Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 3 – The Advent (Cert 18)
2 Discs (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 113 minutes approx.
Unfortunately we are not afforded a recap of the events from the previous two films in this rebooted trilogy of Kentaro Miura’s popular manga so coming into this final instalment fresh is likely to prove a disorientating experience.
So to help fill in the gaps: a split has occurred in the Band Of Hawk following leader Griffith’s ingratiating himself with the royal family of the Midlands after liberating the land of Doldrey. Guts runs away after overhearing Griffith making disparaging and dismissive remarks against the Hawks while female general Casca is left to command the group alone.
We rejoin the story with Griffith now imprisoned after violently deflowering the Princess Charlotte Griffith, having been tortured and left for dead as punishment. Starved of food and water Griffith is barely subsisting, his vital tendons cut and his skin stripped off. The Hawks are attacked by a rogue group but are saved at the last minute by the returning Guts who shares an intimate reunion with Casca. They are interrupted by a mysterious masked rider who delivers an ominous warning to guts.
A successful rescue mission sees a small group free Griffith from the castle although his condition shocks everyone. The group is still in some disarray with guts planning to leave again and Casca uncertain about her leadership qualities after need guts to rescue her in the prior attack. Unbeknownst to them Griffith overhears their discussion and manages to summon enough energy to stir the horses to set his wagon off. The group give chase but Griffith’s wagon crashes, just as an eclipse takes place and everything literally goes to hell.
If you’ve read the manga or seen the original TV anime then you will know exactly what I am referring to with that last sentence but I guarantee you won’t have seen it as it is depicted here. While the first two films in this trilogy have received some criticism for the quality of the CGI animation it is debatable that this is because the budget was saved for this spectacular finale in which all the stops appear to have been pulled out.
The small red egg shaped amulet which Griffith acquired in the beginning of the first film reveals its purpose here, the trickle of Griffith’s blood from the wagon fall triggering off the awakening of the Egg of the King, Behelit in conjunction with the eclipse that brought of the Four Angels and the demons of the underworld for their infrequent banquet of human flesh. Beneath the sinister black sky the titular Advent is to take place once Griffith, now bound by the blood of Behelit, makes his decision whether to become a reborn demon.
It is true that the plot gallops along for the first thirty minutes or so to get us to this point, taking in an exciting and gory battle, some gratuitous sex and brutal violence but what follows really is the coup de grace for this series. The visuals are the most stunningly rendered, intricately designed, scarily detailed and surreally presented one is likely to see in anime for quite a while. Studio 4C have clearly outdone themselves in creating this Bosch meets Lovecraft nightmare and its freaky inhabitants.
The ground the cast walk on inexplicable transforms before their very eyes (and beneath their feet) into a surface of human skulls which in turn form a gigantic skyscraping hand, the fingers of which the evil Four Angels stand. Again the rendering of this imagery is immense in the finite and meticulous detail applied to the designs and the grotesque Angels are afforded a unique and rather atypical anime appearance (save for the obligatory busty female Angel natch). This is where the CGI justifies itself, allowing for the designs to have a convincingly unnerving sense of satanic otherworldliness.
We may watch in awe of the visual appearances of this impressive parade of nasties but our sense are about to take a huge hit when the action kicks off, entering into a world of explicit violence that makes the gore of the previous two Berserk films seem like Pokemon! With gleeful abandon and no care for the squeamish among the audience whatsoever we see bodies torn apart, limbs ripped off and head bitten and devoured.
The claret doth flow freely as you may expect but the most gruesome scene comes when Guts needs to free himself from the clamped tight jaws of a demonic foe. Those who know the story will know why this scene is in fact integral and within the context of the emotions driving Guts to the extreme course of action. As such there would be little point in trying to soften the blow of the imagery here so they don’t bother – if you are easily upset be warned.
Similarly the lack of restrictions that bound the TV version are taken full advantage of and it’s not just with the graphic violence. As mentioned earlier Casca and Guts enjoyed an incongruous physical moment and Casca later becomes engaged in an unwilling one which is depicted in a manner which won’t sit well with many viewers and is less easy to justify than the full on violence.
This concluding film suffers from pacing issues with the story at the start and lack of fully exploring the emotional aspect of the characters heading into this final stretch, but it is unquestionably aware that its purpose is to end this tale and that it does.
Driven by the sheer horror of the unfolding events and the visual bombast of the spectacular denouement the Berserk movie trilogy ends with a bang so almighty it makes an atomic bomb sound like a burp from a budgie!
Depending no how much stock you place on the actual Berserk story opinion will be divided on how successfully this story is wrapped up, but it cannot be denied it is an aesthetically stunning and hauntingly gorgeous way to go.
Interview with Aki Toyosaki (voice of Charlotte) and Minako Kotobuki (voice of Rickert)
Interview with Eiko Tanaka of Studio 4°C at San Diego Comic-Con 2012
English Outtakes for Berserk Movie I
English Outtakes for Berserk Movie 2
English Outtakes for Berserk Movie 3
The Battle For Doldrey US Premiere Highlight Reel
Production Gallery for Berserk Movie 1
Production Gallery for Berserk Movie 2
Susumu Hirasawa “ARIA” Live Concert Performance
International Trailer for Movies 1 to 3 (UK)
Trailer for Movie 1 (UK)
Trailer for Movie 1 (Russian version)
Teaser for Movie 1 (UK)
Special Digest For Movie 2
Trailer for Movie 3 (Japanese)
Rating – ****
Man In Black