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Berserk: Golden Age Arc II – Battle For Doldrey UK Anime DVD Review

10 min read
Berserk II
Berserk II

How do you condense 8 episodes from a TV series into one movie? Answer: Do amazing animation, able to make it a viable story and put all the important parts of the story into one basket and you come up with an excellent movie both for Berserk fans and people new to the title.

What They Say :
He trusts nothing but his own sword. He has no place to call home. The lone mercenary Guts travels a land ravaged by a hundred-year war. Moving from battlefield to battlefield, his skill and ferocity eventually attract the attention of Griffith, the leader of a group of mercenaries called The Band of the Hawk. Desiring Guts’ power to help him achieve his goals, Griffith succeeds in recruiting the distrustful Guts by challenging him to a duel and defeating him. As the Band of the Hawk fight together and their bond as a unit grows stronger, Griffith and Gut’s bond deepens as well. With their continued success on the battlefield, Griffith achieves the first step toward his lofty goals: his band of mercenaries becomes recognized as a full-fledged army within the Midland Kingdom. Despite all their success, Guts begins to question his reasons for fighting for Griffith’s dream, which, unbeknownst to Guts, is destined to bestow a monstrous fate on them both.

Set up in both 5.1 English and Japanese, the second movie has style which you can tell just from the visuals on the menu. The audio quality is fantastic, with a pitch ranging that for once I had to reduce the sound volume from my default set when watching this. With the setting that Berserk has (mostly fantasy style battling), the amount of effects as well as music it has means that they did a great job in making sure the quality was a good as can be to make you feel the atmosphere. No issues with synching or cuts from the audio, whilst on the visual side, it is an anime that manages to mix CGI and animation flawlessly, one of the few in recent years I’ve been able to say that about – the gritty colours and flowing battles unite as one and with no slowdown or frame issues during watching or from pausing, it is a fantastic experience to watch on DVD, shame I didn’t get the Blu-Ray to watch but it will soon be on the purchase list.

The menu has animation from the movie shown in the upper right on a brown like background, the selections are all on the main screen with the choices being chapters (scene select), audio set up (Japanese with subtitles, English – it doesn’t say that both sets are 5.1 though but can confirm it is) and play. Very easy to negotiate and the menu playing some fantastic music whilst clips show gets you ready for the movie. Outside of that it’s very basic, no problems to navigate either from the main screen or from the movie.

There are no extras for this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first Berserk movie was an excellent way to show how to condense a series without removing many of the key things that made the anime just an intrigue to watch. The second movie does pretty much the same – another cliffhanger to set up for the third movie, continuing and exploring relationships and combines with excellent battle sequences will definitely make this a keeper for fans of the show, but also for those intrigued by the first movie if they weren’t a Berserk fan, will enjoy this in general as an action and mystery film, with as many questions as there are answers.

We start off with a recap of the first film and the moral dilemma Guts felt after having to kill a young witness due to Griffith’s orders of assassination – from the time passed Griffith had led the Band Of The Hawk to victory upon victory and are now seen as indispensible in the kingdom. We join a battle where Casca is in battle against a rather sexist opposing army leader, and she hasn’t been feeling well as her skills seem weaker and during the battle she actually gets hit by an arrow and falls off a cliff. Guts goes to save her as Griffith is informed…

…we then get a flashback about Casca’s past where she was nearly raped by someone but was saved by Griffith. In a different take of the story of being rescued though, Griffith lets Casca make a choice as he gives her a weapon to kill the assaulter, which she does. Casca is one of those characters who is really intriguing as she definitely is a strong woman, both physically and mentally, but there are deeper scars inside that mindset that weren’t explored in the first movie due to the focus being on Guts and Griffith. Here, Casca does take centre stage for a lot of it as both a character development point of view, and also in how her relationship with Guts changes – because she was initially quite disapproving of Guts (almost like a rival lover for Griffith kind of way) and indeed, the elements are still there (then again, Guts basically had to do some intimate heeling as she fell in a river) but their relationship starts becoming more trustworthy from this part, not just from that, but when the enemy soldier’s lead by the sexist general Adon do find them, Guts actually tells her not because she’s a woman, but because of her condition, to try and find Griffith as he tries to hold off over 100 soldiers by himself. Guts being a badass and Griffith appearing to help Casca is a key moment as they see the path of destruction Guts managed to somehow leave behind – seeing Guts fight his inner and outer pain as he gets more tired and bloodied but still has the resolve to fight, showcases just how committed he is, though there are more questions about this as the movie goes on…

Whilst that battle was to focus on Casca’s past and her new found respect for Guts, the next battle brings Griffith back full circle. The Knights are considered for a risky attack against the Holy Purple Rhino Knights of Doldrey who territory is considered near impenetrable. However Griffith sees it as an opportunity to continue to get in high with the nobles as well as solidify the Band Of The Hawk’s reputation to actually go for this battle alone despite being outnumbered against a rival Lord’s castle. In a brilliant strategy, the Band appears to retreat after a few fights, as the opposite leader Gennon apparently has a history with Griffith and wants him alive. However, a separate group led by Casca actually manages to take over the castle. Casca also showcases how good she is when she is 100% as she fights off the sexist leader that she struggled with when she was sick and manages to kill him. Guts in turn via the strategy kills Boscogn, the castle’s general who was as big a monster battle wise as Guts in legend, and we see Griffith having some bad memories of Gennon questioning his ideology leading to his death. We see here both the brilliant mind and the manipulative mind of Griffith in full effect here as you wonder if they are one and the same, whilst the action sequences are a joy to watch, everything is there to see in terms of violence and action, and the CGI effects actually manage to flow well in the animation.

