For all the effort Guts put into combating previous threats, he finds himself at an impasse and unsure of where to go. With no leads and being plagued by nightmares, he pursues the only option he has left: an old friend who shares many of his scars. Will Guts discover what needs to be found?
For all the howling and moaning I do for these reviews, it should be noted that the content itself is not without its perks. Characters are rich and well-rounded, but the quick-paced nature of the episodic structure can make them seem a tad too extreme when a little girl goes from crying happily about the return of Guts to yelling at him and insulting him literally 30 seconds later for seemingly nothing. In this episode, Guts needs repairs for his sword, which has become too dull and dented to use effectively and his artificial arm needs a tune-up, forcing him to return to an old friend from the Band of the Hawk and an old man who saved him from death and built his current equipment. Guts’ primary reason for visiting his old friends, outside of needed repairs, is to also try to find a lead on Casca- his old flame. Guts has been plagued with omnipotent and vivid nightmares that are different from most because of their nature seemingly related to the behelits. With his hand forced, he sees old friends to try to figure out if Casca is safe and where he can pursue the next demon to lead him to the God Hand.
This is probably the best episode in terms of music- the majority of it is symphonic or drawn out classical instead of constant guitar riffs, and emphasizes Guts’ badass nature significantly less and instead humanizes him and his comrades. Truth be told, the more “gothic” feel of this episode is what made the movie series so great, with the minimal use of guitar and generic action feel and more on what makes Berserk… well, Berserk. Most of the atmospheric elements of Berserk have been either altered or watered down for a more mainstream appeal, and thus far, it simply has not worked to its favor. Fans of the manga seem to have been left behind to draw in a new audience, and it simply negates the interest in both. Berserk has never been about generic action- it has been about anatomy, philosophy, and characterization. This is the first episode where the viewer has a genuine opportunity to see some of Berserk’s true subtext and provide some much-needed breathing room from the action sequences forced upon us thus far.
Luckily, there is also a nice balance between the 2D and 3D scenes, but still without the seamless transition between the two like the third movie presented us. It’s not a downside, but it’s still a little bit of a letdown to almost visibly see a wall between the two art styles and teams dedicated to implementing them. Without too much action going on, the 2D is really given a chance to shine and it… strangely works? Honestly, with the altered character designs from before, it was perfectly possible for the art to look rushed and bad, but there isn’t much that Guts does in the episode and the linework looks great for once… mostly.
While more could have been done to make the episode look cleaner and nicer, this is probably the best episode of the season so far. Granted, there is still much left to be scene, but this is the first legitimate time that the show has actually felt like Berserk and not some generic action show. Instead of only getting glimpses at the subtext of Berserk, we can now bathe in it for this episode, and hopefully the upward swing continues. It would certainly be a shame to only watch these elements dwindle from here on out.