Our look at the Berserk movies continue! While much of what needs to be discussed is going to be saved for the legendary third movie, there is still some stuff worth yapping on about in the first two thirds. Now that the players and story have been set up, what happens next and most of all: is it good? Well after the cut let’s take a dive into the second movie in the Berserk trilogy: The Battle of Doldrey!
The Battle of Doldrey is at its core, about exactly what it says. When the kingdom of Midland has the chance to deliver a crushing blow to their foes, it falls to Griffith and the Band of the Hawks (or Falcons, whatever) to try and take back the castle of Doldrey, long thought to be considered impossible. On the surface, that is what the story is about the, trying to take the castle, and the good and bad that happens both before and after. However like with many things in Berserk, it is far more than that.
The real story is the changing relationship between Guts, Griffith and Casca, more importantly the latter two as Guts has to reckon with the fact that Griffith only seems him and the other Hawks as a means to an end, along with the fact that he only thinks a friend is someone who is his equal. This reveal is what ends up pushing Guts away from the Hawks at what should have been their moment of triumph, and instead sends them to what ends up being their ultimate end. It is not a selfish act by any means, and frankly Griffith’s inability to deal with that fact, or obsession with controlling everything and anyone around him, is what really dooms them all.
Guts’s relationship with Casca is given plenty of airtime here, and out of everything in Berserk, the back and forth between them is probably the most ‘anime’ thing in the entire series. I find it strange even writing this, but Casca is about as tsundere as they come, and her anger towards Guts comes from her attraction to him, and jealousy that he has become Griffith’s favorite. She lashes out, she loses her temper, and she doesn’t seem to see reason. It’s pretty much as anime as they come, but her reactions are understandable when you see the world Casca is in: one that is dominated by men, and views women as wives, political pawns, or as they say in Game of Thrones: firm tits and a tight fit.
I really do like the relationship between Guts and Casca, and the few tender moments they share, the moments of vulnerability that Casca lets through help endear her character. Her triumphant victory over the sexist pig of a general in the final battle is also very cathartic, even though the general himself seems to drive home the sexist angle a little too bluntly. Like we get it, you think women don’t have a place on the battlefield, what else you got? Still, it kicks ass. And thankfully the action on display in the second movie is far better than the first. The CGI is still present, so we aren’t totally free from it, but it is used much less, or at the very least is not as intrusive or sticks out as much as it should. I will never really understand why Berserk decided to go this way, but I really couldn’t tell or cared by this second movie. I was just so engrossed by the plot and characters to really take notice.
If there is a downside, it is once again the choice of making the Golden Age Arc a movie trilogy instead of a new series. Several plot points have been scrubbed entirely and themes and characters are missing that really help fill in the blanks. Like I said last time, these movies are very much a Cliff notes version of the manga story, focusing on the big scenes and pivotal moments and leaving out the smaller ones. Is it the end of the world? For someone who hasn’t read the manga (but wants to) I couldn’t care less, but there is still less here than was in the original anime series, and even that had to cut out a lot of stuff. Things like the plot by the Queen of Midland to get revenge for the death of Julius. Griffith’s backstory with the governor of Doldrey, and that damn Skull Knight are either hinted at, or cut entirely.
Still, The Battle of Doldrey is a good movie, and at times a great one. It moves the characters in new directions and expertly makes you think things are going to look up for the Hawks, before cruelly pulling the rug away from you. The animation is stellar when it wants to be, and the CGI doesn’t stick out nearly as much. As someone who is a passing fan of Berserk, this second run-through of the movie was a great time, and it’s only going to get better, and damn more uncomfortable when we hit the final movie. I hope you’ll stick around to watch!