It feels strange to have an episode of Berserk without a few monsters slain and blood spilled. The visit to the spirit realm was full of answers and we got to see some good directing and an episode so visually pleasing that I really can’t see why people are so repelled by the animation technique.
Japanese Title: 幽界-かくりよ
Flora and her spirit tree, depending on the rest of your hobbies besides anime, is similar to many things: a pit stop; the headquarters; an inn; a save point; a cut-scene. In-between events, our main party is there to learn more about their main quest. They will also accept a side quest that will get them an important item that will help them in their journey. They will recruit a new character whose class was the one missing from the party (a mage). They will get some new gear. They will rest and replenish their HP. And then we will change the CD and get to the next loading screen. This is sounding more and more like a proper video game.
I think I need to see the episode a second time to absorb all the necessary information about the three realms and their connection, but the shoreline – that place between life and death – was especially spooky. In essence, most people are unaware of the ‘real’ world and our party gets a special insight into the truth of things, going as far as enhancing their abilities to recognize the beings that exist in the spirit realm. There is an infinite amount of knowledge out in the world that even the most daring explorer cannot fathom to explore.
The episode continues on exploring the usual Berserk themes, from spirituality to religion. Elves were once able to interact with humans because the latter believed in them, but not anymore. Guts on the other hand, whose mind has been exposed to sights that could have driven a human crazy, is not only able to see Puck but he befriends him and eventually, the fairy’s healing powers are what saved him more than once. Isidoro and Serpico even get super-powered weapons imbued with the power of spirits and elementals. With mentions of the monotheistic religion of the world, the animist beliefs of the past, and the polytheistic doctrines that involve Griffith and his new divine form, it feels like Miura is drawing a lot from humanity’s religious history.
Guts, though, is out for revenge. He doesn’t care who believes in whom. He believes in his own power (and sword) and lately in the power of his closest allies. He no longer believes that he alone is enough to accomplish his goals. He is afraid of himself and he has to rely on his friends.
Cameo: I loved the Skull Knight cameo. I have no idea who he is or what role he is going to play in the story, but he is one of the coolest characters in the series.
2D: The second part, with the weapons upgrades, was full of amazing 2D animation. It event felt like a scene brought out of the Golden Age Arc movies. I don’t think that the new animation technique is all that bad, but I would pick 2D over any 3DCG.
Comedy: The episode was full of comedic moments that were not part of the main shot and mostly played in the background. Serpico is playing chess against a golem while Casca and Farnese are running around naked. Puck is holding a halo above Isidro’s head as Schierke is explaining about the afterlife. Puck again enjoying sake in the bathtub (with the kanji written on the bottle), Puck and Ivalera engaging in all sorts of silly things.
Themes & Trivia
Omamori: Omamori is a traditional (and extremely popular) Japanese good luck talisman that is sold in shrines and temples. Omamori offers protection or luck and comes in many forms. They are small enough to be put in your wallet or pocket, or even be strapped on your phone. I am a firm believer of the placebo effect, and I believe that their efficacy is more to that than on the blessing of a spirit or god. They are extremely popular in Japan.
With every new episode of Berserk, I am more convinced that I should give the manga a chance. 350 chapters are not an easy challenge to tackle, but I feel that the story of Guts is worth it. Not because of the brutal fights and the medieval setting, but because of the intriguing characters and the gripping plot. Episode 17 had no sliced bodies and graphic scenes and yet managed to keep me interested. The world is well-built and the themes are very deep. Up until now, the series (even in its 1997 incarnation and the following movies) rarely interrupted the flow of the plot to give us more info on how the world works. This episode almost fell into the trap of leaving aside the usual elements of Berserk and flooding us with info dumps. Instead, it was as interesting as the rest, and I for one was glad that we got some quiet character building.
Emotions and Feelings are Critical in Magic
They are also critical in every aspect of the human condition. From relationships to battle, emotions and feelings are critical to how we react and may be the difference between life and death. The trolls are going to have a taste of both the emotions of our group and of their new weapons.