Berserk [2016]

This is a review for the Berserk Golden Age Arc Movie Collection on DVD.

Berserk is a Japanese animated movie trilogy, based on the popular and often visceral manga by Kentaro Miura. The collected trilogy is released on DVD and BluRay in Australia by Madman Entertainment.

This series of films is a magnificent production full of intensity with no restraint on the dirtiness and bloodshed of war and even becomes more confronting with each film as the darkness within the characters and the overall story grows.

Movie one is a privilege to watch as the effort of the production team really comes through. The story is engaging and the characters intriguing, drawing the audience in to learn more about each of their motives. This story is highly enjoyable and, despite the realistic medieval war scenes, only hints at the darkness that is to come in later stories.

Our interest in the characters compels us to want to keep watching and see where their stories grow. Be warned, however, that the rest of the series is not quite as triumphant as the first instalment. By the second movie we really start to feel how political ambitions drive characters like Griffith and the consequences for trying to force fate.

By the time of the third film the story is getting grim for our band of heroes, as Guts reunites with Casca and the Band Of The Hawk to try and save their once great leader, Griffith. The awful reality of these brutal times is shown here and the film can be a difficult watch at times, especially if you are of a sensitive pallet.

The most frustrating issue about this trilogy, however, is the fact that the story does not reach a fulfilling conclusion. The end of the third movie is so dark and shocking that I walked away feeling cold. The production team have not pulled any punches and the awfulness of the situation can really be felt. I applaud them for this but, at the same time, wish that further instalments or chapters in the story had been included in the arc so that a sense of justice or balance could be provided.

A post-credits scene lets us know that the story isn’t quite over, but it is still a difficult story to walk away from; especially when it feels as if you have watched three movies and found that the story has really just begun.

The characters are all believable and grounded in their own reality, with great work by the voice cast. The English language cast, too, have made good attempts to ground the characters in a time and a place.

Beautiful art and animation fills the trilogy making for great viewing. The animation has been done with such effort to create realistic action in the thick of medieval battles. There is only a slight letdown with this in the first movie, as a couple of the shots show the character movement to be a bit stilted (notably in a couple of long shots), as if they were from a videogame. The “videogame” vibe can also be felt in some of the shots within the battle scene where Guts and Griffith face-off against the demon, Nosferatu Zodd. These issues seem to resolve around the CG parts of the animation, but are gone by the subsequent films, which improve in quality each time.

This DVD set is a good collection and contains extra features for fans who want more. The first disc is lite-on, with only the film and trailers, but discs 2 and 3 are loaded with extra content and trailers which make the overall collection good value.

4 out of 5 cats.

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