Happiness, Love, Anger, Hatred, Laughter, Sombreness, Companionship, Friendship. All of these are parts of life. Media tries its best to imitate life although sometimes it goes into specialising one part of it. A drama will focus on love or happiness perhaps, a comedy will focus on the laughter and happiness, horrors focus on hatred and anger sometimes. Obviously these genres can be a bit more broad than what I mentioned but the point of a genre is to focus on certain aspects of life. I personally enjoy media for these reasons however, I often find myself wishing they tried more to focus on everything. I prefer movies over television shows so that’s probably why I find myself wanting more from them but I just don’t have the attention span or patiences to wait for more episodes which is going to sound stupid because I enjoy reading serialised manga. A manga I’ve been reading for a while and am currently waiting to continue is one that’s been going on since the 80s. A manga which has made me feel multiple emotions and still does everytime I re-read it whilst waiting for a new chapter. A manga called Berserk.
Berserk is an interesting manga and despite how popular it is and how passionate it’s fan base is it is certainly a piece of media which is not for everyone. I would honestly go as far to say that Berserk is my favourite piece of written/drawn media and I certainly gush over it anytime I speak about it. I say this so you can keep that in mind as I won’t defend myself if I come across as bias during this write up as I very well could be and for that I do apologise but I wish to share my love for this work as many others like myself have.
The reason why I say I understand why Berserk isn’t for everyone is exactly the reason why I love it. It is very raw in it’s subject matter. It discusses things such as anger towards one self, emotional and physical trauma, hatred for those you love, even rape which certainly connects to the trauma mentioned I feel I need to state that as I understand how controversial the subject of sexual assault is. However, as mentioned it is because of these subject matters I love it. I feel the series treats these subjects with a lot of respect and nuance, the matter of sex is not always used for shock value or to show on the nose two characters loving each other. Sometimes it is, other times though it could be due to lust or for political gain. There is a lot more I could go into here and I’ll be honest with you reading this I haven’t really planned everything and I’m making this all up as I go along but that’s how I think best personally. I’m sure while writing this I’ll edit it anyway of course.
To begin, the main focus of Berserk is a character called Guts or Guttsu? I’m going to refer to him as Guts as everyone does but sometimes in translations it’s written as Guttsu but lets NOT get in to that. Guts as a character is not the hero of the story, he isn’t necessarily an anti-hero either. Guts is just a man trying to make the best of any situation he’s put in or puts himself in. The first introduction we have to him is of a very cold, self centred, uncaring person who is psychotic you could even say he appears to be… Berserk. I’m keeping that in. The first thing we see of him is walking into a bar and straight slaughtering about 4 people just because he knew they were working for a daemon then when a pixie asks for him to free him he just walks off. We later see him in a worse state, after the daemon he has been searching for crushes him and lifts him up he blows him away with a cannon which he has for an arm (this is explained much later in the story which I won’t spoil.) He then proceeds to slice the daemons stomach open spilling its intestines out and walks over to it covered in both his own and its blood with an evil smile on his face with his wounds still bleeding, steps on its head forcing it drink its own blood before saying “Don’t die on me yet,” then proceeds to fire multiple arrows from his automatic crossbow into its head causing it to scream in pain and saying in response “Didn’t you say it doesn’t matter how many bolts I shoot at you? Must be rough, being unkillable and all.” From this introduction it’s very easy to think of Guts as a horrible evil, sadistic, psychopathic man. After another section where he kills another daemon after Guts himself abuses an old wounded man he turns to the daemons daughter who’s a young girl that’s in shock of seeing what she knew as her father now a dead butchered otherworldly being crying and wanting to kill herself, Guts just throws her a dagger and literally says to her “Go ahead, kill yourself.” with a big smile on his face. This interaction ends up with the girl becoming in enraged and declaring she wants to kill Guts as he walks away from the scene to which his response, while laughing, is “Fine. I’m ready whenever you are” and again, this makes him seem like a completely unemotional, horrible, unredeemable person, and I’m sure this is exactly what Kentaro Miura the author of Berserk wanted to us to think initially of Guts, because the next page shows us guts crying with his face that of a broken man.
