The duality of Berserk’s narrative relationship with faith and spirituality mirrors that of its own storytelling dichotomy. That may account for the internet backlash against the new Berserk series just as much as the unorthodox animation style, those expecting more medieval war drama in the vein of the series’ venerated, twice adapted “Golden Age” arc are left scratching their heads at Guts’ new vocation as a lone wolf (aside from Puck, of course, and at least for now) demon hunter. Those demons, or Apostles, are like the end-of-level-bosses to the typical cannon fodder (literally) enemies that Guts takes down in droves every nightfall, and we get to meet our first one (in this series, anyway) right along with Puck and Farnese.
Just as Griffith did, and as Guts now does, these “Apostles” carry a Behelit, the so-called “egg of the king” that grants it’s bearer demonic immortality upon death (again, shades of Hellraiser’s Lament Configuration), this particular Apostle, Count Lansdown, was the caretaker of an estate previously thought burned beyond recognition, who most likely sacrificed it’s other residents, along with his young daughter, and now remains with only his pack of demonic hounds to lure weary travelers into their clutches to be devoured.
Guts, as usual, makes short work of the minions as well as the big bad himself, as Puck (still talking shit, still awesome), the captive Farnese and still-in-pursuit Serpico look on in horror, taking, as Obi Wan would say “their first step into a larger world”. Guts’ quarry now vanquished he allows the Holy Iron Chain Knights to take their leave, Serpico bewildered and Farnese swearing revenge, though if it’s simply for Guts’ kidnapping her or opening her eyes to the unspeakable evils lurking in the shadows of her formerly small, controlled, religion based world, she’s probably even not sure herself.
With so much action and carnage on display in this episode’s short run time the basic CGI framework of the visuals holds up relatively well, though some of the choices made did leave me somewhat siding with this series’ detractors for the first time. Guts’ violent face offs with the Apostle and his hounds are appropriately dark, blood strewn affairs that use the limited animation of these stock CG character models to maximum effect, so no complaints there, y’know, where it counts. The animation takes a turn for the odd though in Farnese’s encounter with a possessed horse. It’s just… weird. The manga is full of stuff like this with the bug eyed, multi-limbed and be-fanged demon designs coming off more horrifying that laughable, like looking at an insect under a microscope. Maybe this was one that wasn’t worth trying to translate. The decision to keep Farnese topless and just not give her nipples is a strange one as well. I’m guessing censorship was a concern? Maybe just keeping her in a tattered shirt would’ve been a better, less distracting option.
On a more positive note, the earthy, dark, lo-fi 2D vibe of the ’97 series is re-established as we catch up with Midland, where the King slowly dies, Charlotte continues to mourn the disappearance of Griffith and the “Hawk of Light” looms large on the horizon. Big things (both literally and figuratively) are coming to the world of Berserk, I just hope that the slapdash animation style can keep up with the expert storytelling.