Sunday, January 12, 2014

Berserk Golden Age Arc III: The Descent

The Band of the Hawk has been thrown into a state of array when suddenly Hawk leader Griffith is imprisoned for unknown reasons by the King of Midland. Orders are given for the band to be eliminated. In the middle of all the chaos, one year after leaving, Guts returns to a reassembled Band of the Hawks under the leadership of Deputy Casca and together a plan is forged to sneak into the prisons of Midland to rescue their revered leader Griffith. And so the gears are set into motion for what is the third and final film of the Golden Age Arc of Berserk.

So far, the experience of watching the pages of Kentaro Miura's manga epic being brought to life in the form of animation has been very interesting. The first film, while I felt was a faithful adaptation of the series, was lacking a little bit in length and as a result there was a huge lack of character development, especially among the main characters. The second film, while longer and somewhat addressing many of the issues experienced when viewing the first film, also had its share of problems. Some scenes were altered for the worst and a major character omission lessened the impact of the film in comparison to the previous 1997 anime series and manga. Overall, I still thought it was a better film than the first. So where does that leave the third film then?

Well, it's safe to say Descent is the strongest of the three films. It is a relatively straight adaption from the manga, though I would say it shares more similarities with the anime adaptation as one part of the story only witnessed in the manga is exempt (probably deemed too vulgar the cinema) but the story is mostly intact nevertheless. Studio 4 C decided to play it safe this time and not make too many drastic changes. Descent also marks a huge turning part in the whole series and can be deemed an important and integral piece to the Berserk saga as a whole. Though Guts and Casca take a more central and focused role this time around, one could argue that Griffith is the real star of the film as there is a very huge focus on him.

Though action is still a huge part of the film, I think this part of the saga is more a psychological one. Here the viewer gets to explore the mindset of Griffith and see what drives him. Motives, dreams, ego, and pride are some of the themes at display here. These are repeated and fully explored and really give Griffith some needed development, a move that to me has been severely lacking in the films until now. Descent continues to build on these factors, ultimately culminating into an epic and surprising finale that takes place in the last third of the film that takes everyone into, quite literally and figuratively, a violent descent.

Now, I'm still not a fan of the the CG technology used by Studio 4 C for these three films, as they were especially laughable in the The Battle for Doldrey, rivaling the look of a Playstation 2 video game at times. Here they appear more tolerable. Perhaps because a huge chunk of the film takes place in dark environments - dungeons, castles, and the "Eclipse" itself - but I think the placement is handled better. Of course, they still do not compare to the 2D animation of all three films, which I think was really well done. It is understandable that the movies would have taken longer and obviously been more expensive project to come out if it was all traditionally animated and didn't use any CG - one can still dream of the potential though.

Overall, while I think Berserk Golden Age Arc III: The Descent is the best of the three films, I still think it the most straightforward, and in a way, the most boring. Coming from someone who has read the manga and has seen the entire anime series, viewing this segment of the Berserk saga again can seem a bit tedious, especially since nothing hasn't drastically changed up this time. Though it is worth sticking around for the last 30 minutes or so of the film - as that is the most impressive work animation Studio 4 C has done concerning the film trilogy. Credit still has to be given to Studio 4 C for at least trying - putting 94 chapters worth of manga and placing them into three films is still not an easy task as you really can't put everything in and things have to be altered. Sure, some decisions were questionable, but it seems they saved their best effort for last film. It remains to be seen if any more arcs will be adapted into films but if you have only seen the first two films, this is worth checking out as it does not disappoint - and in more ways than one makes up for the shortcomings of the two previous films.

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