A Man and his Sword

My Love For You is Like a Truck
by Bolt Vanderhuge

If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the manga!

If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the manga!

Berserk is yet another one of those series that I’ve come to appreciate more upon later viewings.  Just as with Dirty Pair and Deep Space Nine, the first time I watched it, I just couldn’t really get into it all that much.  I suppose I could blame the obsessive yaoi fans ruining it for me, but really I’d say it had more to do with me not enjoying hack-n-slash all that much.  On repeat viewing, though, I’ve come to appreciate this show for the over-the-top action, and its story about love, loyalty, betrayal, and rape.  Also there’s plenty of joke fodder if you’re into giving anime the MST3K treatment like my friends and I are.

The series itself is essentially one big flashback.  It starts with the main character, Guts, going on a roaring rampage of revenge against the demonic members of the Godhand and the abusive, oppressive people who surround them.  While somewhat confusing given its “hit the ground running” nature, the series quickly establishes that Guts, a large muscular man wielding an impossibly huge sword, is seeking revenge against a character named Griffith, and then shifts gears to show us how Guts came to know Griffith and the events leading up to the opening scenes.

While Berserk is a fairly typical hack-n-slash anime, it does have a number of themes and characterizations I found appealing.  Themes like as camaraderie, and how people, especially leaders, can feel isolated despite that, or the underdog story of the Band of the Hawk making a name for themselves in battle, in spite of being commoners and mercenaries in a society that places a lot of emphasis on birthright.  Then there are the characters, like Griffith, the aloof leader who will give people a chance to prove themselves all while he uses them to realize his plan to rule over his own kingdom.  Guts, the Conan-like barbarian who also makes a competent military leader and not only cares for the lives of those under his command, but of people in general, even if he doesn’t always involve himself.  Casca, the iron-willed right hand of Griffith and tsundere of Guts.  She’s actually a somewhat refreshing break from the typical damsel in distress as she can actually hold her own in battle.  But it’s Japan, so she’s an unreasonable bitch and still has to be rescued a lot.

The majority of the series takes place during a “100 Year War” between the kingdoms of Midland and Chudar.  Guts starts out as a wandering mercenary, but ends up losing a duel with Griffith and is forced to join the Band of the Hawk.  With Guts as the new captain of the band’s raiders, the Band of the Hawk goes on to win many victories and eventually win the war.  Then Guts goes walkabout and Griffith gets captured and tortured for a year.  While watching the buildup was fun in its own way, seeing Guts, Casca, and the supporting characters bust Griffith out of the dungeon was my favorite part of the series.  And then Griffith betrays them all to the Godhand thanks to a little red egg he thought was only a trinket.  Most of them get killed and eaten, except for Guts, who only loses an arm and an eye, and Casca, who gets raped (and yes, it does involve tentacles, kind of).

The ending is depressing, though the series comes full circle, and we’re instead left to wonder exactly how it was he escaped from his predicament following Griffith’s betrayal and transformation into a rapey batman.

Fuck Yeah! Look it up!

Berserk
Based on the manga series written by Kentaro Miura
Produced by OLM, Inc.

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