For the past dozen years or so, I've had people recommend Berserk. Whether in anime or manga form, I've heard nothing but great things about it. As a fan of swords and sorcery from both sides of the ocean, I knew it was something I would enjoy. Thing is, there are so many things to watch, read and play that it kept getting pushed back on my list of media to consume. I'd see a tantalizing splash page from the manga every few months that would remind that I should read it, but I'd eventually forget and go on to something else.
When announcements were made back in 2010 about a new set of Berserk movies, I figured that would be a good time to get in. It would give me a basic understanding about what's going on and, if I liked it, I'd dive into the manga. Once again, I forgot about Berserk until I had the chance to review the first film, The Egg of the King. This time around, I made sure that I'd finally see this mythical series.
Was it worth the wait? Hit the jump to find out.
The Egg of the King appropriately enough with a massive battle in the castle. A free mercenary named Guts catches the attention of pretty boy Griffith and his organization, the Band of Hawks. After getting accosted and defeated by Griffith, Guts is conscripted into the Band of Hawks, much to the chagrin of Casca, the only woman in the merc group and the right-hand woman to Griffith. After several years, Guts finds himself adjusted to being part of the Hawks, in stark contrast to the lone-wolf he was before. His skills have made him into one of Griffith's most trusted comrades, so Guts is often sent to deal with the rougher targets the Hawks are hired to defeat. One of those missions pits Guts against a demon that, after defeating both Guts and Griffith, gives the swordsman a prophecy dealing with the titular Egg of the King.
As the Hawks continue their work with kingdom of Midland, Griffith is eventually made into a nobleman. With his new position, Griffith is no longer able to physically involve himself with more violent issues, so it stands that Guts is sent to do his commander's dirty work when things become politically complicated. On one of these missions, Guts ends up making a mistake that shakes the swordsman to his core. After attempting to report to Griffith, Casca keeps Guts from making another mistake. At this point, Guts overhears Griffith's true feelings about the Hawks, which doesn't particularly help the rattled Guts. With Guts, Griffith and Casca in three different states of mind, the movie leaves you wondering about how the Hawks will hold together.
What surprised me the most about The Egg of the King was Guts. I was under the impression that he was a violent brute that didn't care about anybody but himself, his sword and how many people he can kill with it. It might have something to do with all of the promotional art I've seen and the pages of gore I've had shown to me from the manga. Instead, I see a young guy that goes from being a rough, aimless youth to a somewhat focused merc who cares about the Hawks. It visibly bothers him when one of the Hawks tells him that he doesn't care about his comrades. With what I've been told, this factors into his change later on after the events of what I assume will be the third movie.
In general, the movie looks and sounds gorgeous, but I was also surprised to see how much CG was in the film. If there's a generic soldier who has a throwaway line or is about to get lanced in the gut, you can bet that he's going to be cell-shaded and barely detailed. Hell, even parts of Guts gets the CG treatment, which can be distracting. It isn't necessarily bad, but it jarring when you have a blank-faced soldier talking to a well-detailed Guts or Griffith. It's a good thing that by the time Guts gets inducted into the Band of Hawks, the use of CG goes way down. It only pops up again during some the bigger person-heavy fights. The performances were fairly solid across both the dub and the sub, so can be satisfied in whatever method you choose to consume your media. The music was also pretty good, assisting in building dark moods when necessary.
My one concern going into the movie was storyline-compression and if it would make the movie non-sensical. Since I haven't read the manga or watched the show, I can't tell what got cut out, but I can tell you that the movie makes sense. There isn't anything that left me confused about what was going on. I watched the movie with a big fan of the original show and manga and while he did notice some rather large jumps in story and skipped battles, he said that it got what was important and the changes that were made helped movie the story along. I'll take that as a positive note for those that have been following Berserk, as this guy is usually pretty picky about these things.
Even if you've never seen or read anything in the Berserk mythos, I'd suggest this movie to you. Despite the use of some cheap CG, the film looks and sounds fantastic. The story is engaging and the characters have some surprising depth to them. However, if you do not like violence, you'd best stay away. The movie is literally bathed in claret and viscera. People are regularly cut into, cut in half and just generally cut in horrible ways. The Egg of the King feels like a good place to start for people who are new to the franchise and I think that those familiar with the manga or show will still enjoy it.
8.0 – Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.
Images: © KENTAROU MIURA(STUDIO GAGA) HAKUSENSHA / BERSERK FILM PARTNERS
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