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Anime / Berserk (2016)

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Mozgus: Can you not hear those voices praying? All of those here, right now, have made their hearts one, praying for salvation. Are you saying you do not care if the lives of the thousands of true believers are sacrificed in exchange for that evil witch's life?
Guts: Shut the hell up. All they do is pray. When they're in trouble, all they do is try to save themselves... Those tens of thousands of people don't have the right to depend on a single woman!

Berserk is a 2016 TV anime adaptation of the popular and long-running Dark Fantasy manga Berserk by Kentaro Miura, which focuses on the grim Anti-Hero Guts as he quests for Revenge against his treacherous former best friend Griffith and The Legions of Hell that he commands. The two previous animated adaptations, the OLM Incorporated 1997-98 TV anime Kenpuu Denki Berserk and the 2012-13 movie trilogy Berserk: The Golden Age Arc by Studio 4°C, both focused on the manga's famous "Golden Age Arc". Unless you count the 1999 and 2004 licensed games by Yuke's, this is the first adaptation that depicts Guts as the Black Swordsman and serves as a sequel to the Golden Age Arc. Warning: This description contains Late Arrival Spoilers for those who haven't read the Golden Age Arc!

After being the only members of the Band of the Hawk to escape from the horror of the Eclipse, which cost Guts an eye and his left hand, and Casca her sanity, Guts girded on the Dragon Slayer and left her with Godo the blacksmith to pursue revenge against Griffith, the God Hand, and the Apostles as the Black Swordsman. Haunted every night by hungry ghosts trying to take his soul, Guts hunts the monsters called Apostles with only the company of a little elf named Puck, who joins him along the way and tries to act as his conscience. However, he is being pursued by the Holy Iron Chain Knights, a military force of the Church investigating an apocalyptic prophecy who suspect him of being a servant of evil. They are led by Farnese, an emotionally unstable noblewoman who uses religion to hide from her fears and self-loathing. At her side is Serpico, a Servile Snarker who is deadlier than he appears. Guts escapes from a brief period of capture, and follows a bad premonition back to Godo, who tells him that Casca has escaped on her own and may be in mortal danger. Realizing that he has one last chance to redeem himself, Guts follows her trail to the refugee camp outside the monastary of St. Albion, where displaced masses are being persecuted by the fanatical inquisitor Bishop Mozgus in his hunt for heretics. With the help of a brash Artful Dodger named Isidro and a couple of good Samaritans, Guts races to save Casca as the dark forces lurking beneath St. Albion begin to take form and engulf tens of thousands of souls in a desperate struggle for survival.

Directed by Shin Itagaki and produced by Liden Films, it is animated in a hybrid of 2D and 3D animation with 3D by Studio GEMBA and 2D by Millepensee. Miura himself was the show's executive supervisor involved in all aspects of production, including writing an original scenario for episode 3. Most of the Japanese voice actors from the movie trilogy return to their characters, joined by additional voices for newly introduced characters, and Unshō Ishizuka reprises his 1997 anime role as The Narrator. The music includes an OST by movie trilogy composer Shiro Sagisu, opening song Inferno performed by 9mm Parabellum Bullet, insert song Hai Yo (Oh Ashes) performed by 1997 anime composer Susumu Hirasawa, and ending theme Meimoku no Kanata (Behind Closed Eyes) performed by Nagi Yanagi. An English dub was provided by Bang Zoom! Entertainment, and the whole show is legally available here on Crunchyroll.

The first season aired in 12 episodes from July 1st to September 16th, 2016; watch the season 1 trailer here. The second season premiered on April 7th, 2017; Watch the season 2 trailer here.

Character tropes should go to the character pages.

