until we reach the final kingdom
Conquer all in our path, Our foes will feel our wrath
My behelit will find my Kingdom
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc (ベルセルク 黄金時代篇, Beruseruku Ōgon Jidai-hen) is a trilogy of anime feature films adapting the Golden Age Story Arc from Kentaro Miura's classic Dark Fantasy manga Berserk; the Golden Age Arc had already been adapted once before as Berserk (1997). With animation production by Studio 4°C, it was written by Ichiro Okouchi, directed by Toshiyuki Kubooka, and scored by Shiro Sagisu. The three movies were supposed to be the first installments of a Berserk Saga Project that would adapt the entire manga. Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I - The Egg of the King, was released in theaters on February 4th, 2012, Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II - The Battle of Doldrey was released on June 23rd, 2012, and Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III - Advent, was released on February 1st, 2013.
The story begins when a wild young sword-for-hire named Guts defeats the enemy champion Bazuso during the storming of a castle, catching the eye of the brilliant and charismatic mercenary captain Griffith. After defeating Guts in a duel, Griffith makes him part of his company, the Band of the Hawk, and shares with him his ambitious dream of obtaining his own kingdom. The normally distrustful Guts grows to deeply admire Griffith and makes True Companions in the Band of the Hawk, including the observant Judeau, stoic Pippin, and cheerful Rickert. At the same time, he is resented by the cynical Corkus, and by Griffith's tough Action Girl lieutenant Casca who considers him unworthy of Griffith's favor as well as a reckless loose cannon who could put all the Hawks in danger. Seeking glory and advancement, the Hawks enter the service of the kingdom of Midland in its war with Tudor which has dragged on for a hundred years. But there are envious enemies in Midland's court as well as foes on the battlefield, and the Hawks are shaken by a brush with the supernatural in the form of Nosferatu Zodd, an immortal monster who warns Guts that when Griffith's dream comes crashing down, he will be doomed to a death he cannot escape. As the war continues, Guts and Casca are forced to confront their differences, going from rivals to Fire-Forged Friends and engaging in romantic tension. But Guts is disillusioned by his inability to be recognized by Griffith as a friend and equal, and decides to step out of his shadow by leaving the Hawks, thus sending Griffith into a downward spiral that culminates in the Eclipse, where Griffith makes a fateful choice that has horrific consequences for everyone.
The fandom was and continues to be divided about whether the movies were a proper adaptation. On the positive side, the higher production values allowed the huge battles, terrifying monsters, and rich costumes and environments the manga is known for to be animated with a much higher level of polish than the previous series, while certain characters and plot events which were necessary for properly resolving the ending and leading into a sequel were restored after having been cut from the 1997 anime. On the negative side, the films drew criticism for their heavy use of Conspicuous CG for character animation—more of a problem in the first installment compared to the second and third in which it looked considerably better—and especially for changing and cutting a large number of scenes relating to character development and motivation. The relatively lackluster performance of the films at the box office, which saw the second and third gross less than the first, seemingly put an end to plans by Studio 4°C to adopt further story arcs, including the Chapter of Lost Children. Ultimately the Golden Age trilogy paved the way for a new TV anime, Berserk (2016).
This page is under construction. Please add tropes from the Berserk A-Z trope pages which touch upon this adaptation.
Blood and tropes and tropes and blood and...:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Corkus is appreciating all the pretty ladies lining up to kiss him in the victory parade after Doldrey, when he sees a mannish-looking woman trying to get his attention and recoils in disgust.
- Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The scene where the Hawks are on the border of Midland after the Griffith rescue operation. It is actually their Darkest Hour moment and building up to the much more dramatic ending such as when Griffith desperately threw himself upon Casca, and Casca resolving that she couldn't leave with Guts. However, there are still softer moments, such as Guts and Casca reassuring each other that they want to be there for each other as friends and as lovers, when the Raiders tell Guts that they are willing to follow him wherever he goes, and Judeau telling Guts to be with Casca no matter what. These moments reinforce the theme of friendship and the bond that the Hawks have with each other.
