Berserk (1997): A Magnificent Adaptation of Kentarō Miura’s Dark Fantasy Masterpiece – Anime 1st Impressions

Berserk (剣風伝奇ベルセルク) is a Fall 1997 anime adaptation of Kentarō Miura’s masterpiece manga series, Berserk. This seinen, epic dark fantasy, sword and sorcery series was produced by OLM TEAM IGUCHI and directed by Naohito Takahashi and Kazuya Murata, spanning twenty-five episodes. Recently, I’ve been reading through the manga for the very first time and after being completely mind-blown by its scope and artful creation, I knew that I had to look up the anime as soon as possible.

Berserk follows Guts, a former mercenary known mainly as The Black Swordsman, and his epic quest for vengeance while being persistently pursued by morbidly grotesque demons of various sorts due to a terrible curse. Thus far, I have seen the first two episodes of this anime adaptation.

I’m really struggling to find the words to describe my feelings while watching the first couple segments. How do you talk about a series that has rooted itself so far deep into your heart and your mind with such vehement passion and fierce impression? Aside from constant fanhumaning, of course, because that is all that I want to do.

Berserk won me over with Guts’ intensity in what he does and the unfiltered, madness that drives him to do it. In many ways, he reminds of me Batman. Someone who experienced a horrible fucking tragedy at an age that was supposed to be a time of innocence and precocious curiosity. Instead, the trauma left behind an engraved burn of psychological agony that could never truly be healed or mended. When he finally does find some kind of comfort, a person who helps him accept the past and put it behind him, they are ripped away from him in the most brutal of ways. One of the main reasons I’m so obsessed with Batman is because he’s fucking insane, contrary to popular belief (sadly). Guts really is no different. The only thing that separates them is the varying levels of their need for violence and bloodshed.

In the first episode, we are introduced to Guts ferociousness when dealing with the humanistic monsters of the world. He walks into a pub and sees a young girl being harassed by a group of grown asshole men. He shows up with an indifferent, man-on-a-mission demeanour, yet watching the suffering of innocent people, especially children, at the hands of individuals who use their power and strength for malevolence is something he absolutely cannot abide by. You can see this in his face and the unrelenting fashion of which he kills. The violence continues through the segment as Guts pursues his current objective with that infamously stoic expression (mostly).

The second segment takes us back to Guts’ roots a little bit. We see him as a child, an orphan who really has nobody in the world that actually gives a fuck whether he lives or dies. The events that occur herein shall follow him like a homing missile, taunting him and tormenting every ounce of peace that he tries to muster for himself. Nightmares of the abuse and excruciating breech of trust that force Guts to forgo his childhood innocence before he ever has an opportunity to indulge in the essence of youthful naivety.

The contrast of present and past work excellently to set the watcher up for what is to unfold in the rest of the anime; to see the propelling motivations and the ultimate end goal that The Black Swordsman has driving him onwards with conviction. It really is one of the best ways to begin the anime adaptation as it grabs the watcher by the shoulder and pulls them beneath the surface of intrigue and morbid fixation right from the start.

The show is extremely violent and bloody, as is expected given the source material. It has triggers for just about everything from death and gore, to rape of both adults and children, to terrifyingly discomforting imagery of demons and monsters. It is not for the weak-hearted or those that prefer not to see things that cover such horrifying subject matters. Watching the second segment, even though I had read it in the manga, was still exceedingly hard for me. Seeing a child being abused never gets easier, no matter how many times it’s brought up within the narrative. This show won’t give you fluffy, feel-good vibes. It won’t make you smile and get aflutter with gooey romance or camaraderie. While there are moments of brief friendship and morsels of humour here and there, Berserk itself is decidedly dark and fucked-up and completely unmerciful in its presentation of these facets.

Beyond that, however, it’s also a masterpiece. The animation holds up fantastically. The musical score is a wonderful accompaniment for the disturbing shite that happens, almost non-stop to an extent. It is deeply psychological and evocative as it is physically nettling. But it talks about the things that most people don’t want to talk about. It confronts the atrocities that happen in the world with impeccable allegory and imagery, and shows us the blackest sides of trauma. It’s truly exceptional.

All in all, I recommend Berserk to anime watchers who will have the stomach for it and are interested in one of the finest narratives ever written in the manga/anime mediums. Again, it won’t be everyone. It is excessively violent and savage in its depiction of human agony on all fronts. It makes people question the altruism—and lack thereof—of religion and the dualities of nurture vs nature; aspects that can be quite difficult to digest for many folx. Even so, the psychological prowess and contemplative themes are incredibly worth it alone, and for that, I shall never stop recommending it.

Native: 剣風伝奇ベルセルク
Source: Manga series by Kentarō Miura
Demographic: Seinen
Genre: Epic Dark Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery
Season: Fall 1997
Episodes: 25
Director(s): Naohito Takahashi and Kazuya Murata (assistant)
Content Warnings: Graphic sequences of violence and death. Graphic gore, blood, body mutilation and dismemberment. Child harassment. Child abuse. Sexual exploitation and rape (children and adults). Demonic imagery. Depiction of oppression. Nudity.
AniList: Berserk (1997)
Streaming: N/A (Watched on DVD)

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7 thoughts on “Berserk (1997): A Magnificent Adaptation of Kentarō Miura’s Dark Fantasy Masterpiece – Anime 1st Impressions

  1. I really love this write up! Saw Berserk a few months ago & can definitely it’s one of favorite anime’s ever. Seeing it as a medieval anime with gory animation filled w magic & a dark twist to it. Each episode grabs you to your seat and keeps you excited just like when Guts found the Band of the Hawk. The ending in my opinion showed Griffith’s desire of truly achieving his dream but at what cost of his comrades that died because of it made him look very selfish as many people looked up to him and believed in him. It almost sounds like I am fan girling over this write up haha but I loved reading this! Feel free to check out my blog as I write about interesting things as well! Also have a great day !

    • Ooh, lot of spoilers here I was trying to avoid for other folx haha. But yes, I love the story and the all of the themes that Berserk has. The manga is my latest obsession and I’m excited to make my way through all the different anime serials and films. 🙂

  2. I watched the first episode and thought “OMG, it’s Conan the Barbarian”. It is, really, it is. So I feel a bit like I’ve already done this story. (I was a huge fan of The Savage Sword of Conan comics) Then again, it would no doubt be interesting for it’s differences as well as similarities. For now, it’s back on the shelf as I binge some other schtuff but… I’ll get back to it.

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  4. Damn, I love this write up. It’s so well-written. You’re so chill that I forget how smart you are lmao. (Don’t hit me 😁). This brings me so much nostalgia from the first time I saw it. I was fucking ecstatic to have an anime adaptation. I was even pretty shocked honestly. This series is the epitome of graphic. Looking forward to your review when you’re done.

    • I will definitely hit you the next time I see you. A Gibbs smack. 😛

      I’ve been trying not to binge it, but the urge is super strong. I may just binge the rest of it on Friday so I can watch the films next. I’m both excited for and dreading the Golden Arc.

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