Anime is an obsession of mine. It’s a relatively recent one since I watched my first anime series, Attack on Titan, only a year ago, but since then I’ve been insatiable. If you watch anime, then you know that there is something out there for everyone. You like magical girls that save the world? Got you. Lesbian dragon romances? No problem. Cooking competitions where the food is literally blow your clothes off orgasmic? Say no more.
And if you’re a horror head like me? Then do I have the anime for you.
I have to start by issuing a few warnings before going into the brilliance of this manga/anime.
First. Trigger Warning: EVERYTHING
I’m not joking here. Torture, rape, extreme violence, violence against children, demons, war.
If it can traumatize you, it’s probably in this anime and definitely in the manga. I always warn people about this and for some reason they don’t heed my warnings. After a while, I just stopped recommending it because people were starting to give me strange looks. Here’s the thing though, I’m willing to endure the looks because that’s how amazing Berserk is.
Second. I will be talking about Berserk as it pertains to the original manga, the 2012 version of The Golden Age Arc, and the 2016-2017 anime. All of them have different starting points and the anime versions leave out key moments/details that are integral to understanding the entire story.
Now on to why you should at very least watch the Golden Age trilogy and possibly read the manga.
- The story is AMAZING.
I’m going to try my best to keep this post as spoiler-free as possible, but I’m sure that I’ll have to spoil a few things to drive home the sheer brilliance of Berserk. But first, a small story.
Once a few months ago, I was sitting in my school’s TA office doing some work when a friend walked in. She told me that she had watched the first movie in the Berserk Golden Age Arc and loved it so far and we started talking about the movie. Then, a fellow TA walked in and listened in on our conversation. When he realized what we were talking about he was taken aback, to say the least.
“Berserk? You like that anime? Isn’t it too gory? Too fucked up?”
Now obviously he didn’t know me that well to be asking such a stupid fucking question, but I kept it polite.
“No,” I said. “I love it. It’s one of my favorites.”
The stick up his ass seemed to lodge itself even further. “What? You can’t be serious. It’s all just violence, especially against women.”
Now there is where he lost me because of two things. 1. He was trying to change my opinion by shaming my entertainment preferences implying that I’m favoring gore and blood over feminist ideals (not the case). And 2. He obviously wasn’t paying attention to the story because to reduce Berserk down to just its violent parts strips the manga of its depth and complexity.
Yes, Berserk is violent, but beyond that, it is a story of friendship, love, betrayal, and sacrifice. It is deeply philosophical, rich with heavy themes, and has characters that are so well rounded and complex that they seem real.
Berserk tells the story of Guts, a mercenary swordsman who is hellbent on seeking revenge against the demon king, Femto, for the unspeakable acts that Femto committed against Guts and his loved ones. Most people who have seen the anime are familiar with the Golden Age arc which tells the story of what happened to Guts to spur him on his road to vengeance. (It’s the most popular arc for a reason. Talk about so good it hurts.)
If you read the story the way its creator Kento Miura intended, we meet Guts after the horrific events of the Golden Age have taken place. Guts is severely damaged both physically and mentally and is only motivated by revenge.
In the first chapters of the manga, Guts is extremely unlikable. He’s harsh, unfeeling and apathetic to those around him. He is on a quest and kills anyone or thing that gets in his way. If he happens to save anyone at this point, it isn’t intentional.
If you start with the manga it’s hard to like Guts at first or understand why he is the way he is, but a few things that keep your attention as a reader are the fantastical and horrific events taking place. In fact, If I’m not mistaken, the opening image in the manga is of Guts having sex with a grotesque demon woman before killing it. Yeah, it gets dark fast in the manga, but it doesn’t distract from the depth and philosophical nature of Berserk.
That’s right folks! This “simply violent” anime is rife with critiques of religion, the purpose of life, and the debate of whether we as humans are ruled by destiny or free will. In fact, Guts is named “The Struggler” because of his defiance against so-called destiny. No matter the odds, Guts is determined to fight the limitations forced on him by mortals or Gods. He is eternally caught in a herculean struggle to create his own destiny. In fact, Gut’s arc is one of the most compelling aspects of Berserk to date.