- Adaptational Badass:
- Rickert in the manga is fairly weak because he's a child and sometimes has to be rescued by bigger guys like Guts and Pippin, since the best he can do is ward off his attacker's blows. In this version he's like a courageous little lion, stabbing Tudor knights left and right in a way that puts most adult soldiers to shame!
- Corkus is depicted as a bit of a Dirty Coward in the manga, who's more comfortable with the idea of murdering an opponent like Guts in his sleep than facing him on the battlefield, so that it's kind of a mystery why he was put in charge of other men. This version shows him keeping his head in battle while scoring several kills with his lance, thus making his position of authority seem much more deserved.
- Adaptation Distillation: Given the fact that a twelve volume arc is being adapted into three movies of 76, 92, and 107 minutes, respectively, the trilogy tries to preserve the essence of the story while making numerous changes to streamline and shorten it down.
- In the manga, the Golden Age Arc begins with Guts being discovered as a newborn under his hanged mother's corpse, and proceeds chronologically through Guts' youth until he meets the Band of the Hawk. This version begins with the castle assault in which Guts defeats Bazuso and gets noticed by the Band of the Hawk, and shows hazy flashes of Guts' childhood in his nightmares while he's recovering from the stab wound Griffith gave him. He also doesn't have the Freak Out! from the manga brought on by those memories during his first time with Casca.
- The dialogue between the Hawk members as Corkus prepares to ambush Guts and steal the reward for killing Bazuso is omitted; Guts is walking along, and is suddenly set upon by Corkus and friends.
- The aftermath of Guts and Griffith's duel, in which Griffith dislocates Guts' arm and declares him a member of the Hawks, goes differently. The part where Casca prevents Corkus and co. from murdering Guts in his sleep is left out. Guts' first time riding with the Hawks is also not depicted, nor are the next morning's conversations with Judeau and Griffith. Instead, Griffith tells Guts about his goal of winning a kingdom as they linger where they just dueled, since Guts is depicted having been less injured by their fight, and the three-year timeskip comes at the end of that scene. Instead of telling Guts about how he got his crimson behelit the morning after Guts' first raid, he does it after the encounter with Zodd, on the steps where they meet the King, Count Julius, and Princess Charlotte.
- In the original, Guts tries to visit a bedridden Griffith after their fight with Zodd, and gets in a quarrel with Casca. Instead of this, Guts is shown practicing sword techniques alone while angsting about Casca's words from before.
- Here, Julius plots against Griffith on his own initiative instead of being goaded by Minister Foss, who is adapted out. The Queen of Midland appears only as an extra instead of having her own conspiracy subplot.
- While Guts and Casca are hiding in the cave, she doesn't tell Guts as much about her and Griffith as she did in the manga, such as how Griffith felt guilty about the death of a young boy in his army, and then sold himself to lord Gennon for a night. Griffith's history with Gennon is instead revealed when the two characters encounter each other in the aftermath of the battle for Doldrey, and the boy does not appear in the visions that Conrad shows to Griffith.
- Adon Coborlwitz's Big Little Brother Samson doesn't appear in the Hundred Man Fight, and the bonfire of dreams scene is skipped.
- What Guts did during his year away from the Band of the Hawk, including staying with Godo or participating in a tournament, is not depicted; Erica and Godo's mine show up near the end, but Godo himself does not. Instead of the Skull Knight appearing before Guts during that absence, he does so while Casca is sleeping immediately after Guts and Casca's first time. When Casca asks him if he's going to leave again, he doesn't talk to her about his new goals at length as he does in the manga; he just says that he's going and asks her to come with him. Silat was originally introduced in the tournament and showed up again for the attack on the Hawks' camp, but here the latter is his introduction and only appearance.
