Berserk by Lady Sage

Kenfu Denki Berserk
Also Known As: Swordsmanship Romance Berserk
Genre: Action
Format: 25 Episodes
Allegiance: Oriental Light and Magic/VAP
Director: Naohito Takahashi
Vintage: 1997
Intelligence Agency Report by: Lady Sage
Guts’s only purpose in life was to fight and kill for money – it’s the only life he’s ever known. But then he is taken into the Band of the Hawk, the famed mercenary band led by the charismatic and power-hungry Griffith. Guts and his comrades are willing to do just about anything to help their esteemed leader, but what happens when things go too far?

Field Agent Report by: Lady Sage 
Overall 8.75

Berserk’s main problem is that it starts and ends on a bad note, in more than one sense of the word. The first episode has been known to drive off potential viewers; since the story is told almost entirely in flashback, the first episode is more like the end of the story than the beginning, and few people like to be thrown into something without having any backstory. But for those who stick around and let the backstory come to them, Berserk is one of the best anime of the last decade.

The other bad note that Berserk begins on is something more literal: the opening theme song, “Tell Me Why,” is one of the worst pieces of Engrish rock I have ever had the misfortune of hearing, and does not fit the series at all. The ending theme, “Waiting So Long,” also entirely in English, does not fare much better. Furthermore, the background music has pretty much one theme, albeit one that is hauntingly beautiful. However, it’s not always appropriate for the times it’s used, such as in the middle of a brutal battle sequence. The voice acting was good; no standout performances, but everyone portrayed their characters well enough.

And what amazing characters they are! Since the show is largely about a mercenary band, there is a sizable number of characters, but not one seems extraneous or unlikable. True, not everyone is perfectly lovable, but that’s life; and just another attribute that makes the anime realistic. Guts, Caska, and Griffith – the most pivotal characters of the cast – all grow and change incredibly throughout the course of Berserk, especially the former two. The Guts at the end is only recognizable as the Guts in the beginning through physical resemblance.

Plotwise, Berserk distinguishes itself in particular with one notable quality: there is no filler. Every single episode is somehow important to the plot, which is fairly linear but nevertheless excellent. Everything about the Hawks’ rise to power, the character relationships, and even the fantasy world they inhabit is presented in a completely believable manner. It’s as close to perfection as I’ve seen a television anime get. And then…

It ends. Berserk has one of the most frustrating and abrupt endings I have seen anywhere. Consider Aristotle’s model plot as described in Poetics: setting, rising action, climax, and dénouement. Well, Berserk has a well-established setting, superb rising action, and an incredibly powerful climax…but then, it stops. There is no dénouement. The series managed to get to the most intense moment just as it reached the end of its running time. As a result, I was left with an agonizing sense of incompletion as I stared numbly at the ending credits, which can only be resolved by reading the lengthy manga.

Berserk is definitely a worthwhile series that you won’t regret watching. With one of the most hoped-for sequels in modern anime fandom, it is a series that leaves you wanting more, making it both a blessing and a curse that it is awesome enough to make you feel so.