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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Golden Age Arc II
The Battle For Doldrey


Starring (voice): Hiroaki Iwanaga, Takahiro Sakurai and Toa Yukinari
Distributor: Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 02 September 2013

He trusts nothing but his own sword. He has no place to call home. The lone mercenary Guts travels a land ravaged by a hundred-year war. Moving from battlefield to battlefield, his skill and ferocity eventually attract the attention of Griffith, the leader of a group of mercenaries called The Band of the Hawk. Desiring Guts's power to help him achieve his goals, Griffith succeeds in recruiting the distrustful Guts by challenging him to a duel and defeating him. As the Band of the Hawk fight together and their bond as a unit grows stronger, Griffith and Guts's bond deepens as well. With their continued success on the battlefield, Griffith achieves the first step toward his lofty goals: his band of mercenaries becomes recognized as a full-fledged army within the Midland Kingdom. Despite all their success, Guts begins to question his reasons for fighting for Griffith's dream, which, unbeknownst to Guts, is destined to bestow a monstrous fate on them both...

Continuing the medieval fantasy saga begun in The Egg of the King, this second of three films finds the mercenary Guts and his allies in the middle of full-blown war with a neighbouring kingdom, the cue for several epic battles animated to occasionally uneven effect in the series' habitual CGI. Creators STUDIO4°C seem to be growing in confidence with this second instalment, however, and an intimate interlude between Guts and Casca is unexpectedly atmospheric, although the fight scene that follows, while spectacular in principle is oddly uninvolving.

As with its predecessor, Battle For Doldrey's effectiveness as a movie suffers somewhat from trying to compress the three or four volumes of manga – several hundred pages of material – of its source material into a barely 90-minute running time, meaning that any subtlety present in the writing is the first casualty. While this is a common issue with adaptations, it's to the detriment of the supporting cast who are reduced to mere bit players in the growing emotional drama between Guts and Griffith – particularly unfairly so in the case of Casca whose rôle is woefully underexplored.

To its credit, the movie's unflinching focus on the two leads' relationship, such that every turn of events comes to be defined not by its effect on the world at large but on the interplay between them, is well handled and, in the movie's final act, plays out with a grim momentum as things turn sour. The scene that lays bare Griffith's internal turmoil manages to be at once beautifully shot and horribly frank.

With the supernatural elements lurking in the background, hinted at considerably in The Egg of the King, kept out of sight for the most part this time around, the stage is set for what seems to be an inevitably nasty climax. Battle For Doldrey is fine as a second instalment, but doesn't overcome the reductive qualities of its predecessor and so is fairly decent entertainment at best.


Richard Hunt

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