Are you looking for a cute anime where everyone ends up happy in the end and the theme of the story is love and friendship?
Well, then you shouldn’t be reading this article as this will be tackling the theme and story of the anime Berserk which is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the darkest settings in anime. After recently finishing the Golden Age Arc films which features the origins of the main characters of the anime, I daresay that this is one anime that I recommend to most of the mature anime fans here. Emphasis on “mature” though. Berserk is most definitely not for kids what with the sex and violence (often mixed together to truly disturbing effect) that can be found in it. So no, if you’re not 18, then you’re not ready for Berserk and, even then, I can still guarantee that it’s not for the faint of heart.
So, let’s begin…
Berserk tells the story of a man named Guts (or Gatsu/Gatts in some translations) with colorful monikers like “The Black Swordsman” or “The Hundred Man Slayer” who travels an almost typical fantasy setting called Midland. Wearing a cursed suit of armor called “The Berserker Armor” and bearing a monstrous sword simply called “The Dragonslayer”, Guts travels the land slaughtering demons like it’s nobody’s business. What makes Midland so unlike most settings is that while it may have typical fantasy elements like fairies and such, it is a dangerous and cruel world with the worst element being the utter depravity that humans are capable of. Yes, you read that right, while the story features demons as the main antagonists, it is shown that even they were once just very evil humans who were given supernatural powers.
Here are the highlights of Berserk:
A Self-Made Protagonist
To be honest, I was deeply impressed by the protagonist of the story. Guts may seem like a simple mashup of Conan the Barbarian, Mad Max and Ash Williams of Evil Dead, but he shines out as a very unique and interesting character on his own.
Guts was actually born from a recently hanged woman which already signifies just how hardy a character he really is. He is soon adopted by a band of mercenaries led by a man named Gambino and, at the time at least, dreams of becoming a mercenary as well. Later on though, Gambino sells him to a pedophile who rapes him on a regular basis until he grows up and gets revenge for his trouble.
Anyway, while Guts may be the protagonist of the story, he is very clearly not a “good guy”. He has done plenty of reprehensible things in his career as a mercenary and he is well aware of them. He also kills demons not because he wants to protect people from them but because he simply wants revenge for his friends who were butchered and devoured by them.
However, what makes Guts stand out among other anime hero characters like Uzumaki Naruto or Monkey D. Luffy is that he is perfectly human. While he may be able to effectively fight and kill demons, there is nothing supernatural about him asides from the equipment he uses. Guts is simply a man determined to exact his revenge no matter the cost and is haunted by very human flaws like excessive anger and despair at the loss of his friends.
All in all, Guts is a perfect example of a “self-made hero” that ChinoF was talking about.
The Pettiness And Cruelty Of Aristocracy
Being a medieval fantasy setting, Midland is a land ruled by aristocrats. However, these are far from the benevolent authority figures we tend to see in fairy tales and other fantasy settings. The aristocrats of Midland are all too often greedy, lustful, selfish and sadistic, treating their people more like cattle than as human beings.
The aristocracy of Midland are more or less depicted in a realistic fashion as some of them are revealed to practice inbreeding (which was popular among older royal families to preserve the “purity” of their stock) as well as slavery. They also generally look down on people of common birth and often refuse to accept people raised from being commoners into their ranks as they see them as either uncouth upstarts or threats to their authority. What’s worse is that they are all too often unquestionable in their authority and all but the hardiest of people, like our hero Guts, is willing to stand against them.
Yep, the Philippines can claim all it wants about being a democratic country, but when its people want a royal family to rule them, then that defeats the very concept of democracy. Until we put aside our need for a “royal family” and aristocratic leaders, then I can assure you that we can never progress as a nation. Also, this leads to my next point…
The Irresponsibility Of Humanity
I’m gonna try to keep this section as spoiler-free as possible, okay?
Anyway, the aforementioned demons of the setting are actually just people who are given supernatural powers and have the ability to transform into truly monstrous creatures. More to the point, their powers don’t just come from nowhere. Indeed, their horrific abilities actually come from the irresponsibility of humanity.
That’s right, as people look for other things to blame for their troubles, this negativity goes on to feed demons and make them more powerful. It has even been theorized by many fans that if the people of Midland simply owned up for their misdeeds, perhaps the demons would lose their powers or at least be slightly weaker than they are.
Well then, so far, so good. I’d like to see more but it seems that since the Golden Age Arc sold poorly in Japan, it may be a while yet before they continue the series. All in all though, I’m looking forward to a continuation of Guts’ story both for the anime and the manga, the latter experiencing occasional hiatuses due to the creator’s old age.
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