- The Hawks' escape from Windham is simplified, with the lengthy encounters with Bakiraka assassins and the Black Dog Knights replaced with more concise pursuit scenes featuring the Midland regular army.
- In this version, Casca accounts for Rickert's absence at the time of the Eclipse by telling Griffith he's on a scouting mission to find a place to cross the border out of Midland, and we don't see him again until he arrives outside the vortex of the Eclipse. We do not see Rickert going seperately with the Hawks' wounded, nor their massacre by Apostles, and we also don't see him hitching a ride with Puck's circus troupe. Guts just happens to walk past Puck's wagon on the road, and no words are spoken.
- Guts doesn't get a last conversation with Gaston during the Eclipse; he finds him already dead.
- The film proper ends sooner after the Eclipse than in the manga, so that we don't see Casca give birth to a demon child, Guts struggling to cope with Casca's insanity, the origin of Guts' equipment, or Guts' first use of the Dragon Slayer on an Apostle. In The Stinger, we're treated to a brief montage of Guts equipping himself and setting out on his solitary quest.
- Adaptation Expansion: Although this version is more distinguished by what it cuts than what it adds, the Adaptation Distillation does leave some opportunities for expanding on the manga.
- Without the Queen's conspiracy to derail things, there's more time to show everyone having fun at the victory ball, and Guts and Casca have a Dance of Romance.
- During and after Griffith's God Hand transformation, we see various visions through the eyes of Griffith, including the collective memories of humankind. Guts' declaration of war against demonkind is juxtaposed with Griffith crying the last tear he will ever shed.
- Adapted Out: While several characters who were missing from Berserk (1997) are put back in, several other characters are taken out.
- Guts' adoptive mother Sys isn't shown in his flashback dream, which begins when he was six years old and Sys had already been dead for three years.
- Owen and Laban are an inseperable pair in the manga, but only Laban made the cut into this adaptation.
- Minister Foss gets left out altogether.
- Adon's brother Samson is omitted.
- The Snake Baron in his only appearance pre-Eclipse is replaced by a gigantic version of the Unnamed Female Apostle.
- The five Bakiraka employed by the King of Midland do not appear, nor do Wyald and the Black Dog Knights.
- Godo is kind of implied to still exist offscreen, since Godo's mine and his adopted daughter Erica are in the third movie, but he is never mentioned in dialogue or shown on camera.
- Animation Bump: The part in The Egg of the King where Guts and Griffith dash around either side of Zodd and cut him at the same time is bumped up to a visual "Wow!" moment, with the camera following the characters through a high-speed tracking shot employing extreme foreshortening and impressively fluid animation for the character models.
- Art Shift: The vision of the human condition that Griffith sees while being reborn as Femto in Advent is depicted in a more painterly animation style that's radically different from the rest of the movie, in order to emphasize how his senses and understanding are expanding beyond human limits.
- Award-Bait Song: The first film features the beautiful and uplifting song "Utsukushiki Mono" ("Something Beautiful") by R&B artist Ai, from her album Independent Woman which topped charts in Japan. According to The Other Wiki she felt it was the most vocally challenging song she had ever recorded.
- The Bad Guy Wins: The trilogy ends with the God Hand achieving their goal of corrupting Griffith, and Griffith getting away with sacrificing all his followers in order to become a god-like being. The manga story doesn't end here, and the movie series was supposedly going to continue beyond this point, but it ended up getting Cut Short.
- Bloodier and Gorier: Berserk (1997) might have been less gruesome compared to the manga (which isn't saying much because it's still one of the bloodiest anime of The '90s), but the movie trilogy is back with a bloody vengeance! Gore and sexual violence is certainly played up in the movies, with some fans even saying that the third, Advent, is by far the most violent thing you'll ever see.
- Camera Abuse: The camera lens sometimes gets spattered with blood during fight scenes.
- Chekhov's Gun: We already know how important the Behelit is in the manga, but in this version Griffith shows it to Guts early on, and we aren't shown its full significance until the climax.
