Thanasis is a writer, professional geek, and assistant editor at MANGA.TOKYO. He started watching anime with the mecha shows of the 70s and hasn't stopped since. He loves JRPGs.
Episode 19 of Berserk takes the anime on the side of action with very few moments that actually moved the plot forward. Guts and his friends have seen better days, but now that they have a powerful mage with them, their eventual fight against the Apostles doesn’t seem that desperate.
Japanese Title: 祈りの奥義
This episode was a far cry from what the last one managed to give us. Cohesion was not Episode 19’s strong point and the lack of a consistent flow was evident from the beginning. If you count out Schierke’s insights about the nature of religion, the rest of the episode focused on the battle against the two monster bosses and their troll lackeys.
When Guts leaves the protective barrier of Schierke’s magic to challenge the Ogre (which looked like a mutated boar) the scene was interrupted too many times for a chance to see the villagers and his team marvel at this strength. We have seen similar scenes so many times that the interruptions felt unnecessary. You don’t cut short the amazing Shiro Sagisu soundtrack for a ‘WOW HOW STRONG’ moment. Let Guts do his job. We know he has superhuman strength and we don’t care if this village will marvel at the sight. Let us be part of the audience.
The same applies to Shierke and her explanations. I could have waited a few scenes to know what a kelpie is and how it’s a mid-level water spirit. At that moment, all I wanted was to enjoy Serpico and his badass moment. But no, a few moments later, Schierke needs to go all lovey-dovey with the water spirit.
While each scene could have been amazing if given the time to shine, the constant interruptions destroyed the moment and our concentration. How can you have an emotional impact if you are not allowed to invest in the moment?
Dreams are strange things
Leaving the flow aside, the episode did allow all characters to have their own little moment of personal glory. Schierke went to the spirit realm, bonded with the water boss of the area, and almost drowned the village. She is incredibly powerful and unexpectedly wise. Serpico takes the initiative and confronts one of the two ‘bosses’ and almost loses his life in the process. Farnese risks her life to protect Casca from drowning and also makes another step towards personal enlightenment. Isidro is maturing more and more and realizes that the path to becoming a great man goes both through the sword and the attitude. Guts not only praises Schierke for a job well done and encourages her to remain calm (thus taking the mentor role for yet another character who already has one in a great witch) but also places his trust in the only character who really needs it, Isidro. At least he has a cool new sword.
Spirit World: I loved every moment of Schierke’s connection to the spirit world. Her possession from Undine was amazing and the detail of her having a tether that connects her to the physical world was incredible.
Religion: This is the main theme of the episode and one that is found throughout its duration. That the church is protected by a shield of magic might seem blasphemous to believers and ironic to the rest, but what Schierke ‘preaches’ when she is confronted by the priest is that the only thing that actually divides her faith from his is the name they give to the supernatural powers that govern the planes beyond their own. The name of God might change, but all religion is born out of a need for salvation. We all ask for help in the same way, no matter what God we decide to ask it from. We are all lost and afraid and in moments of confusion we turn to something greater than us that might have the answers we seek.
No matter how different our scriptures, our cries for salvation are the same
Serpico and Farnese: Farnese, in the process of her own personal transformation, takes on a new role, one she had never experienced before, that of the guardian. She feels responsible for her safety and goes to great length to ensure it. The bond between her and Serpico still exists (and will never go away) but he has to take his own path as well. His monologue as he takes his own place in the group is realistic and mature.
Undine: Berserk is using very common names for its elementals that are often encountered in games and books. Many water elementals are named after Undines (or ondines), a category of elemental beings associated with water, first named in the alchemical writings of Paracelsus. The name is also found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and later writers gave the name to water nymphs. The most familiar image of a water nymph we have in popular culture is that of the mermaid.
777: Since the episode is frequently referring to spirits and angels, we shouldn’t wonder that the angel number makes an appearance. 7 as a single digit is representative of enlightenment, motivation, and spiritual awakening. During the scene, Schierke is possessed by a spirit, but her friends are using the magic number through a series of repetitive wand hits to reconnect her tether to the physical world. The number 777 has the additional connotation that your protective spirits are incredibly close to you. These ‘spirits’ in this case are her friends and her connection to them is especially strong.
The sun is the sun and light is light
Of course, put a red hat on Guts and you can almost hear the villagers announcing to him, ‘Sorry Black Swordsman, but your Casca is in another castle.’ I swear to all Gods, old and new: if Casca doesn’t find her usual self by the end of the series (or the manga if she hasn’t already – NO SPOILERS) I am going to find her and lock her in a castle myself.
Says the priest, but in actuality, tolerance is a path we could all take. It leads to compassion and love, and that’s what the world needs right now. There is no eternal battle between good and evil and Berserk makes sure to reminds us in each episode. We are all both good and evil, capable of the most amazing or terrible things. Yet, it’s that internal balance that determines on which side we contribute our ki. Casca missing again is slightly putting some weight to my ‘EVIL’ side of the scale.
Did you like Episode 19 of Berserk? Let us know in the comments below. Don’t forget to read the rest of our episodic anime reviews for Spring 2017!
NEXT TIME: The Corruption of Qliphoth
©KENTAROU MIURA(STUDIO GAGA) HAKUSENSHA/BERSERK PARTNERSHIP