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Kenpu Denki Berserk

Episode 1: Kuroi Kenshi
(The Black Swordsman)

Copyright: © 1997 NTV, Hakusensha; © 2002 Media Blasters (Anime Works)
Length: 25 minutes
Rating: NR, For Adults Only
Format: Original Japanese Dialogue, English Subtitled, English Dub (VHS, LD, DVD)


The world is a dark place indeed. With the castle guard running loose in town, and the castle lord demanding sacrifices and money from the fife, life is very difficult indeed. However, while terrorizing one of the local girls, a number of castle guards are killed by a swordsman dressed all in black. Leaving behind one survivor, the “Black Swordsman” commands the remaining guardsman to inform his lord of his coming…

capsule review:

This first episode of Berserk introduces a number of interesting story and character aspects that will undoubtedly be further investigated in future episodes. Very much aimed at an older audience, viewers are quickly drawn into a world of violence, demons and torture with hints of possible future sexual imagery. Indeed, the one aspect of this episode that has the potential of completely turning a viewer off of this series, is the violence that is highly prevalent. This first episode may well completely turn off the weaker hearted or squeamish. However, for those viewers who are not disturbed by such images or who are looking for a more violent series, there are a number of intriguing seeds to future growth and development. Beyond the stronger images and atmosphere is the setup and introduction of hints of past events. While the main character, Guts, is not actually named, hints of his past as well as certain aspects of his current situation catch viewers’ interest. Questions of who he is, the brand he carries, and the motivations for his actions all intrigue viewers; at least those viewers who can get beyond the violence that pervades this episode.

The animation itself is good TV quality material. With a combination of interesting background detail as well as some interesting more atmospheric but lesser detailed shots, it’s effective in portraying the darker aspects of the story setting. Likewise, the voice acting, while a touch weaker than typical, is on par with Japanese efforts for a first episode effectively portraying the suppressed atmosphere of the current world of Midland.

Two aspects of this first episode however were distinctly noticeable, specifically the music, or rather lack thereof, as well as the translations. Surprisingly, there is very little background music or sound effects in this first episode of Berserk. With only two real melodies introduced during the course of the episode (excluding the opening and closing theme songs), this lack works to enhance the darker more depressed atmosphere of the world. How things will continue in future episodes remains to be seen.

The translation however displays an interesting mix between accuracy and brevity. Overall accurate and effective in conveying the atmosphere of the episode, the subtitles will occasionally skip certain details that work to add to the undertones of a scene. These omissions may catch the attention of those viewers who have a good understanding of Japanese. Only one translation will strongly catch these viewers’ attention, and that is the translation of “ikenie” as “food” and "human's food". Not entirely incorrect, it certainly doesn’t convey the atmosphere associated with the word(s) “(living) sacrifices”. While some of these omissions may be due to the constraints of maintaining brevity for the sake of subtitling, it does bring to mind the question of how effective the dub track will be in balancing accuracy and atmospheric undertones in the dialogue.

For those viewers looking for a series meant for a more adult audience with lots of violence, this episode holds promise for this series having an intriguing storyline with room for interesting character development. However, those viewers who do not take well to scenes of violence, intimidation, and demonism should give this a pass.
- JN, 2002.05.01

café rating (english subtitled):


3 star

[3 / 5] - Introductory episode that introduces the main character Guts. With a number of mysteries introduced in this first episode, viewers are lured into this dark and violent story.


3 stars
[3 / 5] - An effective and intriguing use of music and animation builds tension and the atmosphere of this episode.


3 stars
[3 / 5] - Generally decent, fairly typical of Japanese voice acting in a first episode.


3 stars
[3 / 5] - TV quality animation with some interesting backgrounds. There are also a number of stills and pans as well as lesser detailed shots. Interesting use of emptier scenes to build tension, atmosphere and viewer intrigue.


2 stars
[2 / 5] - Only two themes are introduced in this first episode making for an atmosphere albeit very empty background.


4 stars
[4 / 5] - A weak four stars. While generally decent, the omission of finer points in the dialogue changes the undertones of certain scenes.

Overall Rating:

3 star
[3 / 5] - An interesting introductory episode that brings up a number of questions regarding the main character Guts, past events which have resulted in the current world situation, as well as his motivations in pursuing the demons. The question is where the story will go from here.

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