Friday, January 11, 2013

Berserk - The Golden Age Arc 1: The Egg of the King (2012)

As a huge Berserk fan, I was eagerly awaiting the "new Berserk anime". For the unfamiliar, Berserk is a dark fantasy manga (Japanese comic) series by Kentaro Miura. It was adapted into an anime (Japanese animation) series once before, but its ending leaves off on a cliffhanger. So for years, fans have been clamoring for an extension of the Berserk anime series to cover the story as it continues in the original manga. Finally, the powers that be decided to animate a new Berserk series.

The only problem is that instead of continuing the story, they decided to start back at the beginning. This is not a surprising move, as, above all else, it will allow for the introduction of certain elements not included in the first anime series that are required for the plot's continuation. Ultimately, I think this series will serve mainly as a [really long] plot summary of all that's happened, to get us to the point where we're ready to show the rest of the story. And if the title credits animation sequence even in this first installment of the movie series is any indication (featuring flashes of characters not present until much later in the series), they do intend to continue the story beyond the end of the Golden Age Arc where the first anime series left off.

But we're left with the question of what purpose does this first installment of the series - the Golden Age Arc - serve if it's already been animated once before to excellent result? And the answer is, not a whole lot beyond setting up what's to come, as I just explained. You can tell they threw lots of money into the animation budget, as the animation quality is very high. However, I actually don't like it, as it tries too hard to be 'photorealistic', which actually puts it over the edge into the uncanny valley. It's just weird to see obviously cartoon-style characters moving ultra-realistically. I prefer to have room for my imagination to fill in the little things. Also you have the camera doing weird things to simulate live action filming (like one point when a drop of blood lands on the lens), which is cool when you're actually filming live action, but here it just emphasizes the artifice of the whole thing.

So I don't really like the animation, as expensive as it must have been. I don't especially like the new voices, any more than the old ones, which have been ingrained into my head as the characters' "right" voices. The music isn't nearly as good as the first series. And because there's less time, the story is jumbled up and progresses too fast without time to savor what's going on. Like the confusing dream sequence that instead of serving as exposition on Guts' history, raises more questions than it answers. And I know this is all a flashback to set up what's to come, but one of the great things about the first series is that it starts out and you know it's a flashback - but it's such a good flashback that it stands on its own. And so the flashback goes on so long, you forget that it's a flashback, except that in the back of your mind you're thinking, this is leading up to something. And damn right, it is, yet it still floors you when it finally gets there.

So I don't have much good to say about this first installment of the "new Berserk anime", except about what looks promised to come. The story covers everything from the beginning of the flashback (minus the present time setup that the manga story and old anime both start with - not giving you any idea really where the story is headed this time, for better or worse) to the part where Griffith tells Charlotte what a true friend is to him, as Guts listens on, after their encounter with Zodd the Immortal. I'm still interested to see how this series handles the second and third installments of The Golden Age Arc (if the snazzy, lifelike animation style is good for anything, it'll be the pivotal love scene and the Eclipse itself, I think). And I'm excited to see the story continue past where the first anime left off. Although, I wish they could have continued the story in the style of the first anime, and I hope the story-telling pace slows down after we get past the parts we've all seen already before.

Oh, and if this is your first exposure to Berserk, by all means, go back and watch the old series first!

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