I feel like I’ve made my feelings towards it abundantly clear, but in case you’re new I’ll say it again. I absolutely love Berserk. It’s easily one of my favorite manga out there thanks to it’s incredible story and art work, among many other things. If you haven’t read it before, I strongly urge you to check it out.
Be warned though: this shit is not for the faint of heart. Berserk is really fucking dark.
When it comes to anime adaptations, however, Berserk has had it very… rough compared to other shows. The original anime from the nineties is great, though some complain that it’s ugly (an opinion that I greatly disagree with), and then there’s the the 2016/17 anime which everyone agrees is absolutely hideous (an opinion which I wholeheartedly agree with). But there is one adaptation that many people overlook when talking about this series.
The Golden Age movie trilogy.
Before the 2016 show made every Berserk fan in the world bleach their eye balls, this series of movies came out to remind the anime-only fans that Berserk existed in the first place. Though they were criticized for their use of CGI, the trilogy was praised for it’s solid 2-D animation and for retelling the Golden Age Arc very well.
Now, I’m of a more controversial opinion. Aside from the first movie, I don’t think the CGI is all that bad. It can certainly be jarring, yes, but the second and third movies really stepped up the visuals in comparison to the first.
Hell, the first movies 2-D animation was lacking in comparison to the other two. It’s not bad looking by any means, don’t get me wrong, but there aren’t nearly as many shots that stand out as strongly as the second or third movies.
There are a lot of fantastic shots to pick from, but I’ll stick with one from each film to show you how the cinematography, as well as background art, improve from film to film. Here’s one of the best shots from the first movie.
This is a reasonably nice shot. The silhouetting of Guts and Griffith makes them stand out against the background, and everything is well drawn, especially the grass beneath their boots. However, the background itself isn’t anything interesting. It’s just a very well drawn sky dotted with clouds. It doesn’t really add anything to the scene.
Now, here’s a good shot from the second movie.
Yes, I might be a little biased because this is my favorite fight. Shut up.
This one takes everything great about the first movie’s shot an improves upon it. For one, the background is far more visually interesting, as you can see the entire city coated in a blanket of snow. The lens flare of the sun creates a distinct line between the two characters, representing the divide currently tearing the two apart. It’s a faithful adaptation from the manga, which almost has a panel that is almost identical to this shot.
Both of those were pretty good, right? Well, here’s the best shot from the third movie, as well as the best shot from all three in general.
I just noticed that all three feature Griffith front and center, and all of them happen before he does absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever. What an odd coincidence.
Anyways, this third shot is absolutely gorgeous. The background is extremely well detailed, and the use of the setting sun to cast a dark shadow over Griffith and his Behelit is an excellent use of lighting. You can pick up on so many things from this shot. All the different emotions ripping Griffith apart from the inside, the coming darkness on the outside world, the spike in the lake that he tries to kill himself with standing front and center as if to say “I’m still here, bitch!” and so much more. This is a perfect shot to lead up to the Eclipse.
Y’know. The moment where Griffith doesn’t do anything wrong whatsoever. Why would you think he does?
These movies do what I believe any solid trilogy should do: they improve from movie to movie. The first movie was pretty rough around the edges, so the second refined it. The second movie featured a few excellent shots, so the third upped the anti and made practically every shot in the movie impactful and memorable.
And, as is tradition at this point, it cut out Wyld from the story altogether. A change that I can’t necessarily disagree with.
I hear a lot of people give these movies flack simply because of their use of CGI. I think that’s a very close minded argument. Sure, some of the CGI can be very jarring and poor to look at, but that’s ignoring all the other qualities the movies have. By choosing to ignore them simply because some of the animation is bad, you miss out on the spectacular art work, excellent shot compositions, downright gorgeous music, and a story that never gets old, no matter how many times it’s retold.
Simply put, I love these movies. I think they’re far more solid than people give them credit for, and I think they’re some of the best animated adaptations Berserk has ever gotten.
Then again, when 2016 Berserk exists, the bar has gotten really low.