The first eight chapters of Berserk featured in Volumes 1-3 have become known as the Black Swordsman arc. This opening arc of the series has come to be undervalued largely by the wider Berserk community. It has largely been ignored by all anime studios in their adaptations and its importance to the structure of Berserk is also commonly undervalued. This is massive mistake on all anime adaptations of Berserk. The Black Swordsman arc is seminal to the overall structure of early Berserk (Black Swordsman and Golden Age) and the arc is designed to be shown entirely and then be followed up by the Golden Age, which should be presented as a prologue.
The Black Swordsman arc is an introduction to the world of Berserk, therein introducing the tone, characters, themes and imagery present in the main timeline of Berserk. This is necessary because it is seminal in that the Golden Age is presented as the tonal outlier of the series. The movies entirely present the Golden Age without the necessary juxtaposition which undermines the intention of the original manga. Everything from the characters to the tone to the overall world is juxtaposed between the Black Swordsman period and the Golden Age. Pippin, Judeau and Corkus have virtually nothing in common with Vargas, Theresia, Puck and The Count, those unfamiliar with Berserk may even initially believe they are from different stories entirely. The worlds are completely contradictory, one has monstrous demonic evils seemingly around every corner and the other is one of traditional medieval fiction, with Kings, Knights and Princesses and no magic or monsters anywhere. This instils in the viewer an unwavering intrigue making them wonder how we go from a normal medieval setting to one of dark fantasy, something terrible must happen?
Thematically there is also an essential justification for the series to be structured with the Black Swordsman arc preceding the flashback to the Golden Age, because a central theme of Berserk surrounds fate. Whether it’s called fate or causality that is what Guts is truly fighting against, this is visually represented from the beginning with the brand on his neck and how he struggles against the will of fate. Additionally, the entire cast of the Golden Age arc is fighting against fate, the audience is positioned in the same way they are. We know that due to the absence of Judeau, Pippin, Corkus and the other members of the Band of the Hawk, that they will likely die before the flashback concludes, but still the audience wills against fate, we don’t want these characters to die but secretly we know it is unavoidable. Technically the audience somewhat wins their fight against fate through the unlikely survival of Casca and Rickert, many likely assumed they would also perish. This highlights Berserk’s most important thematic element hope. Casca and Rickert struggle to survive and in their survival the audience is rewarded with maintaining them in the story. There is hope in the world of Berserk.
Ultimately, the Black Swordsman arc is necessary in any adaptation or read-through of Berserk to truly get the clearest picture. Muira wasn’t dicking around when he wrote these opening eight chapters and it grates on me that they are continuously overlooked and downplayed by would-be adapters and some in the Berserk fandom.
Everything in Naruto works on a fascinating hierarchical structure of squads; one sensei and three pupils; two boys and a girl. These squads or teams are always made of three predominant personalities; a hyperactive male ninja (Naruto, Kiba, Kakuro, Jiraiya, Obito etc.), a driven strictly business male ninja (Sasuke, Shino, Gaara, Orochimaru, Kakashi etc.) and a usually useless, annoying female character (Sakura, Ino, Tsunade, Rin etc.). This is the core of Naruto’s structure and its fascinating how many different characters are created through this strategy. Additionally, this allows for a narrative through line between all generations of ninja in the Naruto universe. You can fascinatingly follow the learning tree up the ladder from teacher to pupil to teacher’s son to pupil’s son.
In my opinion the most fascinating aspect of Naruto is whenever a flashback is enabled by Kishimoto. Naruto would be so much more interesting if Naruto was irrelevant and we focused on literally any other era in the history of Naruto’s lore. Naruto and Sasuke suck in comparison to Orochimaru and Jiraiya or Kakashi and Obito. But the fascinating core to every is the linage and how certain squads functioned and interacted with these other established personalities. How did Orochimaru interact with Jiraiya before the split, how did Minato interact with Orochimaru, how did Itachi interact with Jiraiya before the both left the village. All these interesting characters would have all lived in the Hidden Leaf Village before the start of Naruto and it’s so much more interesting than whatever-the-fuck is going on in the contemporaneous Naruto plot. Naruto’s fascinating Hierarchical structure with the squad system is genius and makes Naruto’s kayfabe past so much more interesting and easy to understand.
