After an absence of nearly nineteen years, Berserk has returned to the small screen in a new anime series. This past weekend, I attended the premiere of the first two episodes here in Tokyo. And what I found most interesting is what these two episodes teach us about Guts as a person after the events of the Eclipse.
Guts is Both Lonely and a Loner
The Guts we see in the new season of Berserk is a loner. He has no friends nor does he look to make any. Yet, after a lifetime of companionship, we can see that he still longs for it. While he ignores or berates Puck, he doesn’t actually force the tiny elf to leave. Moreover, when the traveling man and his daughter offer him a ride in their wagon, he accepts.
Of course, Guts knows what will probably happen if he should stay with them for any length of time. The demons and other monsters of the world will find him and likely kill those around him. Yet, he gives in and travels with them even though he knows he shouldn’t. When it comes down to it, he doesn’t want to be alone.
He’s Not Yet Past the Moral Event Horizon
Guts has done some horrible things in his life. He has killed countless people in wars across Midland. He even killed an innocent child in cold blood. But when that happened, the event scarred him so deeply that it made him question his very place in the world.
In the new season of Berserk, Guts is clearly driven by revenge. He enjoys giving in to his rage and slaughtering demons wholesale. However, he is still not past the point of no return where one becomes unquestionably evil. He goes out of his way to find excuses to help those in need and has problems with killing even the reanimated corpse of a child. And then there’s how he treats the humans hunting him.
Guts Doesn’t Want to Kill Humans
Whether it’s bandits he has slighted or knights on his trail, Guts has no interest in killing people. Could he kill everyone in a bar without breaking a sweat? Sure. However, he chooses the least bloody path whenever possible–as long as that blood is human, anyway.
When Farnese’s troops corner Guts in the second episode, he could easily slaughter them all. Yet he begins by punching them with his metal arm, even after one literally stabs him in the back. It’s only when it becomes obvious that he won’t be able to escape by using non-lethal attacks that he begins the killing.
Then, as it becomes apparent that even that might not be enough, he switches tactics again: He aims to take out Farnese, the knights’ leader, to throw the squad into confusion. To Guts, there is no such thing as underhanded tactics.
Though captured and tortured for the majority of the episode, Guts has no need for revenge. There is only one target in his mind in that department. When he escapes, he could fight his way out, but instead he takes Farnese as a hostage to escape the camp as quickly as possible. After all…
Guts Knows He Is a Walking WMD
When it comes down to it, Guts is the closest thing the medieval world of Midland has to a weapon of mass destruction. This is not because he can kill hundreds by himself with his giant sword and the canon in his arm but rather because of the brand on his neck. Demons and monsters are drawn to Guts. He has been marked as a sacrifice to them. Each night, they come for him en masse.
While Guts may be able to fight them off each and every night, he can hardly protect anyone while doing so. And as no one would believe him if he said demons would come at night, he has no choice but to be as far away from others as possible when dusk hits.
Even though Farnese and Serpico see Guts as an evil, underhanded murderer, Guts’ escaping from Farnese’s capture and then using her as a hostage is literally saving hundreds of lives. Once again this shows that, despite his gruff outward appearance and single goal in life, Guts still cares about his fellow man.
…At least as long as they don’t stand directly in his path for revenge.
Berserk airs on WOWOW, MBS, TBS, CBC, BS-TBS, and CC in Japan. It is available in the US for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.