Berserk repackages itself into the first of a three movie format of a new version of the original series. Shorter, maybe. Sweeter, definitely.
What They Say :
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS! A skilled swordsman who joins forces with a mercenary group named ‘The Band of the Hawk’, led by the charismatic Griffith, fights with them as they battle their way into the royal court.
The Review :
Both the DVD and Blu-Ray releases have 5.1 English and Japanese options, which are always welcome, especially as 5.1 Japanese is rare in series (but becoming more common in movies). I watched the DVD release in Japanese and the English dub on the Blu-Ray. Both are superb, with the Blu-Ray being slightly better in terms of quality in audio, and definitely in video for obvious reasons, but the DVD version is excellent too. When I first put it in, 7 minutes in I had to pause to see how clear everything was during a scene where Guts kills a general and the transition is perfect. I prefer the Japanese over the English but the dub audio sound quality is excellent as well, with no delays of problems linking audio with subtitles – excellent release.
The menu is good, on both releases it’s the same, we see animated shots of the movie in a slash mark in the middle with the title of the movie just above, and the menu selection (Play, Chapters and Audio Set Up) just below which are easy to navigate, with the chapter select being the scene select option for the movie and the ability to select English or Japanese 5.1 Language with subtitles. Basic in terms of selection but no problem maneuvering and the animated slash is a good touch.
Sadly, there are no extras for this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I was a fan of Berserk when it originally came out – the usual disappointments of the series never finishing I won’t go into, and whilst the manga is around delays keep the full story being concluded. This release is basically the retelling of the first 10 episodes of the Berserk anime told in just 70 minutes. For Berserk fans, it does feel a bit rushed I will admit in this respect, however the gorgeous animation and fluid movements do make up a lot for that, and for people who have never experienced Berserk, this is a great way to introduce them.
We start off with a battle sequence, where the Bazuzo or general of a group is challenge by our lead Guts, a tough young soldier but considered a rookie about to be slaughtered. In a great battle sequence, his speed pushes the general back, breaks his sword and manages to kill him, whilst another part of the army notice this young fighter and comment if he would be stronger than their general, a man named Griffith…
After the battle, after failed attempts for people to act as a bodyguard for them, he encounters some bandits. Whilst he defeats a number of them, a woman named Casca also gets involved. Guts however is about to defeat her when an arrow comes between them – the shooter was the aforementioned Griffith, a very handsome waif looking man, but manages to block Guts attack and defeats him easily. However, he doesn’t kill him and instead takes him alive as a prisoner.
When he wakes up, he is basically asked by Griffith to join their group, the Band Of The Hawk, a bunch of talented mercenaries. Guts’ pride is already hurt because he knows Griffith deliberately didn’t kill him whilst Griffith sees Guts as an unpolished stone, very strong but reckless and wants him to join up. They have a battle to decide if Guts wins, he leaves and if Griffith wins, he stays. In an unorthodox battle, Griffith does well and does seem to be more interested in Guts than just initial impressions…especially as he admits to him he wants his own kingdom and he’ll be the one who now decides where Guts wants to die.
Cut to three years in the future, and the Band Of The Hawk with Guts still there are a strong and reliable group of mercs for anyone who wants to hire them, yet members of the upper class look down on them despite Griffith being knighted. We get a battle where the title comes into play as the Egg Of The King is an item on Griffith’s person, where during a battle against a legendary swordsman Zodd who can transform into a monstrous form, he spares Griffith and Guts when he sees the egg, telling him if Guts sees Griffith as a friend, that if his ambition dies, then Guts will die along with him…
The last part of the movie dictates Griffith is not the nice guy he appears to be. Hints have appeared throughout the movie he is more cunning than he appears. He befriends the king’s daughter which angers some of the higher ranked knights. One of them named Julius attempts to kill him in the shadows but the egg protects him from a ‘stray’ arrow. Griffith in turn, sends Guts to assassinate him. In the conclusion of the movie, Guts succeeds but is forced to kill Julius’ young son when he sees his face. He escapes but his face now is the man of someone with no hope…only clinging onto the ambition of Griffith…
The movie, for fans of Berserk as you can tell, is quite condensed. It tells you the bare minimum of what you need to know during the main arc, it establishes the three main characters (Griffith, Guts and Casca, though Guts and Griffith are far more focused on) well and just lets you follow them during some fantastically animated sequences when battling armies, demons or knights in a castle. Their personalities are explored as best as they can in the time, establishing Guts as a tough young man who was impulsive and needed direction, and Griffith being the man to supply that, yet also have his own dubious motives of bringing Guts on board, with some higher plan in motion. By the end of the film, you see the wheels are turning with his friendship/romance with Charlotte and the look on his face when he hears his rival has been killed. Casca we don’t know as much in this film, mostly she is jealous but concerned over Guts a lot as you wonder if she knows if it was Guts that did the killings. Guts himself at the end of the movie is a much different man than in the beginning and you wonder if you’ve gone into the movie blind what his direction will be, come the second movie.
The animation is fantastic, the music is epic, it flows as well as it possibly can in the allotted time, there are hints of extra back-story they fit in (like Guts’ master, the discussion between Guts and Griffith about the egg and Griffith’s dreams) which add to us understanding the characters psyche. Sadly because of the shortness of the film, you know (especially for fans of the original) there was so much more that they could have added. As I said, it basically covers 10 episodes so whilst it does the job well, you feel just adding 20 minutes more could have benefitted. Added to that with the lack of extras, I can’t say it’s perfect. However, it’s a great movie for both fans of the original to see how new animation and technology have transformed the franchise, and for new fans to step into this bloody and violent but thought-provoking world.
And that ending theme song is magnificent. Not since Forces have I had so many chills. Blood and Guts. How perfect.
Berserk – The Egg Of The King does enough to both interest new fans and old fans of the franchise. Enough information about the leads combined with enough mystery and intrigue about them, their pasts and their future keeps the viewer engaged, combined with some glorious action scenes (especially on Blu-Ray) make it a worthwhile purchase just in time for Christmas. Very recommended, but the lack of extras means it’s not perfect.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-/A (1st grade DVD, 2nd grade Blu-Ray)
Video Grade: A/A+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: December 24th, 2012
Running Time: 70 minutes
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.