Japanese Title: Berserk Ōgon Jidai-Hen III: Haou no Tamago
Release Date: 4th February 2012 (Japan)
UK Release Date: 2013
Running Time: 80 mins.
Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka
Writer: Ichiro Okouchi (Script),Kentarō Miura (original manga)
Starring: Hiroaki Iwanaga (Guts), Takahiro Sakurai (Griffith), Toa Yukinaru (Casca), Aki Toyosaki (Charlotte), Kenta Miyake (Nosferatu Zodd)
I find it hard to believe that I resisted Berserk until earlier this year. My first taste of it was an unpromising opening episode from the anime that was part of a cover-disc on Neo magazine and a Dreamcast game (Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage) which convinced me that it was a simplistic medieval hack and slash title. Then I was inspired by fan fervour to watch the twenty-five episode TV series. At first bemused at the story of a guy with a huge sword in a love triangle with a bishōnen and tsundere I gradually lost my flippant attitude and got sucked into the saga of Guts.
How did I go from dismissal to full embrace?
I came to realise Berserk was a magnificent existential drama taking place in a medieval world laced with supernatural elements and populated by characters I came to care about. It also had awesome action, music and an ungodly amount of gore which also helped. When I watched the movie at a recent anime film festival it was with a sense of trepidation. If it was bad I would be pretty disappointed. Thankfully the movie proved to be a great adaptation.
Guts is a wandering mercenary who has a huge sword and few dreams or ambitions beyond surviving. All of that changes after he meets Griffith, leader of a group of mercenaries named Band of the Hawk who are working for the Kingdom of Midland in their war against Chuder. Guts decides to throw his lot in with them and develops a deep relationship with Griffith but also finds that Casca, a commander in the Band of the Hawk, is jealous that Griffith returns his feelings. Both Guts and Casca find themselves facing fierce battles and fierce emotions as they are swept along in Griffith’s rise to power.
Berserk Golden Age Arc is the first of a trilogy of films that adapt Kentarō Miura’s much lauded manga which began all the way back in 1990 and was adapted into a twenty-five episode TV anime in 1997/98. The manga currently stands thirty-seven volumes and is still being printed. This trilogy of films focusses on the Golden Age Arc which ranges across volumes three to fourteen of the manga, the same story covered by the anime. That is a lot of ground to cover but this film sets everything up neatly.
The script does an excellent job compressing the story into eighty minutes and you do not need to know the original story to fully understand what happens. The film charts the initial success of the Band of the Hawk and ends just after the assassination run with Griffith’s speech about dreams. While the TV anime had enough air time to give us a mixture of full blown battles with detailed tactics and the twisting court intrigue faced by Griffith in the kingdom of Midland, the film is more selective and the story is told elliptically.