Berserk is a dark, ultra-violent low-fantasy tale set in a medieval world. The Berserk anime, which ran from 1997-1998, is by far the most popular version of the story outside of Japan. While it follows the general narrative of the original manga quite well, there are some key omissions that will likely leave fans that have never read the manga or seen the recent films more than a little confused when the new anime starts. So let’s rectify that.

Note: This article contains spoilers for the ending of Berserk‘s first series as well as right after it and the corresponding section of the manga

The 1997 anime ends on a cliffhanger. The Band of the Hawk has been slaughtered to a man by a horde of feasting demons during an event called the “Eclipse.” Guts is restrained, missing an arm and being forced to watch as his best friend–reborn as a demon–brutally rapes the woman Guts loves. To make this even worse, one of the monsters holding him down pokes out his right eye at this moment, forever burning the image into Guts’ mind. The anime fades to white for a final time as Guts lets out a scream of rage.

Now, this is obviously not the end of Guts’ story. After all, the first episode of the upcoming 2016 series is set sometime after the Eclipse. So, how did Guts make it out of such a hopeless situation and why didn’t we see that?

The fact of the matter is that the original anime couldn’t go past where it ended because one key character had been written out of the show: The Skull Knight. The Skull Knight is a mysterious figure whom Guts encounters after leaving the Band of the Hawk. Speaking with Guts, he foreshadows the events to come and tells Guts that, as a man surrounded by death from the moment of his birth, he has a chance to escape the death that will claim those around him.

Able to fight on par with Zodd in his demonic form and able to rip through dimensions with his otherworldly sword, it is the Skull Knight who rescues Guts and Casca, taking them to a safe place where the demonic hordes cannot reach.

Of course, our hero and heroine are not the only people the Skull Knight saves.

The last we see of Rickert, the youngest member of the Band of the Hawk, is in the twenty-first episode of the series where he stays behind with the rest of the Band of the Hawk’s injured while the fit soldiers head out to rescue Griffith. While we never hear from them again in the anime, the injured unit in the manga meets a grisly fate similar to that of their companions. As the demons gather for the coming Eclipse, two attack the injured unit, killing them all–except for Rickert who is saved at the last moment by the Skull Knight.

After the Skull Knight rescues Guts and Casca, it is Rickert who nurses the two back to health. The trio are the only survivors of the Band of the Hawk, and the unbranded Rickert is the only one not being actively hunted by the demons.

With this information in hand, watchers of only the original anime and nothing else should be all caught up and ready for the new season of Berserk. However, that said, to see much of what I stated above in action (though still slightly different from the manga), check out the third Berserk film: Berserk: Golden Age Arc III – Descent.

Berserk premiers on MBS, TBS, CBC, BS-TBS, and CC in Japan on July 8, 2016. It will be viewable in the US for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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