Oh Berserk. The most beloved dark-fantasy manga to come out of Japan. It perfectly balances incredible characters and storytelling with absolutely gorgeous artwork! The tone is perfectly balanced, delivering more than a few gut twisting, horrifying moments while balancing them with happy moments of brevity. Sure, there are some long gaps between manga chapters. But the wait is almost always worth it!
But anime fans have suffered more than their fair share across Berserk’s history. The original 90’s anime, while good, was considered very ugly and ended right after the iconic Eclipse. The Golden Age trilogy of films was a step in the right direction, though they were heavily criticized for its heavy use of CGI across all three films. And the 2016/17 anime series was a complete and utter disaster from beginning to end.
So what now? Can Berserk pull itself together for its next anime adaptation? Or is this story completely impossible to properly adapt? Well… I hesitate to say that Berserk can’t be adapted. With enough time and a talented staff, anything is possible! But it sure as hell wouldn’t be easy.
In fact, it’s so hard that it borders on impossible.
The first and most obvious point is the artwork. See, part of what makes Berserk so magical (and time consuming) is the artwork! Each drawing, whether it be an action shot or a somber moment of silence, is a gorgeous painting! You could sit there and suck in each and every panel for hours on end! Just look at these!
I’d post more, but I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to upload the entire manga.
Naturally, changing artwork this insanely detailed into something that would work for an anime production is a delicate process. Change it too much and it’s no longer Berserk. Don’t change it enough, and you can’t animate it without an insanely high amount of work. Work that requires the absolute best animators in the industry to spend weeks to months on a single shot!
This is why Berserk 2016/17 decided to go with 3D models. They hoped to create models that were highly detailed and pretty, just as the characters are in the manga. This would make animating the show much easier while doing as little to sacrifice visual fidelity as possible. Unfortunately, they made this decision far too late in the production line, giving them little time to properly make and render the models. Worse yet, they didn’t know how to use their software, which made forging the models and environments even more difficult.
Could this 3D style work? Well, if the Golden Age trilogy made anything clear… kind of.
The artwork isn’t the only problem. The tone and content of the story is just as problematic.
Over the last few decades, broadcasters in Japan have gotten stricter and stricter with the content that airs on their network. The more gruesome the violence or sexual the content, the more difficult it was to get your work animated and serialized. This isn’t the 90’s anymore, you can’t just have an anime chick casually running around with her bare tits flopping around.
Now she has to wear a skin-tight leotard over those boobs. Which are still flopping around.
You can probably see where this is going. Berserk is an extremely dark, gruesome, and often sexual show. There’s a lot of… the following things.
- Extremely gruesome violence
- Disturbing imagery
- Rape by Demon/Demon Horse
- Violence against children
And so on. Friendly reminder that Berserk is not for the faint of heart.
Berserk’s tone is not as friendly for TV anime as it used to be. If you were to adapt this series and air it on a Japanese TV network, then you’d have no other choice than to make some serious edits regarding the content. Which is kind of a huge problem, considering how tightly crafted Berserk’s story is! You kind of can’t cut anything from the story!
I’m sure that there are many more problems plaguing a possible Berserk adaptation. I’ve never produced an anime, so I can’t say I’m familiar with the struggles of production. For all I know, there are a thousand other major issues that make adapting Berserk truly impossible. Who knows? Certainly not me.
Do I want to see another Berserk adaptation? Kind of. While I do want to see some of the better moments of the manga that anime fans haven’t seen yet become animated, I do have my doubts about the quality. I’d be happy to be wrong, don’t get me wrong. A truly great Berserk anime would be incredible! But at this point, I only have one thing to say to the anime-only Berserk fans. And yes, I know this is kind of a dirty phrase for some people.
Say it with me now!
Go read the fucking manga.