Speaking of the effects and animation, there are some stunning flowing combination during the next sequence when the group are hailed as heroes and join for a formal ball. It’s amusing seeing how uncomfortable Guts and Casca are in regal robes, which has some unintentional comedy because of Guts’ expressions. This however leads to some big moments – first the fact that Casca is way more comfortable with Guts as she avoids many nobles asking for a dance and despite their awkwardness it is actually a tender and dare I say, romantic potential moment for the two considering Casca’s earlier thoughts on Griffith? It also brings forth Guts’ questioning what Griffith actually wants for the first time – as combined with his killing of an innocent child with this raising in stock to nobility, Guts is unsure what Griffith really wants, and is also unsure if he really wants to be part of it…

It leads to a duel rematch between Guts and Griffith as Guts decides to leave the group, despite their successes and potential nobility, Guts doesn’t want to be part of this vision. To the shock of everyone, Guts defeats Griffith (in one hit!) which sends Griffith into despair, for the defeat…or Guts leaving? It leads to our cliffhanger, where the princess Charlotte who clearly was in love with Griffith in the 1st movie, Griffith sneaks into her room and makes love to her with his mind clearly on Guts’ ‘betrayal’. He is caught and accused of treason where he makes some rather…interesting remarks about the king’s relationship with his daughter, and his army is now being attacked whilst Guts is nowhere to be seen and Griffith’s blood trinket is send down into the sewers…

The movie is very intense. Both in terms of the animation, sound and battle sequences, but the emotions that it brings in the characters and the viewers. Some of the things have been changed for the TV series a bit (one of them I wasn’t too keen on that Casca had to be rescued by Griffith, in the original, she actually fights off the rapist soldiers herself and then Griffith appears) and of course condensed so it fits movie length, but I definitely feel it managed to tell the story of Berserk well up until the betrayals of both Guts (to Griffith) and of Griffith (to the kingdom as a commoner having sex with the princess). It also doesn’t sugarcoat it – the violence and sex scenes are very explicit (the original TV series was a 15 so a lot of the most extreme stuff wasn’t shown) and the storyline is built up with the core three characters of Guts, Griffith and Casca all in their own dilemmas – Guts in his decision to leave, Griffith in shock of his closest confidant leaving, and Casca now starting to warm up to Guts and how she feels on him leaving whilst still trying to be strong for the army especially with Griffith being tortured. Casca is actually probably the character that is represented the most and best in this arc (Griffith really is a non-factor until the third arc) and sees that she is a good representative for a strong woman, though whilst Guts does have his comments about her in the army and some sexist representation, she manages to showcase both her feminine side during the party at the same time whilst being her strong warrior self (you will cheer when she defeats the sexist general) whilst Guts himself has his own thoughts after his intimate healing with Casca, from wondering what she is doing here to respecting her and even in his own way caring for her.

The violence is realistic, bloody and great to watch for the pure battle ethics – Guts continues his complex character as his relationship with Griffith, whilst not soured is more questioning as he has a lot to think about, whilst Griffith is starting to show some cracks in his demeanor with his near forceful way he comes onto the princess and his subsequent observations about the king. It is a cliffhanger which brings the fear out and you can’t wait for the final movie whether as a fan of Berserk originally or someone coming into it knew. It tells the story really well despite condensing most of the TV series so far into 2 movies and the way it looks and feels is a true art form. As I said, minor niggles about a few of the limitation and changes aside, it is a great movie and I’m praying for the final one to come as soon as possible.

Battle for Doldrey is an action packed, storytelling, character driven movie that is one of those rare beasts that not only condenses a movie into a fantastic tale, but able to condense an original series into just over an hour and a half and still manage to tell it well – able to cut out what they needed to with just a few niggles for me. The characters are intense and mesmerizing, it was great seeing them develop Casca more combined with Guts and Griffith now up in arms and disaster befalling them for different reasons – whether Guts returns is up to the final movie but the relationship between both Guts and Casca, and Guts and Griffith is what is being set up, and combined with a great soundtrack, CGI effects and excellent action sequences, the Berserk trilogy movie set is setting up to become one of my favourites. Very recommended for action fans, highly recommended for Berserk fans.

Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade:A
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: September 2nd, 2013
Running Time: 77 minutes
Price: £13.99

Review Equipment:
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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