The Berserk storyline has been going on for quite some time. So long in fact that I was barely born back when the manga first debuted back in 1990. However over its two decade long run it has been quite popular and even received an anime adaptation back in 1997. Now the series is being revisited with a trilogy of films covering the “Golden Age” arc of the manga and while the first movie was already released in North America by Viz, the second movie still won’t be released for quite some time. That is of course, unless you have access to Viz’s Neon Alley service where the second movie, The Battle for Doldrey, debuted this weekend. How does this movie fair? Let’s find out.
The storyline for Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II: The Battle for Doldrey picks up shortly after the events of the first movie with Griffith’s words about true friends still resonating in Guts’ mind. However despite those words, Guts remains with the Band of the Hawk and battles alongside Casca and Griffith when they join with the King’s forces to take over the fortress of Doldrey.
In fact, this second movie joins the Band in the middle of a battlefield. However the numerous battles that the Band enters begin to take their toll, not only causing Casca and Guts to temporarily be separated from the rest of the group, but also giving their characters a chance to grow. Despite this growth however, Guts comes to a decision which will see him leaving the Band of the Hawk. When Griffith’s attempt to stop his departure is immediately thwarted, the lives of Casca, Guts, and Griffith take a turn for the worse.
Thanks to the fact that this is only a movie with a standard run time, it is forced to condense a large portion of storyline and character development into less than an hour and a half of run time. This means that even at the best of times, the storyline is compressed to such a degree that outside of the three main characters, Guts, Casca, and Griffith, barely any of the other characters are given much screen time outside of an enemy officer which appears throughout this movie as a recurring enemy for Casca to battle against.
This makes things even worse when you factor in the amount of time on battles and trying to develop these characters in meaningful ways. It also doesn’t help that while Casca does grow as a character in this movie and we begin to see Griffith’s downfall into insanity, everything is cut rather short thanks to the fact that the movie simply runs out of time to portray everything and ultimately ends with a cliffhanger of an ending. The poor pacing becomes one of the biggest issues with the plot despite some decent character growth on the main cast.
Those familiar with the first movie in this trilogy will likely remember how the animation studio chose to implement both 3D CGI elements into action sequences and background scenes alongside standard animation techniques. While some of the fighting choreography is great to look at and many of the deaths portrayed in these battles are very brutal, the basic animation here is the lowest of the low. Not only is the 3D animation disjointed and poorly detailed, it simply pales in comparison to even the most basic fighting animations found in the industry.
Whenever standard animation techniques are used, the movie actually looks pretty decent with a number of outstanding looking backgrounds to go alongside the characters which are usually nicely handled whenever they aren’t presented with 3D models. It is worth noting there is a bit of female nudity here including a few scenes that come close to sex and one full sex scene that doesn’t show off any major full blown nudity but viewers should be prepared for that aspect.
Since The Battle for Doldrey was streamed on Neon Alley, the only audio option available was the English dub. This isn’t too much of an issue however thanks to the fact that the English cast is rather decently handled. The main cast of Guts, Griffith and Casca are all voiced well though some of the side-characters are poorly voiced. So much so that whenever a minor character speaks, it only proves how much the series ultimately only focuses on a handful of important characters.
As far as the soundtrack goes, the movie sports a number of nice set-pieces which play alongside the action scenes well though again it is a mixed bag outside of the action, as many of the other tracks are largely forgettable.
Now, it has been awhile since I’ve visited the Neon Alley app for watching anime and it appears that not much has changed since my first run with the service at launch. When the movie began I initially chose to watch it on the PlayStation 3, however when doing so I found that the movie often had terrible buffering problems and would suffer from artifacts appearing on screen often.
Because of this, during one of the commercial breaks, I switched to the direct internet connection on the Xbox 360 version of the app and thankfully the movie no longer suffered from these buffering breaks and actually played at a higher resolution since it seems that the quality of the broadcast is determined by the viewer’s internet connection as there is no option to set it yourself.
The aforementioned commercial breaks aren’t much of an issue since thankfully they are always focused on various anime and manga releases and thanks to the fact that the ability to pause or rewind is not available on Neon Alley, these commercial breaks are essential for a quick run away from the television to perform various non-television related activities.
While this may harken back to the days before everyone had DVRs, at least then most television viewers had the ability to record via VHS if they, for whatever reason, had to step away from the television for an extended period of time. While not much of an issue for half hour programming, committing the nearly two hours of time required to watch a full movie on Neon Alley could easily see viewers missing snippets of the movie.
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II: The Battle for Doldrey seems to have a lot going for it at first, unfortunately this potential is squandered. The storyline’s basic principle is sound and the main characters are given some development in this movie and to help all of that, the English dub is nicely handled and many of the action sequences are nicely choreographed. However the rushed storyline creates a disjointed feeling and the simply bad looking 3D CGI is awkwardly used and detracts from how great the normal animation looks. It also is worth noting that thanks to this being the Neon Alley stream; viewers have to also handle the various limitations of the service itself.
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