- Chekhov's Gunman:
- Farnese, Serpico and Azan are briefly seen at the Hawks' victory ball, indicating their importance in arcs after the Golden Age.
- Silat doesn't seem very important in the context of the movies, since he only gets one scene, but he is an important character in the arcs after the Golden Age.
- Concept Art Gallery: The character designs for the movies can be viewed in a gallery accessed from the DVD/Blu Ray menu.
- Content Warnings: All box art for the movies includes explicit content warnings. Descent received the Japanese equivalent of an NC-17 rating for "strong depictions of sexual activity." In fact, the theatrical release had to be edited down to an R-rating, since the original cut was considered too graphic to release to regular audiences.
- Conspicuous CG: A major criticism of this adaptation is that the CG models, especially for minor characters, are low-poly and stiffly animated. This improves markedly in the second and third movies.
- Dance of Romance: During the ball in the second movie, unlike in the manga where she declines Guts' suggestion to ask Griffith for a dance by saying I Can't Dance, Casca drags Guts onto the dance floor in a very Final Fantasy VIII fashion, and Guts is actually smiling!
- Demoted to Extra: Some of the characters who aren't removed altogether are simply given non-speaking roles.
- The Queen of Midland loses her subplot in which she organizes a conspiracy against Griffith, and is just briefly shown on the balcony with the king during the victory ball where she speaks no lines.
- Puck gets his cameo, but whereas he had some lines in the manga for this part he has none here.
- Downer Ending: The Golden Age Arc comes to a totally depressing ending. Griffith, who is completely broken from a year of being put to the torture and who has pretty much lost everything worth living for, uses his Crimson Behelit to call forth the Godhand on the day of the Eclipse, resulting in Guts and all of his friends being transported to Hell. There, the Godhand, the Big Bads of the setting, reveal the true nature of demons and persuade Griffith to sacrifice the Hawks in exchange for becoming their fifth member. Griffith accepts their Deal with the Devil, everyone gets marked with the Brand of Sacrifice, and carnage ensues as everyone is picked off one by one by a whole mess of things out of pure nightmare until only Guts and Casca are left. Then Guts' left arm gets caught in a demon's jaws as he tries to save Casca from the demons, and as he tries to free himself, Griffith is reborn as a demonic god known as Femto, who begins to rape Casca in front of Guts. Guts is forced to chisel off his arm with what's left of his sword in order to save her, only to be trapped again by more monsters and is forced to watch as Femto rapes Casca right in front of him as his right eye is clawed out. The only reason either of them survive is that the Skull Knight swoops in to save them and Zodd decides to throw them a bone, but when Guts wakes up he finds that Casca was driven to insanity and all of his precious comrades are dead. Both of them are branded as sacrifices, so that they will never be safe again. After waking up and realizing that no only are his comrades dead, but Casca doesn't remember him, Guts runs off into the wilderness where a downpour begins. Ghosts appear an attack him, and when the skull knight expains his situation to him, Guts declares war on all demonkind. After he has fought and fought, the sun comes out again, and he looks off into the horizon as the camera recedes with the wind blowing in the grass. Although it doesn't go as far toward wrapping up the plot as the manga, it ends similarly on a sad note that nonetheless holds some hope for the future, compared to the '97 anime which was particularly stark and had no sense of resolution.
- Dressing as the Enemy: In The Battle for Doldrey, Casca and her men disguise themselves as the Blue Whale Knights and present their prisoner Adon as if he were leading them, thereby gaining entry to the castle.
- Early-Bird Cameo: In the second film, Farnese, Serpico and Azan appear briefly at the ball, and Puck shows up in a wagon that passes Guts on the road near the tail-end of the film.
