The epic and horrific finale to the “Golden Age Arc Trilogy” comes to its stunning resolution, though perhaps that’s not the correct way to describe it. After all, this is only the backstory and there’s so much more story left to tell in the long running dark fantasy manga.
It takes place one year after the end of the second movie; the Band of the Hawk is on the run, Griffith (Takahiro Sakurai) is mutilated and tortured without end in the lowest level of the king’s dungeon, and Guts (Hiroaki Iwanaga) has disappeared. He returns to aide in the rescue of their former leader and his bond with former comrade Casca (Toa Yukinari) develops into something more, but times have changed, and now Griffith, unable to walk, talk, or even lift a sword, is approached by unknown forces to accept his costly fate.
The animation in this trilogy gets better and better with each movie. The combination of CG and 2D characters has become far less jarring and they blend together much more seamlessly. This makes for some incredibly visual sequences, though none more so than the infamous sacrifice to the terrifying God Hand. Director Toshiyuki Kubooka has really come into his own as the story progressed, each movie getting a better handle on the extremely dark tone and deciding what to use. The way he handles creatures of immense size and grotesque imagery is truly frightening and the scope of doom is palpable.
The first movie was very familiar, capturing a lot of the same beats from the animated series. It wasn’t bad, but it felt less sure of itself than its sequels. The second movie took more liberties, all of them welcome, adding a great deal to the pacing and the general style. “Advent” (also known as "Descent") is where they seem the most free to tell the story as they see fit. There are many elements straight out of the comic, plot points and story details absolutely not used on the show, and they’re put to great effect here. The story feels so fresh and new, making the dark themes and grotesque violence all the more powerful. There’s also the sense that this is ongoing, as though there’s still more to tell once the credits roll.
The end to the “Golden Age Arc” is one of the darkest and most horrific ends to any fantasy, putting it in a different realm altogether. The characters all reach a point here where logic and reason no longer apply, and it’s a living nightmare to watch. Seeing the nightmarish massacre of characters you’ve come to know is shocking and even hard to watch, but Guts and his comrades just go deeper and deeper into a hell that has no escape. It’s a story of fallen heroes, hopeless odds, and insane violence.
This is not the end of the story, not by a long shot. Surprisingly, the movie doesn’t let you think it is, either. It goes on, taking the story further than the show ever did, and I hope this means they plan to continue adapting the series (they certainly tease enough of it). It stands strong among the trilogy, even surpassing the previous films, and serves as a tragic and moving end to the arc. They’ve done an admirable job taking the comic series and giving it a new life in animation. There’s so much potential still left it would be a shame to let it all end here.