When darkness falls, it falls hard and fast.
What They Say:
It’s been a year since Griffith’s imprisonment by the Kingdom of Midland. Once praised as the saviors of Midland, the Band of the Hawk is now on the run and on the brink of breaking apart. Much to everyone’s surprise, Guts returns to the Hawks, and the search for Griffith begins!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language in 5.1 using the DTS-HD MA codec and does the same for the new English language dub. The feature has a good mix of music and action that utilizes the rear channels well to create a pretty good sound mix to enhance the action and build up the mood. The forward soundstage is no slouch either as ther’s plenty of directionality and impact to it with some solid bass throughout. Dialogue is well placed and it works some good depth at times as well. The opening song in particular worked really well for me in how it used all the channels to get its feel across. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2013, the transfer for this feature is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The feature, animated by Studio 4C, has a rich feel to it with the detail in the backgrounds, though the CG modeling is something that may not work well for some. With this installment having a lot more of the darker scenes, it holds up very well and when it gets awash in reds, it brings it out in a very rich tone. The overall visual design for it is good though and the transfer captures it well, with its muted colors and the smoothness of the animation itself. Colors are strong with a solid look to them and there’s plenty of shading going on here. Detail stands out well and the camera movements that are used allows it to feel more vibrant and stylized than we usually get for a lot of features.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case which manages to work well enough with the darker colors of the cover artwork. Because of the nature of this installment, it goes with one of the more expected images as we get Griffith in front of the eclipse and that means a whole lot of dark colors, reds and a generally creepy feeling that works pretty well even if it’s not quickly evident as to what’s going on. The back cover goes for a simple approach with a red background that lets the white logo stand out as well as two small strips of shots from the show itself. The summary is kept minimal and is a bit hard to read with black on red. There’s a lot of production credits in even small font size that’s even harder to read though. The discs features aren’t laid out in a grid but are done under one of the picture strips that’s hard to read as well, especially in trying to find the basics of how it’s set up. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is definitely a favorite for me with what it does as we get my favorite image of the egg hatching basically with Griffith in the middle where it all comes out beautifully violent in its nature. With the gray background and the black line work for so much of it, it’s a stark looking piece that starts up and with the splash of red from the logo along the bottom it just builds the atmosphere perfectly. Language setup is a breeze and the menu as a whole is easy to navigate. The feature defaults to the English track as you’d expect and it ignored player presets that I had to pick up the Japanese track and English subtitles.
The extras for this release are once again pretty solid all around and the kinds of materials you expect with a feature film. We get a few more of the familiar pieces with the art gallery that has some great pieces as well as the highlight reel featuring the premiere of the second film in its limited theatrical run in the US. You also get the various video promos done for this installment in its own section and a really fun batch of outtakes from this film that clocks in at a whopping twenty-one minutes. There’s also a pretty good 8 minute video with Eiko Tanaka of the animation production studio that was done during AX 2012 that has her talking about how the went about working on the film series. We also get the extended five minute promo that was done for the property with the “Breakthrough” promo that still sends chills as it pays proper respect to the manga work while setting the tone for the features.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With two large and very exciting installments of Berserk having come out as part of the three part Golden Age series, the final one is the one that fans of the original work are likely to be the most excited about. I had seriously enjoyed revisiting this group of characters in this larger than life way with the tighter cut to it as we were introduced to them, the setting and the world that Griffith was trying to become a part of in order to find what it was that was missing in his life. His drive is what brought about so much of the action in the features as he strived for greater position, but it was all in the foundation of those whose shoulders he was using to climb on. And the Band of the Red Hawk provided for some very strong shoulders, but also the curious addition of Guts who ended up in a lot of ways becoming more of Griffith’s equal as he wasn’t quite the person he could use as intended. The two have such a great relationship that watching it build and collapse as it did was thorough engaging.
This film has a lot of ground to cover in some ways but it’s also similar to the second installment in that so much of it is wrapped up in what’s essentially a few minutes of time within the show. The lead up to it though is utterly fascinating to watch, both if you knew what was coming and if you didn’t. Having Griffith put into such torture for so long as nearly a year has passed since the Band of the Red Hawk was torn asunder after Guts had left has definitely made an impact on nearly all involved. Griffith is beyond destroyed in so many ways, mentally and physically as he rots in the prison cell deep below the castle, and Casca is doing her best to lead the remnants of the Hawks with this hope of someday bringing Griffith back in order to make everything right again. The Hawks have gotten into their skirmishes since they haven’t exactly been welcomed anywhere after what Griffith was accused of, but there is such a bond between all of them that it makes sense that they’re all still together.
