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The real problem with the various Berserk anime series...

Oct 25, 2017

...is the lack of Black Swordsman Arc adapted properly.

So recently a good friend of mine has been reading this great series for the first time ever, and as usual I get a kick out of seeing his reaction to things in the midst of the iconic Golden Age arc. There's so much genuine unexpected twists and turns that it's always fun to see how people take in the series.

However his reaction to the Black Swordsman arc was something special. In the span of 3 volumes, the series escalates from an action-packed dark fantasy manga full of edge and grit, to revealing the final bosses of the series in a sudden encounter with the Godhand in one of the greatest scenes of early Berserk ever. In a rather shocking and sudden manner Guts goes from slaying demons to dealing with the gods that reside in this chaotic world of Berserk and it's fucking amazing.

More importantly, establishing Femto aka Griffith as Guts' real target (in volume 1 he mentions the Godhand but Femto doesn't get singled out until later), we get a clear sense that Femto has done something really terrible to Guts. So much so that he's willing to sacrifice anything whether that's innocent people to his own health to get to him in some way. However he couldn't, Femto was above him in every way, but Guts did managed to interrupt the ritual enough so the Count wouldn't get his way. It was also established that Femto was once a figure that Guts looked up to as well in a very brief flashback that eventually segways into the Golden Age arc later on.

So what's the big problem? None of this is featured in the anime. The Count's story, as well as Guts' first post-Eclipse encounter with the Godhand, has yet to be adapted into the anime in any way. However chapters of the Black Swordsman arc HAVE been adapted...twice.

The First Time - Berserk (1997): Episode 1

To be fair to this version, out of all the adaptations this one gets it the most for better or worse. The ebb and flow of the relationship between the Black Sowrdsman arc and the Golden Age arc still exists in the 1997 anime. It's still a highly flawed way of going about it, but the concept is still there. Episode 1 of the 1997 anime took the first chapter of the manga and inserted scenes of Guts being really angry at Griffith/Femto. So in addition to an adaptation of the Snake Baron story, the episode establishes that Griffith has done something very terrible to Guts and has ascended to a higher level of existence.

However it's very likely they had a limited amount of time and episode count to really work with so I'll cut them some slack here. For the most part it does a good job at surmising what Miura was trying to accomplish in the Black Swordsman arc. It isn't nearly as good, but it works with the author's intent on some level.

The Second TIme - Berserk (2016): Episode 1

A weird adaptation combing Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of the series and adding elements from the Conviction arcs and the Millennium Falcon arcs, this adaptation is the absolute worst way to go about it. The main climax of the episode involves Guts' epic battle with the skeleton army, which was a very cool moment in the manga but it wasn't solely included in the story BECAUSE it was cool but rather to showcase that Guts was being tormented by demons.

On top of that, without any context whatsoever, if someone who has never seen the Berserk films this is a terrible way at introducing the main character. As a stand-alone anime, Berserk (2016) and it's second season give Guts no particular reason why he wants revenge so bad. As a debut episode, the problems with this series were already seeping through.

Simply put, there isn't an anime adaptation of Berserk that is complete.

Not even in the somewhat beloved Golden Age films, a lot of the tension of audiences knowing that Griffith fucks over Guts is lost. Throughout the Golden Age arc you're supposed to get the sense that at any point Griffith will snap. "How is this going to happen?" is a question you're supposed to ask.

Without that, Griffith has a Behelit which is neat, but it doesn't mean anything at that point because someone that hasn't read or seen a glimpse of what it can do has no understanding how dangerous it is. Then Zodd appears and tells Guts he's doomed which you know...without the context of knowing Griffith becomes Femto is pretty much just generic villain jank rather than, "Oh shit Zodd KNOWS."

Yeah, the Black Swordsman Arc isn't the best arc in Berserk, but that's ok. That's how the series started, warts and all. I'm not a fan of Guts willingly fucking an Apostle knowing how much in love he was with Casca myself. I get those complaints. However, it's still an important part of Berserk's history and setups the entire premise of the series without having to rely solely on shock value without the context that Griffith has set Guts' life into a living hell. Hopefully the next time Berserk gets adapted in the future the people involved will understand this at least on a level similar to how the 1997 anime set things up which at least got the concept from the manga in tact.
Oct 28, 2017
even glossing over this arc, the 1997 anime understood what made Berserk great and made the most of it with what they have. That's as complete as it gets and it is fine by me
Big One
Oct 25, 2017
Yes...THAT was the problem...
There's way more issues, however I feel from a standpoint of judging something as a "complete" product it's a huge gaping hole in these adaptations.
even glossing over this arc, the 1997 anime understood what made Berserk great and made the most of it with what they have. That's as complete as it gets and it is fine by me
I mostly agree with this. It did a good job focusing in on what Miura was trying to tell with his early story in the limited time it had. Like I said I have no qualms that way but I do think the manga does it way better obviously.
Oct 28, 2017

There will never be a better anime since Susumu Hirasawa knocked it out of the park and no one will surpass him on this front. This man made Berserk for me
This is very similar to my criticism, which I guess I'll just share one of my previous posts on the subject:

This comes up from time to time as part of the "Griffith did nothing wrong" bit. I'm not sure if you've read the manga or have only seen the anime adaptations, but The Black Swordsman Arc partially exists to show this choice, particularly with the character of The Count. The Berserk manga starts in medias res with this arc and The Golden Age is a flashback that is shown after it. The Count's choice and Griffith's choice are juxtaposed in this way to show how purely terrible and selfish Griffith's decision was.

