What it’s about: Guts is a wandering hero, looking for his purpose in life in a facsimile of medieval Europe. That, or maybe just for someone tough enough to beat him in a straight fight. One day he runs into an up-and-coming mercenary group, the “Band of the Hawk”, led by the handsome and eminently charismatic Griffith – a man with a dream large enough to draw everyone around him, including Guts, into his wake.
Why you should watch it: This is a straight-up, brass-knuckled action series, with a major set-piece battle every couple of episodes. The space between is filled with a solid level of character development for the three main protagonists. The show is set up as a classic Greek Tragedy, particularly if you take Griffith as the protagonist. It steadily builds to a climax and then ends with one of the most memorable cliffhangers in modern anime, leaving you wanting much, much more. Well, there’s always the manga to turn to…
Caveats: There’s no talking around the fact that the animation is dated. If that’s particularly important to you, the whole show has been condensed and re-released as a series of movies with a much more modern aesthetic. I haven’t watched them personally, but I’ve heard pretty good things about them. The ending of Berserk is…controversial. Very controversial. It’s good, but it’s an obvious invitation to the audience to dive into the background material.
Themes: Searching for one’s purpose. The cost of ambition. Living in the shadow of giants.