This anime provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: Although the CG elements are cel-shaded to give them a more artistic feel, no one would mistake them for hand-drawn because of the low poly count, giveaway textures, and how different it looks when animated.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the manga, Casca has black hair and fairly dark skin, while the earlier parts of the anime depict her with reddish brown hair and lighter skin.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: While introducing Guts and Puck mostly as they appeared in the first episode of the manga, this version manages to insert introductions to numerous characters within the very first episode who originally debuted in much later volumes of the manga, though not as far apart in relation to the story's internal chronology since the manga proceeds in non-linear fashion:
    • Farnese shows up with the Holy Iron Chain Knights at the aftermath of the Eclipse — as they did in manga volume 14 — within the very first minute of anime episode 1.
    • The evil tree and kidnappers from the original Lost Children Chapter also show up 14 volumes early, while Jill and Rosine themselves are Adapted Out.
    • Isidro shows up 18 volumes early at the tavern from which Guts rescues Puck, where he is shown to have joined a gang in search of adventure, but ended up waiting on tables for them, much to his disappointment.
    • Schierke and Ivalera are shown a whole 22 volumes early as she senses the disturbance in the world created by Griffith, together with her mentor Flora who first appeared in volume 24.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Guts is noticeably less rough around the edges than he was in the original manga, mainly because several of his Kick the Dog moments are omitted.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Guts is caught by the Holy Iron Chain Knights the same way he was in the manga, but the harrowing fight against Rosine in the manga that left him too exhausted and injured to properly swing his sword when he fights the H.I.C.K.s is replaced with a less intense fight against skeletons, a possessed dead girl and a demonic tree. That gives him a shallow sword thrust in the abdomen and a tree root which pierces his side pretty deeply so that it bleeds while he's fighting the H.I.C.K.s, but considering how Made of Iron he's supposed to be, it isn't as convincing as how Rosine repeatedly blew him off his feet, ran him through with her proboscis, and dropped him from hundreds of feet in the air, so that the show makes it look as though a lot less was needed to take him down.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: A couple of things make less sense than they do in the manga because of the way the story has been condensed and shuffled around:
    • In the manga, when Guts walks into the inn where the thugs are throwing knives at Puck, he kills a bunch of them in cold blood and spares the last as a messenger because he's in town to challenge the local Apostle, and wants to provoke him into fighting by attacking his men. In this version the thugs have nothing to do with any Apostle, and he picks a fight with them ostensibly just for standing in his way to the bar, and just smacks the hell out of them with his prosthetic cannon arm instead of using his crossbow or his giant sword. In both versions there's an alternate character interpretation that he wanted to make them stop tormenting Puck and Isidro, and was just hiding his altruism behind a selfish excuse, but the 2016 show makes it look like he's either more altruistic than in the manga, or just more pointlessly violent.
    • Unlike in the manga, where Guts meets and travels with Puck for a significant portion of his Black Swordsman period, Puck joins Guts only the night before his encounter with the Iron Chain Knights. It's less clear why Puck continues to follow Guts or why Guts tolerates him, since Puck hasn't had time to see past Guts' front, and Guts hasn't had time to warm up to him. It's also puzzling how Guts could have survived so many wounds or kept his sanity for two years without his company, since in the manga Puck's fairy dust saved him from death several times, and he acted as Guts' Morality Chain.
    • In the manga, Guts gets captured by the Holy Iron Chain Knights because he is already on the verge of collapsing from having narrowly defeated the Apostle Rosine in a brutal marathon of a fight. In this version the Rosine fight is replaced with the skeletons and the evil tree, which give him some nasty wounds but don't quite approach how he fought Rosine to within an inch of his life. Considering how Made of Iron he is known to be, this makes it look like he lost to a bunch of Mooks for a weaksauce reason.
    • Nothing about the demon child is explained to new viewers. Because the series skipped the scene where it was born and didn't bother to provide any flashbacks, questions like what it is, why it follows Guts around, and why it's so protective of Casca go completely unanswered.
    • This anime skips the scene where Femto appears before Zodd in a dream and cuts off one of his horns, thus failing to account for him missing a horn when he abruptly shows up in episode 12, as well as how he knew to come St. Albion without Griffith giving him a sign.