After the introduction the manga actually goes back and shows us Guts from birth. He was born from a dying mother and had no known father, adopted by a passing mercenary band purely because the leaders wife wanted a child after her own miscarriage. Unfortunately for Guts things don’t stay on the up and up. He is forced to fight for a living as a child from as young as 8 years old. He knows nothing about interacting with people who live normal lives and knows nothing more beyond killing for money. His adoptive mother dies from plague and his adoptive father doesn’t care for him and just sees him as another solider. Clearly his personal development is stunted by these events and situations. He is then betrayed by those who has cared about for reasons he doesn’t comprehend as a child and is forced to live alone for a while drifting from mercenary band to mercenary band killing again and again training every day to kill more and become more efficient in killing. His entire childhood revolves around living by a sword and seeing people die by a sword and this shows in his personality. Guts is just a broken man which is what makes him so interesting because you can root for him in his endeavours despite how he goes about achieving his goals, because even though what he does can be horrible he isn’t always wrong with what he wants to achieve of course this comes down to a “the ends justify the means” argument which is something I like though because it can lead to discussions about how Guts could have done things differently or how he would be if certain things in his life went differently. We do see him grow as a character though, he starts off as a naive happy kid, to a mopey loner teen, to a love struck confused young adult, and then a rage induced hateful man who mellows out and just becomes tired which is where is now but I’m excited to see where he goes from now and how he will continue to grow as a character, he’s a very emotionally driven character hurting himself at times due to his emotions clouding his mind and sometimes even others because of this. I think this is why I love Guts as a character so much, like him I’d consider myself as a very emotional person deep down. I try to be rational and considerate of my actions and what I say to people but really I’m very emotionally driven in what I do.
Berserk also has a large supporting cast which I can go into with as much detail as I have with Guts and I gave a very compressed bit with Guts. I suppose really you could boil it down though with a bit of a… I’ll say love triangle. Griffith is the leader of a group called the Band of the Hawk which Guts joins, they have another note worthy soldier, a woman in fact, called Casca. Essentially, Casca wants Giffith who wants Guts (in a non romantic way mind you) who wants Casca. This kind of changes? Casca gains emotions for Guts but clearly still has emotions for Griffith and this makes things very confusing for her and it’s confusing for Guts because he’s never loved anyone before and starts off hating her. Griffith from the onset adores Guts due to his strength and loyalty and in a way sees him as a lap dog I would argue, not as a friend, and this is actually what causes them to drift apart at a point. Casca has a history with Griffith and is romantically interested in him although I wouldn’t say she loves him for who he is but rather what she perceives him as which she does come to realise but still struggles to pull her emotions towards him away which puts a strain on Guts who doesn’t know how to handle his own feelings towards Casca who be begins to love and care for. This probably seems like a lot of nonsense and babble to those who haven’t read it before.
I never really thought about how difficult it is to explain Berserk without actually TALKING about it. There is so much which happens in it that hits you hard emotionally as it doesn’t hold back. Characters die and people move on because they have to, sure they may remember them in memory now and then but like in reality they just move on and it just happens the deaths aren’t glorified and drawn out they just happen they are mortal and you as the reader need to accept that when it does happen no matter who to. If anything, please just read it. I’m most likely going to write more about Berserk in the future as there is just so much to talk about and discuss that what I have here but this is probably the best I can do to compactly explain what it is in a brief manner with out spoiling anything of importance because next to everything is important.
Either way, at the least I hope you found this interesting although looking back at it I somehow doubt you did so perhaps I should apologise for the time waste? For those of you who have read Berserk I’d be curious how you explain to those who haven’t without spoiling it for them. If you’re interested in discussing anything with me you can find me on Twitter @GlockItJacket you don’t have to follow me, it’s just if you’re interested in discussing Berserk or really anything. Manga, movies, video games etc. My DMs are open to all. Thank you for reading if you did.