The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Berserk Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the Supreme Ruler

Title: Berserk Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the Supreme Ruler aka Berserk Ōgon Jidai-Hen I: Haō no Tamago
Company: Studio 4°C
Genre: Action/Drama
Format: Movie; 77 minutes.
Dates: 4 Feb 2012

Synopsis: In the dark shadows of the medieval ages, a lone swordsman named Guts wanders from conflict to conflict with a large sword and a path of blood exhibiting his inner wrath.  One day this lone wolf is confronted by a man called Griffith and is forcefully enlisted into Griffith’s army after losing a duel.  Within this rag-tag mercenary company known as the Band of the Hawk, Guts slowly learns that his rage can be doused with the warmth of others; however, Griffith’s ambition to become king can snuff out the warmth of everyone’s dreams should things go awry.

The Highlights
Characters: Well realized for the film’s length, especially the relationship between Griffith and Guts.
Animation: Beautiful at times but is plagued by unfitting CGI.
Story: Competently handles several chapters in the manga, but the movie itself has no overall arc.

Berserk is a popular medieval fantasy manga that is considered a masterpiece by many for its strong characters, dark themes and unforgettable story.  The “Golden Age” arc was adapted into the anime Berserk in 1997 and now has been partially redone in movie form, with two future films to finish the arc.  It is a competent adaptation that captures the core narrative, but it does so at the expense of many of the rich details that made the original so compelling.

The strength of Berserk lies heavily on its characters. While the movie cuts a few corners, it captures the relationship between the two main protagonists, Guts and Griffith, exceptionally well.  Their nature and ambitions are made clear through their various interactions.  The major plot points are also well presented, but since the movie is a collection of episodic events that requires the next two movies to complete the full story arc, the actual events are not the central point, but rather what the actions taken indicate about each character, especially Griffith.  So, don’t expect the movie to circle around to have one cohesive message or provide the conventional beginning, middle and end; it is the beginning of a story that cuts off at the end of a certain story point when the runtime ticks towards its end.

Aesthetically, the movie is a mixed bag.  The music is strong and captures the medieval fantasy vibe. The voice acting is solid, but the visuals are marred by the constant use of CGI models.   While giant armies of CGI soldiers may be acceptable in the background, having these models stand front and center directly in front of the camera creates jarring contrasts when a few frames later some nice hand-drawn images are shown.  The constant whiplash that occurs as the show tries to straddle CGI with hand drawn animation throws an axe at the immersion that more than offsets whatever gains in choreography there are.   Outright reductions in animation would have been preferable if they were hand drawn.

Aside from the visual design problem, the movie suffers from an even more dire issue.  Berserk the manga is tightly written.  Almost nothing can be considered filler.  Thus, cutting out anything for a more concise film adaption is like asking which appendage you prefer to have amputated. The creators had to choose what characters would lose development, what sub-arcs would not be explored and what themes would be excised.  Given that the clock time is around 71 minutes sans preview and credits, they do not choose wrong.  However, what is left is maimed excellence.  So much context is left at the cutting room floor that what should have been extraordinary moments come across as merely interesting.

Berserk  Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the Supreme Ruler is for people who have already watched an iteration of the story and want a more visually realized version of it.  While the core narrative is well presented, the movie has no overarching story by itself, it strips away several layers from the characters and it employs some jarring CGI, so really only people with knowledge of the material can truly appreciate the excellence underneath the surface.  For those who have not experienced Berserk, read the manga.  It is one of the few masterpieces of the entire medium.  For those who need even more visual stimuli than a comic book, there is a television adaptation that better captures the original intent.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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