    • The story that Sonia tells Schierke about the Hawk and the Kite doesn't make as much sense because the part where Griffith rescues Charlotte from Ganishka's captivity isn't shown.
  • Adapted Out:
    • The Moonlight Child is not introduced in Episode 23, and Schierke frees Guts from the Beast of Darkness' control all by herself.
    • Emperor Ganishka is also not introduced.
  • Alien Blood: Incubi have blue blood.
  • All-CGI Cartoon: Downplayed. The scenes taking place in the present—especially the fights—are animated with predominantly 3D cel-shaded environments, props, and character models. However, there are significant portions such as Guts' flashbacks to the Golden Age that are animated mainly in 2D, as well as shots in which a hybrid of 3D and 2D is used.
  • Artifact of Doom:
    • Guts carries a Behelit that he took from one of the Apostles he slew, leading to some antagonists suggesting he use it to gain the power to take revenge on Femto by becoming an Apostle.
    • In order to fight increasingly powerful enemies, Guts wears the Berserker Armor, a cursed suit of dwarf-made armor that once belonged to the Skull Knight. While it greatly amplifies his already-superhuman physical abilities when active, the downside is that it slowly kills its wearer by piercing their body to suture the wounds sustained by wearing it. Worse, it brings out the Beast of Darkness, which actively seeks to take over Guts and reduce him to a rage-driven monster, and as such functions as a Superpowered Evil Side.
  • Art Evolution: Guts' CGI model went through a couple of facial tweaks before the Season 2 premier to help better resemble his 2D/manga renditions.
  • Art Shift: The art frequently shifts between 2D images and cel-shaded CGI, and the difference between the two is very stark. Some frames even have a mix of 2D and 3D characters that have different lighting and shading techniques applied to them. The show also reproduces the comedic art shifts from the manga in which characters are temporarily drawn in a Super-Deformed art style to deliver a gag. Puck and Isidro can sometimes art shift from one to the other within the same shot!
  • As You Know: During episode 2's interrogation, Farnese basically recaps the history of the Band of the Hawk to Guts, who knows it better than anyone. The Watsonian reason is that she wants to emphasize that she already knows everything about him and that he'll only drag out the inevitable by refusing to confess to his "crimes", but the Doylist reason is to get viewers who haven't seen the Golden Age adaptations caught up on the backstory.
  • Attempted Rape:
    • In episode 3, Farnese is attacked by a possessed horse, which pins her down and proclaims its intent to "ride" her. Guts decapitates it in a rage, having been reminded of Femto's brutal rape of Casca, but the shock of the experience leaves Farnese open to being possessed herself.
    • Casca suffers two rape attempts during episodes 6 and 7, the first by heretics who come across her and Nina which is thwarted when the Demon Child protects her, leading the heretics to believe that she is a witch; and the second by the Great Goat Head who has been turned into an Apostle Spawn by the Egg of the Perfect World, which is thwarted in truly badass fashion by Guts.
  • Audible Sharpness: Serpico's razor-sharp blade makes "shing!" noises every time he cuts or thrusts the air.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: Compared to the clean orchestral sound of his Golden Age movie OST, Shiro Sagisu lays on more electric guitar and rock sounds in his tracks accompanying epic combat.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Zigzagged in the broadcast version. Female characters such as Farnese and Luca who have nude scenes are drawn or rendered without visible nipples because of TV censorship regulations. However, there are some exceptions. In episode 3, Farnese's nipples do appear in her hand-drawn frames, though they're flesh-colored and hard to notice, and she's shown to have pubic hair. The unnamed female Apostle is even drawn with proper nipples in episode 4. The entire trope will be averted for the uncensored Blu-ray release.