- Empathic Environment: When he stops running after getting out of Godo's mine, Guts collapses on the grass and clouds block out the sun, bringing rain that reflects his inner turmoil. This is actually implied to be caused by the feelings of Griffith, who is shown in the astral plane encountering a single tear floating as a droplet in space. He realizes that it is his, the last tear that he will ever shed, and squeezes it between his hands, after which the rain disperses.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: In the third movie, Guts and Casca's love scene is so perfect that there's a rainbow, induced by the waterfall in the backdrop. It's very suitable because due to these conditions but nonetheless adds to the gorgeousity of the scene.
- Full-Frontal Assault: After his lovemaking with Casca, Guts senses an intruder and without putting any clothes on picks up his sword. It turns out to be the Skull Knight, and no fight occurs, but he was prepared to fight naked if he had to.
- Gratuitous English: All of the singing in Shiro Sagisu's soundtrack for the trilogy is in English, despite being a Japanese composer for Japanese anime and movies, but at least the lyrics are reasonably well-written and performed by native English speakers.
- Gratuitous French: Most of the instrumental pieces in Sagisu's soundtrack have French titles such as La Bete Immense (the immense beast) and Voix du Diable (voice of the devil).
- Gratuitous Japanese: In the English dub, Adon still refers to his family's secret spear technique as ganzansenpu.
- Groin Attack: Guts thrusts a guard in the groin with his sword while fighting his way out of Count Julius' mansion.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: During the Hundred Man Fight, after Casca runs to get help, Guts takes his helmet off and actually knocks out an enemy merc by throwing it!
- Improbable Aiming Skills: When Guts meets Judeau upon emerging from the tent where he spent three nights, Judeau shows off his skill by using a knife throw to slice just one wing off of a flying wasp. In the third movie, Judeau also protects Casca from Silat's chakram by pinning the flying disc to a tree with a knife throw.
- Leitmotif: Princess Charlotte's introduction is accompanied by the track, "L'Amour Impitoyable", which first comes in as a sweet, delicate piano solo that reflects her Fragile Flower personality and the sense of Love at First Sight between her and Griffith when they meet on the staircase. It comes back again during the hunt when Griffith teaches her how to play the leaf, signifying their growing connection. The title is an ominous bit of foreshadowing about how this ill-fated romance is going to turn out, since it means "Pitiless" or "Ruthless Love".
- Male Frontal Nudity: The uncut version includes a glimpse of Griffith's manhood while he's being tortured, and for those of us who were curious, the carpet doesn't match the drapes.
- On the Next: Installments I and II end with teasers featuring highlights from the next movie.
- Phallic Weapon: Guts prepares for a Full-Frontal Assault against the Skull Knight with nothing but this sword hilt at crotch level concealing his manhood, and with its blade held at that angle he's got a symbolic penis so big and sharp that it puts other men to shame.
- Previously On: Installments II and III begin with a text card and clip show summarizing the story up to that point.
- Radial Asskicking: During Guts' escape from Count Julius' mansion, he is shown dispatching guards coming at him from all sides as the camera pans around him.
- The Renaissance: The period setting, at least in terms of clothing, armour, architecture, etc.
- Slow-Motion Pass-By: Time slows down when Guts passes Puck's wagon on the road.
- Spared by the Adaptation:
- Donovan appears in Guts' indistinct flashback of his traumatic childhood, while the part where Guts killed him in the manga gets left out.
- The Queen, having been Demoted to Extra, also avoids the lethal consequences of crossing Griffith.
- Title Drop: In the first movie, when Griffith reveals how the crimson behelit stopped the assassin's bolt, Guts says in astonishment, "It's the Egg of the King!"
- Wham Episode: Unlike the manga and Berserk (1997), the movies start at the point where Guts and the Hawks meet, without a Black Swordsman scene to show Guts' and Griffith's falling out and Griffith's rise to power as a Foregone Conclusion. This can make the betrayal and bloodbath of the third movie come as an even more earthshaking shock to those who watch them uninitiated, and it's so gruesomely realized that even a Berserk veteran may recall how they felt the first time they read the manga or watched Berserk (1997).