I often forget about the Golden Age trilogy of films. Not because they’re ‘bad’ adaptations of Berserk. It’s just that any adaptation sandwiched between the beloved ’97 anime and the not so beloved 2016/17 version wouldn’t stand out.
At least, until this became a thing.
The Memorial Edition of the Golden Age trilogy (no matter how you say it, the title just doesn’t roll of the tongue) did a lot more than I had expected from it. Instead of simply re-editing the films to fit a TV format and calling it a day, the team behind it went above and beyond to add all kinds of stuff that the original movies didn’t have. New scenes and new music both elevate this project, making it the quintessential way to view those films.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story of the Golden Age: Guts is a wandering mercenary with big sword. One day, he’s recruited by Griffith, the leader of the Band of the Hawk, who wants to become king. Now Guts and his new friends, such as the woman warrior Casca and the jack-of-all-trades Judeau, among others, must fight with the Hawks to see Griffith’s dream fulfilled. But destiny may have other, darker designs for our heroes than that.
Everything from the original movies is present in this version. Same strengths, same flaws. This version does nothing to address the primitive CGI scattered across this series. They ain’t out to fix what’s broken, they’re simply out to add more stuff to it to make this adaptation a more complete one.
One of the biggest issues with the original theatrical versions of these movies is the cut content. Tons of beloved scenes from the Berserk manga, such as the Bonfire of Dreams speech or much of Casca and Guts’ relationship development, were cut for the sake of time. The Memorial Edition promised to fix that, including scenes that were in popular demand.
I really like all the stuff they added. This version of the Bonfire of Dreams speech is amazing, featuring some really solid 3D animation and a brand new music piece by the legendary Susumu Hirasawa. They even added a little scene with Guts and Judeau right before Guts’ leaves the Hawks, and spent more time with Guts and Casca.
But forget all that! These mad lads did something new Berserk fan was ever expecting: they adapted Wounds!
In case you don’t know, Wounds is a set of chapters in Berserk that have never appeared in any of the series’ previous animated adaptations. For good reason; Wounds is a sex scene. Not only that, but it features Guts dealing with some really heavy trauma, such as his being sexually assaulted as a child (another scene that never got properly adapted). It’s a scene that everyone just accepted would never get animated because… how the fuck are you supposed to adapt a scene like that?
Yet here it is. In its entirety, completely uncensored. They even went all-out, using 2D animation instead of the cost-cutting 3D they’d employed with previous new scenes. And it’s amazing! Seeing this legendary scene finally get the adaptation it deserves is incredible!
Alas, there are still large swathes of the story cut out for this version. We still don’t get Guts’ first battle with the Hawks, Zodd is still absent from the Battle of Doldery, and of course: Wyald isn’t here. The most die-hard manga purist will still have issues with this version of the story. But what new scenes we did get were more than enough to improve on the adaptation as a whole.
Unfortunately, the transition from movie format to TV format wasn’t always a smooth one. There are several places where the editing is noticeably rough and jarring. Such as literally every time they played the OP; it always drops right in the middle of a scene, sometimes so abruptly it almost feels like a jump scare!
Also, they have a trailer at the start of the second episode that spoils the whole story. So… sorry, newcomers. Fuck you, I guess.
Berserk: the Golden Age Arc – Memorial Edition is a fairly big upgrade over the original films. Sure, the issues of the original films are still largely present and some of the editing is a bit off. But the whole thing is still a major improvement. If you’re going to watch the Golden Age films, this is the best version to watch.
Unfortunately, it didn’t bring about a new era of Berserk animation like some of us – some of us mostly being me – had hoped it would. But that’s okay. This was nice enough on its own.
I can still hope, though. One day, maybe a long time from now, we’ll get the Berserk adaptation the series deserves.
Even if only in our dreams…