New Anime releases

Persona 4: The Animation
We have managed to make it to a new week without the world ending (well that was no surprise). And, with all the Christmas spirit, shopping and celebrations taking place right now sometimes all you want to do is escape for a little. Well Christmas Eve saw the release of a series that utilises that very concept of escape, well escaping into another world within a television. But all isn’t hunky dory in this magical realm.

Based on a video game, Persona 4: The Animation centres around Yu Narukami, a boy who moves from Tokyo, to a much quieter town known as Inaba, to stay with his uncle and adorable little cousin. But peace and quiet isn’t exactly what he gets when he soon finds out his new home is fuelled with drama, when a series of mysterious murders begin taking place.

Early on we learn about the ‘Midnight Channel’ (a show that appears at midnight, after a rainy day). The high school students believe they will see their soul mate when watching, however Yu soon realises the individuals appearing on the show are slowly going missing, offering a warning as to whom be the next target will be.

At the very beginning, Yu discovers he has the ability to enter a world within a TV, along with his friends (bonds that are created gradually throughout the series), each earn an ability known as a ‘persona’ (powers unique to each character). The gist of it is that within this mysterious TV realm there are shadows, a kind of suppressed part of each character. Only after eventually accepting that part of themselves they unlock their persona, which will inevitably help the group of friends in their quest in hunting down the killer of these mysterious murders. Or, in other words, who is forcing the victims into the TV to meet their doom.

Each episode opens with a brief clip in the ‘Velvet room’, it is not quite clear as to what role this has to play yet, but I know I am certainly intrigued.

This release sees the first part of this anime made available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray, with a lot crammed into nine enjoyable episodes, as well as the addition of a Director’s Cut of the first episode. Admittedly, at times, there can be a little confusion; perhaps there are certain things that only a gamer of this particular title would understand. But overall I can happily say I enjoyed watching Persona 4: The Animation and look forward to continuing on the hunt for the truth with Yu and his friends.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 1: The Egg of the King
This is the first in a trilogy of feature-length films, animated by Studio 4°C and directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka. The stirring cinematic soundtrack is courtesy of Shiro Sagisu who worked on the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion and Bleach. The powerful theme song is by Susumu Hirasawa, who worked on the original Berserk score.

This is an action packed, slice and dice drama, not afraid to shed some blood, or even chop a few heads off. Set in a dark and intriguing, medieval fantasy world, The Egg of the King focuses on the relationship between Guts, Griffith and Casca – the three central characters.

Retelling the successful and much-loved Berkserk story from some 15 years ago (in terms of the original anime), based on Kentarou Miura’s award-winning manga. This is something for both newcomers and original Berkserk fans. Having never seen the original anime (as of yet) I can’t make that comparison, but it has most definitely been added to my list of things to watch.

This intriguing reboot opens with a powerful opening sequence: Beginning with a point-of-view shot, the sound is muffled as we are introduced to Guts – a lone sword-yielding mercenary. We see Guts gazing at a beautiful blue sky; the sun is creeping out from behind the several white clouds that fill the sky and black birds fly above. This apparent peace is soon interrupted as we see some fire shooting across the skies – signs that a battle is brewing, or is in full swing. The birds turn out to be crows, with a single crow falling from the sky. The shot then cuts away to a battle of epic proportions and the sound kicks in, with the muffled effect no more. Setting the pace for the rest of the film.

The story progresses with Guts, whose fighting style catches the attention of Griffith, the head of The Band of the Hawk. The pair eventually duels until Guts finds himself defeated, resulting in him working alongside Griffith and The Band of the Hawks. We are also introduced to Casca, the group’s sole female character, who has an obvious dislike for Guts, and an admiration or affection for Griffith – only time will tell which way this part of the story will unfold.

The story soon continues some three-­‐years later where it seems as though the two (Guts and Griffith) have become respected comrades, or friends perhaps. However, we soon discover that this friendship isn’t necessarily all it seems to be.

In this instalment Guts gets a warning from a brutal beast, informing Guts that Griffith is bad news and we learn more about what the Egg of the King is – it is what Griffith wears around his neck. But much of the mystery behind Egg of the King, also referred to as the ‘Behelit’, remains. We do however learn that it came into Griffith’s possession through an encounter with a fortuneteller. There seems to be a dark side to Griffith, with his true power-hungry intentions.

Towards the end of this 76-minute instalment we see Guts and Casca overhearing a conversation in which Griffith states that he does not consider them friends (much to their obvious surprise), but considers them as soldiers, merely enabling him on his ultimate goal towards his dream of power. This revelation sets the mood for the next film and will ultimately test the friendships and loyalty of the characters.

Each character holds some kind of mysterious back story that we haven’t had the privy to as of yet, as there wasn’t any major character development, but it seems that things will slowly unfold in the next two instalments. Well, hopefully.

This first instalment ends with a split screen, showing each of the three main characters, followed by a brief teaser offering us a glimpse of what is to come in the story.

By the end of this enjoyable, intense, action-packed anime, I found myself wanting more. The soundtrack is well placed and the animation is beautifully done. That initial spark had indeed been ignited, with the desire to continue with this story, unravelling the mysteries that lay ahead and on the journey we were briefly introduced to.

Berserk: The Egg of the King is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.

Reviews by Samantha Buttigieg

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