Berserk: Golden Age Arc II: The Battle for Doldrey -* * * 1/2
The second of a trilogy, this Japanese anime movie continues the story of the three mercenaries Guts, Giffith and Caska, as their band of warriors rises in the ranks while their relationships develop and complicate. It might not be totally necessary to see the first movie to enjoy this one, but I'd recommend it (it's a good movie). This sequel is better though; it's fuller and more complex. We start to understand the character's and their demons and emotions more completely, and therefore, we care more strongly. The movie looks stunning, with a mix of hand-drawn animation and CGI being much more seamless this time; movements are fluid and stylized and the atmosphere is absorbing because of the fine pacing and direction; the movie seems stronger and more confident than the first. The tone is still gothic and brutal, and the style is anime at its near harshest, with gratuitous blood and nudity at times, but it works in the content's favor (it's never ridiculous or silly; it's still, to a degree, classy). Scenes are emphasized, at times ghoulishly, with gratuitousness; there is one disturbing graphic sex scene that is a cinematic high-light, and it is both erotic and horrendous; it creates a nightmare for us in our minds, and yet it's very telling about the character's "character". There are other cinematic moments as well in this movie (there's one lovely ball-room set piece that's refreshingly charming), and they all help to give the movie more flavor and worth, but it still can't quite escape the feeling of being just a chapter in a series. There are no themes or arcs emphasized to give it a dramatic structure that would truly make it stand alone. When it ends, it ends.