight sequences.

The shows main strength resides in its excellent script, with its emphasis on plot and characterisation. As you get introduced to each of them, the characters are fleshed out with a back story and during the show's run they progress and develop giving the audience a visceral connection, by the end of the season you really do get to care about what happens to them. What starts out as the story of a young man's idealism and hope is soon crushed under the reality of the Land of Midland.

Although Griffith professes to be an honourable man he is not above using murder and rape to progress his objective in Midland's war with Chuder. The effect this has on the young Guts is nothing short of catastrophic and he becomes a man who must battle demons - both internally and externally.

Whilst the story is well told there will be some who will find the level of violence distasteful, there will be even more who will object to the shows apparent misogyny. To say that women are mostly treated badly in the anime is an understatement. Even within a few minutes of the opening episode a bar girl is humiliated, in a pseudo sexual scene, by being made to lick spilt wine from a table, a scene that is more reminiscent of a hentai rather than this more mainstream offering. And, while we are discussing imagery on the show, the size of Guts sword is enough to give any good Freudian nightmares and enough material for a dissertation.

Morality aside, the show does push boundaries, whether you're comfortable about where and to what extent they are pushed is a personal choice. Because of this mix the show is one that you're either going to love to hate - or hate to love.

As well as the first five episodes you get a bunch of extras in the form of production sketches, an art gallery, a textless opening, and a trailer. Lastly there are about a dozen little scenes that have been redubbed to be amusing and collected under the heading of outtakes. Audio is stereo English or Japanese with subtitles.

So, not one for everybody's tastes and defiantly not one to show the kiddies. What the show lacks in its artwork it more than makes up with its narrative. Just remember this is not going to be a comfortable ride.

Charles Packer

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