*The following is a guest post from M. Daizen who contacted me via email. He wrote about the manga Berserk, which isn’t one I’ve personally read. It was recently redone in 3D and after checking out the anime, I cannot recommend it as a Christian to other believers. That is just my opinion, but there are always nuggets that can be mined like the ones here. Enjoy the post, and if you are interested in submitting a guest post, just email me! God bless.*
Berserk is an incredible work of fiction that has influenced many future works in gaming, manga and writing, and it is easy to see why. It is a dark fantasy that shows its beauty in every page through the feelings that it triggers inside everyone’s hearts.
From the first page, you can sense a sort of excitement seeing the main character, Guts, angry and fighting in a world of suffering and pain. The series introduces him in the middle of his life, yet you feel the urge to follow him and his vengeful rage everywhere he goes; where did he come from, and why is he torturing himself in order to constantly kill brutish demons with a sword that weighs almost five hundred pounds?
The beginning chapters are an incredible experience to read. The dirty battles, people, and of course, the artwork, only gets better. To anyone willing to read this series, you will understand this straight away.
This series has had multiple adaptations as an animation, but I can assure you that the manga is the greatest and original way to experience Berserk. Another thing you must know is that the chapters did not start getting officially numbered until about 15 chapters in, so the “Chapter 1” is actually much later than where the first few volumes actually begin. Know this, because otherwise it could get more confusing considering that after the first bunch of chapters, it starts the “Golden Age Arc”, which is a flashback of Guts’ entire life since he was born up to where the series started.
Now, this Golden Age Arc shows a truly tragic and incredible life of a human growing up where he is always made to feel like an outcast to the world. Guts is made to look like the abomination of darkness throughout the entire series, yet that is what ironically makes him the hero.
Below are two different explanations of what the series is about.
- Guts’ constant turmoil between two feelings. One is revenge toward his former friend, Griffith, who ended up killing almost all of their companions for his own gain. Griffith also raped Casca, the woman who Guts loved, causing her to lose her mind.
This revenge is always in a balance between his desire to restore the mind of Casca. He finds, however, that his revenge on who defiled her always comes to distract him from actually helping her.
- This series is also about the opposition of fate. Throughout the entire series, fate is precisely what Griffith follows, and precisely what Guts wages a war against. The glory of this series to me is seeing how fate is always working in Griffith’s favor, yet the one man who disrupts it is Guts, and I bet that any reader wants Guts to be the one to succeed after seeing the tragedies that Griffith caused throughout the series.
In my own personal experience, the way this series tackles fate is something that expresses my relationship with God in a unique way. I believe in going with the flow and accepting things that I can’t control, but Guts showed me the other side of the spectrum that I believe in more strongly–that the world is your oyster. Life is what YOU choose, and God is within all of us. Every essence of a person came originally from God, thus every part of a person, and everything that they do, comes originally from the will of God, even when people make decisions that God dislikes.
Guts, without even a thought, is always opposing fate, not to mention, opposing it to Griffith, who eventually becomes a God from the power of a necklace that had a power to connect to the entity of fate, crowning him as the fifth ‘Godhand’, which are human beings incarnated into powerful demons that control fate (though ironically, Griffith is often portrayed as hero in a fairy tale). Guts also fights, and beats, a religious pastor who becomes an angel and deems Guts an evil demon. Guts doesn’t give a single crap about who is titled a god or an angel of god, and doesn’t care about how sinful everyone says it is to oppose fate.
By many, he would be considered the most sinful being on the planet, but ironically, this personality makes him sprout out as a true God. A true angel. I felt love, excitement, and sympathy for him, seeing that he fights for good in his own way. You feel these things directly from your heart, and your heart is the heart of God. This whole idea is the glory and genius of Berserk.
It’s also intriguing how the series teaches this considering how desire is treated in it. The Godhands come to people when a person’s ego has met a collapse, then they offer this person the thing they want more than anything; however, they must sacrifice the thing that they can’t bear to give up. This whole situation is the perfect way to show what ego can do to somebody.
I believe that if you do something that you know is right in your heart, you do it out of a desire, but not an ego-based desire. One’s deepest desires also show a person who they truly are, and when one faces the Godhand, they must face every dark part of themselves before satisfying that ego-based desire, and that causes them to realize how that desire they had wasn’t truly making them happy.
The other main element of this series that I can say stands out the most is sexuality. Casca is raped, but what causes that to be so relatable and sad to Guts is the fact that when he was only a small child, he was raped. The rape in this series shows both the reality of the world it takes place in (Berserk takes place in Europe at the end of the 100 Year War), and most of all, inspires sorrowful feelings within the reader that connect you to the character.
I myself have been sexually abused in my childhood, and this series was a gift from God knowing how well I related to Guts. I have even become grateful about my personal abuse because the type of emotional joy and experience that I’ve gained thanks to works of fiction like Berserk. I’m not judging that other abuse victims would feel the same way from reading this series, but I think it truly shows how our inner darkness can bring about light (which this series repeatedly talks about).
There is a scene where Guts and Casca have sex by a beautiful waterfall, and during this time, Guts has flashbacks of the trauma he went through when he was raped. He starts getting aggressive with Casca, but she listens to his feelings and learns what happened to him, understanding what had happened to him and resulting in them both having an incredibly happy experience. Guts actually had a dream about a positive memory in his childhood before he was defiled.
When I read this part, it was the one of the couple times that I cried while reading anything. It taught me about the inner child inside all of us, that becomes restricted when repressed through bad experiences. Our inner children are still inside us though, and they never die. As Guts’ came back to life during that scene, mine did a little too.
There are a lot of other details to speak about how sex, family, and other feelings arise in this series, but the author, Kentaro Miura, truly gets it. He understands life. He understands God. He understands why God fills our lives with darkness as well, and I am grateful for every piece of darkness and light that God has gifted us with in this lifetime, because if Berserk is life, then life is beautiful.
~ M. Daizen