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DVD Review

Volume 3 - White Hawk


Starring (voice): Nobutoshi Hayashi, Toshiyuki Morikawa and Yuko Miyamura
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 07 January 2008

In medieval times a man lives or dies by the sword. Our story opens with the arrival of The Black Swordsman who rescues a bar girl from the castle guards. Soon the inn is reduced to blood gore and violence. He is Guts, a man born of his dead mother womb and taught to fight for everything he joins the ranks of the Band of the Hawk, but their success will lead him to a dark place in his soul…

Volume three (White Hawk) of the medieval gore fest, that is known as Berserk, contains episodes ten to thirteen of this twenty five episode show. I still find that the episodes are let down by the below par animation, which smacks more of a cheap Saturday morning show than a quality product. Okay, so the show is nine years old, but even nine years ago the quality would have been a bit of a turn off, which is a real shame as the writing and the story, for all its faults, are the best thing about the show.

Episode ten, Noble Man, and, if it were at all possible, this dark tale gets even darker as we follow Guts on his mission to kill Count Yurius - a mission that goes horribly wrong when he kills Yurius’s son as well. When Guts seeks out Griffith, who is with Princess Charlotte, he overhears a conversation that further rocks his world.

So we come to the events which will take Guts down his very own dark path - the combination of his inadvertent murder of a child and the realisation that Griffith considers no man his friend, unless he is his equal, brings up memories from his own past - memories of his own father. This further hardens an already stony heart.

Episode eleven, The Battle: Charlotte and Griffith grow ever closer, as she gives him a token of affection prior to the battle. This does not sit well with the court, given that she is of royal blood and Griffith is a mere commoner. The titular battle, which takes up two thirds of the show, is an odd affair. From a distance there looks to be thousands involved but, when we get to the action, it only consists of a handful of people. Caska gets a chance to shine as a warrior amid a lot of over the top bloody violence.

Episode twelve: Together. Having been separated from the battle, by falling off a cliff, Guts and Caska spend some time together. She recounts for him how she was bought by a nobleman who raped her, and that eventually she was rescued by Griffiths and becomes a warrior.

Be warned that the show deals with some adult themes and includes scenes of nudity. Not only does it show Caska’s rape, but also introduces a nobleman with a penchant for young boys. Griffith even sells his body to this pervert to raise money for his army. Caska’s animosity towards Guts is finally explained as Caska obviously has feelings for Griffiths but is under the impression that Griffiths has feelings for Guts. This is not a show for kids. Like I said before it is the story which drives the show and the reason to watch it.

Episode thirteen: Prepared for Death. In an effort to rejoin the army Caska and Guts make it through the forest only to run into the enemy. Caska and Guts split up; Caska trying to reach the army before Guts gets killed.

Although the fight scene had the requisite number of decapitations, cut throats and loss of limb, what really didn’t make any sense was why, given that Guts was facing about a hundred men, they would approach him in such small numbers (only to be easily cut down) and not just fill him full of arrows. Okay, the show would have ended, so that wouldn’t have worked. Still, even in the context of the show, it makes little sense.

Audio options are disappointing with only a very non-dynamic English or Japanese stereo track, with optional subtitles. The extras redeem the disc a little offering storyboards, production sketches, some amusing outtakes and the original opening and closing sequence, the latter with no text. The 4:3 transfer is okay given the original picture.

Whilst I remain unimpressed with the animation, the story remains the main reason to watch this show.


Charles Packer

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