It’s here, Multiversity Readers! This week we finally set to see Griffith and Guts go head to head in “The Spark” and “Confession.” We are drawing close to the end of the series and so many pieces are finally falling into place so let’s start with the big one.
1. The Hilltop Revisited
It’s simply magnificent how well Berserk gives us the payoff we have been waiting for nearly the entire series. Guts and Griffith, finally coming together once again to fight for Guts’ freedom. The scenes could not be more different: night vs day, winter vs summer. Even how they are framed is completely different. Griffith and Guts’s first battle was a public affair. The Hawks cheering on as their leader put Guts in his place. This fight is different: a private matter between a handful of friends. A grudge that needs to be settled for them to move on, not heroics to be had here. Nonetheless, we are left with the same three figures in the center. We have a man who has grown so desperate to achieve his dream, he would kill his closest comrade to protect it, a man who now finally knows the path his life must take, and a woman who realizes the man she loves is walking away.
2. Merely a Pebble in the Path
I cannot adequately describe the shock I had the first time I watched “The Spark.” Throughout the entire series Griffith exists as this larger than life figure, unquestionably the most capable warrior in the Hawks. There is no reason to question that; even the Hawks themselves think Guts challenging him is little more than a death sentence. But Guts hasn’t spent the last three years winning over courts and studying battle tactics, he has been the tool with which Griffith has carved out his empire. The tool he took for granted, ignored the mere possibility of being his equal, and through his carelessness, drove away. It is only by Guts’ mercy that Griffith even survives; he never intended to land a killing blow. To Griffith, this loss shakes his sense of self, his own power, and his own manhood in a way that will lead to his imminent downfall. For Guts, however, Griffith is just another pebble in his path, one he had been so scared to step over but eventually realized there was nothing to fear.
3. Is It Destiny…
These episodes reintroduce us to one of my favorite characters, Godo. (Fun fact: he was the first charter we see in the show. Remember the blacksmithing scene from “The Black Swordsman?”) He ends up adding his own spin onto our conversation of dreams and destiny, one that really hits home with Guts. He agrees that we are all in the dark, but those without a flame within us are not lost as Guts assumes. Godo never had a fire of a dream, never needed one. All he needed were the sparks of his hammer. He would make his way to the darkness and find his destiny one hammer strike at a time. I like the way this dovetails with Guts’ worry about not having a flame to add to Griffith’s bonfire. It’s not that he is lacking, but instead that he lights his way with the sparks of his sword, clashing in battle. He has let go of the shame of it. He has become comfortable with his life being about battle, although not necessarily bloodshed since we see him spare the life of the gladiator in the tournament earlier in the episode. Maybe it’s not about knowing your destiny, but just finding happiness in accepting the journey.
4. …Or Just Luck?
Griffith’s torturer has another take on the matter: it’s just dumb luck. The quirky “shit happens” speech that the torturer gives while he shoves needles into the now-fallen Hawk and tosses his behelit down the sewer is even better when juxtaposed with Judeau’s speech on the Band’s good luck in reconnecting with Guts. It leaves you wondering if maybe all the destiny stuff is just crap. We’ve been so convinced that there is some grand plan going on that maybe we are seeing connections that really aren’t there. Putting together all the pieces into some grand picture that doesn’t exist. What proof do we have that Griffith’s rise and fall wasn’t just luck and Guts and his connection just some misplaced sexual chemistry? Oh, a giant demon happens to find the behelit that was dropped down the sewer? Oh, not just a demon but the apostle we saw in the first episode? Okay, maybe it’s not luck then after all.
5. Less is More
I want to just give a fair warning to any readers of these articles that are inspired to read the manga after finishing up the series; this is where the two depictions really diverge the most. The anime makes a few stylistic choices in cutting characters that end up popping up much later in the series, as well as removing a minor plot arc where you get introduced to a truly brutal apostle. The best changes, however, come from the removal of a lot of graphic sexual scenes and some over the top sexual violence. I realize Berserk is a comic from a different culture and a different era, but still it’s hard to make it through some of those chapters without asking “why?” Just wanted to give you all a heads up before you jump in. If that’s your bag, more power to you. If not, then just be prepared to skim through a few chapters. Trust me, if you enjoy the anime the manga is well worth the read even it it has some cringe moments.