Anime commonly really fucking sucks with dialogue, it’s a consistent problem and it’s a key cause to why I usually am forced to read annoying subtitles to watch Japanese cartoons. The usual issues with anime dialogue relate to the dismissal of a fundamental element of mature storytelling, ‘show don’t tell.’ Anime dialogue is usually laced with exposition that would be unacceptable in any self-respecting American drama. Another common element that incorporates the lack of ‘show don’t tell,’ philosophy is the rampant use of internal monologues in anime, having a character just exposit their emotions to so blatantly is considered extremely lazy writing. But expositional dialogue isn’t inherently bad, but it’s the way its delivered in Dubs that create this disconnect with me about anime dialogue.
English Dubs are usually terrible, because the majority of voice acting in English speaking countries are for children cartoons, wherein the over-the-top nature voice acting fits for the younger demographic being targeted. But when these voice actors are tasked with trying to give a believable and serious performance, they are outwardly terrible. The meme about Dubs having the same 7 fuckbois in every single show is patently true, I’m sick of hearing the same untalented over-the-top idiots in every show. Animation is naturally a more expressive medium and therefore it courts audiences that need basic human characteristics and emotions repeatedly explained to them, that’s why the anime community is filled with autists. This may be why the scripting of the shows even in Subs is, so exposition orientated, these feel their audience can’t understand subtly. This definitely contributes to anime’s fundamental issues with dialogue.
However, there is one show that stands out amongst its contemporaries with dialogue, and that’s the Black Lagoon Dub. This show’s Dub is objectively so much better than the Sub, because the script was entirely re-written by the English produces to be appropriate for an older demographic. All the uses of bastard in the original script were replaced with more mature language like, ‘fuck’ and ‘motherfuck,’ and it’s unbelievably fantastic. The dialogue does fall into dumb anime speak every once and a while, but the more melancholic and slower moments of the show are highlighted by the great script writing and more relatable language. Black Lagoon’s Dub is a prime example of what Dubs could be if the English producers got more creative and worked a little harder. Other examples of Dubs that I think are worth watching include, Steins; Gate, but not 0, the Dub is not as good there, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, only because the awkwardness entirely fits Anno’s thematic elements.
Sasha recently died in the Attack on Titan manga, and had a moment of reflection… No one ever dies in Attack on Titan! The internet narrative and reputation surrounding this series is that death is a series constant. Attack on Titan is commonly compared to Game of Thrones (Spoilers for Game of Thrones) in terms of quantity of deaths. Let’s run through the major character deaths in Game of Thrones, Ned Stark, Rob Stark, Catlin Stark, Tywin Lannister, Joffrey Lannister, Robert Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Magarey Tyrell among others. All these held significant value to the plot and died shockingly and seemingly out of nowhere. Attack on Titan’s major character deaths include, Sasha Blouse, Erwin Smith, Berthold Hoover, Kenny Ackerman, Hannes and Ymir; that’s it. Every other character death is of a nameless background character or is someone the audience never really cared about and had little impact on the plot. Marco’s death has relevance to the characters in the story, but the audience didn’t remember Marco when Jean found him. (Don’t lie)
This reputation Attack on Titan has is misleading, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Attack on Titan isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a meaningful character death when necessary and Isayama doesn’t go over-board with his itchy trigger-figure. Every character death feels earned and occurs tastefully, unless you’re a useless background character, in that case you brutally chomped on by a hideous titan. The purpose of this write-up is to share my absolute frustration whenever I hear this talking point online. No Attack on Titan doesn’t kill characters like Game of Thrones, stop being an idiot.
Griffith’s actions in the Eclipse to a point, were completely forgivable and justifiable. In this instance the ends Griffith went to did justify the means all until the rape. RAPE IS BAD PEOPLE. It’s literally the worst thing that can be done to a human being, worse than murder, worse than theft, worse than anything. Sacrificing the Band of the Hawk is justified by the narrative itself, we spent multiple chapters wherein Ubik explains to Griffith that his life will be horribly mediocre if he refuses the sacrifice and everyone that ever followed him will have died in vain, that’s thousands of people that will forever be on Griffith’s conscious will he wastes away for the rest of his life. Characters that have mercilessly killed other characters the audience cared about have been forgiven in media before; Vegeta was responsible for killing nearly all of the Z Warriors and then just joins them, Magneto is always doing crazy shit and ends up teaming with the X-Men against an eviller and threatening being. Griffith could have been forgiven in a similar way… until he mindlessly raped Casca.
