Berserk Is A Bleak Dark Fantasy That Mixes Game Of Thrones With Clive Barker

The first thing you notice about “Berserk” is how well-developed its characters are. Though there are clearly three main characters — Guts, Casca, and Griffith — every named member of the Band of the Falcon in the film has a personality, flaws, and motivations. This helps sell the setting as more than just big swords and castles, especially since, surprisingly given the famous iconography of the manga, the vast majority of the series is rather light on fantasy. Instead, the arc covered by the anime adaptations focuses more on medieval military and tactics, delivering a great portrayal of how free companies operated and their role in huge wars. 

There are fantasy elements, yes, but they lurk in the background, with the characters just so accustomed to everyday horrors and cruelty that they are either oblivious or tend to ignore the supernatural horrors lurking in the shadows. And you better believe there are horrors, plenty of them. The anime, directed by Naohito Takahashi and written by five different screenwriters, most notably Yukiyoshi Ôhashi (head writer for “Yu Yu Hakusho”), knows exactly when to turn the dial one way or another, going from hyper-violence thrills to absolute terror to earnest sentimentalism. Part of why the horror works so well is because of the eerie visuals of the show, the hand-drawn animation aided by background art that resembles medieval paintings and highlight how disturbing, twisted, and violent the story is.

Among the highlights of this adaptation is the incredible soundtrack, composed by Satoshi Kon’s collaborator Susumu Hirasawa. From the ethereal “Guts’ Theme” to the personification of fear and trauma in the track, well, “Fear,” the score masterfully encapsulated the right emotions within this rather bleak story.

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