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.
If we voted on who the main protagonists of ‘Berserk’ are, I am sure that Guts and Griffith would gather the most votes. Guts’ love turned into hatred for his former comrade after his betrayal, but with Casca’s abuse Guts’ hatred turned into a loathing beyond recognition. Casca is as much a protagonist as Guts and Griffith are, and she would have eventually popped in.
‘Berserk’’s story wouldn’t be complete without Casca. Here she is.
Guts has a nightmare that Casca was being burned at the stake and a monstrous nightmarish fetus warns him that she is in danger. He returns to the home of Godo the blacksmith where he finds Erika and Rickert. Two years make a huge difference in your appearance when you are a child and Guts makes the necessary comments. Both children are delighted to see their comrade since they had no idea if he had survived the past two years.
After the necessary light-hearted moments, Guts learns that Casca escaped her confinement. She got lost one day when Erica took her out for a walk to lift her mood.
In the following scenes, Rickert shows Guts how he deals with grief, and an aging Godo preaches Guts on comradeship, hatred, and war. It’s one of those moments you don’t want to miss. The writing is insightful and well-thought. Guts’ contemplation later gives the whole scene special meaning, as Guts confronts his self. His own feeling take the form of a black dragon with red eyes, an eye-opening metaphor for the Black Swordsman.
“Hatred is where you turn when you can’t face your grief”, Godo
Godo ignores his ailing body and uses his last strength to repair Guts’ sword and arm. With a new armor and a new mindset, Guts sets out to find Casca at the monastery of St. Albion.
The monastery is very close to the borders with Midland, and after the recent events a flood of refugees tries to flee to Holy See territory. Farnese and her knights are escorting the Grand Inquisitor Mozgus to oversee the area and punish heretics. Along the audience that bear witness to his first victims is Casca who is found and taken cared by the prostitute Luca.
Mozgus seems to be a fine antagonist. He is a bigot that is clearly disillusioned by his deranged sense of faith. His team of super-executioners look menacing enough to provide Guts with at least a fighting challenge.
Since ‘Berserk’ borrows heavily from historical events set the medieval period, there are a number of very interesting things you can Google and learn more about.
Inquisition: It was an ecclesiastical tribunal established by Pope Gregory IX in 1232 for the suppression of heresy. It was mainly active in northern Italy and southern France, and it became notorious for the use of torture. In 1542 the papal Inquisition was re-established to combat Protestantism, eventually becoming an organ of papal government.
Stonehenge: The arrangement of stones we see when Guts wakes up are strikingly similar to Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. It’s an unremarkably fascinating ring of standing stones set within earthworks in the middle of the densest complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England. I don’t think we really know what their use was.
I have to admit that I am still not used to the animation. I came to like the manga lines; they are fresh, unique and blend well with the overall style. But the computer animation feels clunky and stiff. Emotions are not portrayed accurately, and character movements is the opposite of fluid. The hand-drawn sequences on the other hand are incredible to the point that makes me wonder what the series would look like if it they ditched the computer animation.
The story has a steady pace that includes only scenes that feel absolutely necessary. From Guts’ nightmare to Mozgus cruelty, each scene serves a purpose to either advance the story or build a character. Even the flashback sequences were successfully woven into the present in visages experienced in front of a campfire. They were not flashbacks for the sake of flashbacks, but instead seemed like Guts experienced a vision that helped him reach a conclusion.
There is still not a grand scheme overshadowing the plot, and that’s a good thing. The series focuses on Guts and on his present. Every scene that doesn’t include him is either in direct relation to the events or is happening somewhere near him. The relation provided is like a magnifying glass focusing on the things that matter and on the people that matter at that precise point in time.
A nice change of pace from all the fan-servicing and killing. We were reminded that Guts is a human being tormented by his past and confronted with his present.
Humanity has always been crazy enough to provide us with the most insane stories. After all, what is the purpose of morality without amoral behavior to counter the balance?
©KENTAROU MIURA(STUDIO GAGA) HAKUSENSHA/BERSERK PARTNERSHIP