You’d think the Golden Age would mellow out now that the war is over. Oh, you sweet summer child. The war was the mellow part!
During the ball held in his honor, Griffith is poisoned by the queen of Midland. Worse yet, Guts suddenly vanishes. The taste of victory has vanished from the Band of the Hawk. But is it too soon for the queen to celebrate?
We’ve seen signs of Griffith’s sinister cunning before. But here, he finally goes all-in on being an evil mastermind. Motherfucker looks like this half the time!
The best part is that Griffith’s ultimate UNO reverse card totally makes sense. It isn’t that he figured out the queen’s schemes and put counterplans in place because ‘somehow’. The maids – who would obviously be commonborn – have been shown to love him, so it would make sense for them to be his spies. Plus, we’ve seen several signs that he’s aware that the queen and other nobles have it out for him. His scheme here checks out logically.
Although him leaving the money with the bandits after killing them is a bit silly. Wouldn’t it be smarter to steal it back? Make their deaths look like a robbery? No? Just me? Okay.
Side note: Guts looks amazing in these chapters. His outfit is just so god damn cool!
Speaking of: I love how these chapters highlight the friendship between Guts and Griffith. Once the deed is done and the plan seen through, the two have a chat as they stroll through the woods. During which, Griffith actually opens up a bit to Guts, asking him how he feels about what they just did. He worries that Guts sees him as cruel or that Guts might hate him for what Griffith constantly forces him to do.
Now, you can question whether or not he’s being genuine here. There’s a firm argument to be made that he’s just pulling Guts’ strings; as we saw with him burning the queen to death, he’s a dangerous manipulator. But personally, I like to believe that Griffith is at least trying to be genuine. He does have a soft spot for Guts; that fact is going to be strongly highlighted in the coming chapters. Maybe, just maybe, he really is opening up to him here.
Of course, Guts doesn’t resent Griffith in the slightest (yet). So he comforts his friend. In this moment, we get one of the most genuine and heartwarming interactions between these two in the whole series. It really feels like you’re watching two best friends on a stroll, talking about girls and being bros.
And it’s all punctuated by this wonderful page.
Part of me wishes that Berserk ended right here. Forget the Blackswordsman arc and everything beyond; Guts and Griffith went off into the dawn as best friends forever. Nothing bad ever happens again.
But I can’t be mad that it doesn’t. Because everything that happens after this slaps really fucking hard. We’re in the midst of one of the best parts of the entire Golden Age here!
Tombstone of Flame is an amazing pair of chapters. We get to see Griffith at his most powerful, then we get a peek at his vulnerability. It’s a brutal, triumphant victory punctuated by one of the best displays of friendship in the series. This section is fantastic through and through.
Like any good rollercoaster, however, the only thing that can follow such a rise is a dramatic fall. And hoo boy, is there a hell of a fall coming.