Rather Meek for Something Called “Berserk”

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“He who fights with CGI monsters should look to it that he himself does not become CGI…. When you gaze long at the spasming, spinny camera, the spasming, spinny camera gazes into you…”

Another summer hath come and gone, yet the eternal wheels of Television keep turning. Preacher was orange, JoJo’s was weird, but there’s a particular series that really stood out to me over the summer season… it’s Berserk 2016. I’ve said it time and time again, I’m a hardcore fan of the Japanese Berserk and highly recommend the stellar, if poorly animated Berserk 1997. It only took 19 years without a proper continuation to the series for Berserk to finally get a continuation of its story.

My first impressions of this new series were that it definitely looked rough, but very promising. However, upon my first viewing, some pressing issues came to light.

The whole series feels chaotic, unsteady and rather flat, despite it being a near panel-for-panel adaptation of the manga. (It’s based on the Black Swordsman arc.)

Individual episodes have little build up or payoff and end abruptly to tease the next episode. The pacing of each episode tends to fluctuate between unbearably slow and violently fast at the drop of a hat. Having to mentally battle the wonky camera to get an idea of what’s even happening isn’t doing Berserk 2016’s plot any favors either.

berserk2016ccI hate to sound overbearing, but this is Adaptation 101. A manga is written in a completely different process than a TV series is, thus you must bend or change the manga’s plot to fit television formatting.

Each episode has to tie up plot threads to make the experience satisfying, but must keep/introduce more plot threads to keep the viewer coming back. Ironically, in trying to be faithful to the source material as possible, Berserk 2016 forgot about all the things that made the source great in the first place.

The clever use of foreshadowing and religious themes in the plot are there, but are eclipsed by the pacing problems. The characters are present, but most of their development is cut to keep the plot rolling. The big battles are on display, but none of the subtle scenes between the characters get the time of day.

It brings me no joy to be this critical of the series, especially since there are moments where Berserk 2016 nails a scene and what-could-have-been shines through all the problems and camera angles. It’s in these little embers of brilliance that remind me of the old Berserk series. Was it a very pretty slideshow animation wise? Yes. Was the ending abrupt because the studio had to cut a crucial character for time? Yes. However, the difference between the two is that old Berserk knew how to adapt the story for television.

That’s perhaps Berserk 2016’s greatest shame. Despite an unfavorable budget and lack of a conclusion (due to the last chapters of the Golden Age arc being written at the time of production), old Berserk took what it had and managed to make a truly timeless series.

Berserk 2016 is already dated and will probably be forgotten in a year or two.

Either way, the series finale is streaming today on Crunchyroll. I have not seen it as of writing, but based on what I’ve seen so far, it pains me to say I’m not really looking forward to it.

(Images are official publicity material from GEMBA, Inc.)

TV Talk is a regular television column written by Robert Pulford, Current Staff.

 

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Filed under Entertainment, Viewpoint

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