“Berserk,” the dark fantasy manga created by the late Kentaro Miura, is the story of Guts, a wandering swordsman who battles the demonic Apostles and their masters, the God Hand. The series has run since 1989 and its ending still isn’t in sight, but its most famous story arc is “The Golden Age.” Stretching volumes 3-14, it tells how Guts joined the mercenary group the Band of the Hawk and befriended its leader, Griffith. Readers know the two will turn into enemies, as Griffith becomes the fifth God Hand member “Femto” and Guts becomes the lonesome “Black Swordsman,” but “The Golden Age” is the story of how.
“The Golden Age” is the most self-contained “Berserk” story and thus the most adaptable. Outside the manga, it was first retold in 1997 as a 25-episode anime by the studio Oriental Light and Magic. 15 years later in 2012, Studio 4°C adapted “The Golden Age” once more as a film trilogy: “The Egg of the King,” “The Battle for Doldrey,” and “The Advent.” The 2016 “Berserk” anime skipped over the story, though its first opening “Inferno” covered the beats in a musical montage.
Now, “The Golden Age” trilogy is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with an expanded re-release, “The Memorial Edition.” This 13-episode series included a new opening/ending sequence and animated scenes excluded from the film release, such as fan-favorite chapters “The Bonfire of Dreams” and “Wounds.”
“The Memorial Edition” is set to air before the end of the year. For viewers outside Japan, it was simulcast on Crunchyroll (albeit without, so far, an English dub). Come 2023, it will be available as a Blu-ray box set.
Since October 2022, the “Berserk” fandom has been biting their nails in anticipation. Accompanying the airing of “The Memorial Edition” was a countdown on the official “Berserk” website, tracking every minute passed, counted down to today: December 10, 2022. Fans were wondering what the countdown would end with and expectations were all over the place.
Some fans hoped it would be a new anime series, continuing from the end of “The Golden Age.” Others thought it was simply to coincide with the episode featuring the infamous Eclipse: Griffith sacrifices the Band of Hawk, damning them to be slaughtered by Apostles so he can join the God Hand. Indeed, the image of the countdown was a Crimson Behelit, which Griffith uses in the ritual. It turns out that while the countdown did coincide with the Eclipse (episode 11), it also came with the blu-ray announcement. There’ll be no new anime, but you can watch this one.
The “Berserk: The Golden Age Arc — Memorial Edition” Blu-ray is set for release on March 29, 2023 in Japan. The cover art, released alongside the announcement, shows the transformed Griffith/Femto. Aside from all 13 episodes of the “Memorial Edition,” the blu-ray will feature uncensored versions of said episodes. Bonus features in a CD of the original soundtrack by Shiro Sagisu and the credit-less versions of the opening “Aria” and the ending “Wish.” Most excitingly, there will be a newly-released interview with Miura, who passed in 2021. The interview was previously only shown at a limited exhibition in Tokyo.
It’s not confirmed yet when the Blu-ray will arrive in the west. Since there’s been no word on if/when an English dub of the “Memorial Edition” will release, it’s also unclear if the eventual American edition of the Blu-ray will feature one.
The physical availability of “Berserk” media in the English-speaking world is, frankly, all over the place. The manga is in print, both the standard paperback volumes and the hardcover omnibuses (both distributed in America by Dark Horse Comics). Of course, the series’ length makes storage of those books its own issue.
The 1997 anime is practically out of print, with no new physical releases in years. The Blu-rays of the “Golden Age” trilogy in its original form are in the same boat. The “Golden Age” films were also taken off Netflix shortly before the “Memorial Edition” began airing, while the 1997 anime is only on Netflix in some European countries.
The tragic irony is that right now, the only widely-available “Berserk” anime is the 2016 series. Said anime was panned for its ugly, downright amateurish CGI animation. Yet, its Blu-rays are still in stock on online retailers and it streams on Crunchyroll.
For “Berserk” fans who want an animated version of “The Golden Age” on their movie shelf, this new “Memorial Edition” Blu-ray looks like it could be their best bet.