Which brings me to my next point:
- The main character is utterly unique.
I’m not the only person who recognizes Berserk for its brilliant storytelling and character development. If you want a more in-depth but extremely spoiler-y breakdown of why the main character Guts is so amazing check out the video below:
For the purposes of this post, however, I want to keep things as spoiler-free as possible, so I’ll just have to tell you some of the reasons why I love Guts without going into too much detail.
I mentioned before that in the opening image of the manga we see a physically and mentally damaged Guts. What I didn’t mention was that I LOVE physical imperfections in characters, especially when they are linked to or represent some inner flaw or otherness.
Guts is the perfect representation of this. He has one eye and one of his arms has a canon where his hand should be, and his entire body is covered in battle scars. He’s an imposing figure, but none of this is as intriguing as the mental and emotional damage he’s withstood.
Guts has endured nearly every type of abuse and torture imaginable and still chooses to fight back. His past is heart-wrenching and only gets worse the more you learn (another reason to read the manga). At first, Guts seems crazed and harsh, but it’s really just a façade to mask the immense pain he is suffering.
Also, Guts’ character arc is way more realistic than many other heroes and anti-heroes I’ve seen. He makes progress at times but then he still messes up. He makes mistakes, he’s not perfect, but the thing about Guts is that no matter what he keeps trying, he keeps fighting, he keeps struggling. His story is so fucked up, but it makes you think, “If he can keep going through that, then I have no excuses.”
- So. Much. Violence.
There have only been two times in my life when I felt utterly satisfied with the violent extremes that a movie has gone to. The first time was when I was twelve and watched Kill Bill Vol 1.
The second was last year when I watched Berserk: The Golden Age Trilogy.
Now I have to explain, I don’t like violence just for violence sake. There is a point where it goes too far for me. I’m not into torture porn movies like Hostel and I refuse to watch movies like Martyrs and A Serbian film. I like there to be an actual story and reason for the violence, and I especially don’t care for needless violence against women just to show it on screen. I think that’s why the guy in the TA office was so taken aback by my love for Berserk. There is a LOT of violence in this series, especially the manga and unfortunately, there is a lot of violence against women both physical and sexual.
I’ve tried to piece together why I’m okay with it in this story rather than others and the only thing I can come up with is that it serves the purpose of the story. I can’t go into to much detail because of spoilers, but a certain event that takes place during The Golden Age: The Advent is the catalyst for most of the story. It’s a pretty horrific event. Really though, do not watch this with kids or if you’re queasy with blood. And although it may seem like the old Woman in the Fridge trope, it’s not. I wish I could explain more but that would mean spoilers from the movies and the manga.
- The Horror Factor
By now you may be saying, “Hey Jessica, this is all well and good and this anime seems pretty dope, but this is a horror blog, woman! Why are you hyping this anime when it just seems like action?”
To that I say, “There are few things I’ve seen that are more horrific than Berserk.”
Really though, it may not seem like it with the first two movies in the Golden Age Arc because that’s when shit was all roses and butterflies for our main characters, but when I tell you that the third movie takes the hardest left I’ve ever seen?!?!?!
For real though, watching the first to movies was like listening to some Florence and the Machine and then all of a sudden, halfway through the third movie, Down with the Sickness starts raging in back out of nowhere.
DEMONS, BITCH! EVERYWHERE! AND IT DOESN’T STOP!
After The Advent, the catalyst that happens unleashes literal hell on earth. More demons! Witches! Trolls! Oh! And this bitch right here:
Don’t ask me why but I love this bitch. I wish I could find a shirt with her on it but she’s always naked. For real though, she is goals, body and otherwise.
Yeah no, I definitely classify Berserk as horror, especially the manga.
So that’s it. That’s my long ass two cents about the Brilliance of Berserk and why you should give it a try.
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc is available on Netflix and the tv series is available on Crunchyroll. Warning about the tv series, the animation is horrible. I suggest just reading the manga if you want more after the movies.
See the trailer for The Golden Age below:
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The soundtrack for Berserk is FIRE!!! Listen to it.