  • Berserk Button: The Apostle in episode 3 goes crazy when Guts kills the possessed dogs, due to him having been the keeper of his lord's hounds when he was still human. He also does not like anyone (not even fairies) touching the preserved remains of the lady he sacrificed to become a demon.
  • Blade Spam: Serpico delivers such a hurricane of thrusts in the duel with Guts on the ledge that it looks as if his blade is in two dozen places at once.
  • Book Ends: The anime begins and ends with Guts getting into a fight at a bar.
  • Cel Shading: The 3D characters and objects are filtered through a cel shader that turns the shadows into solid blocks of color instead of smooth gradients to make them look more like 2D cartoons. A particular feature is that the shadows are filled with a linear hatching effect which simulates shading with a pen or pencil, and the same hatching effect is applied to the shadows that appear on any 2D models to create a more uniform look.
  • Censor Shadow: Carefully-placed shadows are used to hide the X-rated bits in the image of Femto raping Casca in the opening credits sequence. Portions of the screen are blacked out in a more heavy-handed manner for certain sexual and gory shots in the TV broadcast, but these will be removed in the Blu-ray release.
  • Clip Show:
    • Episode 12.5, released before episode 13, recaps the entire first season in clips with some voiceover by Farnese.
    • "Recollections of the Witch", broadcast after episode 21, briefly recaps season 1 and then spends the rest of its length recapping season 2 up to episode 21.
  • Compressed Adaptation: In episode 1, about six volumes worth of material including the majority of the Black Swordsman Arc and the Lost Children Chapter are dropped almost completely, leaving only a few scenes from the original manga which are spliced together into one episode for the purpose of introducing Guts and his world. Scenes and minor characters from manga episodes 1, 2, 95, and 96 are squashed together, Schierke is introduced as a scrying observer similarly to episode 184, Isidro is given an earlier introduction created out of whole cloth, and the hook into the second episode is based on the scene from manga episode 118 where the Holy Iron Chain Knights catch up to Guts in the woods. Episode 3 serves as a kind of replacement for the earlier parts of the Conviction Arc that would have introduced Apostles. The rest of the show up to episode 12 is a reasonably close adaptation of the manga, but there are still a couple of characters and plot threads that suffer from having their exposition neglected.
  • Content Warnings: At the beginning of each episode in season two, Crunchyroll inserts the message: "This show contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised."
  • Demonic Possession: Ghosts pull this on just about anything they can latch onto, ranging from long-dead skeletons to freshly-killed bodies to animals and even still-living humans in the case of the heretics.
  • Dutch Angle: Canted camera shots appear throughout the show.
  • Enemy Within: When struggling with his guilt over having abandoned Casca to seek revenge on the Apostles and Godhand, Guts's hatred and rage manifests in the form of a black wolf-like monster with jagged glowing red eyes, which urges him to keep walking the path of vengeance. Longtime Berserk fans know this monster as the Beast of Darkness.
  • Enhanced on DVD: The Blu-ray release of season 1 removed the Barbie Doll Anatomy and Censor Shadows that had accompanied the TV version, and besides improving the original 2D cuts it also redid some 3D shots in 2D. However, whatever 3D they didn't replace altogether was largely unchanged.
  • Fan Edit: Berserk Redux Chapter 5 by ApostleBob aims to similarly "complete" Berserk (2016) by splicing in footage from Berserk (1997), Berserk: The Golden Age Arc, and Berserk and the Band of the Hawk.
  • Flashback Effects: Guts' flashbacks to the Golden Age Arc are differentiated from the present by being fully 2D, and having increased light/dark contrast with plenty of bloom effect.
  • Funny Background Event: In episode 17, Puck and Ivalera struggling over a piece of food on the table while the others are talking about the layers of the world, and when Guts approaches Flora that evening for a private conversation, in the background you can see Schierke punishing Isidro for peeping on Farnese and Casca in the bath.
