Saturday, August 24, 2013

Anime Thoughts: Berserk Golden Age Arc II

See the review for the first Berserk movie . For the television anime series, please refer .

Let's just go ahead and get this out of the way: Berserk is a series that can be very unkind to its female characters. (And males! Equality!) Nowhere is this more obvious with ambiguously brown female warrior Casca. And nowhere is her particularly bad streak of luck more apparent than the volumes of manga that this particular movie covers. Casca lovers? This movie'll be a tough one for you.

STUDIO4 C's not-so-celebrated Berserk movie series continues with "The Battle for Doldrey". As the name implies, this movie's very heavy on the battle. So I hope you kids like stiffly animated 3D models duking it out, because you are going to get a ton of that here. The 3D animation was a major quip of many reviewers and fans for the first movie, and is thankfully used to better effect in Doldrey. Mostly gone are the random uses of 3D in scenes that totally didn't call for it. It's mainly relegated to battle and group scenes, though a few screwball uses still managed to worm their way into the movie.

Doldrey covers the part of the manga that gets incredibly action heavy, with the notorious Guts vs 100 Men battle and the aforementioned siege of Doldrey. But luckily the action was interspersed with critical character development moments, particularly for Casca. She wasn't portrayed in a particularly positive light in the first movie, what with the whole "Griffith's Right Hand Alpha Bitch" schtick. Here we start to see that under that absurdly hostile exterior is a deeply scarred and troubled woman struggling to survive in a world dominated by bloodthirsty (and sex-thirsty) men.

The pacing and character development are handled MUCH better here. Unlike the first movie which felt the need to blaze through volumes of manga content in a meager 70-minute running time, Doldrey actually stops to let the characters have some time to shine. This movie is ALL about Casca. Her battles, her history, the changing dynamic between her and Guts, etc. That's not to say the plot isn't rushed (it still is, just not as severely as Egg of the King). But we actually get a good understanding of her character, and why she behaves the way she does.

Of course, Berserk newbies are still going to bea bit out of their league. While I still stand by the statement of the movies being a decent introduction to the series, there's no denying newcomers will be confused thanks to all the cut content. Two notable omissions are Wyald and the Midland Queen's assassination subplot.

One notable ADDITION is an extended sex scene between Griffith and Charlotte. A questionable addition, but STUDIO4 C does handle the scene very well. The animation gets a notable bump, and it does a good job at portraying Griffith's crumbling psyche. It's no secret that Griffith has some kind of deep fixation with Guts, but this scene goes above and beyond to show you just how bad it is. He glares at the princess the entire time, but not once does he actually "see" her. Instead his mind is racing with memories of Guts.

Then again when your best friend is a hunk like that, can you really blame him?

Music and voice acting are excellent, though I still miss the bizarre electronica soundtrack Susumu Hirasawa provided for the television series. (He does still provide the movie's opening theme song). One change in the Japanese voice cast I'm not too sold on is for Gennon, the homosexual pedophile noble in charge of Doldrey. For whatever reason, they decided to have One Piece's Mr. 2 Bon Clay (one of the most flamboyantly gay characters you'll ever see in anime) provide the voice. They also added some extra erm mannerisms to Gennon, such as him delicately lifting his pinkie finger while talking. Not sure if they're trying to turn Gennon into a stereotype or just make it more obvious to the audience that he's a tad fruity? Oh well. Solid vocal performance regardless.

I've yet to watch the dub, but am pleased to know the old dub cast will be reprising their roles. Given their solid performance in the first movie, I expect their delivery this time to be just as strong.

BERSERK'S SECOND MOVIE GETS A 3.5 OUT OF 5 FOR IMPROVED USE OF 3D ANIMATION AND IMPROVED PACING AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT COURTESY OF A BEEFED-UP RUNNING TIME. It's an improvement over the first movie in almost every way, though still suffers from some of the flaws that plagued its predecessor. Again, newcomers may want to refer to the manga or 1990 s television series for a proper introduction to the series.

- G.K. Sil Kamina
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