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This violent sword-and-sorcery adventure suggests a darker version of Record of Lodoss War. Guts (originally "Gatsu") is a brooding warrior, haunted by demons, who fights with an enormous two-handed sword. When he's defeated in hand-to-hand combat by the elegant Griffith, Guts joins the Band of the Hawk. They're supposed to be mercenaries, but Griffith's loyal corps behaves like a crack regiment in the century-long war between Midland and Chuder. Although he takes unnecessary personal risks for reasons rooted in past traumas, Guts quickly rises to a position of command. This vision of early medieval warfare is grittier and less sanitized than standard anime adventures. Fans of Kento Miura's original manga praise its depth of characterization, which isn't really apparent in these first five episodes. But its grim earthiness sets Berserk apart from run-of-the-mill chivalric tales. Rated 16 Up: Violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity, grotesque imagery. --Charles Solomon
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