My biggest gripe with the various adaptations of Berserk is that they all skip this. I get that it makes the Eclipse more shocking to not already know the choice Griffith made, but skipping The Black Swordsman Arc also makes it less clear that he had a choice to begin with.

EDIT: This post was in response to someone saying that Griffith didn't really have a choice. I argue that he did and that all the "fate" stuff is basically bullshit because the Count was able to defy his fate. The God Hand hand-waves (heh) this as "the thread of fate has been broken" or whatever, but yeah, it's a pretty critical part of the story that never gets adapted.


Community Resettler
Oct 25, 2017
So it's ok that the majority of the supernatural events in the Golden Age just lose all context? That all the tension that's supposed to be there just vanishes?
It's honestly quite unnecessary for the events in Golden Age to work. They work just fine, as evidenced by Berserk 97.
Big One
Oct 25, 2017
It's honestly quite unnecessary for the events in Golden Age to work. They work just fine, as evidenced by Berserk 97.
The Berserk 1997 anime introduced the audience to the Behelit, the existence of the Apostles, the Brand, Guts' revenge quest, and that Griffith is Femto and made Guts' life a living hell in the first episode, which the Golden Age arc is written assuming the audience already knows all of this stuff. So while not perfect it does a good job surmising why the Black Swordsman arc is important to the story.
Big One
Oct 25, 2017
I recently just watched the 1997 anime and thought it was pretty darn good. It really made me want to get into the manga.
The manga is top notch I would even recommend starting from the beginning. There's a lot of great stuff you've missed. The 1997 anime removes stuff from the Golden Age arc that's important later on in the story (like Skull Knight and Silat)
Oct 30, 2017
My first experience with Berserk was 1997 and that felt complete to me. Establishing the demons and gods in a previous arc robs it of some of the horror surprise of the events in the eclipse.

The tension of knowing that Guts and Femto/Griffith had backstory is lost but hardly essential. The betrayal is self contained and the most iconic moment.
Oct 27, 2017
I agree with OP. The tension of encountering Griffith for the first time in the manga was wild. You had Guts pulling out all the stops to kill him right then and there. Then you have this dude we've spent chapters with as a super badass angry edgelord character crying on the floor after his strongest moves were no selled by this dude in a bird costume.

THEN BAM! Hard cut into the Golden Age arc. It adds a lot of intrigue and mystery about how this dude Griffith ruined Guts' life.
Oct 27, 2017
I remember getting really hyped at the thought they would adapt the Black Swordsman arc in Berserk 2016 (before we realized what a mess it was). Such a disapointment.

I hope we can get it someday.

There will never be a better anime since Susumu Hirasawa knocked it out of the park and no one will surpass him on this front. This man made Berserk for me
So good.
Oct 26, 2017
miura's artwork is so great that no animation studio can ever do it justice, imo that's another reason why anime version will always lose out to the manga version
Oct 25, 2017
I'm still waiting to see the Lost Children arc brought to life at that. That's Berserk at its absolute blackest and also its absolute best.
Mar 20, 2019
miura's artwork is so great that no animation studio can ever do it justice, imo that's another reason why anime version will always lose out to the manga version
Masaaki Yuasa would do the second half justice. The folks at Bones would treat it well, but most of their stuff is brightly colored and a different vibe thatd be new ground for them.

One sweet day OP one sweet day

the 97 anime comes close, sometimes my mind movies trick me into thinking beyond it does exist.
I should re watch the newest, i watched it at broadcast, maybe the blu ray edits made it ok
Aug 20, 2018
My friend has been harping on me to start the series. Should I start with the Manga or Anime?
manga...the anime only starts at the 'flash back' portion of the story...

on another note, a new volume will be supposedly out this year...

man.....Berserk is almost on-par of A Song of Ice & Fire with its story beginning pre-2000 and now still no end in sight due to how slow its creator is writing it.

At least Berserk is still releasing now at least one volume a year...can't say the same about GRRM.
Nov 2, 2017
I've only seen the 1997 anime without reading the manga or watching the movies or 2016 series. I must admit I had no idea what was going on in that last episode (eclipse). I knew that Griffith was going to be the main villain as this was mentioned in the first episode but everything regarding the Behelit, Godhand, Femto etc. came out of left field for me. I'm not a big reader but I'm tempted to start reading the manga just so I have some clue wtf was going on in that last episode.

Agree that the Berserk 97 OST is godly. I listen to it while I'm working sometimes.

Berserk fans should check out SuperEyePatchWolfs content on youtube. He makes great videos.