  • Gratuitous English: Gratuitous and butchered English seems to be obligatory when Calling Your Attacks:
    • Each time he breathes fire, Mozgus cries out "GOOOOODO BUREEEEEEESH!" Then, when trying to crush Guts with his wings, it's "GODO PURESHAAAAAA!"
    • Puck blinds the Twins with a yell of "PAKKU SPAARUKU!"
  • Gratuitous German: The March 2016 anime PV starts by displaying Nietzsche's "He Who Fights Monsters" quote as text in the original German, before the narration repeats it in Japanese for the benefit of the intended audience.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The PV featuring "Hai Yo" emphasizes the focus on the corrupting effects of seeking revenge by actually quoting Nietzsche's "He who fights monsters" passage from Beyond Good and Evil, in the original German no less! The narrator also says it at the end of the June PV.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: As spelled out to her by the ghost possessing her, Farnese uses her religious fanaticism as a cover for her deep-seated self-loathing and sexual sadism.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Guts's former best friend Griffith sacrificed the Band of the Hawk — Guts and Casca included — in order to be transformed into one of the God Hand, renamed Femto. The Egg of the Perfect World sacrifices itself so that Griffith can be reborn, though he is far from human — being nothing more than Femto wearing the visage of his human self — as evidenced by his Hellish Pupils.
  • Invisible to Normals: Fairies and ghosts cannot be seen by people who are close-minded, like Farnese was.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The series' opening credits sequence gives away the whole Golden Age Arc in just a minute and thirty seconds.
  • Leitmotif: "Hai Yo" is pretty much the musical cue for "Guts does something awesome".
  • Limited Animation: There are some scenes in both 2D and 3D where hardly anything besides the camera is actually moving.
    • Episode 20 has a scene where trolls are raping captive women, but the CG scene is practically motionless.
    • Episode 21 features a shot of Guts walking where his head and mouth are moving but his body is stiff as a statue from the neck down, and he's just being wobbled around across the screen to give the impression of walking. A similarly stiff shot of Guts running with Schierke under his arm appears in episode 22.
  • Lunacy: The moon is an ominous symbol of the supernatural which constantly reminds us of the unnatural Eclipse under which Guts lost everything in the past, and which heralds the appearance of the ghosts that try to take his soul every night.
  • Melancholy Moon: Apart from its obvious connection with the supernatural and Guts' torment, the moon retains some of its symbolism from the Golden Age as a lonely and beautiful thing that Guts would stare at when he was reflecting on his direction in life and connection to other people, and it features prominently in the end credits sequence where outlines in light of Casca and Guts' new companions join him in the sky.
  • Mook Chivalry: In episode 20, when the trolls in Qliphoth start swarming in response to intruders coming to take the captive women and children away, they just stand around for a full minute while Guts gives instructions to his party, and wait until he's all alone before they finally attack.
  • Mouth Cam:
    • Episode eleven shows the demon child from the inside of the Egg of the Perfect World's mouth as the Egg prepares to eat him.
    • In episode 23, the camera looks at Isidro from inside a crocodile's mouth at a moment when it looks like he's about to get eaten. Shortly after, there's a shot from inside the Makara's mouth when Guts lunges at it in the Berserker Armor.
  • Mythology Gag: "Blood and Guts" from the 2012-2013 movie trilogy plays when Griffith is reborn.
  • Nothing but Skulls: In episode 3, there's a mountain of bones left from the humans the Bulldog Apostle ate, but apart from some odd femurs the top layer is nothing but skulls, as if for aesthetic reasons.
  • On the Next: Each episode ends with a next episode preview set to "Hai Yo" which alternates highlight scenes with selected quotes displayed in large text.
  • One-Winged Angel:
    • Apostles are capable of transforming from their human form into horrendous monsters.
    • The Great Goat is transformed into a satyr-like monster, while Mozgus and his Disciples are transformed into angelic monsters by the Egg of the Perfect World.
  • Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame: Each episode ends by freezing the action at a dramatic cliffhanger moment, turning it into a still image in the style of a pastel drawing or painting. There are some other examples of still painting being used in the narrative, such as the montage of Midland's disasters in episode 3.
  • The Prophecy: As narrated in the beginning of the first episode, the reason the Holy Iron Chain Knights are on edge is due to a prophecy that a being called the Hawk of Darkness will bring about an age of darkness. The Holy Iron Chain Knights pursue Guts assuming that he is the Hawk of Darkness, but the prophecy's true subject is Griffith/Femto, who masquerades as the "Hawk of Light" following his resurrection.
  • Rescue Arc: Most of this adaptation's first cour is from the manga's Chapter of the Birth Ceremony, the action of which focuses on Guts' quest to rescue Casca from execution at the Tower of Conviction.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: In his determination to rescue Casca, Guts unleashes his lethal fury against whoever happens to be holding her captive, whether it's monsters, cultists, or Mozgus and his followers.
  • Same Content, Different Rating: it received an 18+ rating in Quebec, even though all previous adaptations of Berserk were rated 13+.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You:
    • The June PV ends with Guts swinging his sword at the camera, which on the moment of impact cuts to black with a resounding "THWONG!!!"
    • The opening credits sequence has Guts swinging the Dragon Slayer at the camera near the end.
    • Guts' frequently points his repeating crossbow at the camera when using it in action scenes.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: At the moment when the Twins saw two of Mozgus' attempted assassins in half, the camera only shows it happening in silhouette as shadows on the ground.
  • Solemn Ending Theme: Meimoku no Kanata (Beyond Closed Eyes) by Nagi Yanagi is the ending theme which is more slow and melancholy compared to the opening Inferno, and focuses on the solace that Guts seeks for the bad dreams and emotional wounds he carries with him.
  • The Stinger: Each episode has a short scene after the end credits roll, usually to set up a cliffhanger for the next episode. For example, after the episode 1 end credits roll but before On the Next, Guts is briefly show walking through the woods and running into Farnese and her knights, setting up the conflict of episode 2.
  • Sword Lines: Serpico's uncanny sword fighting skill is emphasized by his blade leaving afterimages in the air.
  • Sword over Head: Guts is shown holding his sword-over-head pose for a dramatically long time before beheading the Great Goat Head in truly exaggerated fashion.
  • Tagline: Advertised on Twitter and in the December 2015 trailer with the hook, "Sleepless nights shall begin", referring to the fact that with Guts branded he'll be facing nightly assaults by demons.
  • Teeth Flying: Guts punches a bald thug's mouth so hard with his iron hand that at least a dozen teeth come flying out. Especially impressive since the victim looked like he only had four teeth in his mouth to begin with!
  • Thematic Theme Tune: The lyrics of the opening theme Inferno by 9mm Parabellum Bullet give voice to Guts' rage, his struggle against impossible odds, and his determination to put his life on the line to protect what little he has left.
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Whenever "Hai Yo" starts playing, you know things will go down.
  • To Be Continued: Each episode ends on something of a cliffhanger, and closes with the message "To Be Continued".
  • Too Hot for TV: This show SERIOUSLY pushes the limits of what kind of violent and sexual content can be shown on TV in Japan, particularly the graphic nudity and sexual intercourse, and as such there's a lot of stuff like Barbie Doll Anatomy and censor shadows that are necessary for the broadcast but won't be in the home release.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The On the Next preview for episode 11 kind of spoils the resolution of episode 10's cliffhanger by showing that Casca is rescued from burning at the stake.
  • Transformation of the Possessed: Animals that are possessed by ghosts grotesquely mutate to acquire human traits, and even become capable of speech.
  • Translated Cover Version: For the episode 8 end credits, Yanagi Nagi sings a version of "Behind Closed Eyes" with English lyrics.
  • You All Look Familiar: A fair number of CG extras are exact duplicates of each other, such as the animated corpses and the possessed cultists in the Great Goat Head's cave.