But it’s also not a surprise that amid a new battle that they get caught up in that Guts ends up making his way back to the, rescuing Casca in the nick of time once again as she nearly goes over another cliff, to much amusement. The two of them have had such a tumultuous relationship since the very beginning that watching it through the ups and downs and the roughness of it all is really well done here as the height of battle, the adrenaline, the time apart and the burning feelings that each has results in a passionate but honest feeling sex scene between the two. It may be a bit more than needed to be on the screen, but it’s that moment of serenity and connection between them that needed to be laid out, and clearly. They’ve grown to have such meaning for each other that even after all this time, and especially with the weight that Casca has carried, Guts being back in her life just changes everything.
And the biggest change is that with a little surprising help, a small group of them are able to go in and rescue Griffith. While everyone has such hopes, there’s such an air of despondency between those that see what he’s turned into with his body a shallow shadow of his former self that they know there is no future for him beyond just barely surviving. The impossibility of him becoming anything close to what he was before causes those that know to react in very different ways and the interplay between them – and Griffith – again touches on those bonds. Casca knows she could never be to him what she wanted to be, but she can’t turn away from helping him. Guts simply wants to protect him and find a way to give him a sense of peace and security to live out what’s left of his life. But everyone else is unaware of what a husk of a human that he is that they can’t understand why they aren’t gearing up to change sides, find a new charter and ride the high life again. They had all gotten so connected to what they had under Griffith and the thought of it at this point of not being achievable again leaves them confused and lashing out at each other.
The big part of the movie is what happens after Griffith realizes that he has no hope here and manages to fling himself into fleeing in a pretty comical way considering his physical nature. There’s such an utter sense of sadness about him with that helmet on as he realizes how badly his body has failed him after being thrust into the shallow water that you can easily understand why he tries to kill himself. But as we see through the carefully constructed flashback moments, death like this is not an option for him. He’s struggled to survive and gone through so much over the years that simply spiking his own throat is not something he can bring himself to do. It shows so much of his character that even at this stage when you want him to achieve that peace, to find that end to the pain of it all, that you can understand exactly why he doesn’t do it.
But you so wish he had.
Similar to how the TV series adaptation ended, much to my frustration, we get the same here but in this massively larger scale that really makes the power of it all felt. Having Griffith come into contact with the Behelit necklace again is reminiscent of the One Ring from Lord of the Rings as it always finds its way back to who it needs, and it does it here just as the eclipse happens and that turns it into a true night of evil. One that brings so many creatures of varying levels of power, including the Four Angels of Darkness, that it’s all a part of that brutal rebirth of Griffith into something more that has been expected for centuries. While there are stories upon stories that can be told based on what we get from those creatures we see, the focus is almost entirely on the Band of the Red Hawk as they try to grapple with what they’re seeing as they discover they’re the sacrifices for Griffith’s rebirth and they struggle, vainly, against it. It’s heartbreaking and disturbing as they go down so brutally. Some give up, others defend to help comrades escape while many do their best to go down fighting.
And naturally, Guts struggles against it all like he normally does by just throwing himself at it. While everyone tries to grapple with what they’re seeing, he just focuses on the goal of rescuing Griffith no matter the cost to himself. This just brings us full circle to their relationship in many ways even as Griffith is largely unseen during this part of the arc because of his transformation. Guts’ intensity is powerful here, his drive to rescue his friend and to try and make things right and whole again is profound. It comes across beautifully as it plays out, even as you know that this opening chapter to the much larger story demands that he fails. Because in the end, all of this is to give him true purpose that he had lacked. He had attached himself to Griffith’s dreams for awhile, but they were not his own. Now though, his dream is to either end or rescue what Griffith has become since what plays out here alters so much of what he had experienced for years with this group. It’s certainly a down ending in many ways, expected as it was, but it also has such a sense of hope and purpose to it that you can really rally behind it.
Berserk has long been one of those key properties for me that just feeds a need that almost no other show does. It’s fantasy, but a gritty and realistic kind of fantasy that deals with war, feudalism, and politics in a way that shows the rough and raw side of it. But it also plays with the supernatural a bit, lightly in the earlier installments because it’s something outside of the view of most people as they go through their lives. When it makes its appearances, it’s disconcerting and startling as you try and make sense of it but can’t. And when it goes big like it does here, it overwhelms and utterly destroys the characters and the viewers as you try to grapple with what it has done. This film trilogy (please let there be more!) gave me a fresh, clean and up to date stylish approach to material I’m familiar with and made it wholly accessible by going in the movie format for it. I pretty much love every frame of each episode with the kind of power, grace, beauty and brutality that it brings. These are top notch movies that may not be for everyone, but they fill a hole that exists in what kind of animation is produced these days. It doesn’t hold back and you love it all the more for it. Very highly recommended and is one of the best things that Viz Media has released in my mind.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with Eiko Tanaka, Outtakes, The Battle For Doldrey US Premiere Highlight Reel, Production Art Gallery, Ending Theme, Japanese Trailer, Japanese TV Spots, Japanese Teaser
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.