review

Berserk Golden Age Arc I: The Egg of the King (2012) film review

Few stories can capture your mind and soul in a visceral way from the beginning, and never leave you. Berserk is one of them.

Written and illustrated by the legendary manga artist Kentaro Miura, Berserk (ベルセルク) is an epic fantasy saga that knows no time, no boundaries, and has no end. It tells the story of Gatsu (ガッツ), a boy born from the corpse of a woman hung on a battlefield, who struggles to fight his unfortunate destiny. Set in a fictional version of medieval Europe, Gatsu is a young mercenary who travels with no direction nor purpose, swinging his huge sword in merciless fights in order to survive. He buries his blade deep into the flesh of his opponents, fighting like a madmen in battle, reminiscent of the nordic berserks, coming closer and closer to death, maybe to finally feel alive. His life is meaningless, his actions have no honor nor reason, except survival. He strives to escape his nature, that of a man born from a dead body, already between this world and the other, with nothing to lose except his miserable life.

That is, until he meets Griffith, the impossibly beautiful and charismatic leader of the undefeated mercenary band called "the Band of the Hawk" (鷹の団 Taka no Dan). This encounter will forever change his life, and that of everyone else.

Miura began the prototype of Berserk in 1988, releasing the first volume in 1990. Twenty-two years have passed since then, and the saga has been religiously followed by millions of enthusiasts, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful manga series ever written. It has been widely recognised for its excellence in Japan and throughout the world, winning the outstanding award at the sixth installment of Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2002. It should come as no surprise that the manga has been constantly at the top of the best anime list globally.

Beware, Berserk is not an ordinary series. It is hard, violent, and not easy to follow. There are no flashbacks constantly reminding you of what happened before, no fill-in episodes, no sweetening of the pill. It is a solid punch of crude reality hitting you in the stomach, and you have no way of guarding yourself. Miura's genius permeates in each page, down to every minute detail. The themes treated are difficult, and never simplified for the sake of the reader. Reality has no shortcuts, no easy way, and that is reflected in the story. The characters in Berserk are genuine, real, endlessly complicated, troubled. They hold secrets, they cheat, murder, conspire, but they are also capable of great kindness. Friendship, ambition, causality, the supernatural, our ambivalent nature, the struggle for power, love and hate. Twenty-two years in, still going strong, in what is possibly one of the greatest stories ever told.

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