The fifth day of Scotland Loves Anime held such delights as the European premiere of the second Berserk movie: Battle for Doldrey, the international premiere (that's even before general release in Japan) of Nerawareta Gakuen as well as a repeat of last week's European premiere of Blood-C: The Last Dark.
The Berserk movie was once again graced by guests Naoyuki Onda and Fuko Noda who provided a brief Q&A session after the film which, despite a persistent issue with the synchronisation of the subtitles with the audio, was everything a Berserk film needed to be. Cleaving closely to the story set out by the manga but making some smart decisions on what to include and what to omit for a feature-length production.
Starting off the second, Edinburgh, weekend of Scotland Loves Anime were two repeats from the Glasgow weekend. The first, After School Midnighters, followed shortly afterwards by Berserk: Egg of the King (official translation: Egg of the Supreme Ruler). The most exciting feature of the latter was the presence of character designer and chief animation director Naoyuki Onda as well as one of the producers, Fuko Noda.
The evening begun with an introduction by the festival organiser Andrew Partridge who took a quick show of hands as to who was new to the now yearly SLA event, to which about a third of the cinema raised their hands. Jonathan Clements then followed up, introducing After School Midnighters and largely covering what had been said in Glasgow last weekend: created by T-Joy who own entertainment complexes across Asia and are funding films largely to fill these complexes; the director Hitoshi Takekiyo originally created a five minute short which was without dialogue and involved inanimate objects coming to life – namely Dracula, a ninja, Jesus Christ and an anatomical model – the latter of which makes it into the movie.
Continuing the "What the devil am I watching?" theme, day two of the Glasgow leg of Scotland Loves Animation started with After School Midnighters which had more than a touch of Pixar envy to it. Continuing his introductions, Jonathan Clements revealed that this was originally a short by the production staff in order to bolster support for their abilities.
At one point it looked like the short wouldn't go anywhere until it found its way onto French TV which catapulted it into a film. Originally featuring the animation of previously inanimate objects - a vampire, Jesus Christ and an anatomical model - only the latter made it to the final film. Produced by T-Joy who also own numerous theme parks around the globe and who are also set to distribute the Evangelion 3.0 movie, this was obviously an opening salvo in a wider push for global recognition.
The first time we are introduced to Guts' sword, the Dragonslayer, in Berserk is in the opening seconds as the master blacksmith Godo mends it. The first time we are properly introduced to it however is when Guts cleaves a brigand clean in two, taking out a solid wooden table and most of the floor with him. It's a monumentally absurd weapon, as tall if not more so than the wielder and likely just as heavy, outside of fiction it would be impossible for any human to wield.
For the 1997 anime at least, this introduction is misleading as the sword that we see for the remainder of the series is just as tall but not quite as absurd. It's not the only one of course - Guts grows up and events transpire which changes who he is and subsequently what he wields.
N.B. While this post deals primarily with the story covered by the Berserk anime series, allusions and non-specific spoilers regarding the manga are also made.
Intentional or not, medieval fantasy series always fall under the shadow of Berserk. Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu doesn't do itself any favours by featuring an effeminate, silver haired leader or an desirable, unusually powerful ally. There are certainly other parallels to be drawn but the first three episodes prove wholeheartedly that the series has its priorities straight by focusing first on characters, then on narrative and some way down the list on the mythos-specific idiosyncrasies. In short, it's forging its own path and being thoroughly entertaining while doing it. Its title may be outlandish but the strength of the cast and its willingness not to cower before gore or tragedy means it is a promising start to an intriguing full-length series.
The opening episodes don't pull any punches [...], capturing that dark fantasy vibe bubbling under a façade of sky blue and sunset amber
In the kingdom of Roland, ravaged by war and rotten with corrupt nobles, a magical academy that takes in orphans and the children of criminals has two particularly special students. One is Ryner, a slovenly and unmotivated boy who has cursed eyes known as Alpha Stigma which give him immense magical power. The other is the charismatic Sion who was subjected to ferocious bullying while young due to his birth as a bastard child of a noble father and common mother. Now though, he has the support of a shadowy and lethal family of bodyguards as well as the conviction to ascend to the throne with the aim of purging the country of its ruinous ills. Both will be instrumental in the upcoming turmoil - war and civil unrest - and the old legends of powerful demons and heroes may yet play a part in that.