But the rape of Casca was pointless and gratuitous. Griffith had nothing to gain from raping Casca, he did it simply to torment Guts. For chapters and chapters before the Eclipse, panel after panel conveyed his unhappiness and jealousy of the relationship he can see has developed between Guts and Casca since his capture. Maybe he believes they’d forgotten about him and that’s why it took them a year to come and rescue him, who knows and who cares; Griffith must die. For the crime of sacrificing everyone Guts cared about, for tormenting him by cuck-raping his wife Griffith has earned a death sentence. Griffith did only one thing wrong, rape Casca and for that one thing he must die…
Attack on Titan’s immaculate attention to detail perplexes me, even contemporarily, but it shouldn’t. Isayama has demonstrated time and time again that he doesn’t forget any details, no matter how inconsequential they may seem initially, everything in the story is relevant and he doesn’t forget anything. Chapter 109 demonstrates this attention to detail better than any other single chapter in recent memory. The dumb kid with one line of dialogue from Episode 6 of Season 1 is now a legitimate call-back character, that’s insane! And it shows appreciation for those of us that pay attention to the intricacies of the manga, perhaps more than we should. Another example is the child that Sasha saved in Season 2 is now a real character, with motivations and a personality, it’s unbelievable and Isayama should be properly praised for this outstanding achievement.
But even further than that is how seemingly impossibly perfect coordination between the anime production and Isayama is. Zackery has been a prevalent force in the recent episodes of the anime and therefore Isayama reintroduces this refamiliarized character into the manga storyline. This isn’t the first instance of this, Nile was reintroduced last month when his influence of the anime was increased, and his character was being highlighted. Season 2 was no different, right after the Beast Titan initially appeared in the anime, Isayama finally explained how the whole incident occurred by explaining that the Zeke could control and create certain mindless Titans, in that month manga realise. But the most effective example of this strategy and coordination was with the reveal of Ymir’s backstory. The anime reintroduced us to Ymir and reexplained why we originally cared about her and then in the accompanying manga realise that month we got an explanation of Ymir’s backstory through a note she had passed from Reiner to Historia. If the anime hadn’t refamiliarized the audience with Ymir I doubt the emotional resonance of that scene would have been as effective.
The preplanning and coordination that goes into Attack on Titan is outstanding and whatever critics may say about Isayama’s illustrations and the anime bombastic presentation, credit must be given to the hustle of these fine boys and their dedication to the series. Isayama has given us a reason to comb over all past, present and future seemingly insignificant details for clues about upcoming events and characters. I have the greatest respect for Isayama and his rewarding narrative style and am glad I’m along for the ride.
You have the internet and have absolutely no excuse to be bored, everything is available, and everything is free. There are countless YouTube channels making quality content for you to consume, for the last hundred and fifty years the world has been creating movies for you to enjoy, listen to some fridge contemporary music, listen to podcasts while you endlessly grind away on your favourite game. You have infinite possibilities at the tips of your figures, more power than anyone in human history ever has. Are you feeling meaningless well there are hundreds of niche communities for everything you can imagine, you belong in at least one of them.
Watch Neon Genesis Evangelion if you haven’t, its necessary for your development as a human. Have you caught up on Berserk recently shits getting real? Oh, you haven’t even started your Berserk journey well then you have 39 volumes of wholly worthwhile manga to catch up on, binge it you’ll be a different person afterwards. Finished Berserk read Vinland Saga. Want to know how Japanese nihilistic media came to be? Go back and read the original Devilman manga or if that turns you off watch Devilman Crybaby for a more contemporary version. ALL THIS CONTENT IS FREE, why haven’t you consumed it yet? YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO BE BORED.
Have you seen the Godfather? How about the Godfather Part 2? These are necessary, must watch cinema and will alter the way you see atmosphere and tone in media. What in particular did you like about those movies, are you intrigue by what cinema can do from here? Or are you more enticed by the mafia elements of the Godfather and interested in exploring those elements further? If you want more integral cinema surf the Quinton Tarantino catalogue of films; start a Reservoir Dogs and make your way to The Hateful Eight, it’ll change the way you think about dialogue in media. But if your more interested in the depiction of the mafia in other media, the natural cinematic progression is to watch Goodfellas, for a more grounded and realistic take. But then you have a long form 70+ hour philosophical drama, the HBO original series to watch is The Sopranos. It’s a sprawling story about a nihilistic, depressive mob boss and his journey to get his life in order, it’ll alter the way you think about long-form storytelling. ALL THIS CONTENT IS FREE, why haven’t you consumed it yet? YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO BE BORED.
This is but a sliver of the possible media for you to consume if you follow the natural progression of the content trail. Ultimately my message here is you have limited sacred time to be conscious and to be thinking, don’t waste it on boredom, you have more options than anyone ever has, don’t waste it. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO BE BORED.